Monthly Archives: August 2014

#41 Gamescom 2014

Well met, my friends!

On Saturday the 16th of August and Sunday the 17th of August, I visited the Gamescom in cologne.

Initially I wandered around all the halls, just to get an idea of what to do and see. There were many cosplayers around like these guys:

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Or those guys. Who you gonna call?

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Last year at Gamescom I met some of the “Spieleveteranen” (Heinrich Lenhardt, Boris Schneider-Johne and Anatol Locker). This year I saw Jörg Langer by chance, who is also one of the “Spieleveteranen” and the initiator of Gamersglobal. Since he was busy filming stuff, I did not want to interrupt.

After they were done, I introduced myself and one convention visitor was nice enough to take our picture. From left to right, it’s myself, Jörg Langer, Christoph Vent and Benjamin Braun.

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On Saturday I tried 4 different games (Farcry4, Assassin’s Creed Rogue, Borderlands the pre-sequel and Call of Duty Advanced Warfare) and saw one presentation (Assassin’s Creed Unity). On Sunday I only played one game (Destiny) twice and saw one presentation (Witcher 3).

The game demos were of varying quality – it really is an art to rip a portion out of your game and still aim to provide an entertaining experience in a limited time slot. Typically there were long lines of about two hours for usually 15 minutes of game play. All of the games I saw were presented on consoles, which made it more difficult for me, as I am used to mouse and keyboard controls and did poorly on the gamepads. Case in point, when I played the Call of Duty multiplayer, there were two rounds, one of 5 minutes and one of 10 minutes. I died 11 times with 0 frags in the first round and did slightly better at 18 deaths and 6 frags in the second round. It’s a steep learning curve with those controllers.

Farcry4:

In the demo, you had the option to select sneak, ride or fly at the beginning. The map was always the same, but if you selected ride, then there was an elephant that you can mount. I picked fly and had a gyrocopter at my disposal. I am not sure what happens when you chose sneak, but glancing at other people’s screens, I had the impression that they gave you a sniper rifle in that case.

The map consisted of a military base and you had a machine gun and a grenade launcher to wreak havoc. Since this was the first game I played, my non-existent gamepad skills were quite apparent. At some point I decided not to run into the base and fight, but instead take the gyrocopter to bypass the base and explore. Unfortunately there was an invisible line with a message popping up to turn around or be destroyed in 10 seconds. Oh well, so much for that idea.

Assassin’s Creed Rogue:

This demo was really well done: They had a short intro and then tell you that your task is to sink 5 enemy ships. When a ship is destroyed, you can salvage the cargo. Apparently it was also possible to board other ships in the demo, but I did not manage to do so. I only saw that on other people’s screens.

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Borderlands the pre-sequel:

This is the demo that I liked the least. The mission said “Enter Drakenburg, get AI core.” There is no time to waste, so I started running towards the Drakenburg. Then one of the guys working at the booth told me that I had 22 skill points to assign. Really? You give people 15 minutes to form an impression about your game and you want them to assign skill points? I thought that was an odd design choice.

Destiny:

Bungie’s Destiny impressed me the most. While waiting outside, they had a screen that showed game play footage and behind the scenes stuff. There was a different line to take pictures on one of the hover bikes. I snapped a picture, when a guy in a master chief suit dismounted from it.

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Inside, they showed a 15 minute video with different game play scenes and commentary of the game designers. This was followed by a 15 minute multiplayer match. Since they used similar controls to Call of Duty and their damage system is less realistic, I fared much better. In Call of Duty, I was pretty much immediately dead whenever someone shot at me. In Destiny, it is a bit more noob-friendly: You can survive several hits, so that you have the option to shoot back or retreat. Also, nobody seemed to realize that close combat in Destiny deals significantly more damage, so I typically ran up to people and one hit melee killed them, as they tried to shoot me. At the exit, they also gave you a T-shirt.

The demo was so good that I decided to queue up again, when it was time to decide, which was the last game to try.

The presentations of Witcher 3 and Assassin’s Creed Unity were quite impressive as well. The lines were also long and you didn’t get to play yourself, but having a competent player showcase the game allowed them to go through an entire quest chain and really demonstrate what’s cool about the games. They both looked awesome and I’ll certainly buy them, even though I did not have the time to play the earlier games in both franchises.

Towards the end of Sunday, I caught the last bit of the LiquidRet vs Grubby Starcraft 2 show match. It’s good to see that Starcraft is still around, even though the big e-sports event at Gamescom was Counterstrike.

Out of the two days, I felt that Saturday was better, since it had longer opening hours. The amount of people is roughly the same, which means that waiting times are around 2 hours no matter when you go. With that in mind, having those extra hours is quite important. Looking forward to next year’s Gamescom :)

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#40 MLG Anaheim

Well met, my friends!

In June I attended MLG Anaheim (Major League Gaming) and Vidcon, which will be covered in a separate blog post. On previous trips to the USA I learnt that taxis are expensive and that there is hardly any free parking in L.A.

Since I would be at the convention center for most of the duration of the trip anyway, I opted not to get a rental car. Thus, I ended up booking with supershuttle to transport me from the airport to my hotel and back (18$ per ride).

Without planning this, I ended up meeting up with some people from the Day[9] gatherings (see my blog posts from May 2013 and March 2014). First, I ran into Jeff at Starbucks. His brother Andy managed to snag a competitor pass for Starcraft 2. The spots in that competition were filled up with up and coming talents as well as a lot of the professional players, who did not qualify directly for MLG.

Later on I saw that Chris “Kobayshi Maru” Negrin posted on twitter that he and his friend Mark were heading to MLG as well. I saved some seats and we did get to hang out and catch up throughout the weekend.

At some point early on I found the Misscliks people: I also write articles for Misscliks.com, which focusses on the achievements of women rolemodels in geek culture and gaming. However, so far I hadn’t met any of them and had only interacted online. To the side of the group, I saw Geoff “iNcontroL” Robinson and Stephanie “Missharvey” Harvey. Since they were having a conversation, I did not want to interrupt. Still, I positioned myself next to them, in order to introduce myself once there was a lull in the conversation. This is where Anna Prosser Robinson impressed me: apparently she recognized me from my tiny profile picture and greeted me by name. She proceeded to introduce me to everyone there, the aforementioned iNcontroL, Missharvey, Stephanie Powell and Neil Sharum. In the evening I met the rest of the group, Neal “Koibu” Erickson and Geneviève “Livinpink” Forget, as well as some other cool e-sports people like Jaycie “Gillyweed” Gluck, Matt Wiltshire, Michael Young and Matt Marcou.

Since I was there for leisure and not work I opted to watch some Starcraft (II). Perhaps Blizzard should consider enabling an offline mode. It’s an old game now, there is no need to worry about piracy. I bring this up, because when the internet at the venue gave out, all the other games like Call of Duty and Super Smash Brothers Melee continued, but due to the always online “feature” of Starcraft, its matches were interrupted. On the bright side, it gave everyone the chance to check out the other games.

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To me, one of the big surprises of the event was the popularity of Smash Brothers.

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It was entertaining to watch and the Smash fans cheered even louder than the Starcraft crowd.

My brother is making fun of me for being very selective about my time whenever I am in London. The thing is that I know several dozen people in London and I couldn’t even manage to meet up with everybody, if I am there on a weekend. Thus, when I am there, I plan out different time slots, which I then assign to people. Often times, I also prioritize, leaving the Friday and Saturday night slots for good friends, whereas I’d meet up for lunch with people I am less close with. There are exceptions, of course – people I see on every trip won’t be disappointed, if it only works out for lunch every once in a while. This time I was on the receiving end of this, as a friend of mine was extremely busy and had to juggle around his breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings. Due to scheduling conflicts, I ended up meeting my friend, who is also one of my Alpha readers, for breakfast to talk about game design, magic the gathering and the discoveries I made, while revising Age of Torridan.

Back at the venue, the Starcraft matches were pretty crazy – the best moment was when Scarlett switched from Zerg to Protoss for a game and received standing ovations. I loved the atmosphere and the spectators’ energy. Earlier on I had used up all of my credit on my pay as you go phone. I had one more code to charge another 15 Euros, so I decided I would only use my phone in an emergency. However, when Scarlett switched to Protoss that counted as an emergency, so I enabled roaming to post on twitter about it.

The highlight of the trip proved to be the after party at Matt Wiltshire’s and Michael Young’s hotel room. They nailed the important ingredients for any party and I ended up leaving at 7 a.m. when we were down to six people. Even though I was the only person above thirty, I did not feel out of place – everyone was just so friendly and awesome. Thanks for making me feel welcome, I had an absolutely terrific time!

Hopefully MLG Anaheim and Vidcon will be on consecutive weekends next year as well, as I would love to attend them both again.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

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