Peter's Adventure at Gamescom 2014

By Peter Rootham-Smith


My grateful thanks go to Agustin Cordes who inspired this, Laura Macdonald who helped and advised and connected, Marita and Ana of GameBoomers who made it possible, and Michael Stein of Adventure Treff who I bothered with many inane questions.

Article taken from Peter's Diary.


On Facebook I saw Agustin Cordes celebrating Gamescom 2013, with pictures of the Adventure Treff party there. The thought came - wouldn't it be nice to be there oneself? Agustin encouraged me, and I started considering rather than day-dreaming. Considering attending Gamescom 2014 myself, meeting game developers and interviewing them. I did once attend the Hong Kong International Film Festival and interview film directors, but you need to represent magazines or the like. The first road-block was that to meet people you need access to the business areas, for me that meant getting press accreditation.

That seemed to me to be far from a given, but I found myself working up ideas I had into an article for GameBoomers, becoming a member of staff there which was a privilege, and then submitting the application through the Gamescom website. I had a problem with the type of document they would accept initially, but off it went finally and they acknowledged receipt. Not expecting anything more I was amazed to receive a press pass in electronic form later!

So I found myself definitely going to Gamescom, and having to make the necessary arrangements. I thought I needed tickets and got some - later on I compounded this blunder by thinking I needed a trade ticket instead. Wrong! Getting ahead of myself here the press pass was enough, going around Gamescom entering the special areas being able to enter before the crowds made me feel like I had diplomatic immunity for once in my life! The days I needed to go were the Wednesday through Friday (the day of the Adventure Treff party). The Wednesday is supposed to be a trade only day - I did see children there then but perhaps they were family of exhibitors.

How to get there saw me wavering between flying and the train. I went for the train and booked first-class intercross Europe tickets on Deutsche Bahn's German language website, relying on Google translate to guess what I should be doing. That was a bit of an Adventure. Through Expedia I booked a hotel, Jan Kavan kindly sent me details of hotels but in the end I booked a hotel near the Cologne central station on an English language website. Jan advised me to double-check the booking closer to the time and I rang the Hotel Berg a week or two before I went.

It was about now I realised I'd better book the time off my routine Kafka-esque day job (software development for a giant US multi-national). This raised the slight problem when I had gone through the complicated rituals required for this that I had booked too much holiday in 2014! Rather than not go to Gamescom I persuaded a helpful secretary to unbook another holiday and instead I argued I had worked through lunchtimes.

I also (since I now would be there) tried to fix to meet game developers at Gamescom. One can't just turn up at Gamescom, but organising beforehand is also hit and miss. Game developers are likely to respond to enquiries, PR people don't tend to respond but they are the ones who arrange appointments. So I fixed with one game developer to meet them but that appointment didn't get into the PR diary, I ended up gate-crashing someone else's appointment at Gamescom! I almost despaired of contacting Daedalic's PR, but in the end they were very forthcoming. Over half of my appointments were arranged on site.

The plan for the interviews I hoped to do at Gamescom was to ask a number of game developers the same questions, and to combine the answers into a single article. The idea being to present to game players what game developers are like, how they tick, to some extent how hard it is being a game developer. I did an email interview with Danilo Cagliari of Midian Design to see how my proposed questions worked. Like many of my plans this didn't in the end really work as a plan.

Business cards also seemed like a good idea - I wasn't sure if in the electronic age people still did business cards or just had their tablets tenderly touch each other. So Marita of GameBoomers put together a card for me, and I went to a local print shop in my village of Histon to get it printed out. They didn't like it saying it wasn't high enough resolution (they wanted 300dpi) so Marita kindly sent me a higher resolution version and I went to the print shop again. Success this time.

Final preparations were moving documents across onto the vital iPad (which served as notebook, diary, calendar, email client, Facebook client, web browser, and voice recorder). I took printouts as well, the press pass and Gamescom tickets which I would discover were pointless and the Deutsche Bahn tickets. Packed on the evening of the 11th August and I was ready for this adventure about adventures.


Getting there: Tuesday, 12th August 2014

Virginia took me to Waterbeach station, and I caught the 7.57am train to Kings Cross. 1st class didn't seem too different to 2nd class, but I at least got a seat and room for my larger case. I then navigated to St Pancras and found reaching the Eurostar train rather like reaching the airplane for a flight - check-in and baggage and passpot control queues to wait one's way through. I worried about losing the magic sheet of paper for the e-Ticket from Deutsche Bahn.

Crowded in the waiting room, at least a stampede for a Disneyworld train left some seats spare. First class in the Eurostar was very comfortable, quiet, not crowded, breakfast included (albeit lunchtime). We stopped at Ebbsfleet and then I assume went through the Channel Tunnel with no fanfare. Strong rain lashed the train, raindrops crawled horizontally along the windows. An easy train change at Brussels Midi station, though carriage 29 was not covered from the rain! On the ICE train the carriages each had a carriage number on a digital display, at first I though each carriage was numbered 2!

The ICE train had quiet compartments, I should have decamped to one as I found I was sitting close to a whimpering child. The journey passed anyway. We arrived at Cologne Hauptbahnhof at the appointed hour, and I found my way to the Hotel Berg where I was residing. Large door key which one left on leaving the hotel. I had something edible at the station Macdonalds, with flies for company, got postcards done, verified phone and Wifi access worked.


Trade day: Wednesday, 13th August 2014

Had my one and only breakfast at the hotel then sent off the postcards from Cologne main station (after a hunt for the post office there). There is a trend to stick "Mc" on the front of shops and goods here - so there was "McPaper" and "McClean".

Walked across the Hohenzollern Bridge which is adorned with padlocks from romantically minded couples to the Kolnmesse site. To my surprise they accepted my press pass - after I had to queue as my print out wasn't good enough! In the queue it seemed like people were blathering their way to press passes despite what the website claimed about eligibility. Could have turned up earlier to avoid rush.

Started tracking down people I hoped to see in the business halls 4.1 and 4.2. I asked after Agustin Cordes at the Argentinian area and I said his name so wrong they didn't realise who I was after! Agustin is more Agoustine or so it sounded. I saw Agustin later and he recognised who I had to be! I felt a momentary glow of fame!

Interviewed Kresimir Spes of Cateia Games at the Croatian booth - Kaptain Brawe should be said Captain Brave (I'm a little confused as Serbo-Croat doesn't have a w). But the spelling stuck.

At the Swiss Games booth I met Michael Huber of IF Studios. Confused things a little by mistakenly thinking I was meeting Kimara Rouwit - I tend to speed-read books and emails and that's not always a good idea! IF Studios are developing Perils of Man - a promising multi platform Adventure game.

Talked to Agustin Cordes of Senscape who showed me the Unity improvements to "Asylum", as well as what a new Kickstarter in October will be for.

Had demo of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (not for me I think) and Book of Unwritten Tales 2 which I've already signed up to play!

A damp return walk. I dined at nearby Tang Wei Chinese restaurant as it was so wet, reassured by the Chinese people eating there. Hard to choose from the menu as the dishes were meant for two people! Quaint that I was able to understand what the Chinese were saying better than I can the German natives. Wo keyi yong Putonghua tanhua yidiar. Something like that.

First public day: Thursday, 14th August 2014

Started the day with sausage and egg muffin and OJ from the station Macdonalds - I preferred it to the hotel breakfast.

On the off chance approached Charles Cecil of Revolution Games in the UK area and he gave a great impromptu interview! Great guy, very friendly and approachable, full of interesting words. The interview was so good it gave me a big problem - it needs to be published by itself not as as part of a composite interview. So my plan of a composite interview really didn't work, I would have been wiser to ask questions tailored to each interviewee not go for a set list of questions.

I really stuffed up meeting with Jan Kavan, he kindly texted me to suggest a sensible location to meet and I tried to text back - three times only managing to send empty messages! I shall have to find a four-year old child to show me how to use my phone. And then I managed to find something which wasn't the fruit bar to wait at . . . drat drat drat. Jan and Lukas Medek of CBESoftware gave me a demo of J.U.L.I.A. - this game deserves to do very well.

(Agustin's help was significant - he told me Jonas Kyratzes was here, as well as relaying messages to Jan and encouraging me to try Charles Cecil.)

I interviewed Jan Theysen of King Art Games after short demo of BOUT 2.

I met Laney Berry of Classroom Graffiti in a dampened beer garden, wasn't sure it was her but few there with red hair! Didn't recognise her from her Facebook picture, but I don't think I'll be any good given an identity parade. I did take to Gamescom pictures of people to help find them.

Florian Emmerich and Ragnar Tornquist demoed "Dreamfall Chapters" from Red Thread Games. A living game world.

In the business halls there was quite a number of Chinese and Korean booths, I'm quite into Korean culture at the moment and tried to discuss Hallyu with with someone at a Korean booth, but she lived in Germany and knew less about new Korean films like The Pirates than I did! But I'm not interested in football or cricket so this was a little myopic to think every Korean is interested in everything Korean.

I descended twice into the hell of Hall 10.1 in search of Jonas Kyratzes. Crowded dark formless young roaming swirling around platforms with loud voices blaring out. Chaos clash of images lights videos. If I had been Orpheus then there were plenty of cosplay Eurydices to choose from. But no trace of Jonas Kyratzes. He I found out later was in the more civilised business area.

I ate out this evening at a historic 12th century Gasthaus, great olde-world style inside. Very nicely cooked calf's liver, followed by vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. The mixing of the hot chocolate and ice cream reminded me of the treat for school dinners so long ago - the way the white and dark blended into so many strands of colour. It also reminded me of Tabitha's fur (she's a chocolate colour point). Walked back past the Dom, the church bells ringing into one another, sounding like an alien machine.


My last day : Friday, 15th August 2014

Four helpful German mädchen tried to assist me buying a tourist U bahn ticket but the machine didn't like my credit card. I didn't have enough coinage to try bribing the machine either. A stressful journey from Breslauer to Kolnmesse, almost went badly wrong at Neumarkt, then followed the crowd to the North entrance. My press pass got me in quickly, I walked swiftly through the temporary temples for games waiting for worshippers to arrive.

(For some reason I found the underground easier to navigate in Japan than in Germany!)

A shared appointment to see the latest Frogwares Sherlock Holmes, they let me demonstrate my uselessness at controlling the game using a game pad! I found the interface too disorientating.

I frequented the sushi bar again to keep me going through lunchtime, this time having more pieces, and a cereal bar for dessert.

The lunchtime belonged to Daedalic Entertainment. A presentation of the Whispered World sequel Silence, then Fire starring a caveman with very limited vocabulary, then Blackguards 2 (a sequel to the RPG Blackguards which revises the ruleset and other features, then Kevin Mentz's The Devil's Men which like Dreamfall Chapters offers the player choices to be made. Daedalic were generous with PR material but it added to my rucksack's weight and bulkiness! I was very lucky to be able to interview Kevin Mentz as he designed Memoria which I found a deliciously bitter-sweet game.

Andreas Heldt and Michelle Waschk of Z-Software told me about their upcoming game History in Letters - The Eternal Alchemist which is what I would call an Adventure lite game.

The last interview of Gamescom was with Jonas Kyratzes, who's working with Croteam on The Talos Principle. The website says "Game is dealing with philosophical issues of transhumanity". Jonas is a very thoughtful guy, a creator of idea rich indie games.

Got soaked walking back from Gamescom as the journey ended in a thunderstorm, and to my deep regret chickened out of the Adventure Treff party and instead found a nearby Trattorio - here the table had a bottle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil on it for the bread.




The iPad worked incredibly well as a multi-purpose device. I could have taken pictures with it as well but didn't.

Attending Gamescom in a press capacity is a great way of meeting those behind the Adventure games I play. It's not the same as actually being a game developer, but personally I wouldn't recommend that as a career only as a hobby.

Unity is winning out as the game engine to implement Adventures in at the moment. Did speak to people at the Unity stand, they said do the tutorials which is a fair comment. I might play with Unity myself.

There's a possible trend with games offering choices which just don't affect which ending you get, but affect lines of play and game interactions. This is significant as a lot of game innovation has been areas like graphics and then graphics and again graphics. Introducing meaningful choices is evolving how stories are told, and for me story is what drives an Adventure game.

I need better wet weather protection - and I live in England so no excuses.

copyright © 1999-2014 GameBoomers