It’s been a while, since I last wrote a personal blog. Mostly, because we already have the weekly development blog and also, because I didn’t go to any cool events since the last one. But that’s coming to an end right now, and I will tell you about my exciting last week.
The week before the last, my plan was to go to Milan, and represent German video games at the German pavilion, together with my main man, Stamm. Little did I know that Pocket Gamer would send us a last minute invitation to their Pocket Gamer Connects: Helsinki. Blown Away was chosen for the Very Big Indie Pitch, and after a little rearranging of flight schedules, I ended up doing a week-long trip through Europe.
After planning everything, booking the hotel and having received all the flight tickets, it dawned on me that I hadn’t flown in 22 years, since my last overseas vacation with my parents. Panic! But I quickly decided that if I have no idea, how flying feels, I couldn’t be afraid, because that would be pretty irrational. Problem solved. Also, after the trip, I have to say, I rather enjoy flying. So I am ready for the next adventures, Black Pants will send me on.
The short term planning left me with one affordable hostel, near the Helsinki airport, which in return meant, I had to commute to the venue for about an hour (one way). Not cool, but I survived. The venue itself was super relaxed and the crowd was rather small. I am super bad with these things, but I would guess, around 500 people max?
The pitch itself went pretty good, I presume. Sometimes it is hard to tell with these things. Basically I had to “speed date” several tables with industry experts and explain the game concept, let them play and get feedback in 4 minutes per table. The feedback was mostly positive, albeit short and therefore often not satisfying, but that’s the format. The best thing that happened during the pitch was that Peter from Appspy told me to pay his colleague a visit after the pitches. They liked Blown Away and wanted to do a video capture of it, which has already been put on their site and which you can enjoy here. This destroys Tobi’s awesome suspense torture tactics, but you can’t sleep on these opportunities. Also, I was just coming down from the speed pitch high, and my brain was still a bit mushy, which you can hear in the interview. The stress!
There was one other contact, I made during the pitches, which I will keep secret at the moment (old Secret Pants tradition), and which I hope will get some more attention to the studio.
The talks where…hmm. Hard to describe. I don’t want to be rude to people, but many experts in mobile gaming are talking about “users” and “apps” and “retention” and are using abbreviations which mean nothing to normal people. It worries me a little, when I am supposed to take away form a panel that “we don’t make games for ourselves anymore, we make games for a mass audience, and they are not gamers”. That is just a symptom of the weird business practices going on in mobile gaming, and I really don’t like these. The best, really awesome and inspiring talk came from Her Story developer Sam Barlow. He basically told the audience the exact opposite if what I have just described to you, and really spoke out loud, what I had been thinking from all these talks. Great talk, and great game as well. Check it out.
Sadly, this short visit did not leave me with much time for sightseeing, but I was able to walk around the venue on my last day and see the harbor and surrounding area, which is right around the corner from Wanha Satama. The sun had decided to come out as well, so my last day was pretty nice. Back at the hostel, around 11pm I decided to look up my exact gate for the flight to Milan on the next day at 8am. Surprise! Flight cancelled. Funny enough, I was just put on an earlier flight, without anyone telling me. 6.30am, which meant getting up a little after 4am. The day was done, so was I, and so I went straight to bed to get as much sleep as I could.
Apart from the cancelled flight and being stuck for three hours in the Stockholm airport for a layover, without money to buy coffee (no Euro in Sweden), everything went fine and I teamed up with Stamm in Milan. Tronco (Stamm in Italian) e Biglia (Murmel in Italian), ready for action!
Our first day in Milan (Wednesday) was pretty relaxed. We just had to check into the hotel, eat some AWESOME Italian food (Pizza with the most delicious cheeses for me and duck-filled pasta for Tronco), and walk around the area to get a feel for the city. The hotel was a 100% upgrade to the hostel in Helsinki and we both came up with the plan to chill in our (separate) bath tubs after next day’s performance.
Thursday was Expo day. We were picked up at the hotel around 10am and brought there by the shuttle. We were only one part of that day’s cultural program, together with poetry slammer and word artist Etta, and jazz trio Contrast, plus two magicians and a DJ for the late hours. All together a pretty cool lineup.
We had two 1-hour slots at 1pm and 6pm and between those, and after, a little time to see the Expo. Our performances were great fun. Our lovely moderator, Jasmin, helped translate everything we said to Italian and we managed to find interested kids and young adults to come on stage and play with us. Let me tell you, it is a damn good feeling to see people play your game on a huge LED screen. We had planned to play On Rusty Trails as well, but decided to play Tiny Big, since it does not pressure the player too much and has this sandboxy character, where you can just try stuff out and don’t get easily frustrated. ORT is very fast-paced and gets harder quite soon.
The exhibition at the German pavilion was awesome as well and featured many German projects for sustainable food production and environmental issues – food being the Expo’s main theme. More photos in the gallery at the end of this post. After our second performance, we went to see the exhibition and then relaxed while watching the jazz performance. Very good concert! After that, we took a cab, back to the hotel, ate something and went to our rooms for those sweet bathtubs.
Our last day was a late breakfast and some more sightseeing on foot, so we kept in the vicinity of the hotel/train station, which is pretty central, so there was much to see. The highlight was a backyard café at the Corso Como, combined with an awesome roof deck and an art store and gallery. We went to get something to, which led to the scandal of the trip! I told Tronco, I didn’t mind where we went for food, so he picked a place, which was fine with me. But while I was looking at the menu, he had ordered for me as well, and I received gooey eggplants and zucchini, with bread and cheese. I HATE gooey, raw eggplants! This affront will be avenged at some point. If I were Tronco, I would sleep with one eye open from now on…
Nevertheless, my #tourdemurmel was a great success and a super fun time. I can’t wait for the next adventure, and I hope, we will get to travel to the US next year for one of the big events. Now, have some more photos from the trip and come back next week, when the development blog returns for its usual weekly appearance.