Helo welcom 2 my websight
Today was a pretty cool day.
Not only because it was my birthday, but also because -on this birthday- I had the chance to attend the indie game conference Indievelopment in Amsterdam.
People who know me are probably aware that I’m actually not really into that whole indie game thing all that much, so there would’ve probably had to have been a catch for me to be excited to go there. Well…there was. And this catch came in the form of Chris Muthafuggin’ Avellone who’d attend the conference to talk about his recent Kickstarter successes Project Eternity, Torment: Tides of Numenera and Wasteland 2.
I am a huge RPG fan and as a result pretty much half of the games that I count as my ‘favorite games’ were written by or at the very least heavily influenced by this God Amongst Men, so even the opportunity of listening to him talk about Kickstarter was something I could never pass up.
The trip to Amsterdam was anything but smooth, but we still made it relatively on time. We were about 10 minutes late for the opening talk by Jasper Byrne (of Lone Survivor fame) but judging by what we did hear we certainly didn’t miss much. Basically what he was doing was clumsily showing parts of his games that he couldn’t really find on his harddrive and stuttering about it a bit, which wasn’t very clarifying. His game looked sort of interesting though, so I did kind of wish he’d been asked to talk about a more interesting subject such as how to create a ‘horror experience’ within a pixelart game, but he got stuck with talking about art which meant he basically just repeated “yeah I painted over this a bit” about a dozen times while fumbling around his laptop trying to find the clip he wanted to show.
Off to a pretty weak start, but luckily all the speakers after him were much more prepared. The second speaker was Jeroen Stout who, aside from having a pretty cool last name in Dutch (Protip: it means ‘naughty’) was pretty knowledgeable about like the ‘meta’ of the games industry. He talked about the ‘lie of the grandfather clock’ and how games tend to swing from action to narrative, action to narrative, etc. without either of those fitting exactly well together. Bioshock Infinite is actually a pretty good example of this. You’re running, you’re shooting, then you’re talking for 5 minutes then you’re running and shooting again and the talky parts are like they take place in a completely alternate universe from the shooting bits. First Elizabeth freaks out over Booker killing three dudes, and two seconds later she’s throwing him ammo to ‘pump doze niggas fulla lead’. He talked about how you could have games that weren’t about this sort of stuff, like his kind of high-concept game ‘Dinner Date’ where you’re basically a guy talking to himself and all you can do is drink and eat and the rest of the game just plays itself out. It’s very interesting how many people wouldn’t even call that a game, probably because of how we’ve been indoctrinated with the idea of what a game should be, and I think Jeroen’s talk was quite refreshing and interesting.
After the lunch (which was free by the way, whoo!) some guy in a top hat was talking about procedurally generating stuff and since I hate procedural generation (though not top hats) I decided I’d check out the rest of the ‘Festival of Games’ instead.
The Festival was a bit…uhm…small is the word, I guess. Maybe I was wrong in expecting some sort of slimmed down E3 or even a mid-sized Anime Convention but outside of the audience hall there wasn’t all that much to see or do. There were a few stands of companies I’d never heard of (because they were so indie, I suppose?) and most of it was geared at people who actually wanted to find a job in the games industry (which, of course, makes sense). Interestingly enough the Pride Of The Low Lands, Guerrilla Games (yup, THAT Guerrilla Games) was also present with a stand, and when I asked wtf was up with that since being bought up by Sony hardly qualified as ‘indie’ in my book they said they were there because they were trying to recruit some people.
“To work on Killzone 4?”
What a scoop!
Anyway, talking with the guy who did some of the art for Killzone 4 was pretty interesting even though he wasn’t as talkative as these kinds of people usually are and he couldn’t really talk about most of his work since it’s all still being kept under wraps (we did get a confirmation that that Killzone 4 footage you saw at the PS4 unveiling was actually running in-game and wasn’t pre-rendered though!) and I took some embarrassing photos with their mascot.
There were also some games on display, though the offerings were very scarce. Of the maybe 10 games that were available to play, almost all of them were iPad/iPhone games which was kind of a bummer, and most of them didn’t look all that interesting. It was funny to see all these pre-alpha games though; crashing randomly, falling through floors, enemies not spawning – the works!
Although so far you could say my day wasn’t really anywhere near memorable, let alone utterly unforgettable, that was about to change. When I had read on Obsidian’s Facebook that Chris Avellone would be attending this conference, on my birthday no less, I thought “Hey, why the hell not?” and sent them a message via Kickstarter. I told them I’d be at ID2013 on my birthday and that I’d love it so much if they could ask Avellone to sign something for me, and amazingly enough they told me he said he’d do it.
Even more amazingly, he actually didn’t forget!
While I was walking around trying to find something to do after being disappointed by the games on display, I noticed a guy with a familiar face sitting down on a seat on the back row of the audience area. Immediately I nudged my friend and was like “Holy shit dude it’s fucking Chris Avellone! I should go up to him! … Should I go up to him? … I should just go up to him, right!?” after which I finally stepped closer and, stumbling over my words, told him I was ‘that guy from the kickstarter page wh–‘ “Oh, Richard! Hi, so good to meet you!” He remembered my name! “I was worried I’d miss you in this crowd. You know I only got the e-mail a few days ago since I’ve been without wi-fi on and off here so I was glad I could catch that mail.” I told him how great it was to meet him and how I was probably much much more worried I’d miss him and he asked about the things I’d wanted to get signed and offered to sit down at one of the tables so he could sign them well. When he finished signing, he even asked if he could use one of the little papers I’d cut to keep the signed covers safe in my bag to write me a birthday message to take a picture with.
I felt so lucky that I caught him before his talk instead of after because this meant I had some time to actually ask him some questions and take some pictures. I talked about Eternity of course, and how I was hoping it would become like a high point in Obsidian’s history, and he agreed and talked about how he was so surprised when Double Fine Adventure hit kickstarter that there was still a market for those kinds of games outside of Nintendo DS and how he was so glad with that and how Double Fine and InXile (with Wasteland 2) kinda opened the door for Obsidian to do a Kickstarter too and how good it was to not have to rely on traditional publishers but have a responsibility directly to the gamers.
On that note, I asked him if he wasn’t afraid he’d kind of ruin his chances with big publishers by talking like that. Brian Fagro especially has a bit of a history of going on “I don’t mean any disrespect but big publishers really blow ass and ruined gaming” sprees (which I love by the way) so I wondered if Chris/Obsidian was thinking about what kind of effect that could have on publishers. He said he wasn’t all that worried about it because publishers were still talking to them and hitting them up and stuff, so it’s not like it’s had any real impact, and that “their goodwill isn’t really worth a lot anyway”, which prompted me to ask about the Alien RPG that I was totally looking forward to that was canned quite some time into pre-production. He didn’t say that much about it but he did mention he was very disappointed by that and that it was really painful to have all the concept art and stuff already hanging on all the walls of the office when suddenly the game got cancelled when so much work had already gone into it, especially because the team was really excited about it.
I also asked about the THQ/South Park situation because of course that’s very closely related to publisher crap (THQ was supposed to publish the game but then went bankrupt, leading to South Park being picked up by Ubisoft and having its release date immediately postponed) and asked if they were given the same amount of freedom by Ubisoft to do what they thought was best, which was followed by a sheepish smile and a “I..I..I..well I can’t really say anything about that but…you know..” that spoke volumes. So if The Stick Of Truth ends up sucking, you’ll know why. What a scoop!
I wish I had prepared some questions to ask because I’m so, so excited about his work on Torment, Project Eternity and of course a huge fan of his previous work, but I was so crazy nervous (I was actually shaking as I handed him the game covers to sign) that my brain couldn’t think of stuff to ask quickly enough. I was thinking perhaps, if he’d be so kind, I could maybe send some questions his way that he could answer. If I do decide to do that and he actually answers them, I’ll be sure to post them up here, but for now I’m content with having met this legend, having him sign my favorite games, and having taken a picture with him. Honestly I can’t think of many people who I’d rather have met, except maybe like George Lucas or something.
Of course some stuff happened after this, including an interesting talk by the amazing Robin Hunicke about the music in Journey (a game that I’ve never played but looks utterly amazing) and Chris’ own talk about Kickstarter, but for me the day really couldn’t get any better anyway and my brain kind of just shut down right then and there.
Truly, this was a birthday to never forget.