Gaming is Seriously Fun Business
I am fresh on the heels of my return from Europe for The Game Developers Conference (GDC) Europe and GamesCom, both events take place for a week every August in the lovely city of Cologne, Germany. If you haven’t attended these events, imagine GDC San Francisco and the E3 Expo combined, happening in all one place, but with more beer. Way more beer. Also more sausage. In more ways than one, but I digress….
I really enjoy attending this show and have been a regular speaker at GDC Europe over the years. It’s great to meet gaming people from Europe and other parts of the world — folks who might not make it over to the United States for other games conferences, such as GDC San Francisco.
GDC Europe and GamesCom Highlights…
Wooga Takes Social Gaming by Storm:
Although talk about console and browser games still seemed to dominate, social gaming companies such as Wooga were generating quite a buzz — and with good reason. They are a Berlin-based company that has (according to their website) grown to be the “world’s second largest provider of social games.” During the show, Wooga announced the release of their latest game, “Magic Land.” Awwww, I wanna go to a place called “Magic Land.”
Do you think “Magic Land” will have unicorns? Lots of them, like My Pretty Pony? If the game has unicorns, and very ornate ones at that, I will forget that it uses a never-ending grind mechanic found in most Facebook games these days. In any case, the beta version of “Magic Land” already has over 2 million players so it probably doesn’t matter what I think. Props to Wooga in any case for their steady and stellar rise to the top!
p.s. I checked and the game does feature unicorns rather prominently, so all is right in the world.
Location-Based Gaming is My Favorite Thing Since Sliced Bread:
I also had the opportunity to take in Karlsruhe-based Flare Games presentation on what they have been working on.
Flare is working on a pretty cool product tentatively titled “Flatmates.” – They are approaching using the “real world” as a game layer in ways I’ve never seen before.
While I really love the idea of real-world games, but just as much I am a complete geek for location as a feature in games and other online services — when it is used intelligently.
Can’t wait to see what Klaas Kersting, Andreas Suika and colleagues have up their sleeves in the coming months.
World of Tanks is a Juggernaut — and Hosts a Very Cool Party
One of the biggest players in the gaming space to dominate a lot of attention at GDC Europe and GamesCom at least as far as I was concerned, is the folks over at World of Tanks. The game has around 5 million players so far and is growing — having released a retail version today. The free-to-play game has boasted over 172,000 concurrent users as well. Pretty awesome, huh?
Oh, and did I mention they threw probably one of the most raucous parties of all of GDC Europe/GamesCom? The party was held at Bootshaus — a huge venue close to the convention center. There had to be a couple of thousand people in attendance. I couldn’t stay too long because I had to go to Zurich the next day for a meeting about Shadow Government, which is headquartered in both Zurich and New York City.
Traditional Publishers Just Don’t Get It
Maybe it’s because I haven’t really worked in the console gaming world since my long ago days (and brief interlude) at Mindscape/The Learning Company back in the day and haven’t had the need to raise $30 million dollars to work on a game for the next 4 years — so I haven’t had to cozy up to too many traditional gaming publishers. I had a chance to see some of them speaking on a panel and thought to myself how much traditional gaming publishers are a dying breed. Video game sales were down 26% in terms of retail sales in July 2011 compared to the same period last year. Digital distribution is where it’s at, baby! Right now, traditional console games still eclipse casual/social games in revenue — but I think the tide is turning.
Eating My Way Through Cologne & Only Semi-Proud of It
What you see here is the first of a 5-course meal I enjoyed at this fabulous restaurant in Cologne, located in the hotel I was staying. The name of the restaurant is “d/\blju ‚W”. I kid you not. I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce that one.
And Now…A Ridiculously Detailed View Into My Gourmet Meal at The Unpronounceable Restaurant (“d/\blju ‚W”).
I have only sort of an idea what was on this plate, but I’ll do my best to describe. Let’s start with the most identifiable element of this photo: Beer.
1. Beer, more specifically, Kölsch, the local type of beer that is produced in and around Cologne. While I’m not much of a beer-drinker, Kölsch is pretty yummy. It’s very light, many would say too light, and they serve it in these miniature glasses, like the one you see in this photo to the left.
2. To the bottom left of the beer — smoked salmon on top of some kind of mini biscuit, topped with a quail egg and a bit of dill. Interesting.
3. A slice of cheese on a small bit of rye bread, with a pretzel stabbing through it.
4. Some time of minced blood sausage. I pretended not to know this was sausage because I only eat seafood and veggies. Let’s say it was pretty interesting…..
Well, this was the beginning of a delicious and, frankly, somewhat huge meal. Fortunately, the portions were all pretty small.
Second Course — here is another photo from the delectable evening:
There is no way I can possibly re-construct what is contained in this second dish. By this point, I had forgotten what was on the menu.
The striped concoction you see in the center — I believe this was some type of pasta creation.
Somewhere on this dish was smoked whitefish.
Isn’t it pretty?
Third and Fourth Courses — oopsy:
For the next 2 courses, I was too busy eating the chanterelle mushroom soup and the steamed halibut to take photos — but I did manage to snap a blurry photo of the dessert.
Fifth Course — Dessert:
If there is one thing German cuisine gets astoundingly well, in my opinion, it’s the desserts. I was an exchange student in
Germany during high school. In addition to retaining much of the spoken language, I also learned a few recipes here and there for amazing desserts in Germany.
So here is a blurry photo of my dessert. Wait for it. Wait for it — Stewed cherries, parfait of cherry brandy and chocolate crumbles…OMG. Nom.
An Old Water Tower for a Hotel — Right in Central Cologne
I stayed at the Hotel im Wasserturm — a really gorgeous hotel that was built into an old water tower. It was about a 30-minute walk to the convention center, so I got to do some fun sigh-seeing as I went to and from the conference.
Here’s an iconic shot of Cologne — the Cathedral, the bridge going over the River Rhine. Gorgeous. This was my walk (when I had the time and wasn’t in meetings) to GDC Europe:
The hotel has an amazing bar area and an even more amazing restaurant, which I referenced in generous detail above. Here are some photos from my stay there….This is the lobby interior of the hotel. Kind of cool. Since it is a round tower, it’s easy to get turned around here.
My room was on the 9th floor — all rooms on that floor have an open balcony and you can walk the entire circumference of the tower — taking in breathtaking views of Cologne.
Here’s a photo from the 9th floor balcony. Cologne Cathedral is in the background — and that cool building in the foreground with the giant window. Know what that is? A school. Talk about great civic architecture.
The famous Gothic Cathedral is the most prominent feature of the city of Cologne — a city founded by the Romans and named after the dreaded Aggrippina the Younger, wife to the Roman emperor Claudius. She was born in Cologne — in the dark pre-Kölsch days. The official Roman name for Cologne back then was Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium.
Much of Cologne was destroyed during the Second World War, so the Cathedral (which was not unscathed in the war) is a World Heritage site.
During a break from the conference, I took a quick walk around the inside of the Cathedral.
I hadn’t done that since I was 17 years of age, the first time I ever visited Cologne.
Snapped a few photos with my trusty iPad — not the best for photography, but I make it work.
Here’s a photo of another interior detail from the Cathedral, a bad-ass mosaic of a knight on the floor of the Catherdal. Cool, huh?
Here’s a cool/creepy photo of the Cologne Cathedral at night. Now we know why it’s called “gothic” architecture:
I’m a voracious student of history — particularly early European history — and it’s always astounding to me how much the Romans and the Vikings put their stamp on so much of Europe, Africa and the Near East. Case in point, Cologne still has many markings of a Roman town. Case in point — here’s a Roman floor mosaic discovered in a pub in the old city part of Cologne. The establishment owners put a see-through floor over the discovery so that patrons coming and going can check it out. There are lots of little special things like this all throughout Europe, Cologne notwithstanding:
Gaming is a Great Industry
There is no denying that gaming is a great industry to be in. Great people, fun challenges and problems. Attending GDC Europe and GamesCom over the years has allowed me to meet some awesome people and get a great perspective on this ever-changing industry.