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GameCity Squared

Zombiefied ear!
Zombiefied ear!

I’ve been at various events held at GameCity Squared (or GameCity 2009) this year. Some good, some bad, and some mediocre. Lets see what’s what :)

The Good

I enjoyed most of it! Some brilliant fun to be had, well worth taking work off to go to it. I also missed some things (or parts of things) which I felt bad doing, and wished there was just more things to do, which is always good.

Sandpit - Moveyhouse
Sandpit - Moveyhouse

Specific good events for me included Sandpit which were lots of different in-person games for something different. The first one I did was playing a game where you had to dance to the track of music and find others dancing to the same track. The second was “Moveyhouse” a pretty cool “recreation of a film experience” with “texts” (here, at least, not live) from another cinema with things like “Everyone is laughing uncontrollably” and “This film is the AMERICAN DREAM” :)

Gambling Lambs starting Thursday was great. I got to get out Last Night on Earth, a turn based zombie-versus-survivors game (sadly didn’t finish it but since everyone but me was learning the rules, took a while to get started of course). Got to play something like “Dal Monty” (please correct me if I’m wrong), a quick card game of putting down cards lower then previously put down. Some good Werewolf too – although I do want to do a full game of Dominion at some point.

The second GameCityU session actually was something to do with videogames, and was good! :) Rex Crowle, Robin Hunicke and Barbara Lippe went through some of their philosophies with some half-decent questions. Saw some nice artwork from Rex and Barbara. I got some notes from this I’ll get off my laptop too (the only session I bothered with notetaking of any kind).

GameCityU : 2 HOURS IS NOT ENOUGH, had Robin Hunicke, Rex Crowle, Barbara Lippe, Masaya Matsuura, John Burgerman, Keita Takahashi and Atomic (?) was good, if entirely random (“Favourite food to eat when designing”, “Things you do before you go to work”). Keita was mono-syllabic due to the language barrier, and everyone basically said some cool stuff :)

World of Wordcraft : Rebecca Mayes - Board o' Stuff. What must and must not be included in a review.
World of Wordcraft : Rebecca Mayes - Board o' Stuff. What must and must not be included in a review.

World of Wordcraft : Rebecca Mayes wasn’t really a Rebecca Mayes event, although she played a few songs (I liked and remembered the early Hotel Dusk one, and she should have done more at the end!). It was a humorous “What should go in a review” for the panel. Obviously not serious, and went over the same kind of things I’ve heard a lot of recently, but it was fun to listen too. Had on the panel Simon Parkin, Ste Curran, Margaret Robinson and someone from Develop or (and Ex-Edge) who I recognised but missed catching the name of.

Mr Matsuura’s Marvellous Marching Band was a great look at most of Masaya Matsuura’s work in videogames. Margaret Robinson interviewed him going from his early work in bands and music up to Vib Ribbon and Parappa The Rapper, and onwards. While youtube-videos were necessary (sadly) because they didn’t test the consoles beforehand, it was still pretty cool. At the end was a Kazoo song – Hey Jude, and two brave souls from the audience doing some Kazoo work on stage (one of which knew a song, the other…not so much). One issue with this was it was posted only a day before, even though it was on the programmes so they must have known about it earlier – very odd that.

Craig "The Rage" McLelland (and Ste Curran) at OneNightLeft
Craig "The Rage" McLelland (and Ste Curran) at OneNightLeft

OneLifeLeft : OneNightLeft had Derek Williams doing his rap set, Craig “The Rage” McLelland doing some of his poems live (see below! and I got his book signed! If you don’t take it seriously, the black comedy of his poems are great) and finally some chip tunes to round it off. I had missed the earlier podcast in the day (which overran so I was in the Runescape event at the time), but this was still good. I liked Syphus (Sabrepulse wasn’t bad too), even though I’m not into chiptune music much.

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Brickstock in the big city centre tent was fun, and worth a mention. Long-ish queue (took about 40 minutes) to do a single song, but was still pretty neat. Got to play drums to Walking on Sunshine :) and got Souvik to at least try it out too :)

Me all Zombiefied!
Me all Zombiefied!

I missed the start (ie; the talking bit) of BAFTA Vision Statement : Masaya Matsuura, mainly due to getting up late from the night before – although I will be sure to catch up with it when it goes up online. The song and questions are worth a mention though, he’s quite a charismatic chap and I liked his song.

Being a Zombie for the final night was also some fun, although it went on a little too long (I got to around #50 easy puzzle in soduku on my phone waiting), at least I got some good make up out of it :) But next year I’m just going to get into it with a ticket and get a new videogame costume made up for the event :)

The Mediocre

Some parts were good, but not great, or bad but not horrible. ๐Ÿ˜‰

My Life With… Elite, I thought was going to be more game focused. I actually loved David Braben, with some insight into the influences. Ian Bell was rather bemusing, a more retrospective look at the influence it supposedly had (behind me someone was laughing at this). There was also a brilliant bit by the “Book of the game” The Dark Wheel author Robert Holdstock, which was pretty inspiring more from his perspective of being an author. However, they missed out – a player of the game (who didn’t have much to say) a person who ported it to a popular platform (ditto, nothing to say) wasted precious time. It was mediocre for it’s lack of content, not that what little there was wasn’t interesting.

Indiecade, Moon Stories. Fun little flash games!
Indiecade, Moon Stories. Fun little flash games!

Indiecade was mediocre overall but only for a few poor reasons – firstly, the first day when I went around it there were no signs. Secondly there were no headphones – and this was in a big tent next to loud projector games or Lego Rock Band. Thirdly there were seemingly no guides of the games, which was a shame, and no authors of the games present. Or if there were it wasn’t advertised. Finally standing there with trackpad mice (on small wooden blocks) didn’t do much to make it easy to play any of the games, like last year actually :) However, some games I enjoyed – Moon Stories were fun little flash games (and good because they didn’t need sound). I also tried but failed to play The Path and Dear Esther because they needed sound really. Classic Night also looked brilliant, sadly not much to do in it though. This could have been brilliant mainly with the things above solved.

Frozen Synapse : Beat the Dev! was featuring, well, Frozen Synapse. I played the level that allowed you to play against the AI. Let me say; ridiculously hard, and no tutorial (although at least it had control instructions and a video saying what to do). I suppose only really mediocre because the devs were not explaining the game at all, as far as I could see, and that the game itself needs some real tutorial to learn how to play it at all well.

Ballroom Bricks was okay, I just wish we saw more of the added features (although seeing the cool mode where people played solos was fun) and the customisation, which is what I expect most people would like to know about. Good, but not great to go to.

The Bad

A Tale of Two Industries had Lord Puttnam compare films to games. Of course, he did film direction/production. So, it ended up more as a “Games must make you cry” piece at the end (especially during questions). I did think the start of his talk was relatively interesting, I don’t exactly have a huge handle on the very early film works, but since games don’t need narrative to be interesting (so we don’t necessary have to have Pacman OR Bioshock…), the good comparisons pretty much ended there.

Something Splendid was actually (the awesome) Keita Takahashi going over his plans for a revamped playground in Nottingham (I got this from those who attended, who were disappointed since he did a great talk 2 years ago!). I didn’t attend – look, no tickets left + no idea you could just sign up on the door + no idea what the event was = me not coming. I’ve been burned by enough videogame previews to not take “trust us” too lightly.

Second had information here, but I missed Should gamespace be a taboo-free zone? due to Japanese lessons, and it turned out to be pretty much not a good thing to attend. The people presenting hadn’t actually played any games, and even the title isn’t worded right. Oh well, I quite like hearing more on this kind of area, but I guess I didn’t miss anything here.

Runescape: Directors Commentary
Runescape: Directors Commentary

Runescape : The Director Commentary was, well, not much of a directors commentary. Also wasn’t much of an interview. There was a poor choice of questions, followups and examples. It failed mainly due to the fact it was nothing like the Goldeneye one last year, which I thought was well done. Saying it is commentary is a misnomer when no gameplay footage is even shown. It didn’t even explain the history (surely this is done partially for the National Videogame Archive?) such as the older early Java implementations, the build up of community and expansion, the introduction of paid-for content and what that actually was, as well as how their design decisions evolved over time. Going through how to initially play the game and why they have done it like they have would have been great too. So many missed topics!

Finally, on the bad side was, again, finding out what was going on and where. Knowing what needed tickets (and no question, you needed a ticket) and what didn’t (so you could turn up whenever) too. I think if it was mainly first-come-first-serve (with a reserve for the press/VIP’s as needed) it would have been better – since the only limit was fire precautions. The timetable didn’t have a printable version, and the ones given out on the day were better but contained both mistakes (the location of Antenna for instance), and missed some events out entirely. They were also not distributed until after the first “Special” event – the Takahashi playground, since it was put down there, which is bemusing at best, and were never available on the website either. They also didn’t use the mailing lists much (I never got many emails) which meant tickets ran out, or events which randomly turned up (such as “The End” where I volunteered to go for the Zombie thing) ran out quickly for no apparent reason. At least it was generally free, and oh well…maybe next year it’ll be better! Also needs large end party, perhaps just because I didn’t get an initial ticket for it :(


Well, the amount of content was there, but spread rather thinly at times (yes, at least not many things clashed which was good, but there were gaps and some content I wouldn’t have minded missing if there was something better on! especially if it meant getting a seat), and the organisation was seriously lacking for knowing what was going on and ticketing. I am sure next year if it goes on will be an improvement, and many things were good fun! ๐Ÿ˜€

Give me more developer talks too. Developers talking about the why, how what and where is interesting. GameCityU was very panel-based (so couldn’t concentrate on one game, one topic), and RuneScape commentary was a poor interview, not commentary, sadly. Still was fun to go to much of it, and I did miss a few sessions that might have boosted it all too :)

There also were not, apart from Indiecade, and later Frozen Synapse, many games to play. Lego Rockband you could get on for a song or two at most, and EA did bring down a big-ass-thing which, sadly, mainly flaunted Fifa 10 (but I did get a little go on Brutal Legend at least). It might clash with the Eurogamer Expo, but I’d have though there was a bit more worth playing, and interacting with, during the day.

I’ve got some more photos, and some videos uploaded too if you want to check them out. It was good to catch up with people I rarely see at the event too and meet new people as well :)

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