Posts Tagged ‘Germany’

So, at the weekend I played a Megagame. What’s a megagame? Go look it up, it’s amazing. Shut Up & Sit Down have a fantastic video about the Alien Invasion Megagame they played last year, called Watch the Skies. What I played was the sequel – Watch the Skies 2: Global Conspiracy.

I’m writing this blog post because I want to get some thoughts down about it before I forget, and obviously I want to leave some open feedback for the developers. Me and my team have already discussed this all to death, but it’ll be good to share.

First off, let me pre-face by saying that it was one of the most amazing, unique experiences I’ve ever had. I’d happily do it again, and in fact me and my friends have already signed up for ‘Come to a King’, a Megagame set in 11th Century England. I’m hoping to be a Saxon Warlord.

Anyway, back to Saturday…

A lot of things broke that day.

Scaling a game that originally had like, 50 people? To one that has to accommodate 300 was never going to work 100%. The fact that it went as well as it did is a testament to all of the hard work put in by the various control teams, and the players themselves for trying to adapt and engage with the tools given to them.

I’m not going to talk about it too much as it wasn’t my department, but it sounded like the Science element needs a major overhaul. I know my science guy struggled with a control team that kept changing the rules, struggled with a tech tree he barely had time to get to grips with, struggled with  … the fact that he did as well as he did is amazing, but even the rest of us thought he had the short end of the stick.

For my part, I had my own struggle with rule systems that kept changing. There were a few things mentioned explicitly in the handbook that I found had been changed on the day. Corps upgrades, SIF upgrades, mobilisation rules… I did feel like I spent perhaps too much time talking to control about rule-clarifications.

** Just to be clear, my local control team was amazing, especially the lady I kept talking to. She was really helpful and I feel bad for badgering her so often. **

But there were also a few instances where my team were told conflicting information, like how spies worked in the different phases.

I think generally there was a conflict between the systems that had rules, and the systems that didn’t.

I kept given money to corporations for deals I had going on, only for someone else to come around a phase or two later to ask for the money I’d already given them. Seems they’d decided to collect the money for everything in different phases, and hadn’t told any of their actual customers, so that was confusing (but we sorted it out and I was very happy with what I got from them – a shiny new Modern Army, + 1 PR, and some epic regional terror deduction. Boss).

Had zero contact with Humanity first, The Papacy, or in fact members from other world regions who didn’t specifically come to the EU zone.

I won’t go on, but in summary: Many bits buckled, some bits broke, but the game ran as well as it could have done.

Blessed are the Greeks

Our local problem in the EU region to keep us busy before the Aliens turned up was Greece. Some rebel military organisation had seized the oilfields there, and Turkey and the rest of the central region close to Greece weren’t happy.

Turkey etc… threatened to invade, the Americans were butting their noses in… and yet as a region I’m not entirely sure we handled things very well. Really, for the first couple of turns we were all struggling to get to grips with the game, so that’s why nothing really happened. I think from my side at least It took me a while to see it as a problem we actually had to interact with. I’d gone in to the game too excited about the Alien element, and I guess I was just waiting for them to show up.

Greece proved to be a problem that would never be solved, and I’m not so sure it isn’t just as much the game’s fault as it was our own. Here is a breakdown of how I saw things. Again, not being directly involved, I have a narrow view of things:

  • Not really being able to mobilise and send in troops, there was nothing we could do from that perspective.
  • The UN mandated economic sanctions against Greece, so I assumed that meant they didn’t want to send in troops initially either.
  • That left political influence. First couple of turns everyone was rebuffed, but then my Minister and the Italians managed to get a foothold. The plan was to get the Greek rebels to back down, while getting the Turkish to back off and give them some money to keep them happy.
  • The problem is, even when my minister rolled 6’s, and influenced the holy f**k out of Greece, all we got back was “We’ll think about it”. And then another turn would pass.

It got to a point where I didn’t really know what we could do from a game perspective to ‘sort Greece out’. And then Greece erupted into civil war instead so we got the UN to send in peacekeepers. After that, I didn’t really see what else we could do because the UN was directly involved.

I’ve read several comments already on how ‘frustrated’ the US and the central powers were about Greece not getting sorted out, but all I can say is that we felt we did all the game allowed us to do, and once the UN went in it was out of our hands.

Highlights

 As I mentioned above, the day was amazing. Here is a few of the reasons why:

  • We were insanely rich. At one point my General alleged that, when we’d just hit maximum PR, we were the richest nation on the planet (he’d gone for a wonder). Generally PR and money were NEVER a problem thanks to some good deals made on my part, some good science on the part of my Scientist, and generally keeping on top of the PR score.
  • Telling the Americans that their nuke was safe and that, no, they couldn’t base troops in Germany, only for the aliens to then land on Germany and leave a card behind for everyone to see. God damn it. I still don’t even know what that fecking thing was about.
  • Rallying to a call to mobilise interceptors to Antarctica. Only two alien saucers turned up, and each had about four SIFs on it, and none of us managed to shoot the buggers down. I learned much later that me (and about 7 other nations) had massively breached international law by doing that (although there were no consequences, which there probably should have been). Oops. I also decided not to waste my time with such a deployment again.
  • Rallying the EU leaders into firming up the EuroUnion to resist outside meddling from Russia and the US. Europeans will solve European problems… although I’m not sure how effectively we managed that in the end, given what I said above.
  • My foreign minister telling me that he had the Greece situation sorted. The next turn he told me that he’d accidentally caused a civil war.
  • Thinking for a few minutes that the abduction of the UNSC was due to the fact that my General had shot down an interceptor that turn. The alien player maintains the saucer was over Geneva to pick up the delegation, but my general says it was in German airspace, so I support him. Another saucer managed to land that WAS firmly in Swiss airspace, which we ignored, which then abducted the UNSC.
  • Learning that the Aliens were fighting some kind of interstellar war amongst themselves and using Earth as some last-ditch, back-water refuelling post. This was a highlight only in the sense that it made me really cross, hah.
  • Another thing that got me a little cross is that, whenever a UFO appeared over Germany (we didn’t get that many), EVERYONE bum rushed their interceptors into our air-space. Sure, it’s ok, just come right in. It’s not like we have sovereign rights or anything. I kind of blame the game for that one though.
  • Fighting Russia to a standstill in the Ukraine. I’m still not entirely sure about how easily we got dragged in to that 11th hour conflict, but when civil war broke out in the Ukraine I let my General mobilise, and he sent an army unit to the Polish/Ukraine border, to ensure the conflict didn’t spill over. Next thing I knew the Polish army AND ours had joined one half of Ukraine and was squaring up against the other half, along with Russia. He exchanged fire and it was a draw (epic rolling on his part), but then that meant the whole of NATO was then at war with Russia.
  • My Foreign Minister then had his finest hour and first of all got the Russian to back down, and then went to the Americans and got them to not send in the troops. I’d like to think I helped a little with that.

The ultimate icing on the cake though was a plan me and the French leader were discussing to try and rescue the UN delegation. Operation ‘Trojan Horse’ – my scientist had researched the tech for a sub-orbital civilian transport, and the French had (somehow) managed to research Interstellar Marines. Together, we were going to attempt to mount a rescue (I don’t even know if it would have worked, given it was only a sub-orbital ship. Maybe we could have captured a saucer and ridden that to the Moon or something). Due to some frankly beardy rulings by the science control team, we lost a turn or two trying to get everything in place, but then we were ready. On Turn 10, we were going to mount our operation. There was no Turn 10.

—————–

My final thought is one that I’m not particularly proud of, but something I’d like to share anyway. This will probably make me sound jealous and slightly childish. Here goes anyway:

I felt a little left out.

My expectations going into the game was that it would be some grand Alien incursion onto the globe for reasons beyond our understanding. There were six alien teams – conveniently one of every region, so I expected every region to be heavy with alien activity due to some master-plan involving all of humanity.

Really, it was just about the Japanese and their Whaling. And something about the aliens needing to mine minerals to fight a war they were losing, neither of which meant that Europe was particularly bothered by extra-terrestrials. From what I gather, every region had varying degrees of alien interaction, with East Asia getting perhaps the most (hell, Tokyo was destroyed), and it felt like Europe the least.

I think what bugs me the most is with a storyline like that driving a lot of the alien interaction, we didn’t really need to be there – whether the European nations were played or not, Africa would have still lost its kittens, Japan would still have had to deal with sentient Whales and then been bombarded from orbit… It was an interesting story, an amusing story, and a story worth telling. It was just one that didn’t seem to need me or my team. That made me a little sad.

Hell, If it wasn’t for the fact that we were wrestling with a crisis in Greece all game, we’d have had very little to do. Looking back, the game me and team ended up playing had nothing to do with Aliens. It was an incredibly fun game, full of political tension, high-level negotiations, rebels, and sure the odd UFO to shoot down. Every now and then I’d have a meeting to discuss the Alien problem that was only really a problem to other people.

Ultimately, it wasn’t the game we were expecting to play. Dare I say, it wasn’t the game we paid to play.

If I were to sum up this last point, it would be that I feel  my team worked amazingly hard, did a really good job at the EU regional table, and at the end of the day it felt like none of it really mattered because control had come up with this wonderful plot for the aliens that seemed to revolve around a handful of specific nations that weren’t us. I gather we missed out a lot of the ‘Real Deal’ talks in the pub afterwards (we were knackered and decided to go drink back in Kent), but it would have been nice to have had more of ‘big picture’ debrief at the end.

Other than that, it was the best day of my life. Probably.

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English: Logo of Gamescom

 

It’s that time again folks: The time where we all pack our bags, hop on a plane to the continent, and enjoy all the sausage and beer for a few days. Oh and there might be something to do with videogames there as well, can’t remember.

I genuinely think GamesCom is my favourite time of the year… I still want to do E3 once; just so I can say I have, but I’m so rooted in the European games market (and the PC market) that GamesCom is far more relevant to me as a professional and as a person. The Germans are all so nice as well.

I’ve officially been a Freelancer now for well over a year, although this year’s GamesCom is going to be the first that I’ll be opening myself up for genuine freelance commissions. I’ll promote this on twitter, but I find directly appealing to followers about this kind of stuff a bit… tacky? Inappropriate? I don’t know – no offence to anyone who likes soliciting via twitter, it just makes me uncomfortable. Anyway, here’s the deal:

GamesCom 2013 Freelance Pitch

As I enter my sixth year in this business, this will also be my sixth year going to GamesCom – I know the show very well, how it works, the set-up etc… And I’m also on good terms with many of the PR’s, so getting appointments shouldn’t be a problem. I’m professional, I’m good with deadlines, and I’m used to the post-Com grind, so I’ll be able to keep up with the workload. I shall be at GamesCom from Monday 19th August through to Sunday 25th. Typically, some companies like holding external events on the Tuesday, but for the most part the focus will be on business centre appointments on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Sometimes Saturday too but that’s become increasingly rare in recent years.

I am available for PAID Freelance Work during GamesCom 2013. This includes:

* Appointments: If you want to book me into something, or if you want me to try and get an appointment on your behalf I will, and you’ll get any coverage that comes from it. (Previews & Interviews) Caveat: I’m not going to be booking appointments off my own back without a commission first.

* Hands-On: Depending on the release schedule, they’ll be many opportunities in the consumer areas for limited hands-on time with upcoming games. If you want some hands-on impressions of something, let me know.

* Features: General or specific features surrounding any topic.

* Podcasts, Videos etc… If you make a podcast, video blog etc… And you need an extra voice or anything like that, (especially if I’ve managed to get in and see something that you haven’t yet), extra pair of hands etc… Then I’d be happy to do a guest spot. It’s not that I think I’m another Pachter or anything, but hey, I like talking about games, and I know how to speak on multimedia.

* Anything else you can think of.

ALL RATES, ARTICLE SPECIFICS (LIKE WORD COUNT), DEADLINES ETC… WILL BE NEGOTIATED ON A CASE BY CASE BASIS.

If you are interested in hiring me, please do not hesitate to get in touch:

Email: joe@just-communication.co.uk
Phone: +44 7879640305
Skype: joeruk88
Twitter: @DigitalXentric

 

Today I’m going to talk to you about Grand-Strategy games. I like Grand-Strategy games. Typically they can be lighter on things like graphics and visuals, but they possess so much depth and potential options that it provides a nice counter-balance. Plus as someone with an active imagination, I also get a kick out of visualising events in my head anyway. One of the leaders in grand-strategy is a company called Paradox Interactive, and they’ve got several key franchises, each focusing on a different theme. Hearts of Iron for warfare, Victoria for Economy, Crusader Kings focuses on the human aspect of ruling a kingdom and politics, and Europa Universalis is blend of everything.

I went to see them in Iceland recently, and they’ve got a lot of great titles in their line-up for these games – expansions for Victoria 2 and Crusader Kings II, Europa Universalis IV, March of the Eagles, a Hearts of Iron spin-off called East vs. West (Which looks amazing). You’ll be able to see my coverage of these games dotted around the place, mainly on Strategy Informer, but it’s caused me to have a bit of a relapse into some of the older games – especially Victoria 2.

Victoria 2 is in itself a bit of a paradox – essentially it’s a game that focuses on the industrial revolution, so the economy system is very robust. You have a detailed population interface, with everyone having different jobs and you have to make sure you provide for all their needs. You can open different types of factories, which all require different types of resources that you can either find from within your nation or export from elsewhere. This is backed up by a very hands-on political system, where you have different parties and philosophies that your people with vote on (some political parties, for example, won’t let you build your own factories, letting the private investors do it for you). There’s also the diplomatic stage, where you compete with other great powers to draw minor nations into your sphere of influence, which gives you priority over trade. Essentially, they didn’t want this game to be a wargame, like the previous title they release – Hearts of Iron III.

The funny thing is though, as the name suggest, the game is set within the backdrop of the late 19th century colonial era. The scramble for Africa is accurately represented through a colonisation interface, there are the eastern nations you can interact with, and there were a lot of wars during this period. The 1871 Franco-Prussian War, the Prussian-Austrian War, the Zulu war in South Africa… the game’s time span stretches all the way to 1935, so you’ve got the First World War in there as well. None of these events are prescribed in the game – there are tools and systems in place for such events to happen. It’s strange then that they’d focus the game so much on economy, during a time where there was a fair share of fighting. And it’s not like you can sit back and avoid the fighting either. In order to be a great power, you need to have high prestige, a good industry, and a large army, and an easy way to get prestige is to fight wars. The military side of things though is rather tame – you can build three different types of units – Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery, and there are several variations you can get as you climb up the tech tree. (Tanks and Aeroplanes do appear very late in the game as well, although they don’t fit quite as neatly.)

Armies can be controlled by generals, and there are plenty of military techs you can research to make your military more efficient, but when it comes down to it a war is all about making sure your army stack is bigger than the other guys… like how Civilization used to be. At the time, it was a bit of a let down from the wonderful deep combat systems of Hearts of Iron III, and now, playing through it again, I can’t help but think it’d benefit loads from the developments made in March of the Eagles.

What I so like about Victoria 2 though is the long-term goals you can achieve. Crusader Kings II is good for this as well, in a way, as you can form De Jure Kingdoms and Empires eventually if you conquer/vassalise the right people. Victoria 2 has similar system in place for certain countries. Choose any of the Italian states, for example, and provided you can reach Great Power status you can work on bringing the rest into your sphere of influence (or just out-right conquer them), and then form the nation of Italy. Play as either Austria or Prussia (or any of the other German states, I think, although it’s much harder with them), and you can initially form the South or North German Confederation respectively, and then go on to create the German Empire. Austria also has the option to become Austria-Hungary, as it did in history. There are other ones as well for other key nations, some interesting, some not… Denmark or Sweden, for example can form an a-historical ‘Scandinavian’ nation, which I did once, although since the expansion it’s harder as you essentially have to fight Prussia for a particular territory, and you have to work really hard or get some powerful friends to become stronger than Sweden.

In my current play-through, I played as Prussia, with the eventual aim of forming Germany (going through a bit of a Germanic phase right now). The first step – forming the North German Confederation – is the easy part (relatively). You start with most of the key states under your sphere of influence; you only need to fight Austria (and maybe Denmark) for the rest. Provided you get your act together quickly enough, you can attack Austria before they have any chance of forming any decent alliances, and boom, North German Confederation. The hard part was forming Germany though, as the last few key provinces I needed were held by France, who is typically stronger than you, and in my game by the time I got around to looking their way, they had several key alliances which meant I would be fighting a war on multiple fronts. To my shame, I played a game where every so often, I’d start the war to see who joined which side (we shared several allies), and even play it out a bit to see how easy it would be… it didn’t work I, I reloaded to a save I made just before I declared war. Took a couple of goes and some more diplomatic shenanigans before I found a scenario that was favourable.

The ‘Great War’ of 1900-1905 (eventually, wars that contain multiple great powers are called ‘Great Wars’ in the game, to simulate the First World War)  was North German Confederation and my lackeys, Italy, Great Britain and perhaps a couple of others, versus France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Russia. It was the best chance I was going to get, and experience through fighting out the previous attempts gave me ideas to keep the Russians pinned on that front, allowing me to fully concentrate on the French. Essentially, the war boiled down to a massive dog-pile in Strasbourg, with two huge stacks going toe-to-toe for the whole war. Italy proved quite effective in fighting France in the south, while Great Britain kept the French navy at bay and also went for their overseas territories. I used what few stacks weren’t tied up to take out Belgium – which was harder than it should of been –  and support my allies whilst making a play for Paris. Eventually, the French army just broke, and it was only after I’d occupied all of their territories that they finally gave in. Three Cheers for Germany!

It was kind of interesting to watch the balance of power change after that – every nation on the losing side of a Great War has to ‘capitulate’, so they get rid of half their army, and other reparations as well. It removed France and Russia from the Great Power list completely, and at the time of wiring France is in the sphere of influence of The Netherlands, of all places. Russia is in the pocket of Austria, who I’ve just gone to war with as they’ve been sitting pretty gathering strength for too long. So far, the ‘Second Great War’ is going well for me.

All Hail the Fatherland.

It’s that time again folks – with E3 well and truly behind us and most of the post-E3 preview tours out of the way, PR’s are now looking to the next ‘big’ event on the calendar, the Cologne Games Convention. I say ‘big’ – Cologne has always had issues because it’s rather too close to E3 for a lot of company’s liking, although being in Europe, being more PC-friendly and being largely consumer-based (as opposed to E3’s purely Press & Corporate), it has some leeway. That hasn’t stopped companies like Microsoft, Sega, etc… From pulling out though. Still, it’s technically the world’s largest gaming event, which counts for something.

This year will be my fifth year at GamesCom, and my first as a freelancer… although I won’t be able to do that much freelancing per say – this year is also the first year that I couldn’t quite afford to pay my way up front (Times being tough, plus I’ve had to shell out a lot for the flat move…). Thankfully, Strategy Informer (the people who I’ve always gone anyway), agreed to pay my way up front this year (instead of me claiming it back after the fact). I always enjoy GamesCom… great atmosphere, great times, great people… I still want to go to E3 at least once to say that I have, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up liking GamesCom more overall.

I’m also not as in charge of my own schedule this year as I have been in the past, so I imparted some words of wisdom onto my boss to help make sure he doesn’t make my life hell, and it inspired me to write up a post on the subject. Here are some of the rules and tricks I’ve pick up though for planning a GamesCom:

Hotels

It doesn’t matter which side of the River you are on. No matter which side you choose, you’ll have to trek somewhere. Last year I was on the Messe side of the river, in a little urban/parade area directly south of the convention centre. A lot of out of the way and cheap hotels (although with little frills), and you’re no more than a five minute walk away from the convention hall. It was then a quick tram ride into the centre of town…This year, I’m on the other side of the river, just up the road from the Central station – it’ll mean a slightly longer trip (15 minutes top I should think) to get to and from the Messe, but I’ll be right in the heart of the town. Swings and Roundabouts really… most of the press and other industry folk tend to go to the same places anyway, so you’ll rarely have far to go. There’s this Irish Bar that I’ve always missed out on going too.

– Try to be near a metro/tram station. The reason for this is two-fold: Firstly, it gives you a greater degree of flexibility as to how far out your Hotel can be before it becomes unworkable (happened to me a couple of years ago, was a good 20-25 minute TRAM ride away… didn’t got out much, as you can imagine, although I did get a lot of work done…), and also because Cologne-Bonn airport as a good rail link into Cologne central station (and the convention centre, if you wanted to go straight there) and from there you can access most of the major tram lines around the town. The tram/metro service is pretty decent in Cologne, and as much as I feel guilty for advising this, it can be quite easy to get a cheeky free ride on the tram – conductors are rare.

WiFi is Golden. Check your Hotel’s policy on Wi-Fi and wired Ethernet… the convention centre’s wireless infrastructure has always been a little sketchy, and while some publishers set up their own internal networks at the booths, those can also be a little dodgy and sometimes they don’t allow press access. That leaves your Hotel as your last viable line of communication with the outside world. You’re unlikely to get free wifi (although I did last year, it was epic), so check prices. If they offer wired Ethernet for free, make sure you bring a cable. I keep forgetting …

Breakfast is also Golden. Apart from maybe the first day, all the other days you’re going to wake up exhausted and/or hung-over. Therefore, Breakfast really does become the most important meal of the day, as you’re unlikely to get another decent meal until dinner (see ‘Give yourself a break’ below). It may bump the price up, but splashing out to have breakfast included will be the best investment you’ve ever made… depending on your location, you’re unlikely to be able to grab a bite to eat anywhere else, and certainly not when you get to the Messe (see ‘Avoid 9am bookings’ below).

Appointments

Avoid 9am bookings. The Messe has a strict policy of only letting staff and ‘Trade’ Visitors in before 9am. Everyone else, including ‘Press’, have to wait until they doors officially open at 9am each day. Even waiting at the South entrance – the one nearest the two business areas, you’ve still got a 5 – 10 minute walk as you get there, get to the right hall/floor, and THEN have to find the right booth. I aim for a 9:30 start, which allows me plenty of time to get in there and just take in the surroundings, as well as find out where everyone is.

Avoid any appointments in the consumer areas where possible if they are Thursday onwards. GamesCom has been growing in size and prestige every year… my first GamesCom was the last year it was in the East German town of Leipzig (convention centre was pretty swish, town was very soviet and rundown). Since it moved to Cologne, the number of attendees has just kept growing. 2011’s attendee figure was at 275,000… that’s a lot of eager, sweaty Germans trying to cram into one place. They even had to bar entry on the Saturday because there were just too many people trying to get in.

Trust me when I say you DO NOT want to be dealing with that. Now, most of the ‘big boys’ will have booths in the Business centre, which is never that crowded. Sadly, some of the smaller (yet just as cool guys), will only be able to afford to be in one place, and they will want to be in the consumer halls to get their message across to more people. This means that some consumer hall appointments will be unavoidable – do yourself a favour and limit those to Wednesday as much as possible… Wednesday is the press day, so the halls won’t be as crowded.

Give yourself a break. This is a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many times in the past I’ve ended up with wall to wall appoints, 9-6/7. Granted, the Business area booths are usually nicely decked out, so you can take ‘mini-break’s and feed yourself via a drip-feed of snacks and caffeine at the various booths. Still, try and give yourself at least one hour in the day to just sit somewhere – feel free to work, I mean you’ve probably already seen, like, five games that day, might as well start writing some of them up – but make sure you’re sitting down, fairly relaxed with a drink or something to eat. I wouldn’t try going to one of the Messe’s restaurants – they’re not that big and are usually fairly busy (not to mention pricey), although you could try hitting the food stands on Wednesday – more variety and you’ll actually be able to get at them.
Expect to leave the Messe, and try to plan for it. Some companies now, instead of booking a booth in the Messe itself (whether Business or Consumer), will hire out some Hotel suites near the convention centre. Sony did it last year, Paradox Interactive are doing it this year… whilst these venues are no more than five minute walks away, you’ve still got to get there, get back, and then find your next place. The Messe is quite large – coming back to Sony’s example last year, it was on the other side of the roundabout from the Messe’s North entrance, but the Business centres are all the way in the South side… that’s a good 5-10 minute walk right there. Planning stuff like this is hard, especially because companies do things differently, which leads too…

Expect to reschedule. A lot. It’s easy to get some appointment booking done early – some companies are pretty good like that. Other aren’t though, and as you get closer to GamesCom and the gaps start filling in, Someone you really want to see will only have times available where you’re already booked, so you’ll have to shift, compromise and find work around whenever possible.

Cold Calling generally doesn’t work. There can be many situations that leave you without an appointment for someone you’d really like to see – they didn’t have times that matched your schedule, you’ve lost touch with your local PR’s, you don’t know who your local PR is anymore, they don’t like you… That basically means you have to rock up to the booth and try and wrangle an appointment. Generally, I don’t think it works (feel free to correct me, everyone). PR’s and even the people hired to man ‘reception’ are pretty on the ball when it comes to stuff like this.

If you’re going to attempt it, at least make sure you know who your local PR is and ask for them directly. It would help if you’ve had some contact with them in the past, and generally just try and be humble about it. Or accept that it’s just not happening and take the opportunity to get some actual work done. Which leads to the Golden rule…

DO WORK WHEREVER POSSIBLE. GamesCom mans a lot of appoints spread over 3-4 days, that’s a lot of games, and mostly all of them will need writing  up in some form or another (that’s not to mention news, mini-featurettes etc…) Get a head start as soon as possible, as it WILL pile up and you’ll be spending the week after GamesCom grinding them out one after another.

I know you want to go out and party, but make sure you leave yourself sometime after a day’s work, not only to just chill for a bit, but to do some work. IF you’re like me and you’re on your own, it’s especially important. Actually, that should be the Golden Rule… Bring a team… I’ve been soloing GamesCom every year for four years, and trust me when I say it’s tough… I was hoping to have an extra with me this year but that’s not happening.

There’s more I could say, but I don’t want this to get too jumbled or long-winded… only other thing I’d mention is don’t bother with the official GamesCom party – it’s like £40 a ticket and most of the press/PR will go out to Cologne town centre anyway. Other publishers throw their own mini-parties as well, and those are usually free-entry too. If anyone wants to submit their own GamesCom (pro)tips, then feel free. Look forward to seeing you all there!

So when I was at a business booth today, I got given a massive tank. Alright? That happened. In my defence this was the first time meeting this particular team in person, and I didn’t want to see rude. Could this be construed as a bribe? Sure. That’s on me. I think we can work past this though – you just need to tell me how much tank is too much.

Seriously though… as kind of cool as getting swag is, you usually form a line in your head as to what’s acceptable. My line just got bowled over by the tank. I’m very easily swept up in the moment, I think. The PR guy – lovely man named Arthur – gave me the usual, more normal swag – T-shirt, asset disk, booklet etc… and then came back with a giant tank. Like I berk, I just sat there and went “yeah, ok then?”. I’ve no idea how I’m going to get it home.

I’m sure some of my colleagues are tutting at this already – but they have a point. T-shirts, posters… small stuff any reasonable journo can take with out feeling guilty, but this? I mean… it’s remote controlled! As pretentious as it sounds, I’m sure an ethics board would raise an eyebrow at this. I’m probably going to have to give it away as a prize… which presents the added problem (in addition to getting it home), of shipping it back out to whoever wins it. We’ve lost many a prize somewhere in Europe, including a limited edition Xbox.

Oh yeah, I’m in Cologne by the way. Hi. Most of my twitter friends will know this already, as they’re here for the same reason I am – the GamesCom Videogames Convention. Think of it like E3, just with more Germans. And PC actually has a presence. The show is gaining reputation year-by-year, and is even getting announcements now. You don’t always get new code – seeing as it’s barely two months after E3, but it’s respected now I think, at least on the PC side. PC gaming still doesn’t really have a presence at E3.

This is my fourth year in a row covering the convention. My first year, 2008, was the last year the show was in Leipzig in east Germany and I’d barely been doing this kind of thing for three, four months. Man, that seems like a long time ago… I even had a girlfriend back then. I’ve been covering the show by myself each year, but I think I’ll stop that now – going to get a plan together to take someone with me. Hopefully it’ll lighten the load and mean we can see more people.

Going to sign off for now, but I’ll post more about this over the weekend now that I can relax.

Epic Lie-In Time.

 

And I’m back. Sorry about that – was struck by an odd case of writer’s block… didn’t really feel like talking about anything, and writing just for the sake of it doesn’t really get you anywhere. For my triumphant return though, I shall be talking about that most special of events – The Eurovision Song Contest!

I’ve been watching this yearly event for as long as I can remember… my mum probably introduced us to it, and some years we’d even throw a little party, sometimes with fancy dress… although not so much in recent years. I’m not sure what it is about it, to be honest – The voting process is long and can drag a bit, as well has being riddled with politics to the point where it’s ridiculous, but I’m mainly there for the music.

This year shows some promise though, for a couple of reasons: It’s in Germany, which is good because it’s been in Eastern Europe (with the odd break in Scandinavia) for a good few years now. This has inspired some Western European countries, like Italy, to make a comeback to the show. Up till now, the countries around Europe tended to vote in Blocks, which made it tough for anyone else to win. Don’t get me wrong, it will probably happen this year too, but last year’s result at proved at least that there were exceptions.

On top of that, our entry this year isn’t that bad either. It may be Blue, but as boy bands go, they’re not terrible, and it shows we’re starting to take everything a bit more seriously for once. If you want terrible, just go look at Ireland’s entry… who told them fielding Jedward would be a good idea!?

Anyway, just a short one today. I’ll try and get back into the swing of things, especially regarding gaming related posts but as I said, I don’t post just for the hell of it.

Oh, BTW, the first semi-final was on tonight, and there’s another one on Thursday. Grand Final is Saturday, as always.