So this entry is dated to when I wrote it on the train, but as I'm on my way to Potshausen, I have no idea if I'll be able to upload it today. Last year, we discovered that Potshausen had a Wifi service set up...but it wasn't working. (My own attempt at troubleshooting led to the discovery a DNS gateway IP address was missing; without that, connection to the internet is impossible.)
OK so whether this gets uploaded on the assigned date or not really doesn't matter so much. What matters is that yesterday I went to Gamescom! Finally! I remember being 16 years old, in Leipzig, and discovering that this major Games Convention exists. I couldn't go at the time because it was being held towards the end of August, aka. 2 weeks after we left the city. Also it was called LXG at the time: Leipzig Exhibition of Gaming...I think. So I remember feeling sad when I discovered in my Uni days that it had gotten too big for the Leipzig Trading Exhibition Hall and was moved to the much larger Kölner Messe, with the name changed to Gamescom. There it got even bigger and then, in pure attendance numbers, became the largest Gaming Convention/Show in the world! And then big news was announced there! So yes, many years had the possibility of going completely struck off, other years the suggestion was brought up, especially between Nathan and I, but then reasons would come up for not going. But yesterday, I was there!
My first impression is this: you really don't need to go for more than 1 day. I mean, it's cool that there's an opportunity to play Alpha (or Pre-Alpha) builds of the coming year's biggest games, but really, if you're a follower of the industry at all, you would have already decided if you would buy the game or not. So this leaves you enough time to explore the space, take part in alternative activities and competitions, then try out some of the lesser-known games. If you are going for multiple days though, then this does provide a lovely excuse to not be the first person through the door, nor the last one out. You can just stroll in at 12, then gradually leave about 5:30 onwards. And don't get me wrong: with this being Germany, they will make sure you're kicked out before 8pm. I'm pretty certain me and the large exit crowd had been sent out of the building about 7:45 or so.
Part of the fun of the place is looking at the various exhibits and seeing how outlandish and creative the 'sets' can be. So I had a blast taking photos of those. Sometimes I was even photographing the queues as they can be amusing in and of themselves. The set for the Horizon: Zero Dawn demo had some fake turf for the queuing square, so the people in the line took a breather and lay down, as if they were sun-bathing! Now I don't blame you, reader, for thinking that walking through Gamescom is like going through a Theme Park; I thought the same thing while I was actually there! Right down to the portaloos and snack-stands outdoors! Oh yes, Kölner Messe has several outdoor courtyards. But just to drive home the Theme Park feeling: EA introduced a Fast Pass system for their games. This became problematic. Most of the day I stuck with playing smaller or indie games, so figuring I should try out at least one big title, I thought I would join the queue for Mirror's Edge: Catalyst. I loved Mirror's Edge after all, but I felt DICE had gotten far too carried away with the game's visuals in order to properly focus on its story and (mostly) forgettable characters. My main interest was seeing if they would have a stronger story this time and...it's looking promising. But yeah, I decided to make it the last thing in the day since, there were noticeably less people after 6pm and I thought 'the queue shouldn't be so long now'. Um, yeah it was almost as long as during the day. And what made it worse was that, soon after 7pm, they had stopped people entering the line, then they counted down the line and drew a cut-off point. Originally this was in front of me.
So everyone behind that cut-off point would not get to try the game, they said. Of course, they were going on the assumption that every single person would want a place of their own, for trying the game (and they were right). This of course angered one of the guys in my unfortunate little group, so the set manager had to come over and apologise. He explained that they were overwhelmed with how many people had Fast Passes (frankly he should not have been surprised, EA were handing them out in specific competitions) but I also found it strange that he felt compelled to let in everyone in the fast pass lane each time. He should have had a cap, say 10, each cycle. And what's in this cycle? Well the first half was a 'cinema' where the advertising trailer was played, then an introduction to the game, what DICE was trying to do this time around, an introduction of which specific levels you are about to play and a quick glance at the controls (helpful for me since every station had an XBox controller!!!). Then we all got a station and played a 13-minute demo. As I said, the story looks more promising, but I really don't like Faith's facial redesign. Or her hair redesign. Ugh, minor matters.
So, games I played. I really wanted to try No Man's Sky and it was even advertised in the news mag as being playable in the Playstation area, but it wasn't!!! There haven't been any playable demos made available yet (as far as I know) so I can only assume the studio couldn't finish the demo build in time. I was also peeved that I couldn't play Mother Russia Bleeds, but then, I couldn't see hair nor hide of the publisher for it, so they will probably make an appearance at Paris Games Week. I did play Splatoon. Maybe not a big deal but that game is the only reason I would even consider getting a WiiU. It didn't convince me. The game was fun but the controls are awkward :/. I also played 'Edith Finch', developed by Giant Sparrow (whose first game is The Unfinished Swan). I swear the demo for that was designed to keep the player trapped in the bedroom because I know you're somehow meant to transform into a bird or something, but I could not do anything with the bird in the window. I also got lost in The Talos Principle for aaaages - what can I say? I love puzzles and I managed to clear an entire area.
I played Drawn To Death; absolutely hilarious but the controls are not very intuitive. I also didn't realise it's basically just a pile of online death matches (perhaps I should have expected nothing less from the developer of Twisted Metal?). Just to quickly describe the game, it's basically a bunch of drawings in a bored child's sketchbook come to life and the creatures and weapons are truly bizarre. I also played Everybody's Gone To The Rapture. This game had premiered at Gamescom last year and Colin Moriarty's description of it had me intrigued. Since it's set in an 80s English village, I was struck by...how English it was. I know, redundant description, but it really does reflect what a typical English village looks like. This could help broaden the global depiction of our nation, methinks. Anyways, I was intrigued by the idea of trying to figure out why an entire village disappeared and...there is very quickly evidence that some sort of epidemic broke out in the village. The 'psychic recordings' certainly gives this theory credibility, definitely buying it! Then I tried SOMA, which comes out around my birthday this year. Similar premise and gameplay style, but in an underwater base instead - definitely an underused locale in games. There's also a bit more of a clue that the game is a teensy bit more horror-themed. Also buying!
I also got a chance to try out the Morpheus (Virtual Reality!). Now this was a confusing setup in queuing. In order to try it out, you had to reserve your spot online...when the hell was this info disseminated? I also overheard one of the English staffers say that right up until the start of the show (which is actually Wednesday, but press-only) Sony had decided to not have this system. Then they changed their minds. I can only assume they had looked at how many tickets were sold and realised that free-queuing would be a bad idea. The reason I got to try it out was because space became available (people either didn't show up for the reservations or...I dunno). So um, the good news is that it works. I mean, whenever I looked in a direction, I was inside my virtual space and it didn't glitch. But problem one was my head was too small. The attendant made the Morpheus as small as possible but I still found it too loose, then half way through the test game, the earphones fell off. But yeah, before playing the game, she put the device on my head, then I had to hold the goggles in front of my eyes while she adjusted the headset. Then she asked me if the vision was clear, I said no. But then I realised she meant is it blurry, because before adjusting it the vision was hella blurry. So I realised that actually, the VR view in Morpheus is very pixelated and not very crisp. |-_-| OK so then I started the test-game, which was a dogfight in space. At first it was sort of amazing, I was navigating my own space fighter through a pile of rubble and swivelling around in order to track down the enemy fighters. The trouble is though, I was constantly aware of this not-quite-fitting headset and I had to make sure I didn't tilt my head too far, lest the vision be blurry again. The fact that my eyes alone had trouble keeping up with the enemy fighters meant I ended up quite motion sick...despite sitting still! Yeah, I really don't see VR being a massive revolution, it'll probably just become its own gaming platform. I know I'm not the only person who complained of motion sickness and I finally understand why.
Something else to observe though: all those conversations I mentioned? Apart from the English staffer I highlighted above, they were all in German. Even that intro movie (Mirror's Edge) was in German, with English subtitles added. The info magazine I was carrying around: in German (I couldn't see any English ones). Now, they are obviously aware that you get international visitors to Gamescom, but even I didn't come across very many. So it explains why half the food signs had no English translation, why the feedback surveys were in German, why all the livestream or advertising movies were in German, why the stage acts and performances were only in German, why the interviews with the developers were dubbed instead of subbed... I couldn't help but sense that there's still this attitude that only Germans really care and would want to go there, which is not true. Everyone outside Europe regards this as the major European show and it should be. Despite all the news announcements and international attention, it's still a very German Games Convention, as much as Disneyland Paris is a very French Theme Park. Since I obviously speak German, I didn't feel alienated (unlike in Disneyland) but I can only wonder how a complete foreigner would feel.
Gamescom organisors really need to have a think on how to make this a truly European show. This is a shame, as I can guarantee that over 90% of the people there (including staff) can speak English.