Gamescom, the world’s largest gaming trade fair, has kicked off its 2011 convention in Cologne, Germany. Stack Exchange was awesome enough to sponsor me to go Cologne in order to do coverage for the blog. They even sent me swag to give out to the fellow gamers. Join me as I check out game demos, take pictures of interesting cosplayers, drool over the display booths, and basically run around like a chicken with my head cut off in an attempt to cover as much as possible without collapsing. As this is a diary-style post, it will likely be a little on the long side. You’ve been forewarned!
We started off on journey on Wednesday morning. Cologne is about a 2.5 hour drive from where my boyfriend Jochem and I live in the Netherlands. Seeing as I don’t have a Dutch driver’s license, I can’t drive in the EU, so Jochem was my taxi. Not only that, he was also going to be my photographer for this trip, as he has a Nikon D80 which we could put to good use at Gamescom. The drive was fairly uneventful, and while we did speed up to 190km (118mph) on the Autobahn at one point, we mostly held a steady 130kph (80mph) with open windows to enjoy the weather. We decided to stay in the balladins SUPERIOR Hotel, the name of which amuses me because the decided to go super capslock for “superior.” The hotel is located in Troisdorf, a small town about 22 km (13.5 miles) from Cologne.
But you guys don’t really care about this, do you? Of course you don’t. You want games!
We crawled into bed Wednesday night, and woke up at 8am (ugh) on Thursday so we could head to the Koelnmesse, or in English, the Cologne Exhibition Center, but I’m going to call it the Koelnmesse because it’s shorter to type. I’m doing this trip diary for you guys at 3:30am Thursday night/Friday morning CEST, so any way to shorten what I have to type is awesome. So, excuse any punchiness and let’s get on our way!
10:30 As expected, there was a traffic jam on the highway to get to the Koelnmesse, but it honestly didn’t take too long at all to get to the parking area. After paying €8, we left the car and followed the large herd of people. The picture above is what we saw as we rounded the corner. Luckily, the Northern Gate was both the closest gate to where we came from, and the gate I’d wanted to enter because it ended up the closest to the first presentation that I wanted to see, the fruit of NCSoft’s partnership with Carbine Studios, WildStar Online. It’s a little hard to describe, as it doesn’t quite fit into any of the typical MMO genres easily. So far, it looks like a mishmash of fantasy/tech with action-focused gameplay, and heavily stylized art direction that just screams fun. We’ll be putting together a fuller blog post to cover WIldStar after Gamescom is over, so stay tuned for that later, but in the meantime, have a few screenshots of the game’s protagonists. The pictures were taken from a prerendered cinematic onscreen, so excuse any fuzziness.
11:45 After the demo was over, we headed to EA’s Battlefield 3 Producer’s Presentation. To check out the photos I took of their display, read Simon Sheehan’s BF3 blog post, jet included! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch the name of the producer because it was incredibly loud there. He did answer a few questions about the game though, emphasizing that they want both single and multiplayer to have weight in the game and that the 3 pillars upon which the game is built are single player, co-op, and multiplayer. There have apparently been complaints about the difficulty of helicopter controls in the past, which he said they have addressed by making them easier for casual players, but still a challenge to master. This also applies to the newly added jets ingame. The presentation was quite short, so we ambled over to Blizzard’s booth.
12:00 A Q&A session was scheduled with a Blizzard exec, and as we were waiting, they showed what I assume was the intro cinematic for StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm. It showed Sarah Kerrigan where she was last seen as human, her position overrun by Zerg on the planet Tarsonis. You see Mengsk’s decision to abandon her as Raynor damns him for it, the Zerg closing in her quickly as she fights to the last. I confess, I haven’t even completely finished the original StarCraft (blasphemy, I know), but as someone who is aware of the lore and Kerrigan’s fate, I found the sequence almost chilling and very well done. The Q&A finally began and they opened with a video of the 20 year timeline of Blizzard’s hit games, beginning with the original WarCraft and spanning through to Diablo III. Frank Peace, one of the co-founders of Blizzard, was there for the Q&A, which I think could barely be called a Q&A because there were only one or two questions.
After that, a live 7-piece orchestra began to play with 2 singers. While it was really quite beautiful to hear, the Guild Wars 2 live demo was about to start, so we headed back to Hall 9. But…
12:30 …I’m not going to get into all the Guild Wars 2 stuff just yet. I know some of you are going to kill me, but there was just so much information from the few presentations I saw yesterday, and I’m only going to have more after I actually get my hands on the demo, which will hopefully be tomorrow. You may have to wait til post Gamescom because all of that is definitely deserving of its own post. One thing that I can confirm for you is this: They will not be announcing the 8th profession during Gamescom. We’re going to have to wait a little bit longer for it. Sucks, I know. Meanwhile, I will tease you with this image:
That’s Tequatl the Sunless, and he’d like to say hello. With his teeth. Run away!
13:15 We decided to take a lunch break and rest our feet for a while, which was sorely needed. After rehydrating and eating a somewhat greasy German lunch, we eventually decided to peel ourselves off the benches and start walking again. I put a small handwritten note on our lunch table that read “Free stickers!” in an attempt to give out more of the Gaming one’s that Stack Exchange sent me, but we were sitting back in the corner and no one saw it. I did end up giving out quite a few though, and hopefully tomorrow will go even better.
14:20 We ended up in Hall 7, which was mostly decorated with PlayStation symbols hanging from the roof. Here they had the PlayStation Vita on demo, but the wait was incredibly long, so I decided to pass. I may try again tomorrow.
There was also this open area where the intention was that you draw your own monster. However, we saw this:
If you don’t know what it is, know your meme! Oh, internet.
14:20 We ended up back at the NCSoft booth again (can you tell I’m a Guild Wars fan?) during another live demo, this time in German, and again, I must defer most of my comments for the sake of smushing all the GW2 stuff into one post later and also the fact that it’s 5am now, and I’ve been working on this post for over an hour and a half. Whheee.
15:00 More GW2 stuff, but this time it was a Q&A with the art director, Daniel Dociu and the lead concept artist, Kekai Kotaki. The presenter opened with pleasantries, asking how they felt about being back at Gamescom, to which Dociu responded that it was “like a reunion” and also thanked fans for their patience in waiting for GW2. Kotaki was also enthusiastic, saying it was unbelievable and awesome. They talked about art direction and how it was a collaborative effort and that there was a lot of back and forth between the departments.
I was able to ask a question, which in retrospect wasn’t quite the right one for the art leads, but I was nervous and excited and it was the only thing I could think of at the moment, though I thought of a much better one later on. I asked them if they were pleased with the player reception on the new Sylvari art, to which they responded yes, though the host said he probably knew more about that than they did because he had more time to read the forums. As a bonus, apparently some friends of mine who were watching the NCSoft live feed said they saw me on camera, which is pretty cool. I can’t find the link for that particular feed from the hotel because the internet here is atrociously slow, thus I can’t watch videos, but if anyone finds the link later on, leave it in a comment! This Q&A was also short ending up only 15 minutes or so long.
15:20 After that, I lingered around the GW2 demo area for a bit, watching other people play the game. I overheard someone ask an ArenaNet employee about the possible system requirements for the game. It turned out to be Braeden Shosa, the Lead Content Programmer for Guild Wars 2. He said that like with the first Guild Wars, they’re making sure a lot of focus is on low to mid-end PCs with the option for those with high-end PCs to really take advantage of the graphics. He also mentioned that they’re still in the process of optimizing the game to see at what minimum specs it can run. After he was finished talking with the guy who asked about sysreqs, I asked him if worked with ArenaNet, and he replies yes and asked for my name. He was incredibly friendly, and we stood around talking for a while, bantering about Guild Wars 1, my fandom and excitement for both games, as well as what I’m looking forward to in GW2. He was very down to earth, even asking me what my guild name was in GW1 and what class I liked to play.
We talked about the new Dodge mechanic that they just released with this iteration of the demo, with him stating that the energy management in the game before ended up with essentially battles of attrition. GW2 has really emphasized how they want a dynamic feel for the combat, so I can definitely see why that would be a problem. I asked if he knew anything about region locking for the release of the game, explaining that while I live in Europe, most of the friends I game with are in North America, and I was worried about having clientside regionlocking. Unfortunately, he wasn’t sure about it, so we’ll have to just wait and see.
I asked if it would be okay to mention him by name on the Gaming blog, which he said yes to, and through that, I was able to tell him about Gaming.SE, what we were about, how our engine worked, and what kind of service we wanted to provide to the internet. I asked him if he knew Stack Overflow, which he did, so I was able to explain how it was the original site in the network that spawned the Q&A engine we have. I mentioned how I found it especially handy for indie games, which don’t often have full walkthroughs on GameFAQs, especially for smaller titles or titles still in development, such as Terraria, which he apparently also plays! I ended up happily giving him a sticker and shaking his hand before heading off. The GW2 demos are actually 40 minutes long, which I didn’t realize, so the line I’d been standing in still had a 2+ hour wait. I decided to try for tomorrow instead, as we still wanted to walk around more.
16:10 We walked into the Electronic Sports League stage, which was where all the competitive e-sports were going on. We snapped a few photos of the setup, but I couldn’t tell what was going on at that moment, so it wasn’t terribly interesting. We were also very tired from standing and feeling a little claustrophobic, so we went outside and laid down on some grass. I checked twitter, updated it, and chilled out for a while.
17:45 A bit of a timeskip, as the Q&A for The Secret World was entirely in German, and while I can read it a little bit because I’m in the process of learning Dutch, I can only understand around 1/4 of what I hear, and most of what I understood and what Jochem translated was information I already knew. We wandered back to the NCSoft booth (yet again) and I once again saw Braeden. I had the idea to give him a Gaming.SE t-shirt, so I went up and stood near him while he was finishing a conversation with someone. He turned to me when he was done and asked if I was going to the NCSoft Community party. I said no, as I hadn’t heard about it, and he gave me an invitation, which allowed me to get into this place called the Goldfinger in Cologne. I thanked him and then asked if it would be okay if I gave him swag and handed him one of the Gaming.SE t-shirts. He smiled and thanked me and I walked away feeling quite pleased.
We decided to leave after that, as we wanted to hit up the party later on, which started at 9pm. Upon leaving the Koelnmesse, we were immediately given free small cans of Coca-Cola Zero to take. They were given out by a couple women right outside the exit, which is a great idea, as I imagine everyone who leaves is thirsty. We took the shuttle bus back to our parking lot instead of walking because at that point, we wanted to walk as little as possible. Once the shuttle arrived, we were once again offered free drinks in the form of Red Bull, but I can’t stand Red Bull, so we passed. We arrived back at the hotel around 7pm because of traffic jams, and I hopped on chat while debating whether or not to go to the party. I decided to ponder while I took what felt like the best shower ever simply by virtue of being hot running water I could stand in. By the time I was done and dressed again, it was about 8:45pm and we still needed to eat dinner.
We hit up the hotel restaurant for the last time, as they’re closed from Friday to Sunday, had a great meal, and inquired at the desk about public transport to Cologne. It turned out that the place the club was located was in the old city center where you’re not allowed to drive or park unless your car has a sticker stating that it meets a certain emission standard. We figured out that it’d take over an hour and a bit to get to the club by bus+train, and given that it’d be nearly 3 hours round trip, it was pouring, and I still had to do stuff for the blog, we decided it was better not to go.
22:30 I start sorting the 500~ or so photos we took, deleting the bad ones, cropping the good ones and uploading them to Picasa, and figuring out which ones were interesting enough for blog posts. After that, I had to transcribe the notes I took by hand into a google doc before I forgot what the indecipherable hieroglyphics I call “handwriting” stood for. This took way longer than you really want to know. Like I said earlier, I started this blog post around 3:30am, so you do the math.
And now it is 6am, and I am as done with this post as I’m going to get. The photos still need formatted nicely in the blog format, but I’ll leave that up to the other editors because I need to get about 2 hours sleep before I start doing this all over again. Wish me luck!