Diary of a Danish game developer at Game Connection 2018
Game Hub Denmark once again sent a delegation to San Francisco for Game Connection 2018. Four companies were chosen to represent the Game Hub and present their projects, meet with and experience a side of the industry we often don’t get to see in little ol’ Denmark.
By Jacob Laurits Kjeldsen. Co-founder and CEO of Random Dragon Games
This year the team consisted of:
- Kenneth Kruse – Pareidolia – Wartime world war 2 VR turret shooter
- Niels Wosylus (Niels W) – Archon Interactive – Rebound, ios, and android survival one clicker
- Niels-Ferdinand Mynster (Niels F) – Mynster Entertainment – ASTROSMASH, 3rd person battle royale on shrinking planets
- Jacob Kjeldsen (I / me) – Random Dragon – Dumb as Wizards, local and online multiplayer wizard arena brawler with a crazy, nerdy, fantasy theme.
Tourism and travel trouble – “When it rains it pours”
We arrived in San Francisco on Friday afternoon, leaving us with the whole weekend to explore the city. Since the others had never been to the legendary city, we were ready to see the sights. Having been to Game Connection and GDC last year, I figured it was my responsibility to show the guys around. We decided to go for a walk around town, get some food and then decide what to see. We ended up at the Metreon at Yerba Buena Park.
Niels F. had mentioned that he wasn’t feeling great but he soldiered on, not wanting a little queasiness stop him from seeing San Francisco. We were just about to exit the Metreon when Niels told me “30 seconds and I’m gonna puke.” Spotting a trash can at the AMC line, we ran! Making it with literally inches to spare. Niels F. suddenly felt a lot better and decided he wanted to continue on so we went for a walk in the park to get some fresh air. After visiting the fountain commemorating the civil rights movement, I was regaling the guys with stories of last year, when I felt a sharp pain.
I’d walked into a stone slab, and all this just after throwing a quarter in the fountain, wishing the trip would go well. I thought nothing of it, other than feeling a bit silly so we continued on, figuring the pain would subside eventually… Walking down Market Street we realized how much Americans enjoy Saint Patrick’s day! It took us a while to realize what was going on but we were glad we had kept going so we could see the Saint Patrick’s Day parade!
Walking on, we ended up at the Ferry Marketplace where we sat down, assessing the situation. This is when I realized that I’d been bleeding all along, and my jeans where soaked in blood from the shin down. In the meantime, Niels F. had begun feeling worse again and had another incident. So we decided to split up: Niels F. and I went back to the hotel, and Niels W. and Kenneth went to see the golden gate bridge.
We didn’t do much other than work and prepare on Sunday. We did however receive the last bit of bad news before the conference: Allan, one of the representatives from Game Hub Denmark, wasn’t going to make it to the conference. His flight was delayed and due to excessive security checks, he missed another flight out of Frankfurt so we would be a mentor down at the conference.
Subway, Subway, Subway… – “Fine dining in San Francisco”
Niels W has quite a few dietary restrictions, not just the regular gluten hysteria, but some actual issues that makes it difficult to find food that doesn’t ruin his stomach for days. We had trouble at first but found Subway, or well 20 of them, where we could circumvent his diet. Not wanting to leave him hanging, we all ended up eating at subway… a lot! Niels W. even ended up making friends with the wrap artist at the Subway closest to AT&T park where Game Connection is held, even going as far as walking back there the morning before the flight to get a “goodbye sandwich”.
Game Connection – “Connecting with the industry”
Monday came and the conference was upon us. As Niels F and I were sharing a booth, we coordinated our meetings. This being his first conference and indeed his first meeting with industry professionals, I wanted to support him as much as I could.
We had gone through how Game Connection works, and I figured I’d stay with him for the first couple of meetings. The first publisher he met ended up bringing two other people with him, and Niels F was thus met by three men who presented their business cards in two hands with a bow of the head as it is done in Asia. Niels F. was really thrown into the deep end, having no business cards to reciprocate and no room at the table for support.
Emerging from the trial by fire he was a bit shocked but happy; having his first meeting be so intense, he seemed to calm down for the remainder of the meetings.
“It has been incredibly rewarding to meet industry professionals and learn more of how the industry works first hand. You can read about it, or hear about it from someone you know, but in the end nothing beats going in person.” – Niels Wosylus, Archon Interactive
Compared to last year, when I was presenting mainly based on a game play video, I went with the “show, don’t tell” method this year and instead opted to play the game then and there with the prospective partner. There are things to be said for and against this way of presenting but for this particular game I feel like it was the right decision. Besides, it’s much easier to gauge if they enjoy the game when they can’t help but laugh.
Random Dragon is looking for a publishing partner and as such I was at Game Connection to meet with publishers. Our game, Dumb as Wizards, is currently in alpha with a beta in April. With the beta we can go in a few different directions.
However, we aren’t looking for just any publisher: We are looking for a partner that matches us and that can be just as excited about our product as we are. We build lasting relationships so it’s incredibly important to me that we connect with the person behind the brand. We believe nerds are the future, and we aim to make social experiences that nerds can gather around and have fun with, and we need a partner that shares that vision.
Random Dragon’s calling card is our MerchanDICE, and it was a joy seeing all the otherwise serious business people melt when I asked them how nerdy they were, and if they would like a dice. Most liked them, telling me about their Dungeons and Dragons days, leading to a much more personal connection than a business card and a hand shake could provide.
And in very few cases when they didn’t understand the dice, I knew it probably wasn’t meant to be.
The day ended up being packed with half hour meetings from 9:30 to 7:30. As you can imagine, that leaves some very tired game devs. Thankfully the day ended with a well deserved beer, supplied by the event.
Party time – “Good networking ends with hugs”
The second day wasn’t much different since we had a ton of meetings but it did end quite a bit sooner so Niels W and I felt ready to attend one of the parties we had booked and in fact paid for a ticket to. Since it was sold out, we figured we would get there early and be sure we could get in.
“The experience was invaluable. Seeing the industry from the inside like that and pitching your game to experienced publishers in person, is something every game developer should try. I also got to attend an event by Epic Games who makes the Unreal Engine where they announced their new particle system, Niagara, and which featured one of my personal heroes as speaker, Ryan Brucks.” – Kenneth Holstein Kruse, Pareidolia Games
Arriving at a basement club in an alley adjacent to the Union Square, we were happy to see we wouldn’t have to wait in line in the rain. We probably should have seen the warning signs however as no line meant no people… The club music was going but only a few handfuls of people had turned up to this allegedly sold out party. The place seemed prepared for a rager wit a live DJ, skimpily clad bartenders and a photographer taking photos constantly.
We were still in a good mood though, and Niels W being new to networking events, we all but ran at the first and the best people and engaged in conversations, skipping any social anxiety such events might bring forth in a person. We met some cool people, some VR theme park purveyors from Australia, game students from Ohio and even the Dear, and aptly named I might add, Adonis from Arsenalet Game Incubation in Viborg.
“I met another Warhammer Geek! An ork player at that, which means he plays to have fun above all else, so of course we went off on a tangent. I ended up giving him a Dice and a Hug which is of course the best outcome when networking ” – Jacob Kjeldsen
Post Mortem – “Last minute luck”
The trip was all in all a success. We didn’t have too many meetings the last day of the conference but having played Dumb as Wizards, and loudly laughing for quite a while at the booth, we attracted the attention of some outsiders with whom I ended up having an impromptu meeting about getting the game on their platform.
I even met up with the awesome guys from Loophole Interactive whom I’d met at Sweden Game Conference last year, who were there to present their next game.
The trip ended as it began: With bad luck! The morning before we left, my bag ripped, leaving me two hours to fix it. Thank the gods that Target had needle and string!
“The plan with my GameConnection trip was to pitch my multiplayer game called ASTROSMASH. It’s still very early in its production so I was unsure of how many people even would be interesting in hearing what I had to say, however I was quite overwhelmed.
The people I met with had some interest in my game, and I’ve got a lot of good contacts, both for this game, but also for new projects. It was all in all a great trip, with some good people. And PS, jetlag is most certainly a thing.“ – Niels F., Archon Interactive.
Time will tell if we actually found a match for Dumb as Wizards but all in all I’d say this years Game Connection was a success, despite the run of bad luck.
I enjoyed the company of my Game Hub companions and in any case we made some relevant contacts that I look forward to exploring with the team back home!