319 days to save the world

The past week and a bit has been an interesting time for me down here in London. The best way of summing it up is I’ve remembered that I live in a city, and not just any city but the Capital and that theres opportunities here that I just need to look for and even more important that I don’t need to have to know people to go to things I wouldn’t have dreamed of going to otherwise

To go over quickly what I’ve already ranted about work was utter pants last weekend. Which really, is a good thing. Because if I hadn’t had such a crap time at work, the rest of this week wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good as it has turned out to be

Being sick of having nothing to do in London I began to look for social group type things down here. After looking into Rock Paper Shotgun and joining their forums, I managed to miss their monthly meetup but they had a forum post about a board game meetup group that then directed me to a site called London On Board. They have regular meetings every few days where people can just turn up to whenever they are free. So on Tuesday I had some time off and decided to go for it. I wasn’t quite as confident in the idea as I’d been earlier in the week so decided rather than hide in my room and find an excuse not to go that I would venture around London and see some things I’d been meaning to for a while. So it was that I ended up visiting North Gower Street near Warren Street which I discovered was the outdoor filming location for the BBC series Sherlock which was pretty cool. I noticed the sandwich shop was open but I didn’t go in at the time, I did eventually a couple of days later and discovered it was very quaint and cheap 🙂 I then made my way to Shoreditch where an old work colleague had posted a video of a wall that had been spray painted with an advert for the upcoming Soul Calibur game so I went and took some pictures of that as well. After all this it wasn’t long until the meeting started so despite feeling completely out of it I went anyhow and sat as close to a corner as I could do but within plain sight of the door to give me an opportunity to at least get involved in a game as easily as I could

As it was I needn’t have been concerned, I managed to get involved in a game of ‘Cash n Guns’ with a bunch of people which was a hoot. Really need to grab that game if I ever get the chance, fantastic ice breaker game that doesn’t require much thought. We then went onto ‘Betrayal at House on the Hill’ which had a great concept and great mechanics but unfortunately kind of broke down a bit on us due to some odd game mechanics. I was a professor in a mansion who found a madman in a room that followed me around and helped me out, but eventually he turned on me and killed me instantly and I became to traitor of the group and had to hunt everyone else down with the madman now being my character. We finished on a game called ‘Parade’ that involved cards with pictures of rabbits and other animals on and a card counting mechanic almost. I assume it was meant to be a light hearted game but it ended up with more confusion and everyone concentrating too much to be that enjoyable, also I lost. So I went home afterwards feeling that I was back to doing something different and interesting once again

But it wasn’t to be the only new experience of the week. I randomly came across a tweet about an event on Friday called ‘Bit of Alright’ and indie game developers conference (Is the easiest way to describe it) that involved talks from developers and game sessions and what not. Now everything about it seemed to be aimed at current indie developers, but there was an option to buy a ticket and nowhere did it say you had to be currently developing games of any sort. I took a leap of faith and dropped the coin on the ticket. But we’ll get to this in a little bit, first we need to talk about ‘Wild Rumpus’. On one of the email reminders about the event was a passing reference to a meet up the night before at a pub in Brick Lane where there would be a collection of indie games and a lot of people from the event were going to go there. As it didn’t cost anything I decided to go for it and do a runner if it was shit. It turned out to be basically a pub with about 4 or 5 indie games in it which was fine to start out with, I jumped around and played with a couple of randoms (The games were Pole Riders, Hokrar, Monkey Seen Monkey Mime and something I can’t remember the name of) and watched a few other people. But it soon got busy and not having anyone to really talk to was starting to wain on me, so I decided to go outside and take a look at the game that was out there which had been one of the initial attractions for me. A game called Johan Sabastien’s Joust

This was to prove my undoing for an easy escape, Joust was the great ice breaker that Cash n Guns had been earlier in the week. To quickly explain what it is, the game involves 7 players who all have a Playstation Move controller (The Move controllers is a motion sensitive controller in a similar ilk to the Wii controllers, except with a big coloured ball on top of it) and are trying not to get knocked out of the game. You knock someone out by knocking them and moving their controller too much. Classical music is playing in the background at varying tempos, when the music is slow the controllers are extra sensitive and you need to be careful to not knock yourself out, but when the music is fast you can run around and being a bit more rough with it and get away with it. I went on to spend the best part of 2 hours playing this game and taking time out and chatting with people and laughing at it all. My legs were destroyed the following day and I struggled to be able to negotiate chairs and escalators, its apparent I don’t get anywhere near enough exercise

So that was Thursday, I headed home and went to bed to get ready for ‘Bit of Alright’ on Friday down in Battersea. I arrived late but thankfully it started late so I didn’t miss anything. It was a very English affair. There was a bar at the venue that didn’t serve drink but offered all the tea you could drink (There was coffee as well but the general consensus seemed to be it tasted of shit). So let me explain this one. There was indie game developers from all over the country in attendance and they were all discussing different aspects of games and stuff and different approaches, some of the main draws for me was a talk from Dan Marshall of Ben There, Dan That fame doing a talk on ‘Tea and Death’ and Introversion (Them of Darwinia and Defcon fame) showcasing their next game Prison Architect. As it happened I didn’t feel out of place here either and talked to a handfull of people (Once I’d plucked up the courage) about interesting topics and found out what they were working on (I talked to a guy who was a website developer until recently and started working on Unity making games for himself and accepted a plastic spoon of the guy that made VVVVvvVVVvvv) I joined in the discussion of death in games during Dan Marshall’s talk and got into a mini discussion about our favourite ‘disposable’ characters in games (Stoo in Cannon Fodder for me and Jops for him, but we agreed on Hicks from Syndicate). It was also the first time I talked on one of those pass around mics you see people using

I sat through a presentation by the National Video Games Archive people and got in touch with a mate who has just started a curatorship up in Scotland telling him I was gonna name drop him after the talk, so I grabbed those guys and done my good deed. There was a couple more talks which I can’t really recall now, but a big chunk of my day was taken up playing the Prison Architect alpha build and talking to the developers. I talked to Chris the lead dev on the project who also worked on Subversion while it was still active and I think the guy was called Alistair who was a freelancer brought in to create the mac versions of Introversion’s library for a humble indie bundle. He was also the guy who tidied up the Subversion city builder for that and dumped all the pictures in of the Prison Architect reveal. The game plays like an old Theme game but is obviously still very work in progress, I ended up finding a couple of bugs involving fire engines (Being unable to dismiss them and the only way to get rid of them was to either dump them in a rubbish bag or tidy them into a box and put it into storage, the rubbish bag one was best as you had a worker just lift this huge fire engine and carry it off to the waste area) that the guys scrawled down and chuckled about. Looking very promising and plays a little bit like Dwarf Fortress in how you assign tasks and people will just get around to it. Finally I ended up playing some more Joust with everyone but my Jousters legs were clearly showing and I was shit. Afterwards we all went to the pub down the road. Unfortunately I never got to talk to Dan on his own which sucks a bit, he was in deep conversation at the pub and I didn’t want to just dive in and introduce myself

So that was Friday. Then Saturday it was back to work, but then of course we had the snow! The snow began to fall while I was stuck in work, it didn’t look like it was laying and even when we were shutting the shop it looked fine. Only when I tried to get on a tube it was the usual English terror scene. Loads of tube stations in central London appeared to be shut with shutters drawn over all of the entrances. Fortunately I managed to get home after only a minor delay when I eventually found an open station. It was an odd scene seeing Picadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square under snow and heavy snow still falling down. To make matters more ominous, when I finally got into Leicester Square tube station, the busker at the bottom was playing Mad World on a keyboard

I wasn’t home for long until I looked out the kitchen window and saw we had a good 3 or 4 inches of snow lying undisturbed on the garden. Having limited exposure to snow, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to people that I’ve never really made a proper snowman before. So it was I began work on snow me, a near life size version of myself that I would dress in a t shirt and hat. After completing him and applying the finishing touches, mushrooms for eyes and cut up mushrooms for a mouth and carving out his legs from the mass of snow I’d mounded together, I decided I was quite interested in attempting another snow carve of something so grabbed a ball of snow and began rolling it around the garden. This continued for over an hour with me gradually getting more and more giddy at the size of the snow boulder I’d now produced. It was getting harder and harder to roll and at one stage I nearly managed to roll it through the only surviving fence panel in the garden. I ended up with a ball that was a good 5 foot tall and maybe 4 foot wide and weighed a tonne. Seen as I couldn’t roll it anymore I began carving up chunks of snow and piling them on top as long as I could stand the cold. As it ended up I have something vaguely resembling a snow man that measures about 7 feet and now dominates the garden. So finally at 145 am, I decided to make my way inside chuckling at the thought of people coming out into the snow to have a mess around and discovering the majority of the garden’s snow piled into a large snowman in the center. Unfortunately the only person I’ve bumped into thats seen it didn’t seem particularly swayed by it. Such is life I guess, I had a proper chuckle making it so I’m happy. Hopefully it’ll be a good few days before his melted away as well which will be great when the gardener comes on Wednesday

Today has been a bit more sedate all in all: my virtual football team the Aurochs romped home with a 6-1 victory, I got some trainers that were in the sale today for £50 off that I nearly bought on Monday and I visited the tower that was used for the outdoor scenes in the IT Crowd

So a great week all in all, a very promising one for the future. I’ll hopefully be attending more of these indie game developer things (A lot of them just end up being in the pub so all the easier) and getting myself in with that crowd and this board game meeting is going to become a more regular thing. Unfortunately uni starts again from tomorrow so that kind of upsets making lots of plans again, but I am finally starting on the programming and maths modules that are important to my attempts at games programming. Every cloud and all that

Edit: Oh shit lol, totally forgot I ended up going to the Da Vinci exhibition in the National Gallery too. That guy was batshit awesome

Leave a Reply