A MAZE 2014

Sun 13 April 2014 in Mixed. Tags: Job, Spirits of the Sith, Videogames, Major Bueno, Vlambeer, A MAZE. By mrwonko.

Hey everybody!

I really want to talk about the last couple of days, but first I'll talk about the week before, just for the record. It began with the finals of the DotaCinema Captain's Draft tournament in Dota 2, where teams had to play less common heroes, which led to some very interesting games. I bought tickets for that so I could watch it in the ingame client and I'm quite happy with my purchase.

Later I visited the InnoGames headquarters again - this time to get a tour of the offices themselves. In general it seems like a nice place to work, with the possible exception of the work itself. I don't know if I want to do mobile/browser games... They are small though, so you experience a full project in less time. I'll take a look at some other studios in the coming weeks before I decide on where to do my internship and Bachelor thesis.

Then I finally got around to working some more on the second uni assignment for the holidays where I am to create a web interface using the Google Web Toolkit together with another student. After a bit of struggle I figured out how to properly persist objects in a database and now it's just a matter of creating all the necessary pages.

Earlier this week I finished my other uni assignment, a boardgame port in Delphi. Documentation took a little longer than anticipated, but that's the way it usually is with just about everything. I still finished in time. And then came Wednesday.

It's that time of the year again: Time for A MAZE. This year it dropped the "Indie Connect" from its title, but that's still what it's about; Indie developers meeting up and connecting. So once again I found myself on the 3.5h bus ride to Berlin. I did better research than last year and took the bus that put me within walking distance of my hostel, straight to the Ostbahnhof, instead of the ZOB on the other end of Berlin like last year.

Some things have changed since last year - notably I have a Tablet and a Nintendo 3DS now. I bought the latter last summer to see what all the fuzz regarding Animal Crossing: New Leaf was all about, and shortly thereafter got Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time 3D as a birthday present. But I hardly played it since, only just reaching the first dungeon. So I used the bus ride to play some more; I got past the dungeon and met two faeries.

But let's talk about A MAZE. I first went there last year and met many nice people, like Jana and Friedrich from Rat King, Sos Sosowski, Terry Cavanagh and Rami Ismail and Jan Willem Nijman of Vlambeer. It was great to see most of them again - Terry and Rami weren't there, but most others were. Sos is still as crazy as ever, I love that guy.

I also met a lot new people, which is great. I got to talk to Henry Smith, whose game Spaceteam won the A MAZE Award last year. He's been in AAA at Irrational and Bioware before going Indie and shared some of his experiences; He thinks working in the industry is a great experience, I'd just like to avoid the contract clause which kept him from working on private projects in his spare time - it's apparently pretty commonplace, but surely you can do some negotiating when a developer wants you to work for them.

I also met Marius Winter of Major Bueno, who I had wanted to talk to about his experience at Double Fine for a while, so that was great, too. But there was one utterly surprising meeting: I wear a "Hello, my name is Willi/mrwonko" sticker, and somebody asked me about that. The guy was called Robin and turned out to be a member of Killermic's startup, Klonk Games. I know Killermic from my Jedi Academy modding days - we were both part of the 3D-GET modding team, where we worked on Spirits of the Sith for Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy. Robin reminded me that we really need to finish that, and I agree. It's about 80% done, and I can probably do 90% of the remaining 20% myself.

But A MAZE is not just about meeting cool people, there are also lots of talks. I went to all of them, which was a great idea - sometimes you don't know a talk interests you until you hear it. For example I didn't know Tale of Tales were so interesting, but now I really want to look into their games. I had heard of them before, but never cared to investigate them. Not all talks were surprises - I had imagined Sos' talk to be positively insane and got exactly that; he talked about how A MAZE helped him find the motivation to finish McPixel and did it in his unique Sos way. The talks were filmed and should be available online soon.

Part of A MAZE is also the exhibition. I saw the Choosatron which I had never heard of before, but using a receipt printer as a console output is ingenious, and I got to play a round of Nidhogg, which wasn't quite enough to learn about its nuances but sure was fun. And I had no idea watching somebody play The Stanley Parable for the first time would be quite as awesome. (She got the confusion ending first, and then played it "properly.")

And lastly, A MAZE fills the evenings with parties. I don't usually partake in that kind of activity, but since I'm around anyway A MAZE is the one yearly exception. 3 evenings of dancing are fairly exhausting, so by Friday my feet were killing me and my arms didn't like to be raised anymore, but Kozilek still managed to get me to dance. I had only just learned of him through Luftrausers, but the music didn't quite compare - it was less chip and more bass. Well, the speakers probably played a big part in that - most music will sound more impressive with big, loud speakes.

My personal highlight as far as music goes was on Thursday. Just like with games, it's nice to see the face(s) behind the music you hear, and I had no idea Chipzel is a gal. I didn't realize she actually makes her music with a Gameboy, either. And I certainly didn't know she's so full of energy, jumping and dancing on stage and loving what she does. Maybe I should go to parties and concerts more often, it's great to be around happy people.

In general meeting people every now and then is nice. I learned about two other places where I could do so: There's Game City in England and Poznań Game Arena including the ZTG Game Developers Convention in Poland, two countries I'd very much like to visit. I've been to England before, but that was with family and friends and I didn't get to experience much of the country. Maybe I should take a walk with Ed Key or something...

On Saturday, after A MAZE was over, I met Florian Zender from YAGER, a AAA studio in Berlin, and had a nice chat with him over a coffee/hot chocolate. We talked about a great many things more or less related to game development and had a good time. I'm happy to have met him, the time I'm spending contacting people from the games industry is paying off.

So that's been my trip to Berlin. Now I'm sitting in the bus back to Hamburg, writing this blog entry. Exhausted, but happy. I missed the first 3 days of university due to the trip, but it's been worth it.

In the next two weeks I'll be fairly busy with uni work, I have three or four assignments now. I'm also going to continue my networking endeavors, I'd love to talk to somebody from Rockfish Games.

And I also just found out I enjoy audio books; they're somewhat more convenient than regular books since you can close your tired eyes while consuming them in bed.

So long,


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