Quickie #3: Attacks on PSN, Battle.net and others

My first thought when I heard that was "okay, but why do that?" Then, of course, my thoughts kept wandering. It didn't really make me all that angry or scared. If it's "just" DDoS, then my credit card info should be safe as far as I know and yes, it does suck that I can't purchase and download a new game online, but... But I immediately thought that it is just an opportunity to catch up with the dozens of games that I've already installed or have in boxes or clutter my Steam Library. Seriously, I could probably live and play happily for a year or two without really missing the online services.

But... That's just an approach of a guy who grew up without internet. For all the players that base their entertainment on online rivalry or developing their artificial life in WoW, attacks on such services are like a kick between their legs. Imagine what would happen if all these online junkies wouldn't get their fix for a month. Would gaming really have nothing to offer them? All these kids writing "multiplayer or gtfo" under every gameplay trailer would actually have to gtfo and play some football or chess or something.

The image barely makes sense here, but I couldn't resist anyway.
I am far from justifying or giving meaning to what was most probably just an act of a group of extremely bored teenagers, but if there actually was a message behind this, what would it be? For me it would be something like this: "Play a game for the story once in a while. Instead of running, shooting and shouting in CoD, check out what happened in Dubai in Spec Ops: The Line. Instead of cheesing through a choke in Starcraft, check out how Kerrigan became what she became. Instead of spending 10 hours a day in WoW, well... Play just any other game that came out in the last 10 years."


GamesCom in the eyes of a GameDev

Hey everyone! Last year I described my first GamesCom experience. It was a... simpler time. Last year I've only been there over the weekend and my job was to do a stage show two times a day and look after the cosplayers my company hired. It has still left me plenty of time to look around and soak in all the stuff, even though getting from one hall to another took ages. 

This year was different. Extremely different. I arrived in Cologne on Monday evening to help set everything up on Tuesday. We had 20 PC's in the public area and another 6 in the business area to show off our game, Lords of the Fallen. All of them were provided by our partner, so we had to check if our game works stable enough on those. Luckily there was no major issues and we were able to wrap it up within maybe four hours. Tuesday has passed relatively smoothly.

Media room ready for the visitors
Wednesday. Media and development day, GamesCom is still closed to general public. Everything starts at 9:00 a.m., but we arrive at the venue around 7:30 a.m. to double-check everything and get ready. Even though general public theoretically can't enter the fair yet, the public area is already pretty lively. Some clearly underaged peeps are running around, amateur cosplayers have also most probably confused the dates, but oh well, who really cares, as long as they don't get their hands on the 18+ stuff, right?

The business area is getting crowded. Our BizDevs are having one meeting after another while my job is to help out the press representatives with the controls of our game. Repeating the same controls over and over every ten minutes I fail to notice that the last time I ate something was around 6:30 a.m. and it's almost noon. Luckily, our booth in the business area comes with catering, so I am able to grab a cheese and ham toast, wash it down with a glass of coke and get back to my controls mantra. Every other visitor needs some help with the game or asks some questions, so I end up going back and forth between them.

When they finish playing, they usually have questions and those questions take anywhere from three minutes to half an hour. Most of them walk out happy, complimenting our game - makes a gamedev happy. In the early afternoon someone wants to shoot a video interview - usually with our Executive Producer (EP). "Sorry, busy, you do it" I hear. Allright, let's pop a cherry, shall we? The first interview starts awful, but gets better with each question. It's time for another toast when it's over. They're out of toasts, so I grab some fruit snacks that I swallow together with another glass of coke and that's what keeps me going till 7 p.m. Our community manager comes back from the public area to share what was happening there and I realize I didn't even have time to check out the showfloor.

20 stations occupied for 10 hour straight in the public area
The next day, Thursday, turns out to be almost the exact copy of Wednesday for me. Luckily, this time we can arrive just before 9:00 a.m. Explaining controls, answering questions, guiding the guys who are playing, showing the advanced stuff in the game, answering more questions, giving interviews, grabbing two toasts before they disappear, sitting down to close my eyes in tiny breaks before someone new comes in. This time video interviews get a lot easier - there's no question that you haven't already answered a dozen times already. Thurday is the first day with general public on the showfloor. The line to play our game is between one and two hours long. We're closing the booth at 7 p.m. again. There's supposed to be a party tonight. None of us wants to go, everyone just wants some peace and quiet.

Friday, the same drill. At 9 a.m. we get first visitors, more controls explanation, more interviews of all kinds. There's a twist though - at 4 PM we're going on Twitch, yay. Somehow I managed not to die and the video is already roaming the web. People seem to like it, challenge Near the end of the day we gather the stuff we don't want thrown out, erase the game from the PC's and head to the hotel - the business area is going to be no more within hours.

We have our flight back on Saturday evening, so we have a whole day to finally attend GamesCom public area, check out what's going on, soak in all the gaming coolness. We arrive early again to take advantage of our exhibitor's passes. We get in 15 minutes before the general public is even let in to stand in line to check out Bloodborne. We're first in line. We get in exactly at 9:00 a.m. and after more or less 10 minutes it's over. We head towards our public booth, where we spend less than an hour checking out if everything is okay. After spending 10 hours a day for three days straight watching people play our game we don't really feel like doing the same on day four. We split to take a look around.

Thanks to a VIP pass I got to see Alien: Isolation. First five minutes left me unimpressed. Then I got a basic hang of the alien management mechanic and I have to say that even though the game is definitely not my cup of tea, I enjoyed it quite a lot and will gladly check it out once it releases. Then I took a walk around the shopping area, taking photos of merchandise and looking for a gift for the girl I left at home for almost a week. With the shopping done I looked at my watch... 11:00 a.m. I take a brief look at the Nintendo zone, get a glimpse of Final Fantasy IV, check out what Sony offers and get amazed how much free space EA has paid for and... And I didn't even feel like visiting all the halls. I just met up with our EP and around noon we both decided to just head for the airport.

Imagine how exhausted an avid gamer has to be to prefer sitting at the airport for a few hours instead of spending them on the biggest consumer gaming convention of the year. A week of rest and... already preparing to leave for PAX.


Get paid thanks to games: A game journalist

In the previous part of the series I wrote about game blogging and vlogging. Today I will be continuing on the subject, by moving on to game journalism. I believe many conservative guys who write about games for living will get a bito offended, but... a difference between a game journalist and a game blogger is getting more blurry with every passing year and both professions have a lot in common.

Let's face it, it's not the 90's anymore. Paper magazines are dying, the online gaming sites have become a much more successful substitute and with the embedded videos and hourly updates, there's no way in hell paper magazines will get back on that horse. Game journalism, that was once a profession of the selected few, has become a free for all job market. There's almost no entry barrier. You should know how to write, but we all read these online magazines and we all know that not everyone there meets this requirement.

With the entry barrier practically non-existent, you can guess - there's a lot of people who want in. And whenever the market gets saturated and the supply of work keeps growing, there's only one reaction you can expect: the labor becomes cheaper. So while inthe 90's these relatively few people who wrote about games were able to support themselves doing this, nowadays the vast majority of game journalists have to treat it like an additional (and usually poor) source of income.

There's a nice article on GamesRadar that gives a rough overview of how much the game journalists can actually earn. Please keep in mind that the article seems to only take into account the guys that have actually succeeded in networking and manage to publish quite a number of articles. When you start out, you'll be lucky to get one or two reviews published a month, and that won't give you anywhere near the tens of thousands of dollars a year.

How do you get into the zone and make it possible to live off the game journalism then? Here's ten steps that will help you get there. Of course the sooner you start, the better:

1) Learn to write. Write well. The fact that you grew up with your language and were taught it at school means nothing. Read a lot - not only gaming sites, but good, well-edited books. Analyze the language. Learn to use it, learn to write.

2) If you're not from an English-speaking country, learn English. Yes, you will probably be writing in your native tongue, but eventually you will want to do some research on the global level and most of the news and info is first available in English. Also, how do you expect to get an interview with a foreign game maker when you can't communicate?

3) You have to learn to play a variety of games. Having 15 max level characters in WoW or having a 1000 hours of playtime in Call of Duty won't get you far. You need variety. You need to derive pleasure from exploring and discovering new games. Versatility and being interested in the whole industry are the key to success.

4) When you finally learn to read and write and play something other than StarCraft 2, start a blog or a vlog. Here you can find some tips how to go about it. It's important that the blog doesn't only consist of classic reviews. Any form of originality is great - screenshot-based stories, essays, your own drawings to illustrate the text... Some of the big gaming sites let their users start blogs there. If your blog is supposed to be your foot in the door, why not place this foot closer to your target?

5) When your blog or vlog has enough entries to make it possible to assess your skill, attack the offices of the game magazines and portals, offering your services. If you skipped the blogging step, you will have to send them some examples of your writing via e-mail. Seriously, it's as easy as "Hey! I was wondering, maybe you guys need some more content for your website? Here's a taste of my writing". It's of course easier to start with smaller sites - most often they just require less experience.

6) If you've been successful in the previous step, don't pat yourself on the back just yet. Well... maybe a little pat won't hurt. Still, you're just getting started. A few bucks for your review is great when you're 16, but you won't support a family with it. Continue to learn more about the industry, about the process of making games. It's time for learning from your older journalist colleagues and polishing your writing skill. Don't get discouraged, if you don't get many assignments or they aren't overly ambitious. These can't be avoid even in the next steps.

7) When you'll gain some notable experience working with the editor-in-chief and quite a few published articles, you should repeat step 5. You should get out there and offer your services to as many magazines and portals as possible. This time, trying the biggest ones as well. In most cases, nobody minds if you work with more than one magazine.

8) In a bigger and more "professional" team, you have to be prepared to be a newbie for a while. Newbies don't attend international game conferences, don't interview the game making stars. They put together uninspired top tens, they write reviews of second-rate games and trash articles on the evolution of Lara's boobs or which DoA girl has a skimpier outfit. These articles generate pageviews. You still shouldn't expect to make any good money at this stage. If you're lucky, it'll be enough to get by during your college days.

9) When you finally manage to get past the newbie step, you get a shot at more serious reviews. Older colleagues might take you to watch and learn during some interviews. Because your goal here is still to learn. It's easy to end your career on step 8 or 9 - there's lots of journalists like that. These are the guys that keep writing stock reviews, mumbling something about engines and middleware they have no idea about. If you want to get to the top, you will need to show a lot of commitment: visiting all game-related events you possibly can, being active in your editorial office and constantly increasing your qualifications.

10) Congrats. If you managed to get to step 10, there's a big chance that the reviews of the top titles, interviews with game developers, stories from game events and game industry articles let you make enough money to support yourself. And it's a high time - most likely you're already too old to delay starting a family anymore.

It's very important to be original. Articles that stand out can easily end up for example on digg.com - writing articles with such potential is a desired skill. Of course, the center of attention will always be reviews and news and your editor-in-chief will not always give you complete creative freedom. If you can write and keep learning more about the industry, you don't have to finish your career as a journalist or editor. PR departments of game studios constantly need people who know the industry and write well. Working at a gamedev studio is a whole other topic though.

Many thanks to Mielu from gram.pl for help and insight.