Paris, Snails and Strikes

Another week, another project meeting! This time it was a few days in Paris for a project called Not Only Fair Play which is focussed on schools and sport.

For once, the journey wasn’t painful as there were no connections although on arrival at Charles De Gaulle there was a bit of a queue due to Immigration staff being away for lunch (or so it seemed!).

The food was excellent, as was the wine but the bins were overflowing apparently due to another strike. One morning a bin truck did turn up but the guy decided to empty some bins and leave the others – he did pick up whatever he dropped though!

I did manage to get a few hours of touristy stuff during the trip and main things I learned was that the Eiffel Tower is just like Blackpool, the Louvre is bloody massive and the street vendors are grumpy sods.

Whilst the street vendor reluctantly provided a colleague with a paper bag for a purchase, all the waiting staff I saw were great. Well, apart from the lady who took our order near Sacre Cours – the gave the impression of understanding us but the only English word she responded with was beautiful. Probably the reason why they got the order wrong four times which led to a very apologetic manager comping us more of the meal along with a nice bottle of wine.

After hiking up to Sacre Cours, the place was filled with tents selling local produce; wine, beer, cheese, meat and all sorts of other foods. It was teeming with people of all ages having a drink and something to eat with no trouble whatsoever. Most definitely a different drinking culture to most of the UK!

All in all, a great trip and hopefully I can head back at some point to do the real touristy stuff like buying a plastic Eiffel Tower and waiting four hours to view the Mona Lisa from 30 yards away.


In the few months I’ve been in my new job (see previous post), I have been lucky to take a few European trips to Spain and Italy, but a few weeks ago I got the opportunity to again visit Romania for a project meeting.

My previous trip had been to the north, deep into the Carpathians and involved seeing a wild bear just a few feet away from me, a helicopter trip across the country and a Hungarian Count but that is another story. I loved the place and looked forward to returning, this time to Bucharest.

Those of you who know me reasonably well will know that I struggle to speak English from time to time, never mind any other languages – essentially my Romanian is as good as my figure skating. With this in mind, finding myself at Bucharest airport at 00:30 in the morning with no local currency and my taxi nowhere in sight wasn’t the best start to the trip! Thirty minutes later as panic was setting in and after being propositioned by a number of dodgy cabbies, I saw my name upside-down on an iPad – normally I ignore my given name Laurence, but on this occasion the happiness and relief gave me goosebumps.

Bucharest is a strange city. I have been to Eastern European cities before but nowhere with such a dichotomy of buildings – wonderful architecture was stuck right next to brutalist communist concrete blocks. Mind you, nothing prepared me for the government building that Caucescu built to show off his power – it must have been at least 300 metres wide and dominated everything around it. Dictatorship personified.

My main surprise though was the fact that it would appear the UK stag and hen parties hadn’t discovered the place yet. Somewhere that is on a budget airline route and has beer for 50 and Mojitos for a pound is surely going to be spoiled at some point with L plates and pissed up Brits.

Anyway, recommended for a short city break, although I have to admit to preferring the more rural parts of the country.

Next stop, Paris…

GDC 2014 – “I’ve got code older than you”

Before heading over to my first GDC since 2011, I noticed some of the grumpy hits on the grumpy developers group on Facebook suggested making t-shirts with the slogan ‘I’ve got code older than you’. It would have been apt as I really did feel like everyone’s dad whilst wandering amongst the Expo booths with their hipster staff.

San Francisco was hotter than I had ever experienced around GDC time and this made me suitably grumpy, but it was probably the most constructive GDC I have ever attended. Maybe this was due to not partying every night and having a clear head, or maybe it was because we had complete product to sell – I’m not sure, but we came away with lots of potential opportunities.

Main points I took from the event?

– VR is everywhere, not only Rift but Sony’s Morpheus along with controllers to go with them such as Sixense’s STEM. All interesting stuff
– Far too many ad networks. Funny how one mentioned a CPI of $5 when they only pay us $1 for showing the ad on our own titles. Thieving ****s!
– More women present than I have ever noticed before
– Everyone looks around 10 years old (or maybe that is just me)
– How many people are looking for content to publish in numerous territories and platforms

Arguably the biggest thing I got was the complete realisation that if you want to make money in games you should not bother making games, you should be making services that you can sell to games developers. GameDev is not a massively scalable business apart from the odd few and it is far easier to gather investment for scalable service companies than for game development. Sad but true. I guess I would advise any startup to consider entering the service side rather than the content side moving forwards – the odds are better.

Before GDC week, I was over in San Francisco with Cross Creative as part of our California trip. During this time I was fortunate to visit some pretty amazing companies like Pixar, Chartboost, Youtube, Eventbrite and the amazing VFX guys at Atomic Fiction. Again, the core impression I got was that getting investment in the area was far easier than in Scotland purely due to the amount of investors looking for the next ‘big thing’. Maybe Independence will help us out with more tax benefits for investors?