Witchboy's Cauldron

Melbourne Travel Log


Recently, I was invited to participate in Free Play, an Australian indie games conference. Since I just resigned from Ion Storm 6 weeks ago, in order to pursue my schemes related to starting an independent game studio, and I had just coincidentally started a rant-on-paper about the independent creative spirit driving so much of what I love about games, this seemed like fate or something. I decided to go to the conference, despite my insanely busy schedule, despite the fact that I had just returned from E3 2004 only days earlier and despite the looong flight down under and the jetlag, in order to speak on a subject outside my normal game design comfort zone: inspiration.

Arrival Day

Just prior to the last 3 trips I've taken-Montreal, LA and Melbourne-I've played in late night D&D games with my long-running campaign group, which consists of designers from Thief 3 and the Deus Ex games. I do this to knock myself out on the following morning's plane ride. So, since I slept most of the way, the flight to Australia was fine; not nearly as bad as I had dreaded. By the time I awoke, we had only 5-6 hours to go. None of the nearby babies behaved too badly. I had an aisle seat and no one sat next to me. I slept, played Tetris for hours (…it was built into the plane seat in front of me), and watched the last half of a movie called "Something's Gotta Give." (Warning-avoid this movie unless it turns you on to watch 60-year-olds make out like dry, slow-moving lizards.)

I arrived at the airport at 10am and went through immigration. A pair of cute dogs-a beagle and a lab-searched me for drugs or illegal fruit. Someone immediately took my passport away for a while due to "some problem with my middle name." He brought it back within minutes and I passed through to the next part of the airport.

My bag finally showed up on the luggage claim conveyor-unlike my recent trip to Germany, when my bags went to wrong city. I was worried my luggage was once again doomed because the international part of LAX (Tom Bradley) seemed to be run by 100 slackers, none of whom spoke the same language. (When I dropped my bag off, they scanned it, tagged it and handed it off to someone who walked it into a small office nearby. I wondered: How can this be their routine process for getting bags to Australia?)

Outside in the airport lobby, Binh picked me out of the crowd. I'd never met him, but had been told by email that he would find me. ("We have organised the conference assistant, Binh Nguyen to collect you at the airport. Binh is Vietnamese Australian, about 25, so keep an eye out for him at the gate.") Binh was with a friend who was holding an ice pack to his face; he had a huge swollen spot next to one of his eyes, and claimed to have walked into a pole. I picked up a cup of coffee at a nearby counter-after struggling to order, since I had no idea what "white coffee" was-and we headed off in Binh's car. He and his friend were smart and fun; we chattered and laughed most of the way to downtown Melbourne. (When I said "downtown," they were both confused. Apparently, they say, "CBD," for Central Business District. But after a second they knew what I meant, claiming to have only heard the expression "downtown" on the TV show, The Simpsons. Go, American culture.)

Unpopular Culture

We drove for half an hour to the conference. This was the first year for Free Play. Some of the developers in Melbourne are very indie in nature. They're just talking about getting an IGDA chapter off the ground. So it was a really cool time to come in contact with them. I met Fiona, who had brought me over, and several other cool people, including Katherine, Casey (the tech director for the conference), and David (from Tantalus), the driving force behind the upcoming Melbourne IGDA chapter.

Next: Day One Continued




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Travel Log - Melbourne

Freeplay 2004

GDC 2004: Emergence

Orthogonal Unit Differentiation

Systemic Level Design

Travel Log - Hong Kong

Sacrifice Review

Features Without Interface

Transcendent Moments

Half-Life review

Worlds Apart

Distinct Functions in Game Units

The Future of Game Design



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