The Tin Men sport their Gamebook Adventures t-shirts at GCAP 2011 in Melbourne! (image courtesy of i R Media)

If you were looking at that title and expecting (yet another) internet blog post about Skyrim, then I’m sorry to disappoint you! This post is about some of the most exciting weeks that I’ve had since starting Tin Man Games and I just had to write it all down before the coffee wears off!

It’s amazing to think that in November 2007 I flew out to Melbourne with my Australian residency visa proudly displayed in my British passport, to attend Game Connect Asia Pacific. It was an exciting time as I knew myself and the then Tin Fiancée were planning to move out to Australia in 2008 and we just had to make a decision where to plant our roots. After an inspiring week in beautiful Melbourne, meeting some awesome game developers (some of which I now call my very good friends), my mind was made up before I even boarded the plane back. The now Tin Wife and I moved out the next year, Tin Man Games was set up and the rest is now TMG lore (keeping the fantasy theme there ;)). Anyone who has been following my antics know that the Tin Family returned back to the UK this year for personal reasons with my fellow Tin Man, Ben Britten Smith, defending the fort down-under. Incidentally TMG is and always will be an Australian company and the Tin Family plan on returning in a couple of years! Yay!

Mike Acton’s keynote “We need to aim higher” was really inspiring.

So, why all this pre-ambling? Well, exactly four years later I found myself back on that plane to Melbourne holding the same passport (now with lots of in and out stamps) to attend GCAP 2011. This time was very different though as I was excitedly looking forward to seeing all my friends and games industry peers for a few beers in the sun. Not only that but I was incredibly proud to be acually giving a talk with Ben at the very conference that inspired me four years ago! GCAP to those that don’t know it, is kind of like an Aussie GDC with lots of talks and panels discussing local industry topics as well as looking at the wider world of game development and inviting international speakers like Mike Acton from Insomniac Games (also keeper of #AltDevBlogADay) and Richard Iwanuik from BioWare to give keynotes.

Richard Iwanuik gave a great talk about audience engagement from a BioWare perspective

I think it’s safe to say that the whole of GCAP 11 was a great success. There was a palpable buzz around the convention center and is testament to great organisation by Tony Reed and his cohorts, especially considering that the Aussie industry has taken a battering in the last year or so with some large studio closures. Both myself and Ben had some meetings and press engagements but I did try and attend some talks and gatherings, with standouts from local industry champion, Paul Callaghan and one of the creators of Bastion,  Amir Rao from Supergiant Games. I also spent a very pleasant hour with cups of tea and cupcakes (sponsored by Halfbrick would you believe) discussing the local industry in the “Journeys with friends” panel/gathering/afternoon tea.

So what of our talk? Well, you can judge for yourself as the amazing Souri from tsumea filmed our talk and then pain-stakingly uploaded the video to Youtube.

It was really important to us to share our experiences over the last couple of years and hopefully demonstrate to indie developers the need for branding. I believe some indies think that “branding” is like selling out, but really branding is all about staying alive in a crowded marketplace for as long as possible. We were really excited to see that Jesse Divnich from EEDAR was up before us with his insightful keynote about brand building. We really couldn’t have asked for a better prelude to our talk and it was nice to see Jesse sitting at the back of our talk too!

The talk was also about one other thing, announcing our big gun license, Judge Dredd, which Ben did ever so eloquently at the end. We’d been holding back on announcing this as we really wanted to do it in Australia and wanted as much exposure as possible. As you will have seen with our previous blog post, the timing worked really well and we were covered on many of the big gaming sites and interviewed by some of the local press in Melbourne. Win, win, win! 🙂

Jon Green demos GA to Iain Lowson (author of Dark Harvest) at Dragonmeet

So after an amazing, if exhausting couple of weeks buzzing around Melbourne and Australia, I said many sad goodbyes and winged my way back to the UK and back to the Tin Family, who I’d missed a lot. With just a few days respite though I was back into brand building mode once again and made my way down to London to attend Dragonmeet with a bag full of Gamebook Adventures goodies to hand out. I was joined by the incredible Jonathan Green, author of Temple of the Spider God, who chatted to some of visitors and gave out the odd autograph. He also joined a panel talk during the meet about narrative and video games, which was very apt. You can get more info about his Dragonmeet adventures by visiting his blog.

Coming from a game development conference to something like Dragonmeet was a bit of a shock as although the video gaming world and RPG tabletop gaming worlds do collide at times, they do feel very different. It’s very interesting to see the contrast of two industries, that at their core are trying to do the same thing – entertain all of us geeks! We’re already working with a bunch of people who hang out in the tabletop RPG space and I think we’d love to expand this over the coming year or two. It’s important that we bring talented people into the digital arena and give them as much support as possible. I think the days of a RPG IP holders handing over the rights to a games company to create “the video game” version are just about done and transmedia is fully on the march – just look at what companies like BioWare and Bethseda are doing.

Dragonmeet for me was about meeting some fans and hopefully making some new ones, in much the same way we do it at PAX in the U.S. It was also about building some bridges too with the very active British RPG industry and making some important contacts. When you’re hanging out with the editor of White Dwarf and “The Warlock” from the Official Fighting Fantasy site, you know you’re in good company! This leads me on nicely to what was possibly the highlight of the day for me, which was meeting Ian Livingstone, co-creator of Fighting Fantasy, founder of Games Workshop and all round champion of the UK games industry. It’s not everyday you get to shake hands with one of your boyhood heroes especially someone who has inspired you to follow your passions. Quite literally, Gamebook Adventures wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Ian and his pesky Blood Beast in Deathtrap Dungeon all those years ago!

We had really good chat and Ian had many kind words for us and was interested in what we were doing. I think he must have read some of our blog posts as he thanked me for my kind words about Fighting Fantasy on our site and we discussed his upcoming 30th Anniversary edition FF gamebook. He didn’t reveal too much information about it though, so we’ll just have to wait and see what’s in store next year. Overall I think I managed to keep my “fanboy” side in check although there were moments where that 10 year old was screaming to jump out! I just want to thank the new Warlock himself, Jamie Fry for the photo above. Jamie just recently took over the editor reigns on the FF website after running his FF collecting website for a number of years. Congrats to him!

So, there endeth my epic quest. Many an ale was consumed in an antipodean tavern with good friends, I met many personal heroes and got to slay a Dragon. Well kinda.

– Neil


5 comments so far

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  1. The Penny Arcade guys got it so right with PAX – the digital games and table top gaming worlds are just two reflections of the same adventure universe!

    Good things happen when table top meets iPad – we get the nostalgic Gamebook Adventures for one 8)

    Can’t wait to see more cross over – how cool would it be to play a persistent world LARP with with iOS supplied Augmented Reality?!? **nerd moment**

  2. […] exactly 30 years on! No-one quite knows what the adventure entails and no beans were spilled when Neil was lucky enough to meet Ian at Dragonmeet in November last year. Whatever the adventure holds, we’re sure it will be a […]

  3. […] come to pass? In a nutshell, Neil met with Ian Livingstone at Dragonmeet last year in London, which he wrote about in a blog post, and Ian made an enquiry into Android versions as well as his upcoming, then untitled, 30th […]

  4. […] and Ben did a presentation at GCAP 2011 in Melbourne called ‘Building the Brand’ (video here), where they formally announced the deal with Rebellion for a Judge Dredd gamebook. Nick Robinson […]

  5. […] at Game Connect Asia Pacific 2012. Both Ben and Neil did a talk at last year’s event called “Creating a Brand from Scratch”, although Ben was much happier being on the other side of the podium this year watching amazing […]