Was over in Europe again, this time to keynote the first Interface matchmaking event in London, and jump over to Sweden for the annual Nordic Game Conference. All told, I had about 50 meetings with independent studios from the UK, and Nordic region. I was not disappointed! Given Execution Labs is always on the hunt for amazing studios to invest in, was great to see so many talented studios.

For a first time event, Interface was useful and chock full of developers. Though, understandably British focused. I also had a chance to pop down to Brighton for a day of meetings. Interesting fact, there were 18 new studios that started from the ashes of Disney’s closure of Black Rock a couple years ago, and all of them are still running!

For the Nordic Game Conference, it is impressive that the event is able to rally folks from across the entire region. The talent is so deep, we could easily fill Execution Labs just with teams from the Nordics!

 

The Interface event kept me so busy with developer meetings, this street art just outside the venue is the only photo I had a chance to take.

Popped into the PlayHubs shared workspace to meet with teams.

Brianna Code (Ubisoft) discusses the value of diverse teams.

The Canadian Consulate in Sweden hosted a nice VIP reception.

Reindeer dinner with Thomas Tull (Legendary Pictures), Hendrik Lesser (Remote Control),  and Matt Wilson (Rovio), among others.

Indies singing modified Karaoke songs. Was very amusing.

Uh, not sure what the internal ship structure is all about… A team brainstorms at the Arabic Game Jam.

Final night festivities over in Copenhagen. Dan Pearson (GamesIndustry.biz), Brianna Code (Ubisoft), and Habib Chams (MENA Games Conference) enjoy cocktails at Ruby (which is ranked 22nd of the 50 best cocktail bars in the world). So good!

While Europe is not thaaat far from Montreal, always nice to pack in as much action each time I jump the pond. This time I was able to combo three events: the Cartoons on the Bay animation festival in Venice, Quo Vadis and the Berlin Games Week, and then the Reboot Develop conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Was an exhausting, but also an exhilarating trip. It is all a bit of a blur, but was particularly interesting to connect with many of the central European developers participating at Reboot (which did a good job to gather those from neighboring communities). And, as an overarching umbrella, it is impressive to see all of the varied activities taking place under the Berlin Games Week banner!

Venice

The historical Palazzo Labia, HQ for Italian TV giant Rai and home for the Cartoons on the Bay festival.

The legendary Sylvia Anderson, creator of the Thunderbirds series.

Marty O’Donnell talks of his early inspirations.

Marty O’Donnell receives a Pulcinella award for his amazing work with games+music.

Marty celebrates with a Guinness.

So many picturesque “alleys” in Venice.

I took hundreds of pics of amazingly textured facades.

Entrance to the renowned Piazza San Marco.

Entrance/tower to the Arsenal.

Another beautiful view.

Berlin

Bottle collection at the secret gin bar :)

Happy party at the Happy Tuesday studio.

Cool venue for the German awards gala.

Paul Heydon (London Venture Partners) discusses the European investment climate for games.

Wow! Two rows full of investors interested in games at the pitch event.

One of the cool games being pitched…

Funky magnet game cabinet at Amaze.

The Amaze opening exhibit/party at Urban Spree.

Dubrovnik

In Dubrovnik… or King’s Landing?

Inside the 8th century fortress.

Post dinner drinks with cool industry folks from around the globe.

Peter Molyneux with inspiring words for the day2 keynote.

Team Gotham picks up the best indie game award.

Michal Drozdowski (11bit Studios) discusses the creative process behind This War of Mine.

Tightly packed pathways within the fortress.

I will not deny that I was a little nervous for my first trip to the Middle East… When I first got the invite to keynote the MENA Games Conference in Beirut, I was honored but also a bit trepidatious. All was for not, as the trip was wonderful with nary a scare.

Several hundred game industry types descended upon Beirut, Lebanon for the first ever developer focused conference in the region. The event started to great fanfare, with the Minister of Telecom opening the conference and announcing the government’s support for the game industry.

MENA Games was well organized, especially for a first time event, and collected developers and industry folks from across the entire region. The Arab Game Jam had teams from Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Bahrain, etc. It was a great introduction to a high potential region.

Downtown Beirut.

Lots of cool graffiti and street art in the city.

Developers working during the Arab Game Jam.

Welcome! First time a conference venue has had barbed wire to protect!

Conference was on historical train station grounds. This building was part of the Orient Express.

One of the old train engines.

Lebanon’s Minister of Telecom opening the conference and pronouncing support for games.

Panel on publishing into the MENA region.

Winners/participants of the Arab Game Jam.

Church and mosque side-by-side in downtown Beirut.

The mosque lit up at night.

Lovely Place d’Etoiles in downtown.

Inside the Natural History Museum (happened to be free access “night at the museum” week).

The Rouche rocks off the coast. Reminded me of the Apostles in Australia.

Up the cable car in the Harissa area…

Old churches in Byblos.

Byblos was an early Phoenician settlement… origins of the alphabet come from here.

This was my 19th straight GDC! And, it was so intense, I wondered if I’d survive to make it to the 20th. It is hard to believe that each year seems more crazy and productive than the last. Maybe it is just a GDC warp effect….

Though, I’m pretty sure the warp was due to the growth of the Execution Labs family. With a handful of alumni teams to support, along with the current accelerator and finishing fund teams, there was an exponential number of publisher, platform, and partner meetings to orchestrate. Plus some intense scouting for teams to invest in as we move forward.

My sessions on startup funding and accelerator/mentor programs went well, with deep discussions on a wide range of topics. Always nice to see new programs popping up all over the world.

Sadly, I was too deep in meetings to catch many sessions or see much of the expo. And, I will admit, it did feel a bit odd to now be running a rant session with Eric…


Guiz de Pessemier (Outerminds) enjoying some Japanese whiskey at the Sega party.


Chris Baine (BioWare) discussing the merits of making games in Canada.


Nate Barker (Chartboost) in the best conference uniform ever!


Lil’ Strid (Astrid Rosemarin, Execution Labs) and Big Ber (Andraz Bole, PouPou Interactive) dropping beats at the Google Play party.


Good insights from the indie publishing panel.


Mia famiglia! First time I see an Italian pavilion at GDC. Didn’t even know there were that many studios in Italy!


Rather odds controls at the Alt.Ctrl.GDC exhibit.


The annual post GDC meat festival at Keith’s place.


Chinese New Year parade action.

 

I vaguely recall a conversation Eric Zimmerman and I had with Stephanie Barish (the queen of IndieCade) years ago about her crazy idea to start an indie focused festival. The event started in California and only recently has added an East Coast edition in NYC.

As this was my first time at the East version, was super happy to see that it encapsulates the same level of indie awesomeness and variety. Lots of cool games, and deep thoughts on independent creation. That said, was cool that some of the big corps (eg, Sony, Nintendo, Facebook), were on hand to support and participate.


NY, NY!


Execution Labs’ cofounder Keith Katz with pitch advice during the PlayCrafting event.


The design debate. Was intense!


Devs discuss Kickstarter strategies.


Keith reaching for the stars…


Interesting game experiments as part of the exhibition.


The Sony+indies+love panel.


The ever luscious Lovers in a Dangerous Space Time on display.


The event was hosted at the Museum of the Moving Image, which meant you could check out the permanent exhibits.


Post event fun in the big city… Secret entrance to Please Don’t Tell. Shhhh….

 

This was my first time over for a European edition of Casual Connect, which mostly ran the same as the American version. Amsterdam played host to a bustling event, with a massive 120+ game indie showcase. I was one of the IndiePrize jury members, making for a nice excuse to “force” myself to play many of the games.

The Netherlands in particular, has a rich pedigree of indie development, not least of which is due to the success of small shops like Vlambeer, and the efforts of the Dutch Game Garden.  But interestingly, given how siloed the education system is, you tend to get startups comprised of a single discipline: a bunch of engineering school buddies start a team, a bunch of art school buddies start a team, and so on. Not surprisingly, there are no business school buddy teams!


Lovely view from my AirBnB along the Singel canal.


Inspiring art-in-progress at the amazing THISISAROBOT imagination studio.


Mega organ at the opening reception.


The bustling indie showcase area… hmm, arena?


An actually good/fun industry party.


The IndiePrize jury in heated debate.


Blindflug Studios wins Best Mobile Game for First Strike HD.


Yes yes, we stumbled upon the red light district… meh…

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