Wednesday, February 27, 2008

By day, a quick-witted studio exec, at night... Captain Leathered!

AKA Burning the candle at all three ends. What follows is skimping somewhat on details as there was just too much going on, too many comments, too many smiles, too many laughs and really, just too much fun. But having fun and boundless energy is what we 'sell' Team17 on and in some ways its a brutal experience for those that grab it. A week of this is fairly tiring, it has to be said - but I'd like to think that every week this happens, we develop even closer, stronger relations with the people that matter - not only in business but in life too, which is perfect.

So, San Francisco and what was GDC (Game Developer's Conference). Not that there was too much conferencing for us; myself, John Dennis and Paul Kilburn, as we spent the vast majority of time meeting & greeting in a biz-dev role - such is the nature of the 'work'.

We landed on Sunday after a pretty straight-forward trip there, no delays, no torturous in-flight turbulence etc. We were staying at the Hilton, just off Union Square and were 41 floors up, which afforded quite breathtaking views west over San Fran and the Golden Gate bridge.

I had a couple of meetings straight off the bat, but thankfully they were all in and around bars & restaurants (such is the biz-dev life) and probably explains my less than healthy body. It all ended up a little bit messy to be fair, given that the normally quiet Sunday in San Fran was bonkers due to the Monday being a bank-holiday (President's day) and so we ended up in Matrix on Filmore a few days earlier than expected.

Monday was a quiet day, probably because we didn't know about the bank holiday, but we had a few meetings here and there, catching up with Brits who were probably in the same boat as us, unaware of the US holiday. In the evening we joined up with some friends from Vivendi/Sierra and went for a great meal at the Daily Grill and then Karaoke in a dive-bar south of Market. I was listed to sing (the usual Diamond number) but my evening was broken up somewhat by a nameless mate (who of course will be easily identifiable) having to be taken back to the hotel "in a state" via an altrication with a rather crazy policeman. (details suppressed to protect the guilty). I went back just in time to see the usually docile Jon Cook leaping around the stage singing "London's Calling".

Tuesday was straight into Game Connection and our busiest day by far with ten meetings, we had some fairly good meetings and the day passed briskly by. We went out for lunch, eating at a French place just off market, which was memorable for the Calamari I had; normally I'm happy to eat the fishy rings, but this was basically a whole octopuss deep fried and shoved on my plate - suffice to say that the combination of glare at the shape and my looming hangover meant it got left alone. More meetings in the afternoon and we finished around 5pm.

The evening we ate at the Daily Grill again, this time with friends from 10tacle and Eidos, before hitting a bar call Oolah! near the dive bar we'd been in 24hrs earlier - which was playing some pretty bloody dreadful thrash metal type stuff.

Wednesday was more meetings (although less frenetic than Tuesday) and our traditional "drunch" (drunk lunch) with Sten of the Swedish games board. Unfortunately the lunch part was neglected soon after the exciteable bar-maid started buying us Sambuca at 1pm... at 5pm Sten was in a real mess (bad, given it was their big party that evening) and "drunch" had become "punch" (pissed lunch).

In the evening, we'd been invited to 3 parties; The Nvidia one, The Swedish one (featuring Skid Row) and the Sony one with two aparently famous Hip-Hop guys that I'd never recognise. We went to none of them; the thought of going to yet another developer party with 500 geeks queuing to get served and staring at the 2-3 women that turned up just didn't seem appealing. (John and Kilburn eventually went to see Skid Row though).

Instead I went with a few friends t o a fish restaurant down on the Wharf, my good friend Jean-Ralph from Activision and his mate 'Johnny French' (from Glu), Alex Campbell and the lads from Team17. After a good laugh and several plates of fiddly crabs legs (which was an experience) we again hit a quieter Matrix, then onto Cafe Mason (our usual 24hr haunt near the Hilton). It was a very entertaining night and fantastic to hook up with the crazy JR again - his mate Nic (Johnny French) said it had been something like 26 years since he'd laughed as much.

Onto Thursday and my day began with an 8.30am meeting (I was starting to feel it after 4 late nights out - the negative of all the positives) which meant getting up around 7.30am after getting in around 4am. I had a good chat with some guys from Vivendi & Sierra before catching up with a bunch of other people and then hooked up with the lads for a fantastic lunch with our good friends at Konami at the W Hotel. After surviving that we had a spell in the unofficial meeting zone of the biz-devs, the lobby bar at the W, bumping into a ton of people; old friends, current contacts and pals from the dev scene.

Our Microsoft stuff began at 5pm in the rooftop restaurant of the Marriot, some 45 stories up; a couple of sneaky cocktails later (and our days business more or less pretty much ironed out) we headed for the XBLA developers meet-up, where we pretty much messed around and had a laugh before heading out to dinner with our business manager friends at Microsoft. We went to a fantastic thai restaurant called 'Le Colonnial' and it's quite simply the best food I've ever had.

After that, we snuck into the Microsoft party as we were there to collect an award; despite our suggestions it was for 'Most over-rated' or 'Most disappointing' it was for 'Most Played Game' of 2007 on XBox Live Arcade, so we were pretty chuffed. However, my script for the acceptance speech went out of the window as senior Microsoft folks wouldn't trust us with the mike (probably after the infamous Amsterdam 'F-Bomb' I unleashed in 2007) so trusty Jim Sink grabbed it for us. I don't think having a name-badge of 'Captain Leathered' helped. After that it was back in the Matrix, but I bailed about 1am - my body simply refusing to take any more - it had performed admirably - even wearing a rubber glove for most of the evening, my new form of harrassment entertainment, which worked a treat.

Well, after yet another big day/big night, I was up and out early again - a meeting with Microsoft to collect our nice award and a round up of what we'd discussed. From that it was on to another meeting at the Palace Hotel (very swish) and then (after a succession of adhoc meetings) off to our now traditional "Sega Day" function, which starts with a long lunch at The Grill, a bit of dice-play, then onto their 'Speakeasy' party (followed by Matrix) - a stint of some 14hours or so! This time we were also joined by Dave '6 Dollar Mandroid' Schenone, from Microsoft and Daz, a new cohort of Mr Trotman's. A good time was had by all, as is also now traditional - and I managed to win the dice, which irritated Kilburn - a nice bonus.

Saturday brought with it a crystalised focusing of what 6 nights out can do to you. Once I'd stopped shaking at about 8pm, I was fine... suffice to say that Pirate day didn't happen at all and there was pretty minimal laughs as greyness rode into town. We did manage to have a wonder about and take a few photos; prior to the heavens opening. It was the Chinese New-Year parade and it was a washout, more a case of 'Year of the drowned rat'. I came around sufficiently to shakily meet up with the Yorkshire contingent for a meal in North Beach (which was the slowest I've ever been served, ever, no really, ever!) and then on to 'Gold Dust' (which is the US equivalent of Phoenix Nights) and some impromptu singing with the pink-faced oldies.

Sunday and I was feeling tons better. Spent a while walking around, doing a bit of shopping and we checked out, before a quick trip to Haight-Ashbury and more stores down-town.

Fortunately the bad weather abated (it had been mostly lousy all week) and we got off to the airport OK, checked in fine, no-delays and a reasonably tolerant flight (even if I did get minimal sleep and felt shattered) - it was better than boarding with a shocking hangover, which was usually the norm (check me out, with a modicum of moderation). Got back Monday evening after a 3hr stopover at Heathrow and lasted an hour or so before I slept on the sofa and woke up the next morning.

No rest for the wicked though, the house is currently being dismantled for a new kitchen so I've had a ton of stuff to sort... it's going to be a messy fortnight - but the kitchen she's banged on about for about 4 years is just about to go in. I'll be pleased when we're back to normal and our friends arrive in 3 weeks for the house party we're planning...

Chin chin.

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