Category Archives: Blog

#50 Gamescom 2015

Well met, my friends!

On Wednesday the 5th of August 2015, I attended the media day of Gamescom. Even though there are less people than on the other days, it is still very crowded. Both Anna Prosser-Robinson and Genevieve Livinpink Forgét were at Gamescom. I met up with Anna, who was live streaming from the twitch.tv booth, and gave her an Advance Review Copy of my novel “Age of Torridan.”

Unfortunately Livinpink was too busy, so it did not feel right to encroach on her time during her breaks.

Since this was Gamescom, I did get to try out a few games:

Battleborn

The game reminded me of Blizzard’s Overwatch due to the comic style and wacky heroes with different roles. A refreshing change that will hopefully hold true for the final release was that this was a 5 player co-op vs the computer kind of game. I played some sniper robot butler, which suited my play style. In the demo, the team shared 15 lives. You could play until your team ran out of lives or until you met the first boss. After defeating a semi boss, the actual boss showed up, but after a cutscene the demo was over. I guess that’s what they meant by playing “until the first boss.” Despite or because of that teasing I really enjoyed the demo.

S1050037

Skyarena

In the Indiegame area – which is a sort of a hidden gem at Gamescom, located in hall 10.1 – I tried out Skyarena. The game was a kind of confrontational Mariokart with jets. Unfortunately they did not implement the mechanic that the random upgrades are better, the worse you are doing in the game, as it is the case in Mariokart.

S1050028

Furthermore, the graphics shown here are probably not indicative of the final product. Still, this indie game ranks at or very near the top of the games I tried out at Gamescom.

Overwatch

Blizzard’s team shooter looked good and was fun to play, but it will depend on the match maker how well the game does. At Gamescom one played with randoms, so the other team happened to be much stronger. I liked that the game warned us when the whole team picked the same character – so grim reaper dude, who just looked cool. Later on I switched to a healer, but we still lost. The in my opinion broken part was that the other team had to defend, but still boxed us into our respawn zone. Two of our guys died and then it was 5 vs 3. When the remaining three died, the other two respawned, so then it was 5 vs 2.

S1050018cropped

Hearthstone

Blizzard’s card game presented their tournament expansion. It was paladin vs mage and my paladin completely pummeled the mage. At some point I realized that I would have to leave and would not see any more cards, if I won too quickly, so I kept the other guy at 1 health and kept destroying his creatures. Unfortunately he picked up one of my spells that allowed him to attack one of my minions and die. Up to that point, the new cards were mostly creatures that compared a random creature from both decks and would get a boost, if your own random creature card had a higher casting cost.

Bad presentations

I did attend a particularly terrible presentation, so I will not name and shame the publisher here. It was just a surprise to see something like this, when the awesome Witcher 3 presentation last year already showed everyone how it’s done. Maybe the booth was paid for and they had to show something. Anyway, after a long waiting time, they announced that it is forbidden to take pictures. I thought publicity was in the interest of companies. The presentation itself was just a compilation of very gory headshots with almost no game play…

On a similar note, I wanted to play test a game and they told me I had to wait for 9 other people, because the demo is a 5vs5. This might work on a regular Gamescom day, but not during the media day. I decided to walk away. When I came back later on, 8 people were waiting, but just as I had traversed the maze to get in line, some guys must have jumped the queue and so I saw them disappear into the gaming area. Oh well.

Fable Legend

The demo was a 1 vs 4, with four people playing fantasy heroes and one guy playing an evil overlord, who can direct his minions in a top down perspective. The people at the booth claimed that it was easier with a game pad, but I actually did better with mouse and keyboard (surprise, surprise). The game looked nice, so I signed up for the beta test.

Homefront the Revolution

The last game I saw looked like a shooter, but the presentation was really well done. I stood in line in a fenced walkway. There were guards with (toy) guns walking around. When it was time for the presentation, one of the actors shouted “Ok, ten people, one, two, three, …” and pushed people forward with every count. Inside, an announcement that was repeated in chinese urged people to remain silent. Some inspirational video was shown that was interspersed with atrocities the occupying force commits in the game. Then the guards leave the room. Gun shots and a Wilhelm Scream can be heard. Afterwards the resistance fighters entered the room and showed a video about the mission. I dozed off halfway through, but if I had paid attention this video would have shown what to do in the demo. Consequently I did poorly when it was time to play the game and did not complete it in the time allotted.

Gametrends

Perhaps I’m getting too jaded, but there wasn’t something special or new this time around. The overarching theme seemed to be wacky team based first person combat action games with colorful graphics, like Battleborn, Overwatch, Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2, Orcs must die unchained or Paladins.

Final verdict

Despite my sometimes harsh words, I’ll definitely be back at Gamescom next year.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#49 Age of Torridan is on Amazon!

Well met, my friends!

After working in the changes suggested by Red Adept Editing and creating the e-book layout, my novel “Age of Torridan” is finally available on Amazon via KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

Here is the link to Amazon Germany.

Here is the link to Amazon USA.

Here is the link to Amazon Great Britain.

If the links don’t work, this is the short link provided by Amazon (which probably leads to Amazon USA).

I ran a kickstarter campaign to help with the cost of the cover image and this is the awesome image the artist Zelda Devon produced:

Age of Torridan revised low rez

If you are interested in a sample, here is a PDF version of the first three chapters: Age of Torridan Sample.

Since the first week sales are very important for the fate of a book, please help spreading this blog post, for example on facebook, twitter or by telling people about it in real life :)

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#48 The 10 Kickstarter Dos

Well met, my friends!

After analyzing a few Kickstarter campaigns and running my own, I decided to write up a list of the ten Kickstarter dos and don’ts. However, since “don’ts” are too negative, I’ll only mention dos :D

1. Look at other projects in your category

Before starting my publishing project, I looked at other campaigns in the publishing group. It gives a good indication of what to expect regarding the funding goal and the rewards. I specifically looked at The Betrayal of Renegade X, which had a similar aim.

2. Have an impressive cover image

For the most part, the campaign image is what’s going to make people click on the project, so it’s a good idea to have a colorful eye-catching picture.

3. Pick the right funding goal

You need to tailor your funding goal depending on what kind of project you are running: film projects typically raise more than game projects, which raise more than music projects. Publishing projects are on the lower end, but since the aforementioned Betrayal of Renegade X had a funding goal of $2500, I knew that my funding goal of €1500 was realistic. It was also exactly what I needed, because I already had a quote from the artist and knew what the kickstarter share and taxes would amount to.

However, if you’re able to complete the project with less money, you could also pick a funding goal based on your clout. In my case, I would have guessed that I could reach a goal of about €300. The advantage of a lower goal is that you do not get anything, if you fall short of a higher goal, but might be able to attain a lower figure.

4. Take the generosity of kickstarter backers into account

I’ve backed a few projects and have always wondered about the $5 reward tier, which often times is just a symbolic thank you for backing the project. I disliked this reward tier, but I’ve had people not pick a reward in my own campaign. Others picked a reward, but increased the pledge by a multiple of the original figure. People, who are backing projects on Kickstarter, are not looking for a good monetary deal, but rather want to see creators succeed. Therefore, this symbolic reward tier, which I avoided, is not considered to be bad.

5. Start with few rewards, then add new ones as the campaign progresses

On the one hand, making people read and decide between many reward tiers is tiresome. On the other hand, giving people a choice is important. My proposed solution is to start with few rewards (1-3) and then add others as the campaign progresses. Perhaps there is even backer feedback that leads to additional reward tiers.

6. The limited reward should already fund the campaign

The very successful Karnivore Koala board game campaign started out with 2 rewards: the €20 early bird version of the game, which was limited to 250 copies and the €25 version of the game. The limited reward created a sense of urgency and since the funding goal was set to €5000, the campaign was already successful once the early bird versions had been sold out.

7. Provide updates throughout the campaign

To keep things fresh and interesting it is important to post an update at least once a week. Since most projects are not progressing at that pace, it is perhaps necessary to hold back a few updates and release them later. In my case, I recorded myself reading the first three chapters of the novel and would post a new chapter each week. Since this was a campaign to collect money for the cover art, the artist Zelda Devon provided some sketches as well.

8. Advertise in the correct channels

In order for people to be able to back your campaign, you need to make them aware that it exists. I looked through several message boards related to fantasy books to mention the campaign. Be respectful of the rules of those boards. In many cases they specifically mentioned that they did not want any “advertisement”. If you do mess up, it’s no problem – I accidently posted in the wrong section on fantasy faction, but they were kind enough to move it. In another board, I didn’t see that they don’t allow posts like this and they hid my thread. No big deal.

However, talking about my campaign in these new fantasy message boards was not very successful. I received the best response on social media (facebook, twitter) and on unrelated message boards where I was a regular. For instance, the Day[9] community, which is about Starcraft and computer games, was very supportive.

9. Be unobtrusive with your promotion

This is an extension of point 8 – you need to pick the right channels and sending messages to people, who you don’t know isn’t going to help. Even if you reference stuff they wrote, this will only be seen as spam and is not going to help in any way.

10. No matter the outcome, get something out of the campaign

Running a successful campaign can be rewarding, but there is also something to be learned about failed pitches. If Age of Torridan hadn’t peaked at €234, I wouldn’t have looked at it in detail and wouldn’t have written this blog post. Thus, don’t be discouraged, if the campaign doesn’t run as smoothly as expected. There is still something to draw out of running it.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#47 Age of Torridan Cover Art Sketches!

Well met, my friends!

Today, Zelda Devon sent me the sketches for the Age of Torridan (needs a new cover) kickstarter campaign. The final version will look as beautiful as the other images on her website. The purpose for the sketches is to evaluate the arrangement and decide, which composition is the best. That said, I still think they look absolutely gorgeous!

Age of Torridan A Age of Torridan B

Since the third version is similar to the first, I’ll show you sketch A and sketch B – help me decide which one is best!

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#46 Age of Torridan Kickstarter Campaign

Well met, my friends!

As of last Tuesday, Kickstarter officially allows German based projects. Since I am putting the finishing touches on my fantasy novel “Age of Torridan”, I figured this would be a great opportunity for me to participate in the launch. If you have a moment, please check out my project here:

Age of Torridan (needs new cover art) Kickstarter Campaign

Here is what the campaign is about: I wrote a medieval fantasy novel in the spirit of the old Dragonlance books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. At the moment I’m putting in the changes that were suggested by the professional copy editor that I hired. Once that is done, all that is missing before the release in July (2015) is a cover and ebook formatting. With this campaign I’m trying to raise money for a new cover, which will be created by professional artist Zelda Devon (see her work at www.zeldadevon.com). My original estimation was that a cover would cost something around €500, but in reality the price is typically above $1000 (for reference, see this blog post by Rachel Aaron on the cost of a professional quality book).

As the campaign progresses, I will put up videos of me reading chapters from the book. I will also reveal Zelda Devon’s sketches as she sends them to me.

Thanks in advance for your time and consideration. If there are any questions, I’d be happy to answer them :)

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#45 The ARCs are here!

Well met, my friends!

Today the advance review copies (ARC) of my novel “Age of Torridan” arrived. Despite my initial plan, I opted for just 35 ARCs, which seems to be plenty.

100_3560

Yesterday I tried to find reviewers and sent out six e-mails to various sites. About the same number stated that they would not take a look at independently published manuscripts. Interestingly enough, the elitist book reviews had a very appropriate post up, pointing out some of the terrible covers of self published books. As you can see, my cover is just a photo with a greyscale filter and adjusted brightness and contrast.

100_3561

As mentioned in my previous blog post, I already got in touch with an artist to create a proper cover for the release version of the book. Once the cover and the professional copy edit are done, I can put the book on amazon.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#44 Gearing up for Publication

Well met, my friends!

As some of you know, I’ve been working for a good while on a medieval fantasy novel, inspired by the early Dragonlance books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. My alpha readers provided feedback, which led to some new chapters. I’m finally in the last stages and am looking to release the book via Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and Createspace later this year. Here are the things that I still need to sort out:

1. Sanity Check:

I want to re-read the book once more to make sure that the changes I made in the early chapters do not invalidate the later sections.

2. Optional Line Edit:

A line edit is crucial, but since I’m on a very tight time schedule, I might shorten the line editing in favor of getting the Advance Reader (or Review) Copy (ARC) out the door.

3. Write Chapter Commentary for ARCs:

This is something cool I’ve planned for the ARCs – the feedback from my alpha readers showed me that there were a few subtle issues that only half of my readers picked up on. Since these things were not crucial to understand and enjoy the story, I left the clues as vague as they were. However, I want to provide some background information per chapter to explain what’s going on behind the scenes and what some of the choices were that I made. Since this is not something that interests everybody, I will include this in the ARCs, but not in the final release of the book.

4. Compile List of Book Bloggers / Reviewers:

As I am nearing the release, I want to drum up some interest beforehand. To that end, I plan to approach book reviewers and bloggers with an interest in fantasy to see whether they would like to have (and possibly review) one of the ARCs.

Of course I got so carried away that I only approached fellow authors so far (Rachel Aaron, Danielle E. Shipley, Michelle Proulx, and Kat O’Keeffe), but at least the response was positive, even if they are not in a position to review. Still, the purpose for printing ARCs is not only to give them to reviewers, but also as a thank you to my alpha readers and to give to cool people.

5. Print 50-100 ARCs:

I haven’t made up my mind yet, but right now I think 50 will be sufficient. I need 16 for my alpha readers, keep a few for myself, and then distribute the rest to reviewers and the above mentioned cool people. Since there is an equal mix of people wanting eARCs and actual books, the number 50 should be sufficient.

6. Line Edit:

The release version should be as error free as possible, so I am contemplating to pay someone for the line edit, in addition to my own efforts.

7. Commission a Cover:

I’ve already contacted an old friend of mine to design a cover. If that falls through, the next person to check is Zelda Devon and her fantasy-esque art style, which would be a perfect fit.

8. Format Book as epub / mobi:

When I gave the kindle version to my alpha readers, the formatting was all right, but not perfect. For the release version, I aim to do better.

9. Release on KDP and Createspace:

Even though I plan to have the ARCs done in early March, the cover, formatting, line edit means that the release of the book will be delayed till June. Once I have a more accurate estimate, I will be sure to mention it, either here or on twitter.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#43 Plans for 2015

Well met, my friends!

Last year I did not go to London for New Years, but celebrated the end of 2014 at my new flat in Düsseldorf together with my best friend.

Tomorrow, I will go back to Wachtberg for work. However, I successfully negotiated to be a part time scientist in 2015. The rest of the time will be spent writing novels and building up my own software company. The latter will focus on computer games. Even though I vehemently denied it’d be e-sports related, when I talked about it last year, depending on how things are developing that might still be an option. For the time being, I will start out by reactivating the old game design muscles and growing a community.

What are your goals / plans / resolutions for the new year?

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#42 Lindsey Stirling, Cologne 2014

Well met, my friends!

On Friday the 17th of October 2014, I saw Lindsey Stirling in concert for the third time. You can find my blog entry about her gig in Cologne in June 2013 here and her Las Vegas performance in May 2014 here.

Meet and Greet

Just like last time, I mentioned the Misscliks.com website to Lindsey and indicated that we would be interested in conducting an interview. I decided to write for Misscliks (here is a list of my articles and the Lindsey Stirling Spotlight), because they took the unusual approach of covering positive achievements of female role models in geek and gaming culture. The typical media focus on tragedies and drama may generate site views, but I am of the opinion that this is not necessarily a good approach, long term.

 100_3454

The picture of Lindsey, Drew, Gavi and myself was taken by Mackenzie Madsen, who seemed a bit surprised that I wanted to credit her. Hopefully I picked the right person, because I did not catch her contact details and went with a google assisted guess.

Q&A

There were no real surprises at the Q&A segment, people tend to ask the same things. Perhaps that is good, because unusual questions don’t necessarily generate better replies, as I demonstrated when I asked something at the Las Vegas Q&A. This time I was busy writing a twitter message, so I missed my opportunity to ask a question.

 100_3456

Apparently my camera does not cope well with insufficient lighting, so most of my pictures were blurry and grainy like the picture above. I admired the beautiful pictures that other people took when I looked over at their cameras’ displays. I guess that means I need to buy new equipment.

A Great Big World

The pre-show band was called “A Great Big World“, whose big hit “Say Something” caught Christina Aguilera’s attention. I bought their album at the show, which contains a version with and without her.

 100_3464

Instead of Christina Aguilera, the Vocalist/Keyboard guy performed the song together with Lindsey.

Lindsey Stirling

The 90 minute main show was as good as the one I saw previously. It’s apparent that Lindsey Stirling, her band and dancers are now seasoned professionals, who put on a well choreographed performance. I particularly liked that some of the song introductions – like her explanation of “swag” – differed from what she said in Vegas, while retaining the spirit of it. Whenever she talks, things are ever so slightly different, for example, she mentioned that her first violin “Excalibur” is actually from Germany, whereas this piece of information would not have been relevant in the USA. On the flipside, the segment where she asked the audience to turn around and introduce themselves to random people, did not work. I’d go as far as saying it couldn’t work in Germany, due to cultural constraints. I tried to talk to other people, but they immediately broke eye contact and pretended they did not see me, whereas it worked out just fine in the USA. The whole situation reminded me of my twitter message at the Gamescom:

Overall it was a great concert and I plan on going again when there is a new tour.

100_3475

When I tried to leave, there was the expected traffic jam. However, as they say “when they zig, you zag”, I drove off in the opposite direction and joined a significantly shorter line of cars.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#41 Gamescom 2014

Well met, my friends!

On Saturday the 16th of August and Sunday the 17th of August, I visited the Gamescom in cologne.

Initially I wandered around all the halls, just to get an idea of what to do and see. There were many cosplayers around like these guys:

100_3325

Or those guys. Who you gonna call?

100_3344

Last year at Gamescom I met some of the “Spieleveteranen” (Heinrich Lenhardt, Boris Schneider-Johne and Anatol Locker). This year I saw Jörg Langer by chance, who is also one of the “Spieleveteranen” and the initiator of Gamersglobal. Since he was busy filming stuff, I did not want to interrupt.

After they were done, I introduced myself and one convention visitor was nice enough to take our picture. From left to right, it’s myself, Jörg Langer, Christoph Vent and Benjamin Braun.

100_3354

On Saturday I tried 4 different games (Farcry4, Assassin’s Creed Rogue, Borderlands the pre-sequel and Call of Duty Advanced Warfare) and saw one presentation (Assassin’s Creed Unity). On Sunday I only played one game (Destiny) twice and saw one presentation (Witcher 3).

The game demos were of varying quality – it really is an art to rip a portion out of your game and still aim to provide an entertaining experience in a limited time slot. Typically there were long lines of about two hours for usually 15 minutes of game play. All of the games I saw were presented on consoles, which made it more difficult for me, as I am used to mouse and keyboard controls and did poorly on the gamepads. Case in point, when I played the Call of Duty multiplayer, there were two rounds, one of 5 minutes and one of 10 minutes. I died 11 times with 0 frags in the first round and did slightly better at 18 deaths and 6 frags in the second round. It’s a steep learning curve with those controllers.

Farcry4:

In the demo, you had the option to select sneak, ride or fly at the beginning. The map was always the same, but if you selected ride, then there was an elephant that you can mount. I picked fly and had a gyrocopter at my disposal. I am not sure what happens when you chose sneak, but glancing at other people’s screens, I had the impression that they gave you a sniper rifle in that case.

The map consisted of a military base and you had a machine gun and a grenade launcher to wreak havoc. Since this was the first game I played, my non-existent gamepad skills were quite apparent. At some point I decided not to run into the base and fight, but instead take the gyrocopter to bypass the base and explore. Unfortunately there was an invisible line with a message popping up to turn around or be destroyed in 10 seconds. Oh well, so much for that idea.

Assassin’s Creed Rogue:

This demo was really well done: They had a short intro and then tell you that your task is to sink 5 enemy ships. When a ship is destroyed, you can salvage the cargo. Apparently it was also possible to board other ships in the demo, but I did not manage to do so. I only saw that on other people’s screens.

S1010011

Borderlands the pre-sequel:

This is the demo that I liked the least. The mission said “Enter Drakenburg, get AI core.” There is no time to waste, so I started running towards the Drakenburg. Then one of the guys working at the booth told me that I had 22 skill points to assign. Really? You give people 15 minutes to form an impression about your game and you want them to assign skill points? I thought that was an odd design choice.

Destiny:

Bungie’s Destiny impressed me the most. While waiting outside, they had a screen that showed game play footage and behind the scenes stuff. There was a different line to take pictures on one of the hover bikes. I snapped a picture, when a guy in a master chief suit dismounted from it.

S1010002

Inside, they showed a 15 minute video with different game play scenes and commentary of the game designers. This was followed by a 15 minute multiplayer match. Since they used similar controls to Call of Duty and their damage system is less realistic, I fared much better. In Call of Duty, I was pretty much immediately dead whenever someone shot at me. In Destiny, it is a bit more noob-friendly: You can survive several hits, so that you have the option to shoot back or retreat. Also, nobody seemed to realize that close combat in Destiny deals significantly more damage, so I typically ran up to people and one hit melee killed them, as they tried to shoot me. At the exit, they also gave you a T-shirt.

The demo was so good that I decided to queue up again, when it was time to decide, which was the last game to try.

The presentations of Witcher 3 and Assassin’s Creed Unity were quite impressive as well. The lines were also long and you didn’t get to play yourself, but having a competent player showcase the game allowed them to go through an entire quest chain and really demonstrate what’s cool about the games. They both looked awesome and I’ll certainly buy them, even though I did not have the time to play the earlier games in both franchises.

Towards the end of Sunday, I caught the last bit of the LiquidRet vs Grubby Starcraft 2 show match. It’s good to see that Starcraft is still around, even though the big e-sports event at Gamescom was Counterstrike.

Out of the two days, I felt that Saturday was better, since it had longer opening hours. The amount of people is roughly the same, which means that waiting times are around 2 hours no matter when you go. With that in mind, having those extra hours is quite important. Looking forward to next year’s Gamescom :)

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

%d bloggers like this: