What’s the cruelest thing you can do to an introvert who happily spends all day on their own in a 6″x6″ room .. how about send them to a hotel in a foreign country with 30(ish) strangers from all around the world and expect them to network ..

I loved it. OK so I sometimes over compensated with forced smiles and conversation when I really needed to hide and recharge, as all introverts do, but I met a bunch of lovely, interesting people and have hopefully started a number of solid professional relationships.

How15 came together in Castel Brando, a hotel on a mountainside, somwhere between Venice and the Italian Alps. Slitherine had gathered representatives of most of their development teams from all around the world in a spirit of cooperation and relationship building and I think it can be judged as a big success. It probably could of done with one more day of socializing to make sure we got around to talking to everyone but even so it was a rewarding few days.

Arriving in bright and cheerful London. Thats Tower Bridge and the Shard.

I stayed over at Gatwick’s Premier Inn with one of Slitherines developers, Richard Bodley-Scott. I worked with him on some Pike & Shot DLC and on my current project. The next day we met the rest of the UK staff at the airport including Iain, Bart, Phil, Richard, Tomasz, Alex and Owen Faraday, owner of and writer for Pocket Tactics, and flew to Venice. On the way to the hotel I got chatting to Daniel Lopez, developer of Quadriga. You can take it as read that he’s a great guy as was everyone .. so I’ll try not to say it too often.

Flying over the Alps

That first days conference was mostly a set of talks about Slitherine, future developments and the state of the industry. This was surprisingly enlightening and very interesting. Slitherine have their fingers in many pies and it’s clear they garner a lot of respect from within and outside the industry. While I was Co-Founder and Art Director of Shenandoah, we considered Slitherine to be our arch rivals so its been an eye opener to have my perception of them shift so radically over the last year.

Day 1 .. looks quiet but there was actually nearly 40 of us there ..

Being broadcast live over Twitch, the panels were open to questions from our external audience .. so imagine my shock and horror when I hear a question come in from Mashbanana, my sons online nickname. As a 16 year old who loves to embarass me it was thankfully a good question that merrited a thoughtful answer.

That evening, after dinner, we went to a local vineyard (it’s the centre of Prosseco production) where I got chatting to two other people who’d proved important to my work in different ways.

Eric Babe was the developer behind Conflict of Heroes PC, for which I created a bunch of environment assets. We’d only ever spoken via email and maybe Skype and I had no idea he would be there so it was a lovely surprise when I got a tap on the shoulder and he introduced himself.

Marius Babita is the new developer of all our Shenandoah projects and I’m glad we got to meet. I finally found out their plans for our babies and how things were going and I left HoW glad he was working on them and fully supporting his efforts.

Looking out over the Vineyard .. that’s a thunderstorm heading our way.

That night I was one of the last 5 left in the bar where I met Frank, a wargame fan and advisor to Slitherine, Frances, a journalist for PCGamerN and Johan, a developer from South Africa. Since I rarely drink I was on my best behaviour knowing I had to be up early in the morning.

So the next day, after breakfast, the second conference began and this was all about game design and the resources, tools and techniques the developers could leverage to add that extra edge to their games. Most of this I already knew but there was a lot of food for thought and some interesting questions posed about the nature of our kind of development. I think there was a lot of useful stuff here for all of us.

One of Castel Brando’s courtyards.

That evening we had an archery competition (our team came second) and a very long dinner. We finished some time after 11 and I decided on an early night to recharge. With hindsight I should of gone to the bar with everyone else to take the opportunity to talk to more people but I was exhausted and, judging by the sore heads the next day I’d not of fared well!

The Archery Winning Team .. Note the two Journalists and the boss .. I suspect a FIX! 🙂

The next day we checked out. I was up at 7 to borrow a plug adapter so I could charge an ipad and check-in to my flight to ensure a window seat. We then drove into Treviso and spent the rest of the day with a tour guide, finishing with a delicious meal and then the flight home and long train journey.

So while it might seem like we all just went for a good time, I think these few days will of benefitted the teams in a way that will likely become apparent in the fullness of time. When all the individual developers stop being secretive rivals and instead find respect, friendship and to an extent, partners, then something strong and longlasting is likely to grow.

Thank you to Slitherine for inviting me, Marco for the incredible organization and all the devs for making it a welcoming, interesting, educational and very enjoyable few days.

As for how this old introvert coped .. well on the last day I woke up from an odd dream .. a dream that finished with me in my mum and dads kitchen (the home I grew up in), lava oozing in through the windows while I was scrambling (I like to think I was bounding gracefully like a gazelle .. but scrambling in panic is probably more accurate) from one work top to another, with burnt feet, using a saucepan to throw water onto the lava in the hope to slow it down, but just watching the water boil away.