Our team was fortunate enough to attend this year's Gamescom convention in Cologne, Germany. Even though we had an absolute blast being at the convention, we had more than a couple hiccups along the way!
Being a small team, only a couple of us could make it out to Gamescom this year, so we sent Steve and our producer Angie (author of this post) out on the road! We're from the East Coast of Canada, which means we'd have to fly to Toronto Ontario before flying back east to Europe. We left with an extra day before the convention so we would be able to check out the city.
This is where everything started to fall apart!
Original Flight Plan:
St. John's -> Toronto -> Zurich -> Cologne
Our flight from the St. John's was delayed, which made us miss our connection (of course). While on our flight to Toronto, Air Canada rebooked our flight on Lufthansa to Munich then Cologne, but then when we got to Toronto they couldn't print us a boarding pass. They claimed we were already checked into another flight in Zurich so they couldn't do anything, but Air Canada was the ones to check us in in the first place.
So for a reason that wasn't made perfectly clear to us and after several hours of dealing with extremely disgruntled Air Canada staff, the only way to get us to Germany was to wait a full 24 hours and fly the next day with our original route. So we'd be flying into Cologne part way through the first day of the convention. This of course wasn't ideal, but what else could we do? So we got our hotel voucher and headed off to spend the night in Toronto.
The hotel was about what you'd expect, though when we arrived, between us we realized we had forgot to bring a comb. To make matter's worse, Steve brought a brand new toothbrush for the trip and managed to snap the end off while trying to get it out of the package. At this point the hotel shop was closed so thought we might have been out of luck, but we had a small victory when the Holiday Inn had some complimentary toothbrushes and combs! It doesn't sound like much, but we were STOKED after the day we'd had.
I wish we had taken a picture of the broken toothbrush because it was honestly hilarious. What kind of luck is that?
Our flight was scheduled to depart around 6pm the next day, but the Holiday Inn wouldn't let us extend our checkout time so we had to be out at noon, . Unfortunately there really isn't much to do anywhere near the Pearson airport in Toronto, so our best option was to go grab something to eat and hang around the airport until our flight. At this point we're still feeling optimistic; head to the airport early, check in then relax until it's time to fly.
So we head off towards the Air Canada counter and we're stopped on the way by yet another cranky Air Canada employee who said we *had* to go to the computer. We're a little bit old-school so begrudgingly went to the monitor which then told us there was an issue and we'd have to go talk to someone at the counter. So we headed back towards the line for the Air Canada counter where we were stopped by the same lady. We explained that the computer had an issue so she asked when our flight was. We told her 6pm and she replies "Your flight isn't for a while", then turned around and started talking to other people. We're of course confused since we weren't asking how long it was until our flight, and this lady is standing between us and the lineup to check into our flight. So we explain again that the computer told us to go to the counter. She then turns, points, and says "4 HOURS", then proceeds to turn around and ignore us again.
After watching several other confused passengers be turned away by "The Gatekeeper", we managed to figure out they wanted us to wait until there was 4 hours before our flight, which was about an hour away. So we went to grab some food and came back 4 hours before our flight. The same woman is standing there and *still* tries to tell us we have to go to the computer. It's like she didn't believe that it wouldn't work. Fortunately we did manage to convince us to let us through, where they printed our boarding passes in under 5 minutes.
So we're FINALLY on our flight to Europe, heading for Zurich. Since it's a long, overnight flight, Air Canada provides blankets that look like they've never been washed. Steve pulled one out of it's plastic and it was *covered* in hair. Super gross.
So one cold and sleepless flight later and we made it to Zurich. No problems to report here except when I stuck my passport in the wrong pocket and thought I lost it.
The flight to Cologne was pretty good! The plan was packed with folks clearly heading to Gamescom. Lots of game t-shirts and chatter about the convention. We were super lucky to even make some new friends on the way! The coolest part about arriving in Germany was getting out on the tarmac with an Arrested Development style stair car.
Things couldn't stay good for too long though, and we soon found out that our luggage with all of our tradeshow stuff hadn't arrived. We had t-shirts, bags, stickers, banners. Basically everything we needed for Gamescom. So we filed the report with the airport, hoping they'd be able to track down our stuff ASAP.
At this point we're late for Gamescom, we're exhausted after very little sleep on the plane, and now we're stressed about our stuff being lost. Luckily we did have our clothing and computer for the convention so we figured we'd pop into our hotel then set up what we could without our supplies. So we're outside the airport, open up the Uber app, and our 7 minute ride was going to cost 60 odd Euros. Thinking this might have been a mistake we refreshed the page to find a ride had gone up to 80 odd Euros. Moments later, 100 and some Euros. None of the local taxi apps were working and our phones kept losing service so we were this close to giving up and paying a fortune for a ride. Luckily one of our phones connected long ago to call a cab and save us 60 Euros.
So *finally* we make it to Gamescom. It's nearly 3pm so at this point we've missed more than half of the day. Kate, one of the organizers helped us out and had our trailer running on repeat at the booth while we were absent. So we pull out the laptop, and the controllers, plug everything and *of course* none of the controllers register, despite being tested the night before leaving.
The amazing folks at the Mythforce booth offered to lend us 2 Xbox controllers but being a 4 player game we were stressing to get it figured out. New drivers didn't work, restarting didn't work. Basically we exhausted all of our options until we realized Windows needed an update.
Once we were set up, things started to go a little smoother. We had a ton of folks come try out Rocket Rumble and made some new game developer friends including from our neighboring booths Zugalu Entertainment and Red Meat Games!
You can see how empty our booth was. No posters, just the PixelNAUTS sign that came with the booth. We had a handful of stickers and bookmarks that I had taken in my carry-on to offer to any kids at the Airport. So whatever was left we put out on the first day.
Thursday rolls around and there's still no word on our luggage. We were sent a link to track the progress but it still said "searching for bag". Since our bookings were through Air Canada we called them and tried to make it clear how urgent it was. Since our final flight from Zurich to Cologne was through another company (Eurowings), Air Canada pretty much washed their hands of the whole thing and said it was their problem now. We were pretty sure Eurowings had never touched our luggage but never the less we were waiting on them to find it.
All of Thursday goes by and they're still searching for the bag. Maybe it's in Toronto, Zurich, Munich? Lounging on a beach in the Bahamas?
Luckily our Studio Head Alex had thought to get some more stuff printed locally so we'd be able to pick up some business cards, stickers and posters on Friday morning. Then late on Thursday we get the message that our bag was found - but it wasn't going to get to Cologne until Saturday. Turns out it was still in Toronto and had to make the overnight trip to get to us.
Friday morning we get to the convention and set up. Once the game was up and running, I headed off into the city to find the print shop we had hired to get our replacement swag! Following Google maps I headed off down the road. It was only meant to be a 20 minute walk but boy did I get lost! The internet kept disconnecting and reconnecting and I ended up going the complete wrong direction. Eventually found a lady who spoke enough English to send me in the right direction.
Once we got our replacement stuff, there was definitely a sigh of relief. Even though we were still feeling the stress of the lost luggage that still needed to take 2 flights to get to us, we were feeling a lot better about the whole situation. Plus we finally had stickers to give away which is always a bonus!
Checking the progress on our Luggage, everything still seemed on track but there was still no arrival times. Saturday morning we wake up and check again. Now it says our bag is heading to Cologne (where we are) then heading to Munich. Of course there's no number you can call, just some horrible message system, so I probably sent 10 panicked messages, hoping someone would stop our bag from heading to Munich. After several hours had passed and there was no response and still no flight times, I opted to Google the flight numbers to at least see *when* my bag was going to arrive in the wrong city.
The information I had from the Eurowings "Delayed" Baggage site:
Toronto ->Zurich -> Cologne -> Munich
The true information
Toronto ->Zurich -> Munich -> Cologne
So in short, my bag was going to the right place, but their site had the wrong information about their flights and the bag was set to land at 5:30 pm.
Several hours after 5:30 and there's still no update. Finally around 8pm or so we got word that our bag had been picked up by a courier and we could track it with a link they provide. The link they gave us went to an unsecure site so we couldn't even find out what time it was supposed to arrive. We tried calling the courier but it was Saturday night and they didn't answer so we were just left wondering if/when it might arrive.
Once we did what we could with the luggage we decided we'd order some food! We had joked about trying some fast-food from Germany just to see if it was different so we opted for some Burger King. We figured it'd be quick and easy but that was FAR from the case. We ordered around 10:30 pm using Wolt, which we reckon is like a German Skip the Dishes. Well, our driver was actually on a pedal bike, which is cool but we watched his coordinates on the map and he either went on an awesome joy ride or delivered several orders before getting to ours! We didn't get our food for 3 hours, and they didn't even get the order right. We had spent the week eating awesome food from local restaurants but this meal was a letdown to say the least!
Now it's Sunday morning and the last day of Gamescom and OUR BAG ARRIVED! We were over the moon! We finally had all the stickers and Swag to giveaway and we were excited. We managed to give away nearly everything we brought in that final day!
Our trip home, other than being completely exhausted, was relatively painless! None of our flights were delayed and we didn't even have to go back to Toronto!
Overall, we had a TON of issues getting to Gamescom, but we had a TON of fun as well! Getting to see a ton of people enjoying our game was incredibly rewarding and getting to meet a boatload of indie game developers was a huge treat! We met a ton of amazing people on this trip and we couldn't be more grateful!
Airlines are the worst
Pack an extra toothbrush I guess
Stash some swag in your carry-on in case Air Canada, or your airline of choice loses your convention materials
Gamescom was amazing
Don't get German Burger King
It all worked out in the end!