August 23, 2004
My s.o. Tania and I recently returned from a great 10 days of touring a series of northern Atlantic and Baltic cities — Reykjavik (capital of Iceland), Helsinki, Mariehamn (on the Finnish island Åland) and Stockholm. I’d never been north of Berlin, so it was educational for me as well as enjoyable. In the middle of the trip we spent two days on the ISEA ferry cruise on the Baltic Sea, hanging out with Noah, Jill, Scott, Michael, Ken Perlin and others. Traveling along the coast of Sweden through a channel of hundreds of little islands with teeny houses on them, some smaller than a typical American suburban lot size, was quite beautiful and memorable.
Michael and I exhibited Façade in a little room just off a smoky casino in the middle of the ship. It was played about 100 times, from which we have the traces to analyze, serving as another helpful user test. Feedback from players was generally positive, if a bit muted. Simon Penny had some good suggestions for us. One guy played it over and over for a couple of hours, perhaps trying to figure out how it worked, or trying to get it to behave the way he wanted it to.
I deliberately missed the rest of the conference; that’s alright, I’ve always found the appetizer to be the tastiest part of a meal anyhow.
Here’s something pretty weird that happened a few days later in Stockholm. We’re having breakfast in a picturesque square in the old part of the city, next to the Nobel museum; I had bought that day’s International Herald Tribune, just to see if the U.S. had perhaps fallen into the sea or started a civil war or whatever while we were gone. Munching on my smörgåsbord plate, I read about the previous day’s Athens results, current events in Iraq, blah blah…
… and finally on the back page found an article about touring in Stockholm, which included a large photo, taken from the exact spot where I was sitting.
Whoa. What are the chances?!?
Reminded me of the time about 10 years ago, I was attending a CES in Las Vegas (this was before E3, back when CES was the big yearly game industry conference), and as we were waiting for folks to gather for dinner, a co-worker casually popped a spare nickel into a nearby slot machine. Suddenly lights were flashing and bells were ringing and thousands of nickels began overflowing the little coin tray; he had won the highest payout for that machine, something like a million-to-one odds. Chances are I’ll never witness such an event again in my life.