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If you don’t know, then you DON’T KNOW.  You may have heard the stories, you may have seen some pictures, you may know that DreamHack has been around for quite some time and has been growing at an exponential rate over the years, but unless you’ve actually BEEN there, you really have no idea just how amazing and spectactular it really is.  Billed as the world’s largest LAN party andh8d digital festival(and recognized by Guiness for being such), over 25,000 gamers unite to compete, socialize, get lots of free stuff, try out new games, get LOTS of free stuff, and generally have a great time with a bunch of like-minded gaming fanatics.  COR Entertainment and Alien Arena have had a presence at DH six times in total(including this year), partnered with other companies that liked our game and wanted us to be a part of their booths(including Intel in 2013).  This year, we decided to have a go of it on our own, purchasing a booth and equipment(or renting some), and putting up our own money.  It was an experience of learning, nervousness, and ultimately validation that we really have something here with our game.

The adventure began with my partner in crime, Mina, and I landing in Copenhagen, and Vic(Bonfire) driving us to his house on a chilly night in Scandinavia, a place I had never been.  dh2Meeting Vic for the first time in 10 years of knowing him online was a truly remarkable and memorable experience.  It seems crazy now that we had gone that long without meeting in person!  Arriving his his quaint and beautiful village in Sweden, we had some pizza and a couple of drinks to dh4celebrate, and then got a few hours of sleep before waking up early to make the trek to Jonkoping on a snowy morning.  Arriving there at the Elmia sports complex, we began setting up our modest, but clean booth.  Though we were not fully aware at the time, we would later learn that we were literally, the ONLY indie game developer present!  That seemed a bit intimidating when looking at the extravagent AAA company’s booths, but we had to have faith in what we were doing.  With just three of us doing the work, it took much of the day to get everything set up and organized, working correctly and fully tested.

By day’s end, exhaustion and hunger had set in, and after a quick meal, we turned in for the night to prepare for Opening Day.

DAY ONE. 

It began with a steady stream of gamers pouring into the complex, lugging in computers, sleeping bags, chairs, whatever they needed to spend three days of non-stop gaming action.  We fired up our network and server, got our booth displays in order, and waiting dh14for the players to come check us out.  I must admit, there was a lot of nervousness on my part, would we even have enough people interested to organize tournaments and give away some of the prizes we had purchased?  Well, we had our answer within a few minutes!  Curious eyes started fixating on the dh15colorful game with blurringly fast movement and crazy alien weaponry, and began to sit down and play.  As the morning wore on, what began as uneven waves became a steady stream, and all six of our stations were occupied for much of the time.  By noon, we began running our qualifying tournament rounds, despite a little bit of not really knowing how we wanted to do things.  However, we got it situated, and dhday25it was under way!  The first thing I noticed was that some of these players were really good, and talking to them, quite a few were old-school Quake players, and really excited about the game and how it played for them.  Some of them had nice “wishlist” items, others with great questions, but most just seemed to really be having a great time.  As the day wore on, we got to take a few breaks and explore some other areas, booths, and just look around.  The aura and atmosphere was undeniably amazing.  It also gave us a chance to see what some of the AAA companies dh9were doing, and giving us ideas for the next time.  All in all, considering our budget, we didn’t do badly without our setup, and we certainly had piqued the interest of a number of gamers, especially those who were into games like Counterstrike and Overwatch, and of course, All Things Quake.  We gave out plenty of freebies, such as stickers, keychains, flyers, and cards, as well as Steam Keys for runners-up, or people that just seemed ever-so deserving of getting one.  Approaching 7pm, the lights dimmed, the atmosphere got more intense, and it was fast approaching the hour of our Day One Finals, at match that would feature some truly great players, to compete for a 100 USD valued gaming headset and Alien Arena T-Shirts.

The finals were as expected, quite intense.  I had already picked out who I considered the favorite – an old school Quake player by the name of Phillip Winqvist.  Phillip used a dhday1finals2somewhat unorthodox style(quite like myself actually), but had great movement, aim, and item timing(he had also practiced during the day a bit to learn the timing, I presume).  He had defeated his friend Johan in the qualifying round, but it was clear he was learning the maps, and game very quickly.  He had a slow start in the finals, dhday1finals4largely due to admitted nervousness(my troublemaking wife had fictiously told him I put 1000 dollars on him winning!), but by the 5 minute mark, Phillip began asserting control of the map.  We had chosen DM-Bloodfactory, a map with only a few hazards and ample weapons/powerups to facilitate with the players all being only familiar with the game for a few hours at best.  Once again, Phillip began pulling away and wound up defeating Johan(who was invited to the Finals due to us only getting five qualifying rounds completed because of a late start, and him being the best runner-up).  This time it was a little more convincing, and Phillip established himself as the player-to-beat for the DreamHack tourneys.

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DAY TWO.

As fun, and successful as day one had been, there was no comparison to day two!  The steady stream of players at our booth was replaced by a crush of people at Elmia, and dhday2p2people standing in line waiting to play.  Some familar faces from day one stopped by quite often, as well as entering the qualifying rounds.  Several of these familiar faces were people who had played Alien Arena tournaments in years past at DreamHack, and wanted dhday2p6another shot.  The ability level of the players in the qualifying rounds had ramped up considerably, as word spread of the Quake-Like game, and some true masters were turning up to show off their fast-paced skills.  Others remarked how insanely fast everything was in comparison the games there were used to(Counterstrike, Overwatch, etc).  It was clear that CS and OW were the dominant FPS games at DreamHack, as walking by the LAN rows you could see thousands upon thousands playing them on their gaming rigs.  Sadly, I did not see a single instance of Quake Champions, Quake Live, Unreal Tournament, or any of the established Arena FPS games running on anyone’s rigs.  There was of course a Quake Champions Tournament on the main stage, but I was only dh10able to watch the stream of it as I was a little pre-occuppied with our own agenda.  The flood of players to our booth continued througout the day, intensifying leading up to the 7pm finals.  Vic and myself took a few moments to compete against some of the finalists during the time between rounds, and I must say, we came away highly impressed.  Phillip Winqvist once again won a qualifying round, but it was clear that if he was to repeat asdhday21 champion, it was not going to be easy.  The qualifying round winners on day two were several notches higher than day one.  There were a number of runner ups that were well deserving of the finals, but alas, only six slots available.  Next DreamHack we will be more prepared, so this was a great learning experience for us as well.  Our little “Mom And Pop” setup may have been endearing, but it was difficult to keep organized, and next time will promise to be different.  After a wild day of fragging, the Witching Hour had arrived, and it was time for the highlight of DreamHack 2017 Winter for us – the Day Two Finals.

The lights were dim, the energy was high!  The three of us(Vic, Mina, and myself) were simply ecstatic at the turnout we had all day long, and really excited for the finals.  We dhday2finals1had once again chosen some alternates during the preliminary rounds because sometimes schedules conflict and you may get someone who cannot make it.  One such alternate Benjamin Salhsten, who had fallen narrowly to his friend Linus Anderrson, was the lucky man to fill a dhday2finals2vacant slot due to a no-show.  During the warm-ups, it was clear that this was going to be a very competitive match between six really great players.  Many of them showed up as much as an hour prior to begin practicing.  This time, instead of me chosing the map, I left it up to one of the alternates to make the choice.  He wasn’t able to remember all of the map names, but we played a little game of “narrow it down” to make the choice.  When the final choice was “few hazards, or lots of hazards”, dhday2finals3he had a wicked grin on his face and said “LOTS of hazards!”.  Thus, we chose DM-Babel, one of the tightest, fastest, and most hazardous maps in all of Alien Arena.  Watching how some of the prelimary rounds went, we knew that this was going to be a great test of just how good these guys really were!  The match began evenly, with five of the six players staying tightly bunched, and the six not really far behind at all.  Soon however, Phillip Vinquist again began establishing himself as the leader, as it was clear his practice dhday2finals4.jpgand learning the weapons and maps was really paying off.  He wasn’t just winning, he was dominating!  The real race was to see who the runner-ups would be, and since tonight was the “main event”, the prize pool was larger.  Behind Phillip, four players were within a frag or two of each other, trading positions routinely, and in the end, Linus and Benjamin were able to finish second and third, narrowly ahead of the remaining three. Each got a nice prize(note, Benjamin actually received an Asus gaming keyboard due to us having run out of t-shirts in his size.

Following the match, we all stood around chatting, talking about gaming, Quake, Alien Arena, and enjoying the moment.  Some of us got on the clients and started playing, and of course the stream of players kept on coming until it was time to wrap up for the night.  What a crazy, fun experience Day Two had been!

DAY THREE.

After a night of eating some really, really spicy Thai food, some beer, some shots, and some general celebration and fun, Vic, Mina and I called it a night and prepared for the dhday33third day of our DreamHack 2017 Winter adventure.  We weren’t expecting to top the insanity of day two, but we also had a lot to look forward to, including being invited to the Twitch TV After Party.  Day three at DreamHack began with watching the mass exodus of gamers, wheeling out their rigs, chairs, sleeping bags, all blearly eyed and tired.  The dhday32.jpgearly part of the day was in fact kind of sad to watch, as the party was coming to an end, but hey, at least now we didn’t have to wait in line to use the bathrooms!  Once a good number of players got their gear out, it seemed like a new type of consumer was coming in – wives and dads with their kids.  The activity came in waves, with ups and downs as to be expected, but by afternoon was becoming a bit more crowded again.  Due to the majority of players being younger and inexperienced, we decided to forgo the previous format and just spend the day chatting and playing with some of the players.  We did hold one round to give away our remaining headset, and next time we will probably follow a different format, as well as include a duel cup to stretch over the duration of DreamHack.  By the end of the day, with the majority of players gone, we broke down our booth, packed up, and got ready for the Twitch TV after party.

AFTER PARTY.

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Despite being on the brink of total exhaustion, Vic and I went to the Twitch TV after party, after being invited for the first time, while Mina slept off the event’s toll on her tw0body and mind.  The weather that night, with a full moon and clear sky, was by far the coldest it had been.  We arrived around 10pm, just as many others were starting to show up.  There was a large hall with a central bar, tons of games like ice-hockey, ping(and beer) pong, among others set up, with tw2an outdoor section replete with fires, booze, and roasting marshmallows.  It was quite extravagant!  A dance floor with a DJ was pumping the jams, and after a bit of booze flowed a few started getting on the dance floor(notably after one young woman got things rolling shaking what she got).  Before long the party was rolling along in high gear, and Vic and I were feeling no pain tw3ourselves, despite spending some of that time standing outside in the frigid air looking across the lake at the beautiful Jonkoping skyline in the background.  We met some new contacts, drank a little more, and eventually jumped back in a cab to call it a night.

It was a wild and wonderful way to finish what had been just a completely amazing experience!  Having never been part of our DH presence before, I really did have no idea what to expect, and to say I was blown away would be an understatement.  The World’s Largest LAN party lived up to tw9it’s billing, and the new friends, new players, new contacts, and new ideas that came forth were well worth the investment.  We have a better idea of what we need to do going forward, not just with our booth and running tournaments, but with the game as well.  There really is no substitute for this type of hands-on, face-to-face interaction with people and gaming…none.  When things artw5.jpge real, you get real experience, real insight, and real reactions.  We will return to DreamHack, bigger, better, and even more fun than ever!  We cannot thank the event’s organizers enough for being so accomodating and helpful to us, such as Patrick Samson, who made us, the only Indie developer, feel so wanted and welcomed.  I cannot think of anything I would want them to do differently, to me it was perfect, extremely well run and organized, and most of all, just a ton of fun.  It’s an experience I will never forget!

 

 

 

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