After four exhausting days in Fontainebleau I had a night in Paris before catching a bus to Lille. I had 3 nights in Lille and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was graciously hosted by new friend Kevin Bradshaw, who was really great to me. Kevin has 3 housemates, all of whom are excellent. We spent a lot of time just hanging out, which was a lovely change of pace from the intensity of Paris and Font.
On my first night in Lille we met up for supper and drinks with Armel and Delphine from Klondike. They both do very cool work and it was interesting learning about the dev scene in France. The more I learn about European game dev communities, the more I realise how unique and special the current Cape Town scene is. Anyway, I suspect I shall be seeing a lot more of Armel in a certain Swedish cabin. Looking forward to that.
The next day Kevin and I ventured out to do touristy things. We rented bikes and cycled to a special food truck. Kevin and Markus (one of the housemates) are on a mission to find the best burger in Lille; and this particular truck was the next place on the list. The burgers were excellent.
Our stomachs now full, we cycled on towards the old fort. Which is a big star shaped structure not dissimilar to the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town. We walked around the fort and also through the zoo. Kevin was amused that I was relatively unimpressed by seeing zebras.
In the afternoon we visited an old church and a book market (France has a cool graphic novel culture that we don’t have in SA) before wandering through the city center on our way home. We spent the evening hanging out on the porch eating good French cheese and good French bread.
The following morning had a nice slow start (featuring yet more hanging out on the porch) before we went down to the market to buy some nice French food. We had good French cheese and good French bread (on the porch, of course) for lunch. In the afternoon we went for a picnic with some more games people: Jonathan, Maria and Michel. All of whom work at Ankama, the largest studio in Lille. We ate more good French food and played various trivia and betting games. Everyone was super nice and spoke English for me (SPOILER: this doesn’t seem to come naturally to French people it seems). For supper we ate good French bread and good French cheese on the porch.
Last day in Lille started the others: coffee and breakfast on (you can guess this one)… the porch. Kevin and I then took a metro to go visit Jonathan and Maria who had offered to give us a tour of the Ankama offices. It was very interesting walking around Ankama and seeing how they do things. The office houses about 400 people which is many, many times more than the largest studio in South Africa.
It was particularly interesting to see what Jonathan’s workflow as a game designer on a big MMO was like. I can’t say I was envious of the one hour turn around time he has between making design changes and testing them in a build!
After lunch with all the Ankama game designers Kevin took me to the Imaginerium, the venue of the Zoo Machines festival and a certified totally rad space. And then I left on a bus for Antwerp that afternoon.
Whereas Paris was a great way to experience the touristy face of France, Lille was a better way to experience real French culture. A few days of actually living with locals really helps you understand a place, as opposed to just visiting it. It was awesome that Kevin took so much time out of his schedule to just hang out, show me around and chat about game development. It was super fun and chilled spending time with him. Everywhere I go I’m hosted by such great people!