Tuesday, 15 May 2001
It's a good thing I like flying, because I was on an airplane for an awful long time. New Jersey - LA is a 5-hour flight. I got in at around 2PM local time, after having been awake for something insane like 30 hours -- flipping your sleeping schedule from nights to days is not fun, even if it is for E3.
I met up with Nightside at the airport, who was even more sleep-deprived than I was, and the two of us trekked to the hotel via subway -- we won't be doing that again. It was about an hour and a half of walking, dragging luggage, and looking like idiot tourists. Well, we were idiot tourists, but I hate looking like one.
Got to the hotel and got to meet FireMyst, Stom, and TheVortex. They headed off to score food; I stuck around and played Tetris for a while, before falling fast asleep on the pull-out bed in the room. This was effectively the end of my Tuesday, because I slept until 6AM the next day. I vaguely remember waking up and finding a whole slew of other people in the room before staggering down to our other room, but it's so hazy that it might not have happened. Let's hear it for recovering from sleep deprivation!
Wednesday, 16 May 2001
Press day! Of course, since I wasn't scheduled for any press conferences, this meant that I got to wander around the hotel all day and play N64 games. I brought my spare Playstation and a few games, but discovered that the unit had been damaged in my car accident two months back. Today included me sitting down at the table in the kitchen and demolishing the PSX in hopes of getting it to work again. Did you know that the inside of a Playstation has umpteen billion tiny little screws? Neither did I, until they were all over the kitchen table. Merripen -- who was sitting on the other edge of the table -- found my occasional maniacal cackle slightly disturbing.
Nightside spent the entire day trying to get some sleep and mostly failing, which prompted someone -- I think it was TheVortex, though I can't remember -- to observe that I was apparently Nightside's Tyler Durden, as the two of us were not in the same room at the same time when anyone else could see us, and he was wandering around with that blank insomnia haze during the entire trip.
At around 5PM, we decided that we would head over to the convention center and pick up our badge holders, thus completing the registration process. This prompted a mad dash to get up to the press room before it closed at 6PM. I didn't get a chance to do much looking around, but it looked interesting in there -- the convention center had five halls worth of stuff, all of them huge and jam-packed.
Microsoft announced the X-box this morning, and Nintendo the GameCube. November is going to be interesting for the console wars; it'll be interesting to see if Sony's full-year start will make any difference for this generation of consoles. This year's show is going to be mostly hardware-oriented, as launch titles are usually uninteresting at best, but what can you do?
Got back to the hotel and headed out to a nearby arcade with Aegis, TheVortex, and David -- who finally showed up -- to play Dance Dance Revolution. Well, they were going to play DDR; I was going to find one of the old Atari systems and pump some quarters into it in the middle of watching them. I do not play DDR. Turned out that "nearby" was a relative term -- ten blocks at least, and that's LA blocks -- but the arcade was pretty nifty, even if it was small. It was the first time I'd ever seen DDR, and all I have to say is that it's a fun game to watch. Playing it, I'm afraid, would kill me. I stuck with Super Puzzle Fighter, thank you very much.
Once again, I found myself sleepy at some insane time like 11PM. Body, come on, you're supposed to work nights, what's with this insanely early bedtime?
The show starts tomorrow morning! Eee!
Thursday, 17 May 2001
Got to the convention hall about half an hour before the exhibits opened, to find that RPGamer's server was down. This turned out to be a fairly common condition during the trip, and it's probably why our coverage is a bit spotty in places and is just filling out now. Mental note: bite our Internet provider later.
The server being down meant that Nightside had problems getting in, as he was going to be registering at the door. This was complicated by the fact that they didn't have a copy of our business license on file. Nightside went to go deal with that, and I hit the show floor.
First stop, because I am an incredibly loyal Square fan, was the Squaresoft booth. I played the FFX demo and was suitably impressed -- the game looks sweet, and doesn't include any of the stuff that irritated me about FFIX. (I will attempt to keep my opinions on FFIX out of this, as it nearly started a fistfight between RPGamer staffers. FireMyst fired me when he heard that I hated IX and loved VIII. FireMyst fired all of us at least once on this trip.) The Squaresoft/Disney collaboration makes me slightly nervous, but I don't have to buy it if I don't want to, eh?
Played some of Crash Bandicoot 4, played some Oddworld, played some Pacman, nosed around the Universal booth, avoided the EA booth -- it was LOUD -- and just generally wandered around and picked up media kits. I can't remember a lot of what I saw on Thursday, because it all blended into one large impression of lights and neon. The show was loud.
My assigned company-meeting today was with FunCom, to see Anarchy Online -- I swear, this game might just make me buy a PC. An online RPG that's lovely and doesn't require combat to advance in experience. Where do I sign up? I also respect their decision to only let the game run for four years -- that will allow a coherent, cohesive plot and allow them to keep some kind of artistic integrity. Hats off, guys.
Random free-stuff score of the day: a company named Saint Hermit Studios was giving out chopsticks. Chopsticks. So I have a rather nice pair of chopsticks in a little velvet bag to take to work with me and leave them there for when the Chinese delivery guy forgets our chopsticks, which happens at least once a week.
Came back to the hotel at around 7PM, laid out all the press kits that I picked up, poked through them, and headed back upstairs to the other hotel room to bond with people and play N64 games. The server hiccupped a few more times, and I think that's when we all pretty much decided that the bulk of the work would get done when we got home.
I have decided that I am going to be buying a GameBoy Advance when it comes out. I got a chance to play with one while I was on the floor today, and the titles announced for it are going to be really cool -- and I can take it to work for the downtime. I'm still ambivalent about the X-Box and the GameCube, but we'll see what titles they turn out. And, of course, I will be getting a PS2 as soon as they drop a little in price, because I'm horribly loyal to Squaresoft, and they're developing for the PS2. Though there are a few other titles I'd like: Gauntlet Legends and Crash Bandicoot 4 being among them. And Midway has announced a new Mortal Kombat game, but more about that later...
Another early night. What's with this sleeping schedule thing, body?
Friday, 18 May, 2001
My first meeting of the day was with Midway, which is when I found out that they were releasing MK5. The guy we were meeting with basically admitted that the MK franchise has been going way downhill lately, and said that they were trying very, very hard to reverse that trend. Since I've been an MK fan since MK2, this was great news for me. FireMyst and Chiapet seemed unimpressed, though. ^_^ Midway is putting out an RPG called "Legion: Legend of Excalibur" which didn't impress me a whole lot, but which I'll probably pick up just because I'm a big Arthurian legend fan. Then again, given what usually happens to legends in RPGs, I might be better off staying away for that very reason...
I went right from the Midway meeting up to the media room, where we were basically squatting on one PC to make sure that we didn't lose our connection to the rest of the world. Aegis was finishing up his console impressions, so I didn't get much time to work. After that, it was back out to the convention floor, and time for some more Free Stuff. I managed to con a Gundam figurine out of Bandai, who are putting out a Gundam Wing game. Let's hear it for batting my eyes and looking pitiful!
I got some playtime in on both the X-box and the GameCube today, and all I have to say is that the X-box controller bites. I had carpal tunnel surgery last year, and that makes me fairly sensitive towards controllers and how they feel to hold. The X-box controller is going to kill my hands if I do get one -- can we say "third-party hardware"? The GameCube's isn't all that much better, from an ergonomic point of view. Both of them are too clunky and oversized, and it takes too much movement of the hands to reach all the buttons. And I have fairly large hands for a woman. My ergonomic specialist told me that the PSX controller was the best he'd ever seen in terms of being good for the hands, and I believe him; part of my therapy post-surgery was to sit around and play video games. I can get behind that.
I also saw a Spyro the Dragon game for the GameBoy Advance, which pretty much cemented my decision to buy a GBA; I love Spyro. It's the only platform game I've ever found that I don't utterly bite at. There's something fairly disturbing in seeing the little dragon on a GameBoy screen, but it looks to be a pretty solid game.
We were supposed to have a meeting with Westwood at 2PM, but there was some miscommunication about who was supposed to be meeting whom, where, and we never did wind up meeting up with them. That's okay, because the meeting was going to be at the EA booth, and it was LOUD in there -- loud enough to violate all local noise ordinances, I would bet.
I spent much of the day trying to find someplace to sit and collapse -- my feet and shoulders were killing me from walking around and hauling my bag o'stuff with me all day. They had a wonderful media hospitality room, with big overstuffed cushy leather chairs, and I spent a little while in there just resting -- the most wonderful convention employee came over and chatted with me for a while, talking about how to take care of yourself when you're rushing around like a chicken without a head. Everyone who worked there was very pleasant and loads of fun to talk to -- and so were the exhibitors. I wound up chatting with a bunch of people while I was outside smoking at various times, and all of them were wonderful and just as excited as I was.
At some point during Friday, I was coming down the escalator into the main lobby, and one of the cafeterias was emitting old 8-bit arcade noises for some unknown reason. There were about two thousand people in the concourse, and all of them had the exact same reaction when the noises started; everyone's heads snapped up, they looked around, took a second or so to identify the noises, and then grinned. It was a near-universal experience of "Wha -- oh, Galaga!" It was sobering to realize that I was in a convention center with tens of thousands of people -- nearly all of whom could recognize games by the noises they make. I'm so used to being the only gamer around -- first at school, now at work -- that it was a moment of wonder. You don't realize these things at first.
Nightside and I left the convention hall at around 3PM to meet up with a few friends whom we'd never met in person before, including previous fanfic editor Amber Michelle. The four of us headed out for dinner and shopping, and we found an absolutely wonderful Japanese manga store -- after getting horribly, horribly lost -- that had one of the Weiss Kreuz artbooks I'd been looking for. I also scored a few CDs at non-import prices -- amen for having large quantities of money to spend at the same time that you find stuff you've been looking for!
Came back to the hotel around 9PM or so and hung around with everyone, talking about anime and swapping horror stories about the worst parts of working at RPGamer. I managed to talk Merripen into agreeing that yes, he did want to watch Utena, so it looks like I managed to make a convert -- and I picked up some episodes of various animes that I've been looking for from Chimerasame, who had been at Anime Central before heading to E3. Yay, fansubs!
Packing took a while, as I had to cram all of my keepsakes into two small bags. Merripen, Googleshng, David and I then sat around until 3:30AM talking about the deep things in life, like God, relationships, and anime (which of these things is not like the other?) until it was time to head to sleep.
Saturday, 19 May, 2001
Up at 7AM to get the shuttle at 7:30 to head home. My flight was at 9AM, and it was packed. I slept through most of it, since my sleeping schedule had finally almost reset itself back to what it should be.
And that pretty much concludes my E3 trip. Things I have learned for next year:
- Pack less stuff. I will be coming home with more stuff than I brought with me, by a considerable amount, and getting it all into two bags was very difficult.
- Don't forget the heavy animal tranquilizers for FireMyst. He needs them; he was like a kid in a candy store. ^_^
- Make very certain that we have a clear schedule for who's gonna be in the media room when -- we lost our PC mid-Friday when there was some confusion about who was supposed to take the babysitting shift.
- Bring a laptop even if I have to beg, borrow, or steal one. Three laptops for eleven people is not enough.
- Go into the show knowing more about what I want to look at. There's too much stuff there to really see in two days if you don't have a good idea about what you want to play with ahead of time.
- Arrange my flight so that I can stay at the show for Day 3. I apparently missed some cool stuff.
- Don't get too near the Australians. Mistress Nightshadow had no resistance to American germs, and managed to get about 75% of us sick. :(
All in all, I had a great time. I can't wait for next year.
Alanna "And I've even caught up on sleep" @rpgamer.com