(Pictured l. to r. Teddman, Antony, Sleeveboy, AFX, me, Reno and Ali at the center)
"Some things never change. . .and some things do."
The Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3 for short) is one of the biggest gaming events to annually grace the video game industry. For one week, the Los Angeles Convention Center is transformed to a bustling hub of activity. As any media veteran within the media can tell you - work first, play later. This mandate was especially evident this year as my role required covering the show for two outlets - PS2IGN and TNL.
However, that's not to say that I didn't personally enjoy myself. Far from it actually, compared to previous E3's that I attended. There were a number of significant highlights and random events which took place, some of which were directly related to the show and others that were marginally insignificant.
The saga unfolded like this. . .
Since my move from the Big Apple, I've yet to acquire a driver's license (or a car for that matter) and so I had to secure some driving provisions to reach Bradley Airport in Hartford, CT. Tradition has led me to rely on one of my local friend, James, who had attended a fighting event featuring a bunch of fighting games which included Capcom vs. SNK 2 and Guilty Gear XX. Rather than have him go out of his way to make the morning journey to catch my flight on time, I made plans with another friend, Rich who also happens to be one our valued contributing regulars on the forums.
Rich arrived approximately around 8:15, just as I was in the midst of packing. I asked him to give me a few more minutes to wrap-up and he headed back to his car. I tossed in a bunch of clothes and decided against taking one of my consoles along due to the fear that they would get damaged during travel. I decided to be practical by simply bringing along my GBA SP, which was perfect for the occassion (6hr flight leaves plenty of time to sleep, eat and play!) I randomly selected a half-dozen games from my library which included my copy of Sonic Advance 2 and Zelda which I had plans to get autographed by Yuji Naka and Shigeru Miyamoto, respectively. Rich came back to the house to help me with my bags. I handed him a copy of Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven that he won a few weeks through one of our earlier promotional events. (He's such a lucky individual when it comes to promotions. Last year, he somehow managed to score TWO GBA's at E3!) We departed shortly after I made one final sweep of the house to ensure that I wasn't leaving any vital items that would be required during my visit to LA (like press badges).
We made a brief stop at Target in Waterford, CT to pick up a few more travel necessities; mainly a pocket-sized toothbrush, mouthwash and shampoo. I ran into one of my old co-workers who I shamelessly flirted with. After getting back on the road, I started to talk Rich's ear off (I could've just as easily went to sleep, but that would've been weird AND rude). Rich also was planning to attend E3 and chill with his friend Jose (Shinobi128 on the forums and TNL Contributing Editor Eric Manch aka Sleeveboy) later in the week.
Somehow, we ended up missing a turn which Rich quickly observed several minutes later after I commented that the area didn't seem to familiar to me. So we made a brief stop at a gas station for directions to get us back on track. It's a good thing too, because I had arrived at BDL with just a bit over a half-hour to spare for checking in my bags and getting settled.
I booked a flight with Continental, which was much cheaper than any of the rates that I purchased in previous years ($250, tax included). Quite a bargain if you ask me and the service overall was quite good too. I am definitely going to make my reservations with them in the immediate future. My primary flight was aboard a small jet which took me to Cleveland, and from there would take me to LAX Airport. I arrived just a bit past the anticipated flight time, and I was greeted by Matt Van Stone who I made arrangements with to get a ride from the airport to the hotel. We had to wait about 15 minutes or so which felt like a lifetime before I was finally able to re-claim by bag. It didn't help either that I then had my ear talked off by some random stranger who came across more or less as pointless ranting. Meh.
Matt decided to wait outside, while I remained by the baggage claim. It felt like an eternity (in reality it was approx. 20 minutes shortly after my plane had touched down). Finally, the luggage from my plane was released, I located my suitcase and we made our way to the Ramada Inn.
(Insert random discussion here and simmer for half hour).
We arrived at the hotel around 5:15p.m., I went to the desk to check on the room (hoping that perhaps Ali had already pre-booked for the room with my name on it). As it turns out, he only had reserved it in his name leaving me with no other option but to wait until he arrived. I went back to Matt's truck to get my bag, made our departing lingo, and he took off. I sat in the lobby, awaiting li's arrival.
I ended up getting somewhat restless shortly after an hour had passed. It got to the point where not even playing Zelda or Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo was adequate to quell my boredom. Not to mention I was getting hungry again. Eventually the hotel clerk invited me to personally check in under my name, but due to a tight budget, I declined. Besides, I didn't want to assume any responsibility. 7:45 p.m. rolled around, Ali and his friends Lucan, Antony and Dave made their way inside the hotel. Ali introduced us all and then checked us in. Totally famished at this point, we tossed our bags in the room and then went off to grab a bite. Since our options of places to eat were limited, we decided to mingle at a Hispanic fast food joint. Ali said that Lucan was treating, which was nice considering this was my first time meeting him. We all ordered rice dishes with side orders of potatoes, chicken and vegetables. Our table was a little dirty, but thankfully the cashier that serviced us quickly made the area we selected more respectable and appropriate to eat. Ali and I discussed plans to find an alternate place to update seeing as the hotel where we were staying no longer offered broadband service. How convenient. It was decided that we'd search the general area the following day in hopes to locate an internet café.
With our stomaches properly nourished, we headed back towards teh hotel and briefly stopped inside one of the local arcades that we previously passed on the way to eat. To my surprise, Street Fighter Alpha 3 was there. Antony and I got in a quick game while Lucan complimented me for actually being a player that did not use a Shoto. I selected V-Charlie and immediately had issues with the sticks; they sucked. I ended up missing grabs and it reminded me of the old ghetto cabinets that used to be around my corner back in New York. Meanwhile, Ali found a Virtua Fighter 4 cabinet nearby and played a few games, (Lucan and the others eventually joined him as spectators against the CPU). However, Ali quickly discovered that the cabinet possessed the same crippled responsiveness, much like I experienced with the A3 cab. I imagine that no serious comp could possibly exist here. No matter, we were tired anyway and headed back to our room to sleep.
We woke up around 8, made rotations to use the shower and made our way down to the breakfast lounge. Our plans were pretty basic - Ali wanted to look into getting his business cards printed up since he didn't have time in Belgium while Antony was going to be assisting TNL with some media coverage and wanted to check on the memory storage items sold at Staples. I walked around a bit and kept getting harassed by one of the workers there that couldn't understand that I was simply "just looking". I found a Hewlett Packard digital camera which piqued my interest and was pondering picking up. But with my restricted budget, it would take a miracle for me to get anything decent enough to record pictures (no, I didn't want to deal with disposable cameras either). Ali and I had been discussing a possible arrangement to sell my Sony Clie which I brought along to help me with the E3 appointments. Ali explained that the HP model I was considering didn't look too reliable or durable for that matter. After browsing the store in relative detail, we headed back to the hotel to check on the location of internet cafes. We eventually discovered one not too far from the hotel which was only 6 minutes away by foot. The place wasn't too shabby at all, but the prices were quite a drawback; $6 bucks for one hour. Well, it served its purpose for the moment. I called up Nick to check on things "back home", discussed our course of action to handle E3 updates. At 11:30, Ali and the others decided to head back to rendezvous with Reno who had been staying with Hero and his family for a few days. I remained behind to finish up on some updates and chat a bit with Nercm and some other buddies via AIM online.
Since I didn't want to exceed the basic flat hourly fee, I decided to wrap things up and head back to the hotel to join Ali and the others. I found Reno had already arrived and handed over his personal E3 media badge and a few games to review for TNL. Upon meeting Sqoon, Sleeveboy and AFX, I provided them each with their media badges, along with a few games, a Metroid Prime necklace and a black Tenchu T-Shirt. (Yeah, Christmas had come early this year - compliments of Santa Bahn.) We didn't remain there for long, since Jeremy "Makaze" Dunham from the PS2IGN channel needed to give us a quick run on how to utilize their back-end pending our freelance duties for the show. At a quarter to 1, we made our way out while the others hung around. We made plans to meet at the South Hall of E3 after Derek "AFX" Durham arrived from the airport, and from there head to the Xbox press conference scheduled at 6 p.m.
It was ages (ok, a year) since I used the LA train system and Reno didn't have too much of a clue as to which line we were supposed to take. In typical tourist fashion, we ended up asking some of the people walking around to help us out. Oddly enough, some of them didn't know their way around the subway system either. Thus, we were left with the only remaining option - consult the subway map. We took the first train that arrived and got off at the wrong stop and ended up having to take another line back to where we came in order to switch to an alternate line leading to Pico Street. When we arrived at the LACC, we made our way to the IGN "office" near Concourse Hall to find that Jeremy was nowhere in sight. Some of the staffers were there, no one in particular I recognized aside from Aaron Boulding. They invited us to remain there since Jeremy and Doug Perry hadn't returned from the Capcom press conference. So we waited - about a whole hour and a half. Reno joked about Jeremy's prior advisement to "be on time, and he's late." We walked around for a bit and returned to find that he was still out on assignment. One of the IGN personnel tried to phone Doug, but there was no answer. We were getting a bit restless, but before long - I decided to break out my GBA for a bit and play. Reno left his back at the hotel, so he was compelled to do nothing but remain restless, heh.
Around a quarter to four, the dynamic duo arrives, followed by reintroductions (Jeremy had already introduced me to Doug the year before). After getting settled in, we were issued a login which would be used to for the laptop that Reno and I would share to update our coverage for the PS2 IGN channel. Jeremy than jumped right into the procedures to updating which reminded me a lot of how we use our board's mySQL functions to update. While it seemed simple enough, I couldn't help but feel somewhat intimidated by the responsibilities laid before us. If Reno was nervous, he was definitely doing a better job than me by not making it apparent for everyone else to see. I had been stressing about all this just a few days before since this year I'd be developing coverage for the them as well as TNL. I did my best not to sweat it and acknowledged every detail that was dispensed within the short period of time.
With that out of the way, there wasn't too much else left for us to do until Day 1. We had the chance to go "behind the scenes" while E3 was still being set up. I hadn't had the opportunity to do this since my second visit to E3 when I was issued an Exhibitor badge. Of all the booths that were especially noteworthy was when Reno and I arrived at the Konami booth in South Hall. There we had our first glimpse of the full Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater trailer. Standing in awe, we remained motionless as the footage ran its course. A few Konami exhibitors walked by and glanced at us, and we did our best to try not to get all fan-boyish. Unfortunately, the footage was too impressive to contain our excitement that we eventually were ejected from the area by one of the Konami exhibitors. Her ability to sneak past our cone of vision remains a mystery, but we'll be stealthier in the future.
We came back to tell Doug and Jeremy of our brief adventure throughout the LACC and then took off to meet the others who called me to alert me that they had arrived. Outside, we found the entire crew from the Ramada Inn, plus one Derek Durham now within our company. Checking the time, I felt there was no way we would arrive at the conference on time by foot (note that I also thought it was being held at the same location as last year). After catching the number of a cab passing by, I tracked the number posted on the car to phone for a cab pick-up of our own to take us to the conference The cab dispatcher said it would be 20 minutes before the cab would arrive, and Eric hadn't arrived so I called him back to alternate our arrangements to meet up, explaining it would be best if he headed straight there. I lost track of time, but estimated that our scheduled cab should've been on the scene, so I called up the cab service to find out its status.