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My First E3

After years of dreaming of going to E3, my wife and I both were able to this year. This is my take on the show of shows in gaming.

james sadler, Blogger

June 16, 2011

11 Min Read

Well for many years I have wanted to go to E3. When I first got into actually working in games as a sound guy/composer it was always something just didn't happen at the right time or funds were just too low to really justify the costs. Game development kind of fell through as I went into other fields and did other things. A couple of years ago things started to change again though. I was able to get some passes to the show this year and my wife, who is a gamer as well, and I got very excited as the run up to it kept getting more filled with things like "debuting at E3" or "announcing at E3." 


DAY 1:

Having driven to Los Angeles more than I care to have, we left early to miss some traffic and make sure there weren't huge lines to get our badges. I helped with a booth at last year's Siggraph which was also at the L.A. Convention Center so I knew my way around the area pretty well. Traffic was pretty much nonexistant and there were absolutely no lines at the badge booths, so we got there with almost two hours to kill before the doors opened. By studying the map the day before we decided to go to the West Hall first since it didn't seem like there was too much there aside from huge Sony and Nintendo booths.

We hung out at the Ford Fiesta Social Club area next to the hall for a bit. Looked at at the new Fiesta and Shelby Mustang. We are about to buy a new car so I thought it would waste some time. Felt kind of weird having a motor company hanging out there, but whatever. There were Ferrari's a few yards away for the Forza display so it didn't feel too off. The area looked like a pub though, so I kept thinking I wanted a beer even though it was only 11am.

Once the doors opened there was the obvious mad dash to get inside. My wife and I aren't those kind of people so we went out for a smoke while the madness died down a bit. Once we got in though it was still chaos. Capcom's booth was right in front of the doors and people would fill the walkways to look at the flashy displays, which made it difficult to even get in and out sometimes. We went to the left and checked out the Sony Entertainment games, like DC Universe. As we progressed there was IGN and what seemed like an Indie games area, though it just looked like there was a Twister type game laid out on the floor. Bethesda's booth was amazing looking, but it really seemed like they kept all the good stuff behind doors. We went into the Sony madness next and looked at a few of the new titles coming out. I was actually able to get ahold of and play the demo for Final Fantasy 13-2, which I was impressed with. The new Silent Hill looked interesting, though I am not sure if a show floor is the best place to try and view that kind of game. A few other titles looked good, but I'll move on.

Next was the Nintendo booth which was packed. They showed a bunch of new 3DS games, a few new Wii games and of course the Wii U. Lines were long to try it and so we just watched from the sidelines. I think it is still too early to critique it, bit it looked good and interesting. The technical demos they were running in the corner to show off the new processing power were impressive, though most production games rarely live up to them.

Most of the rest of the hall was dedicated to peripheral companies and smaller oversees game companies. There were a few impressive things out there. Perfect World games had a nice booth, with a very cool statue out front of it, and pretty good free games to play. Rusty Hearts looks interesting and I just keep forgetting to try it here. El Shaddai looks to be a very very interesting game, though they could have cut the title shorter (just from a marketing standpoint to me).

We went out for lunch and walked across an outdoor walkway where Ubisoft had setup a Rocksmith demo bus. I waited in line for around half an hour and decided to move on. I keep kicking myself for not trying it out when we passed it early in the morning since there was no one there yet. We went onto South Hall where we knew all the amazing eye bleeding stuff would be. West Hall was great, but there wasn't that much there really.

As expected we were visually assaulted when entering the South Hall. EA was right in front showing lots of promo trailers for The Old Republic. We watched for a few minutes and went to the right. Originally we planned on just doing West Hall the first day with just the smaller South Hall booths and South Hall the second, so we were trying to avoid seeing everything it had to offer. Pretty much an impossible task. We walked through the small booths in the back which were mainly more peripherals, a couple of graphics companies, a few small game companies, and even financing companies like Chase. I was really expecting to see more stuf back there. Knowing that we had to kill some more time before trying to get back on the freeway we decided to press on into the main arena.

Many things became a blur that day so I will try to make as much sense in this as I go. We walked by a large booth with an arial/tank type combat game. Wasn't our style so we pressed on. We came up tot he Square-Enix booth and I looked at the new Deus Ex game. We watch the loop of trailers for it, FF13-2, Tomb Raider, and a few others. The trailer for Tomb Raider looked amazing. Almost creepy with how real it looked. I expect nothing less from this company though. Biggest problem I had was that the gameplay looked a bit cartoonish here and there and the annoyingly constant cries that she would make at the slightest bump. I just can't see playing that game for hours on end without a neighbor calling the cops thinking I was torturing someone in my garage or something.

We walked through a couple of other game booths we'd never heard of and then hung out at the Ubisoft booth for awhile. I was waiting to watch the trailer for the new A.C. game, but before the loop got around to that they did a demo for the new Ravin Rabbids Kinect game. It looked fun, as we have always dug those games, and I kept trying to get my wife to go up on stage when they asked for people. Watched the A.C. gameplay on the terminals and walked over near the G4 booth. From there we made it to the Activision booth and watched the trailers for the new Spiderman game, which looked interesting, the new Modern Warfare, and a few others. By this point it was getting late neough that we could go get some dinner before heading home. The L.A Convention Center has a lot of great restraunts near by, and with the L.A. Live area next door there are a lot of great staple restraunts there as well. There is an amazing italian joint right next to the Figeroa Hotel just past the L.A. Live area if anyone should go next year and crave such a thing.

Day 2:

Got there pretty early and went intot he South Hall. We had seen a lot more of the South hall of the first day than we had planned so we really just needed to attack all the center booths and we'd be done for the day. We checked out EA and Microsoft. Most of the games shown were things well on most gamer's radars for awhile. I was actually very surprised by the Disney booth. The new Cars 2 game is a racer in the game sense as a Mario Cart, but it looks more cute and a little more fun. Played the Disney Universe a bit and it was fun as well. We watched a few people try a few courses on the Disneyland Kinect game. It looks like a very cute game that will be very fun with some younger kids as well as adults. Controls were still questionable, but they're still in development so I hope they fit them.

Walked through the Sega booth and played the 3DS Sonic game which was pretty cool. Then past the Alien's game to the Batman Arkam City booth. The game looks great and the booth was very well done. Couldn't figure out where the line to play the game and the line to watch the presentations began since they blended into eachother. Then over to 2K to see the Bioshock Infinate trailer. The Gotham City Impostors looks fun as well as Double Fine's Sesame Street game. After that we had seen pretty much the entire hall, though I have eliminated a lot of booths because either I don't remember them clearly or they just weren't worth noting. 

We went back to the West hall to try and get a hands on of the Wii U and the PSP Vita. Niether happened as they were only doing VIP demos at that time it seemed. Oh well. Watched a few people playing the new Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City game which does look interesting. Played the new Dead Rising 2 spin off. It was really fun and am looking forward to it.

The Takeaways:

Though this is my first E3 it is not my first conference/convention/trade-show. I go to a lot with my normal day job (non-game industry related). I've been to ComiCon many many times for many years, so a lot of the glits and glamor gets redundant after awhile. Even with that E3 was amazing and I did enjoy myself a lot. I just wish that we had thought about getting a hotel in L.A. a lot earlier so we could have enjoyed more of the nightly activities.

My biggest problem was the lines to play games or even watch a promo. I stood in more than a couple of lines for 45+ minutes and moved very little. I saw a lot of people playing the same demo for three hours. I understand wanting to play a new game for awhile and get use to it, but there comes a point when it is time to put the controller down and let someone else try it. I know this sounds like whining about not getting to play a game because someone was hogging it. To some degree it is, but the lines also end up blocking other things; other games that other poeple might like to play.

A lot of the content shown were games and such that most people with a pulse on the gaming industry have known were coming for a long time. There are exceptions of course and there were a number of surprises there.

E3 seems really as a AAA game's company extravaganza with a few smaller companies trying to pick up some attention. I wish there was a wider "indie" segment here, but with booth costs in the "pick a number and put four zeros behind it" pricetag, I can see why there aren't more there.

We saw a large space as we left that was in the indoor walkway between the two halls which had a lot of cubicle type booths, and I had seen G4 interviewing people at these booths on TV after the first day, but I wasn't sure what was in there or if we were allowed to go in. There seemed to be a lot of unknowing with what and who was where with some of us newbies. I'm sure there was a lot more in those rooms but I never saw any of it.

Part of the reason for me to go was to see if E3 was a viable place for my small game design group to have a booth. In the end I would say no. Maybe in a few years when we have released a lot more games and have some momentum, but at current I think we are reserved for PAX and maybe GDC. Not a big deal as I was feeling this before we even got our passes. Either way I know we as a group will at least be attending next year.

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