And so it begins...
After very little sleep we got up for the first day of E3. In our group were David, Drew, Errol, Matt McC., Matt W., and myself: 6 people. David's rented Sebring holds 5 people. With David driving and Drew being the largest besides David, the other four of us managed to pack into the back of the car like sardines. After eventually arriving finding parking, we made it to the convention center.
David and Errol left for media registration (they were registering under David's "company") while we went to find Serenity. Drew, the two Matts, and I met up with Serenity outside of IGN's room (amazingly bypassing guards again). She informed us that the E3 registration people were being (expletive deleted) and didn't want to let people in with guest passes because they had apparently given so many out the day before. Serenity then suggested that we could try to get in as media. The problem was that part of the convention center had experienced a "city blackout" (that somehow only affected the upstairs part of the convention center), so their registration computers were down. She had already sent two groups with the extra credentials (IGN's business license). I got the cell phone numbers of the other IGN people, but never got an answer. After finding the sign at the media registration room directing us to the tent outside, we began a serach for the tent. We eventually found it... and the long line proceeding from it. We walked up to the tent entrance where I found an unexpected individual. Angelina, the woman who had handled my DS launch trip last November was working there as an E3 employee! She informed me that they only had 4 computers running to register media and that's why the line was so long. We started walking to the back of the line, finding it went all the way across the sidewalk, down the stairs, and into a tunnel. There, we ran into David and Errol. We began to use Pictochat and play some multiplayer DS games while waiting. Sometime in the middle of waiting, Drew went to the IGN room to get the business license, where he picked up a couple extra IGN hosted site people. After about 2 and a half hours, we made it into the tent. David and Errol somehow managed to get registered despite the E3 guy's questions about their distribution ("Why haven't I heard of this magazine?") Then came our turn. The guy decided that our business cards (that David had printed up) were not good enough ("looks like they were printed on ink jet"). Despite having the IGN business license, the guy said that we would have to get a letter from the editor with our name on it. We left for the IGN room again, to pick up said letter. This time we just walked right past the guard. Serenity was not pleased about the situation, but already had a stack of letters waiting to be signed. The odd thing about the business cards was that they had a computer there where they were printing up fake cards for other sites' members to use and none of them had had a problem even though they looked cheaper than ours. Returning to the tent, we walked right to the front of the line. The guy who rejected us before told us to wait a minute to check our credentials, and then left and didn't come back. Jackass. I spotted Angelina behind the registration desks and with her help, we got registered without any more problems (except Matt W.'s misspelled name, which he didn't even notice). In the end, it was IGN that came through for us *shock* I'm not really sure why IGN doesn't just send us all as media every year instead of relying on guest passes-- they turned out to be more useful.
After finally getting our passes, we decided to use them to their fullest by entering the Media-only break room. No food was left, but we were able to procure some much-need water. Across the hall from the break room was the Atlus room, where they were getting ready to hold their 2:00 Puyo Pop Fever tournament. For me, Atlus wins the best third-party E3 booth. They had Puyo Pop Fever tournaments twice a day as well as an iPod drawing. They also had several interesting RPGs like Shin Megami Tensei (Digital Devil Saga) 2. Atlus also had some pretty funny ads in the E3 Daily magazine "Do you like hot ______? Come to room# 514." The blank included anime characters, demon babes, anime snowboarding, anime nurses, and... samurai dudes. The nurses were for Trama Center: Under the Knife, a surgery simulator for DS. While I didn't win the tournament this time (made it right up to the end), there was always later. Outside of West Hall was the new Batmobile from Batman Begins. That is, the one that looks like an XBox. Microsoft had bought the swag bags again, this time branding them with the XBox 360 logo. They weren't as big as in 2003, but it seemed that companies didn't hand out as much stuff as in 2003 either. Supporting those not wanting to be seen supporting Microsoft, many booths handed out their own bags.
As could be expected from TMK staff, we first visited the Nintendo area in West Hall. As usual, Nintendo's was by far the best booth of the show. They had tons of playable games that were fun as well as all sorts of handouts. Nintendo's booth was quite blue with projected images and videos everywhere. Once we entered Nintendo's booth, our group fragmented almost immediately. While there was no Revolution in sight, a kiosk full of Game Boy Micros with various faceplates was on display. I spent most of the time playing DS games. I played Mario Kart DS remotely with an NOA employee. Mario Kart has 8-player online capability and has everything you'd come to expect from a Mario Kart game. I loved every aspect of the game except for one thing: the blue shells. Power sliding using the digital pad was a little harder than with an analog stick, but it still worked, with a bit of practice. The weight of characters seemed to affect collisions wuite a bit. I also played Animal Crossing DS remotely with Charles Martinet, the voice of Mario (and other Nintendo characters). I beat him over the head with a butterfly net while he returned the favor with his fishing pole, while we laughed about it over the video feed. "This is what boys do" he said. The E3 demo was kinda neat because the dialog was specifically tailored to the event, with references to places on the show floor. They handed out Mario Kart styluses for playing the DS multiplayer games. I also played a bit of Nintendogs, though that isn't my sort of game. You can play with your virtual dog, customize their accessories, throw toys at them, walk them, and everything. They gave out tiny stuffed Nintendogs for playing. On each side of the wireless booth was an especially interesting tech demo: Voice over IP on the DS. This technology allows you to route phone calls over the internet with your DS and displayed a 3D Mario or Wario head that talked as the person on the other side talked. If Nintendo pursues this, things could get very interesting in the phone industry. Nintendo also had a wireless center with downloadable DS games. They had Polarium, Meteos, Electroplankton, Submarine Tech Demo, Table Hockey Tech Demo, and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess trailer and art gallery. However, there were so many people with DSes, and potentially so much interference, that it was nearly impossible to get a successful download. Also, the DS error messages aren't very helpful at all... I hope there's a way for Nintendo to fix some of these issues with a firmware update. After playing with DS games, I decided to try some of the GameCube games. David and I tried to play some Donkey Konga 2, but it was fairly pointless because it was impossible to hear the music with all of the sound in the area. Next, I tried Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix. Now, I have never played DDR before, and I accidently set it to the hardest mode. That certainly gave me some exercise, and though I managed a 19 combo and a fair amount of perfects, the game still gave me an F rating. It was fun though... I'll certainly be buying this game when it comes out. The other major games, Mario and Luigi 2, Mario Baseball, Super Mario Strikers, Mario Party 7, New Super Mario Bros., Another Code (now renamed Trace Memory), Kirby Magic Paintbrush, Metroid Prime Hunters, and Metroid Prime Pinball to name several, had individual kiosks, but I didn't play them. One game that stuck out just because it was so odd was Odama. In this game, you play pinball on top of troops trying to get their Odama across the screen. Thus, you want to smash the enemy troops with your giant pinball, but not your own troops. They also had a large bell-shaped Odama on display. Movie clips were played on a big screen near the top of the Nintendo area. Interestingly, one of the clips that was playing included a 3d rendered animation of the Minish from the recent Zelda GBA game. I don't know if they were from Twilight Princess, or something else. As for the game of the show, the Zelda line itself snaked into a room and wound around the entire Nintendo area, with signs marking 1 hour wait and 2 hour wait. Because of this, we decided not to go at the time. Next time we'll wait happily on the first day.
The Rest of West Hall
Next to Nintendo was Sony. Sony's area was very white. Their booth contained weird bubbles that people could sit in to experience the PSP. They were also showing theoretical PS3 videos in their upper deck, but there was a waiting line that I decided was worth it. Despite all of the weird PS3 ads, there wasn't an actual PS3 in sight. Not a whole lot else was going on in West Hall.
I exited West Hall and saw the Atari room. The last time we visited, Atari wouldn't let anybody into their room at all without special clearance despite having bought the giant banner on South Hall. Things didn't look good this time either, with people walking around with Atari passes. However, I was able to walk right into the Atari room. They had some Matrix stuff featured. I decided to check out Kentia Hall. In the hallway between West and South Halls, there was supposed to be a video game art gallery titled "Into the Pixel;" however, it was covered until later.
The Basement: Kentia Hall
Kentia Hall is located below South Hall, and many people don't even know it exists. Kentia is filled with an assortment of odd companies. Many are just starting up with new ideas and don't have a real product yet. Others are simply distributors trying to resell video game hardware and software. Finally, entire countries game industries are represented at several booths. Kentia is good for find odd swag. Particularly since I was media, many booths' representatives wanted to talk to me thinking that I could help promote their product. For some reason, there were a half dozen disc cleaning services there. The coolest was Disc-go-tech, because they gave me a media bag, without me even asking and told me I could throw out whatever I didn't want (which was basically all of it). However, the bag contained a golf shirt... one that actually fits unlike the giant polo I got from bugbug last time. There were other interesting booths like a NES/Famicom clone place (where David bought his $20 machine), a virtual reality booth, and several booths with alternative game input devices like tennis rackets and golf clubs. One booth had a Playboy girl with bunny ears and all signing photos. The line for that was by far the longest in Kentia. I met with some representatives of ICE, who had prototype controllers that let you play PC FPSes. The controller had a mouse attached to the bottom and several buttons on the top as well as two analog sticks and two triggers. The setup seemed to work well, and it will be interesting to see if they get beyond the prototype stage. The coolest thing in Kentia was the classic gaming and history of video games area, featuring all sorts of vintage console and arcade machines, most of which were fully and freely playable. As "IGN," I had several people make comments to me, suggesting great games to play like Super Mario Strikers.
South Hall run-through
Not a lot of time was left in the day, so I did a quick run-through of South Hall with the intent of coming back the next day for a better look. The largest booth in South Hall was Microsoft (Microsoft and Sony have to physically separated or their representatives will get into fights). Microsoft's area consisted of a very large green ramp with an upper area of... not much. In the lower area, there were some XBox 360s up for play in an area marked Media Only. However, it seemed anybody was allowed to play them. I watched someone play Need for Speed Underground for the 360, and while it did look nice enough, it seemed to have choppy framerates. Particularly interesting was the machines the games were running on. While the front showed an active XBox 360, a look into the side of the display showed Mac G5s that were actually running the game, as well as a desk fan to keep the whole thing cooled down. Obviously the hardware isn't actually ready yet. Nokia N-Gage had a fairly large booth with an arena in the center. The place was completely dead. I don't know why they bothered coming. The other doomed handheld contender, Gizmondo, also had a booth there. Other big names in South Hall included Capcom, Konami, THQ, EA, and Sega. Konami had a giant Katamari ball which encoraged people to stick stuff to it. Namco had a giant rotating Pac-Man, as it was his 25th anniversary. By now it was 6PM and the end of the first day of E3. We met by the stairs near the IGN room and played a little DS, leading to our interview by German press.
Dinner Adventure: 1,018 square inches
The LA convention center is not terribly far from downtown LA, so we decided to get some dinner afterwards. By this time we had picked up several people, so we had the 6 people from our group plus Fifth and his friend "Frog". We first tried the Macy's Center, but found that everything was closed. We walked back up to the street and were going to go to a mexican place, but ended up going to a pizza place instead. In there, we found a gigantic 36" pizza box, and then realized that we could actually order a pizza that large. Even though some people wanted to get their own stuff, we ended up ordering the huge pizza just for the novelty. It also turned out to be a great deal, money-wise. Right after ordering, one of the stoe employees switched the OPEN sign off; I don't know if they did this since we'd be using up the entire oven, or if they were upset that we ordered something so large so late. In any case, we ordered half pepperoni and half olive. We had to move 4 tables into a square to accommodate the monster. Out of 8 college-age guys, we only finished about half of the pizza and took the rest home. It would be eaten over the next several days, though unrefrigerated. Matt W. and Errol called up Vidgmchtr where Matt literally asked for "Vidgmchtr" to Vid's dad. Amazingly, the guy said "Oh, Vid-game-cheater" and passed off the phone.
Luigison arrived that night with a TV as well as games, so we were finally able to play GameCube without having to break anything on the hotel TV. We played the obligatory Super Smash Bros. Melee, where I indeed was the best (except for the Big Blue oddity where Chup reigned, at least after I had stopped playing Pika/Pichu). We also played Pac-Man Vs. where David appeared to be best. After this I got on Errol's computer to post here as well as access my computer (which failed since my IP address had changed but DynDNS updater wasn't running), but the others continued playing Donkey Konga and Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. Drew went to bed early again. Though I went to bed after everyone else, some people were still awake-- David wouldn't stop talking about Nintendo.