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Alex's E3 2003 Journal - Monday, May 12th

Monday, May 12th

And so it began. I woke up this morning at the ungodly hour of 5 am, after sleeping for about an hour. I usually get to bed pretty late, so I had trouble getting to sleep earlier for my flight. Of course, I would imagine that the realization of a nearly-life-long dream had something to do with it as well. I remember reading about the first E3 and the preceding CES shows while I was living in South Africa. My brother and I would pore over the magazines, trying to glean any information we could about the upcoming games and just try to absorb the atmosphere. It's hard to believe that I'm actually on my way to the biggest video game spectacle on the planet. Needless to say, I'm excited as all get out. After a $30 cab ride to the airport, I went through the ordeal that is post-9-11 airport security inspections, and boarded the flight to Cincinnati. I must remember to keep an eye out for Howard Hesseman while I'm down there.

Fluffy clouds at cruising altitude

Nice fluffly clouds at 30,000 ft, en route to Los Angeles

I noticed that there were a couple other E3 attendees on my flight. I assumed, judging from the paraphenalia they had with them, they're part of UbiSoft Montreal, the developers behind last year's awesome stealth-action game, Splinter Cell. As it turned out, I was being a bit presumptuous. The group was part of an independant video game distributor from the Montreal area.

This brings up something that has been annoying me for a while. What's up with distribution channels these days? It could just be me, but at least in my area (and Montreal is a pretty large city), distribution is terrible. We have a number of decent video game stores in the city, and while most are fairly well stocked, there's not one that I would say is awesome. There are many games that I'm interested in seeing in action before buying that just never make it to stores over here. Yes, there is a lot of dreck on consoles like the PSone and Game Boy, and I don't mind not seeing that on shelves. But there is also a dearth of popular titles. I think I'm going to have to gather my thoughts on this and write up an Editorial for Joe.

I was picked up at LAX by Paws, Wes (Tadrith) and Ed (Fox). This in itself was a rather interesting experience, since I've never fleshmet people that I've only associated with scrolling IRC text before. However, some akward pauses later, things were going well. Most of the staff act the same in real life as they do online, so its just a matter of putting faces to voices. We all piled into a car and drove out to Wes's apartment in L.A. county, which gave me my first look at the city. I saw the Pacfiic ocean for the first time, which was a bit of a trip. A one-hour car trip later, we were at Wes's apartment, which meant meating most of the rest of the staff: Paul (Amish), Mike (Kamikaze), Brian (Choco) and Andrew (Duff; you know, I don't think he has a regular nick).

Welcome to L.A.Paul, Andrew and Ed

I finally made it to L.A. ; Paul, Andrew, and Ed in the back of Wes's car

Since Paul and I were scheduled to attend Microsoft's pre-show conference, we decided we would make our way over to our hotel. Easier said than done. Two things conspired against us: bad directions from the Internet (do yourself a favor, get a real map when you travel) and the fact that no one had the exact name and address of the hotel with them. So, we decided to figure it out on our own, which was not the best course of action. We must have driven about 60 miles out of our way, seeing regions that I thought I would never see, and a lot of the neighborhoods of L.A. We experienced rush-hour traffic, car sickness (on my part only), and a great deal of frustration in search of a place to rest our weary heads, all while the three guys in the back were playing Zelda: Four Swords. But, after nearly three hours, we finally made it to the Wilshire Grand hotel. Mikel (Firemyst) had yet to check in--we asked for him at the concierge--and it was getting late, so Paul and I made our way to the Grand Olympic Auditorium to see Microsoft blow its own horn. We arrived there at 7:29 pm, got our badges, and sprinted off to catch the 7:30 pm conference.

Microsoft E3 Briefing 2003 - Grand Olympic Auditorium

Robbie Bach, Ed Fries and J Alard led Microsoft's show-off session in front off a packed crowd. While the rest of the conferences have a bit more of a relaxed attiitude, MS was giving off that night club vibe, with plenty of bright lights and pounding tunes. For RPGs, the briefing was pretty much a bust. The only RPGs shown during the entire, one-hour event were brief glimpses of Sudeki and True Fantasy Live Online, and even these were only five-second clips during the video listings of the games on offer over the next year.

There were some non-RPGs that looked pretty interesting, however. Of course, two of the biggest games were Doom 3 and Halo 2. The former was treated to a one-minute clip showing mostly cinemas, but what gameplay there was looked quite good. There's no doubt that the game is looking stunning, but it's the way it's going to play that has me intersting in finding out more. Hopefully there will be something playable on the floor. Halo 2 was a different affair, with one of the principal developers from Bungie giving a live demo of the game. I read recently that Bungie has used some novel texture mapping techniques to reduce the number of polygons on the character models, yet still keeping them looking good. Well, they've certainly succeeded. The game looks gorgeous. There was a scene where one of the troops gave Master Chief his guns, allowing everyone's favorite green-shelled hero the chance to slaughter the competition two-handed style. There's also a new animation for taking control of Ghosts that looks fantastic. The game has me salivating, and I can't wait to hopefully get a chance to play it myself later this week.

While I do think that Microsoft has suprised a lot of people--including me--with their progress so far, they unveiled some stuff this year that might allude to their true goal of wresting control of your digital media entertainment hub. They announced a music kit that comes with a microphone, which will allow you to use for Xbox as a karaoke station. Karaoke!? That's just asinine. They were also touting software for sharing digital photos. These features might fly with consumers at large, but it definitely didn't go over well with attendees.

As my first ever exposure to the actual machinations of the video game industry, the conference was pretty good. There was supposed to be a party afterwards, but apparently that was cancelled.

Microsoft Pre-E3 Media Briefing

Microsoft E3 2003 pre-show press briefing

After the event, Paul and I (still no Doug) made our way back to the hotel. When we arrived, we were suprised to find out that Mikel still hadn't checked in. Some interrogation later, it turned out that it wasn't Mikel but someone with the same last name who was booked into the hotel. Somehow, we had ended up at completely the wrong place, and Paul and I were alone and didn't have a clue where everyone else was. A couple phone calls later, we located the rest of the crew, and we made our way over there. On our way out, we ran into Adam Sessler, host of TechTV's X-Play (previously Extended Play). We spoke a bit, mostly about his new show, and then it was off to our abode. Now, I don't mean to diss the Wilshire Royal, but it doesn't hold a candle to the Wilshire Grand. So, we took our now-prevalent disappointment and went up to meet the rest of the staff. Mikel, Doug (Stom) and Zach (ASV) were all in the hotel, waiting for us, wondering where the hell we had been the whole day. It also turned out that we were probably sitting about ten meters away from Doug at the Microsoft conference.

The rest of the evening was spent eating (finally), playing Super Smash Brothers, and generally talking and getting to know the staff. We decided that we would head on over to the Kodak Auditorium in the morning to crash Nintendo's pre-show conference. Doug had emailed them a couple weeks ago about getting some of us in, but they never replied. So, business cards in hand, we're going to take matters into our own hands.

--------> Tue, May 13th


by Alex Wollenschlaeger    


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