Fear and Loathing in Atlanta.

This is just my personal journal from the 1998 E3 conference. It's just a nice little thing I did for all you guys who didn't make it to the show, and for those of you who did but didn't get to hang out with me and Aaron (aka Lithium). Aaron and I will also be posting Siskel and Ebert style reviews of all the games and products we get to check out this week, which will be up this weekend or next.

Monday, May 25:

I arrived in Atlanta in the mid-afternoon. After whipping out my cell phone and plugging it into the nearest power outlet (which was practically on the baggage claim carousel), I grabbed a cab and checked into our hotel room at the Underground Suites (room 1407 for you E3 goers). Aaron wasn't arriving until tomorrow and no E3 stuff started until Wednesday, so I just kicked back and watched a couple hours of HBO and PBS (some good stuff was on). I knew Aaron was getting in sort of early, so I made sure to sleep near my cell phone, in case he called.

Tuesday, May 26:

I woke up just before Aaron arrived. Once he arrived and got his stuff situated we went down to the Underground (a mall-ish consumer area just under our hotel). We had some subs and sodas (it's so hot here). After that we walked around a bit, the back to the hotel. After some relaxing we hiked it up a couple miles to meet with James Hill and his travelling companions at the Days Inn Peachtree. The first Days Inn we walked to turned out to be the wrong one, since it was labeled wrong on the map. We chewed the fat for awhile then walked to the nearest Maarta station (the Atlanta subway system). We grabbed some tokens and jumped a train back to the Underground.

We hung out at the Underground some more (ooohh.. arcade ahhh) and grabbed some more sodas (sooo hot). A couple of us took a poll of what we thought will be the coolest game shown E3. Aaron said SiN and Duke4. I said Zelda 64 and SiN (of course). Other games mentioned were Half-Life, Quake 3, and Messiah. After that the last of James' crowd took off and Aaron and I went back to our room. We watched Ferris Bueller and browsed through a couple of gaming mags, more discussion of what's going be dope and what's going to be booty. I had to smack some artistic sense into Aaron, and draw him up some quick character sketches. They turned out ok, maybe I'll post them some time.

We started getting pretty hungry, so we ventured out into the brisk, Atlanta night. After we walked around for a couple blocks without finding a late-night coffeehouse, we asked a couple of Atlanta's finest where we could find some good eats. They essentially told us to high-tail our white butts back up the street, so we went around the block another time, then broke down and ended up back at an eatery at the Underground. We had a couple drinks and some shrimp and started ranting about what our ideal game would be. Big time blue sky talk, but we ended up with enough cool ideas that we went back to the hotel and wrote a couple pages of notes.

Aaron crashed out pretty early, but I ended up staying up until four or something, watching bad old action movies and talk shows, while drawing my little heart out. I haven't sat down and really drawn characters or creatures since my high school comic book days, so it was pretty cool to just let the ink flow freestyle. My web design/programming job is cool, but I spend most of my time drawing flow-charts and interfaces. I finally took a shower and crawled into bed around 4:30am.

Wednesday, May 27

Our wake-up call came nice and early (about 7), so I woke up, got out of bead, and dragged a comb across my head. Aaron was already ready, so we went downstairs and grabbed the first Maarta down the way to the GWCC (where E3 is being held). After we waited for about 20 minutes they let us into the media rooms, where we got our badges and a stack of flyers, brochures and promo pieces. They then directed us to the media war room Blue mentioned, where we anxiously fought our way to two computer (no really, the room was empty) to check our mail and web sites. What a surprise to find that so much had happened since we were without connections, namely the new Ritual website (nice job guys!) and some brouhaha about some of the Ritual guys leaving.

We've been here for almost an hour now, getting caught up on mail and news, and we're going to go hook up with some of the fellas for lunchy wunchy

Wednesday, May 27, cont.

Aaron and I met up with Brad from 3Dportal, and headed down to the Underground, where we had lunch (thanks again Brad). We talked about all kinds of nutty stuff, but it all revolved around gaming and websites and such, oddly enough. After lunch we took the train back to the GWCC where we took a quick tour around the show floor as everyone was setting up. No
a whole lot was going on, but it was very interesting to see the place in the huge mess and chaos before they pulled out the industrial-size vacuums. A couple cool things we saw was the huge Activision video wall (showing Heretic 2, among other things), along with the HUGE GT
Interactive booth (Duke, Prey, Blood 2, Unreal). Somewhere on the floor we ran into Joost, and he went around with us for a bit. After running around on the floor, dodging open electrical wires and huge tractor-ish vehicles, we heading back up to reality, er the hotel, and essentially passed out. That's what we tell people anyhow.

Thursday, May 28 (My birthday)

We woke up really early. Luckily Aaron put his mad kitchen skills to use and made us some coffee. We then grabbed a train to the GWCC where we proceeded straight to the press kit room. We picked up a pile of about 8 pounds of press kits (each), and then lugged them over to the ballroom where they were serving free breakfast for the press. As we ate we weeded
through the mound of PR-shit, and ended up leaving 90% of it behind. The coolest kit was probably Nintendo's, but my hat's off to everyone who included a CD with the kit, and it's REALLY OFF to those guys who ONLY had a CD. Frankly, a printed press release is worth a pile of crap nowadays. PUT IT ON DISK!!! After breakfast the head of E3 gave a little speech, then we all went to the big ballroom for the E3 keynote speech. The keynote panel was all the big-wigs, and actually had some interesting things to say about video games and video gaming in general. It wasn't until the Nintendo and Sony guys tried to say that the console/PC convergence would never happen that I got disgusted enough to leave. Let me get on another little pedestal for a minute. Consoles and PCs will converge. Eventually. That's a given. For them to say that it will
never happen (at least in the next 10 years) is really stupid. The fact that Sega's new system (Dreamcast) essentially is a stripped down PC running WindowsCE is proof enough that it will happen, and they didn't even mention Sega once the entire speech, like they don't even exist.
Weird. I step down from my pedestal now.

After the speech we high tailed it down to the show floor and went straight to check out Sin. Sin is looking very good. Some of the coolest features was a Hard Corps training map (complete with skeet shooting range), the sniper rifle (we have Mr. Bond to thank for that one), and some other very cool guns. We made sure to check out all the various FPS and action games, including Duke 4, Prey, Unreal, Blood 2, Quake 2, Heretic 2, Half-Life (and Team Fortress), Daikatana, Trespasser, and Max Payne. Besides Sin, Half-Life was my favorite, but I'm yet to see the Duke 4 back room demo, which I hear is rocking. It's going to be quite the competitive market this year. Then we went upstairs for a free lunch (another media perk), and then headed back down to Activision's booth. There we ran into sCary (remember him?), along with some other old-school
Quake dudes. After that I went and watched a little bit of the PGL action (or lack there of), then headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest.

Aaron showed up shortly after I arrived (we'd gotten separated). We hooked up with Billy and the Voodoo Extreme guys in their room (they're staying at the underground too), along with Redwood. We all headed down to Mick's (a pretty nice, swanky little restaurant up the way). There we met up with sCary, Jack Mathews, Charlie Brown, and some of the Nihilistic guys. Their table was packed so we just hung out at the bar until our table was ready. We had a few drinks, a few laughs and had some pretty awesome food. As we were leaving we ran into Blue and a couple of the GamesNet guys. They hadn't eaten yet so we tried to go back to Mick's, but they were closing so we ended up at a Mexican restaurant. Mmm.. margaritas. Actually just one huge margarita. I also had some fried ice cream, which was all right. There we got into the nitty gritty of the industry, with Blue as our unofficial moderator and Billy as the comic relief. I had a ball all around, and it turned out to be a pretty cool birthday all and all. After that we just headed back to the hotel where we just passed out

Friday, May 29

Aaron and I woke up (see a patern forming), and headed down to the GWCC. There we got hooked up with free breakfast and went to the media room to check our mail and do net stuff. Since we saw most everything Thursday we tried to see some new stuff. Starsiege Tribes is looking very dopalicious, and I totally dig the huge outdoor environment. It's also pretty ballsy of them to release the game with no real single-player game, just training maps you can play alone. Cool though. We also drooled over Half-Life some more while we were at the Sierra booth.

I went back to the Eidos/Ion booth were I played Daikatana for awhile. It was ok, but with no AI and only 2 weapons (in the map I played) it god old REAL fast. I did watch some guy play Tomb Raider 3 for a little bit, which looked like more of the same. We went back to the main room after that and saw that they were playing Sin deathmatch at the Sega/PowerVR booth, so Aaron and I jumped in line to play. For some stupid reason they had the frag limit set to ten, so it took me all of 2 minutes to put the smack down on Aaron (who had 8 kill) and the other 3 loosers we were playing against. Sin DM feels alot like Quake, and the map was right out of Duke3D, but it was pretty fun none the less. The weapons needed serious balancing though.

We made it a point to play and check out as many as the games as possible, so we spent some time playing games at the GT and Activision booths. Nothing really jumped out at me, although I did enjoy playing Unreal deathmatch. Hard to compare it to Sin's, since well, Unreal's done. Deer Hunter 2 also looked really fun, well, maybe if I was white trash. Eventually we met up with Billy and Blue again (those guys are as tight as thiefs). On our way out we ran into the Ritua crew, and ended up walking them to their hotel, then grabbing a cab with One Thumb and a couple Activision people up to Uber Fest. Now, I like these guys alot and all, but there were nine of us in a cab built for six or seven, so that kinda sucked. I did get to know Blue better than anyone could possibly want too though, so the trip wasn't all bad.

Then again, we did all end up having to pay for the cab... Once we got to Uber Fest there weren't really any spare computers, so we ended up just waiting for OT to show Sin so we could go eat (it was getting late, and we were cranky). So we all piled back into the cab (it had gone and come back, and it was like 20 minutes away from Downtown), and then dropped the Activision people off, and walked to some Japanese restaurant I forgot the name of. This is where the fun began. Between Blue and myself we probably had three large bottles of saki (the dope Japanese rice liquor), and the food was really excellent.

After we were done making asses of ourselfs there, we grabbed a cab to the party Sega was throwing. Not too much was going on there, but it was an open bar so it was pretty cool. After wandering around a bit we stumbled into the back alley where we found several people we knew. I ended up spending most of the time talking to Chris Johnson (who's a really nice guy) of 3DR about modeling for awhile, then Aaron left with Phoebus and OT. So I was stuck with the VE guys and Blue for the rest of the night. After Sega kicked us out of the party (it ended), we wandered around until a homeless person told us that a bar by there would call us a cab. So, for the last time that night we all got into a cab and rode back to the Underground.

After a quick web update I crashed out, and proceeded to halucinate about all sorts of cool stuff for the rest of the evening.

Saturday, May 30

We actually woke up late. Ahh.. headache. Anyhow, we got to the show and set out to see Prey and Duke4. After hovering around the 3D Realms booth for awhile we finally got in to see Prey. It was dope. I'm sure Aaron will post a big huge preview, but let me say I was very, very impressed. Then we went to play some arcade games (Sega had all of their arcades set to free play), include Lost World and House of the Dead. I really dig those shooter arcade games. Both of those have some cool interactive elements that really could be exploited. I'd play them more in arcades if they weren't such quarter gobblers (gobble gobble!).

Aaron and I continued to mill around (hahahah, no pun intended.. no, really!), where we spotted Sin at the HEAT booth. We wouldn't pass up an oportunity like that, so we hopped on and I proceeded to make him my whipping boy. Not really.. we both did pretty well. The game had maybe 8-10 players, and was much more fun/playable without the frag limit. It also gave me a chance to learn the map and weapons a little. I'll have all the details in my Sin preview. I think the best part was the sniper rifle, but my least favorite was the the fact that the rockets had no splash damage (around where the explode). It's just no very realistic to land a rocket explode 2 feet from your opponant's head, and have him walk away like nothin happened. Oh well, that's very likely to change.

After about 30 minutes of good Sin goodness we bumbed into Billy's Bad Boys (er, the Voodoo Extreme guys and Redwood) and went over to Ion's booth, where Blue was rumored to have been spotted. On the way I ran into Prophet, who was a really nice guy. It was good to finally meet him too. Sortly after we arrived at the Ion booth Blue came out. He said Anach was very dope, possiby the best looking of the Quake-tech games. I'm looking forward to that one and all of Tom Hall's madness. So, reunited once again, we all headed back to 3DR for one last chance of seeing Duke4. Somehow they managed to slip be into one of the last showing, and it was very cool. It wasn't nearly as polished as Sin or Half-Life, but it looks like it's going to offer some new gameplay elements to FPS. In alot of ways what was shown looked more like an arcade shooter than a normal maze-style FPS. Pretty cool. Read Aaron's preview for more info on Duke4.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. I had to catch the shuttle straight to the airport from the show, and didn't really get to say goodbye to anyone. I had a really great time, and while three days for the show was a wee bit much, I'm glad I got to stick around and hang out with everyone. Thanks to PQ for helping me score the press pass, Aaron for sharing the hotel room (and bill) and putting up with my bullshit, and everyone else who showed me cool shit or tolerated my rants. It was a dope party, and we should do it again real soon.

Till next time (QuakeCon?)... keep on a'rockin!

Patrick 'Millennium' Curry