10 things I learned at E3 2010
I knew that my first E3 experience was going to be a surreal one when, while waiting for the doors of the LA Convention Center to open on the first day, I realized I was standing next to CBS News Reporter Manuel Gallegus. While his wasn't the last familiar face I'd see during my time in LA, it was the first indication I had that this trip was going to be... different.
For three days, I waded through the crowds at E3 like a salmon trying to swim upstream. The convention can be a little overwhelming for a first-timer. The moment you walk through the doors, you're assaulted by a wall of sound, bright lights, and bodies. There are rows and rows of booths filled with games to play, movies to see, and free swag to grab.
Am I glad I attended E3? Absolutely. It was not only a trip filled with good games and people, it was a learning experience as well. Here, in no particular order, are some of the things I discovered during my time in LA:
[b]Travel plans can (and probably will) go wrong[/b]
Two days before E3, I received an email from the Sheraton telling me that they were giving my room away--probably to a Lakers fan who they could charge double--and sending me to another hotel about 30 minutes away in Pasadena. After a weekend spent yelling at hotel management and failing to find a room at another hotel, I boarded the plane and headed to California with no idea of what to expect from my new sleeping arrangements. Luckily, the Westin was a lovely hotel and all the yelling I'd done the previous weekend netted me a free night's stay, free internet access, and a big stack of Yellow Cab taxi vouchers. The moral of the story? Don't panic and try to roll with the punches. Also, yelling helps.
[b]LA cab drivers are all out to kill me[/b]
Getting back and forth from the LA Convention Center to my hotel each day was a heart-stopping adventure thanks to the city's cab drivers. When they weren't talking on their cell phones or trying to read my vouchers while simultaneously steering the cab, they were driving down California's freeways at speeds that would make a NASCAR driver proud. All I could do was hold on for dear life and hope I made it to my destination in one piece.
[b]Sneakers are a must[/b]
Flip-flops and sandals are Florida staples and I almost packed them up to bring with me to California. By the end of the first day, my feet were very glad I left them at home! Sneakers, in my opinion, are almost a necessity for surviving three days of constant walking and standing. The only times I got to sit down were during appointments or whenever I could find a bare patch of carpeting against the wall of the convention center.
[b]A voice recorder is also a must[/b]
Before I left for LA, I invested $90 on an Olympus digital voice recorder. Easy to operate, the recorder picked up the voices of everyone I interviewed at the convention despite all of the background noise. It was worth every penny.
[b]Some games will surprise you[/b]
When I first stepped into the room where 2K Games was showing off Spec Ops: The Line, I wasn't expecting to like it. I've never been a big fan of military-themed games. But by the end of the presentation, I was sold. Spec Ops is a visually stunning game with a compelling setting, fast-paced combat, and what promises to be a dark storyline and morality-based system. I'm looking forward to seeing how the game turns out when it's released.
[b]Some games will disappoint you[/b]
While Spec Ops turned out to be a pleasant surprise, I can't say the same for some of the other games I saw while at E3. After standing in line for about an hour to get a little hands on time with Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, I came away from it not terribly impressed. As one of those people who believes a good single-player game doesn't need multiplayer, I found Brotherhood's predator and prey game play exciting... for a few minutes. Then, I was bored.
I was also not impressed by F.E.A.R. 3. The first game was a tense and scary affair punctuated by moments of fast-paced action. While the visuals of the third game are impressive enough, and the action fast and furious, the game just wasn't scary. F.E.A.R. 3 features a new co-op mode, and how scary can a game be, I wonder, when you're playing with a buddy?
[b]It pays to do your homework[/b]
The weekend before the expo, I spent a little time looking up the various developers and their current projects. That bit of homework paid off when, a few days later, I found myself sitting across a table from 38 Studios founder (and former Boston Red Sox pitcher) Curt Schilling. The studio's current projects are so early in development they don't even have names, yet I was able to conduct an interview about them and appear at least (in my mind) semi-knowledgeable on the subject. And the topic of baseball never even came up once. I was afraid if it did I'd be forced to admit to Mr. Schilling my status as a former New Yorker and lifelong Yankees fan.
[b]People in California are very nice[/b]
From the hotel staff, to the developers, to the random journalist who stopped to take a picture for me next to the Big Daddy, everyone was unfailingly nice. Even the cab drivers, when they weren't trying to hurl me from the vehicle at a high rate of speed, were chatty and polite.
When you're spending three days in a packed convention center with thousands of other people, it helps to dress lightly. Especially in the summer! But it also helps if your suitcase is light as well, so you can fill the extra space with all the free swag you might nab. Throughout the course of the expo, I picked up a free t-shirt, a fridge magnet, a hat, three different tote bags, a couple of magazines, and an iPhone holder. Later on, I would feel a twinge of guilt watching two flight attendants trying to cram my overstuffed suitcase into the overhead compartment.
[b]Make fewer appointments[/b]
I spent so much time in appointments, and traveling to and from appointments, that I hardly had time to queue up to play many of the games being shown. I think the key to making the most out of E3 next year is going to be a balance between meetings with developers and time on the show floor.