How to improve the E3 Expo

E3 2011 was considerd a runaway success by just about everybody you ask. The show went smoothly, the booths were packed, there was plenty of awesome games on display, and as far as I know, nobody got hurt. So why nitpick? Well, there are some issues with E3 and I think it would be wrong not to talk about them. Here are a few ideas I have about how to improve the gaming industry’s greatest event.

Increase access to the show

I discussed how the ESA is in essence creating a closed loop by restricting access to smaller media sites a bit before the show, so I’ll keep that brief, but there are ways in which the E3 Expo could improve access to the show floor without compromising the media’s ability to work.
E3 2011 ran from Tuesday to Thursday. The press conferences generally take place on Monday and Tuesday, and a few parties last until Friday or Saturday, but the show floor itself is only open for three days. Publishers spend unspeakable amounts of money to construct their booths, only to have them up for three days. My idea would be to extend the show for two more days, but allow those who don’t qualify for media badges only to attend days 4 and 5, while days 1, 2, and 3 would be media exclusive. The media would benefit by dramatically smaller crowds during their stay, and even with one less day, the general attendees would also have a smaller crowd. The extra two days would also extend coverage of the show, allowing for some of the smaller titles to get some additional exposure. Due to thinner crowds, the ESA could relax the media restrictions enough to get smaller sites a better chance at attending the conference.

Consider a new venue

Los Angeles is actually not the most ideal city for holding E3. It’s convenient for many of the developers that live in the area, but for travelers, it’s not great. The city is expensive, it’s public transportation isn’t as good as other popular convention cities, and downtown LA doesn’t have much to offer in regards to activities besides crummy bars and some movie theaters. A city like Las Vegas offers better public transport, more hotel options, better activities, and an overall more affordable destination for most travelers. Even San Diego or the Bay Area would be better if they wanted to keep the convention in California.

Require more from official partners

The E3 Expo is a huge benefit to the city of Los Angeles, its hotels and restaurants, and local businesses. Hotels, in order to be part of the official E3 housing, should offer free Internet to their guests. My hotel, which was a very nice hotel, still charged a $13/day Internet fee. I guarantee that they’d drop that fee for E3 attendees if it was a requirement to be part of official E3 housing.
Given the huge boon to the local economy that E3 provides, it wouldn’t be hard for the expo to leverage their muscle just a bit more to help attendees get some extra perks. I’ve been to other conventions that have handled this much more proactively than E3 does.
I hope it doesn’t sound like I dislike E3, because I love going to the conference each year, but I do think it could be better. It seems that each year the show has a healthy showing and a good time is had by its attendees, but I rarely see the show organizers strive to improve the conference in a measurable way. With a few improvements, E3 could be more accessible, more affordable, and an overall more comfortable expo to attend for both media and general attendees.

Out to E3: The Stupid Gamer is on Hiatus

For E3 week I’ll be down in Los Angeles and will be taking a break for The Stupid Gamer. I’ll be covering the show for, so head over there to check it out. A couple of years ago I did blog my E3 schedule and how my days broke down here on Stupid Gamer; and I might do that again, but all of my reactions and previews will be found on Gamer Theory. Enjoy the week away from me…

The E3 2011 hype train is out of control

Best ever. Will blow your mind. Insane lineup. Tons of surprises. No holding back. Biggest ever. Gargantuan. Best ever.

Those are just some of the descriptors spilling out of the various journalists that have already been through their pre-E3 weeks. At first I was taking it all in as hyperbole, but it’s quite impressive to see how many respected journalists that have seen advance looks at games are selling the hype for E3 2011. All this hype excludes the surprises that the big 3 have in store as well. I’ll be attending E3 2011 and it sounds like it’s going to be one of the more crazy shows I’ve been to. Thinking about what we know, here’s what I’m expecting to be some of the big buzz makers at the show:

  • Modern Warfare 3
  • The Last Guardian
  • Battlefield 3
  • Uncharted 3
  • Project Cafe (Wii successor)
  • BioShock Infinite
  • Sony NGP
  • Mass Effect 3
  • Rage
  • Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  • Gears of War 3
  • Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
  • Batman Arkham City
  • Mario Kart 3DS
  • Super Mario Bros. 3DS
  • The rumored Halo project
It’s a pretty long list, and that’s just basing things off of what we already know. I’m really hoping that Pikmin 3 makes a showing for Nintendo, that the Kinect and Move find ways of proving their worth, and that the NGP proves to be more valuable of a gaming platform than the PSP. It’s going to be a huge show and we’ll be previewing it in our next podcast. What are you looking forward to at E3 2011?

Report: Nintendo to unveil a new HD console at E3

Game Informer is reporting that several sources have confirmed that Nintendo will be announcing and unveiling a new HD console at E3 this year. In an article posted on their website, Game Informer pieces together some quotes from people who have seen the console and they also report that developers are already being brought into the loop. It sounds of Nintendo is going to make this one very developer friendly and is going to be finally joining the ranks of the HD gaming movement.

Nothing has been said in regards to whether or not the console will have motion controls, but one anonymous source did say, “Nintendo is doing this one right. [It’s] not a gimmick like the Wii.” While I hope that doesn’t spell doom for motion controls, I do hope that it means that a more standard control scheme will be optional for developers and gamers to use if they wish to do so.

Check out the full story at Game Informer:

Update: More sources are reporting, and now it looks as if there will be an announcement this month. Also, IGN is saying that the new console will indeed be backwards compatible with Wii software. Some sources are saying it surpasses the 360 and Ps3 in power, others are saying it’s just shy of the Xbox 360. We’ll wait for official specs to call that one.

Is the ESA creating a closed loop with their E3 Expo media requirements?

Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I have been accepted to E3 for 2011 and have had a media pass for the last 8 years. However, I have seen many great journalists denied entry for E3 2011 that have always been able to go in the past.

Every year the E3 Expo is the industry’s biggest showcase for games to be released over the next year or two. Major announcements are made at E3, media is able to get early impressions of games behind closed doors, and general attendees can play games that are still months from seeing a release date. For those that aren’t too familiar with the requirements to enter E3, here are the ways to get in:

  • Qualified Media – The ESA gives free E3 passes to qualified media members. This is how I’ve been going for the past 8 years. To qualify, you have to prove you are employed by a member of the gaming press and the site you represent must meet certain standards (traffic, quality, reputation, etc.) defined by the ESA for entry. The number of attendees from each media outlet allowed depends on how prominent your site is in the industry (usually defined by traffic numbers).
  • Exhibitor – If your company is showing games, hardware, accessories, or industry related services off at E3, you’ll be allowed to enter. A company can only secure a limited number of exhibitor badges, which depends on the amount of floor space they purchase.
  • Exhibits Only – Exhibits only badges are for people who are part of the industry but do not qualify for media or exhibitor badges. This can be developers, hardware makers, entertainment outlets, or anything related to the industry; even if the connection is rather loose. These passes are not free and must be purchased. Journalists that don’t qualify for media badges may get an exhibits only badge, but they must pay the $400 ($500 after the early registration deadline) for entry.

Nobody under 18 is allowed in the show, but exceptions are made for VIP guests (usually famous teen actors/singers). VIP passes may be handed out by the ESA or certain companies may secure them for special guests or contest winners. All of that looks fine, but I have issues with how the media passes are doled out.

What is happening with E3 is that only the bigger media outlets are being given free passes. I spoke with someone in the registration office and they said it is to cut down on overall numbers and that publishers have been asking for tighter control for years. Again, I  understand the need for crowd control, but the ESA is going about this all wrong. Rather than locking out the smaller sites, it would be far better to limit the numbers being sent by qualified sites. By locking out the smaller media outlets and the enthusiasts, they’re basically killing the best chance each year that these sites have at increasing their readers since they won’t have access to E3 demos and to publishers for interviews. Everybody will still flow to IGN, Gamespot, 1UP, etc. since they’re the ones allowed into the show with full media access. Also, the companies that can most afford to send people to Los Angeles for three days are getting their passes for free.

The ESA is playing a huge role in deciding the shape of games journalism, and it’s disappointing that the locking out of the little guys from E3 will be far more harsh this year than ever, despite the growing swell of support for the enthusiast press by the gaming audience. While this is all disappointing, it’s even more unnecessary to give large outlets a disproportionate presence when you consider all of the pre-E3 events.

Publishers understand that E3 is a busy convention and there’s not quite enough time for every game to get covered in great depth. They also know that the show floor is loud and crowded. In response to this, many publishers hold pre-E3 events where they invite top media sites and freelancers to come see their E3 offerings ahead of time. These sites get quality hands on time with the E3 demos before the kiosks have ever even been set up in the Los Angeles Convention Center. When IGN rolls into E3, they’ve already played most of the stuff they’re worried about and the stories have been written. So why do the big boys need to send 50 people? Well, they don’t really. In speaking with editors from larger sites they’ve always told me that E3 is an excuse to get away for a few days, attend some parties, and hang out with other journalists. They don’t have to sit up until 4:00am each night trying to pound out demo impressions on their computers because they wrote them up the week before after attending a pre-E3 event.

Given that these pre-E3 events are becoming more and more common, it seems that the ESA should be more lenient about letting smaller sites into the show. They can still have restrictions on entry, but maybe they need to scale back the numbers being sent by large companies and reduce the number of attendee passes they sell. Obviously the ESA is hoping that those that don’t quite make their thresholds for media clearance will buy their way in, but ultimately most smaller sites will just have to sit the show out.

Maybe publishers will be happier with the smaller crowds this year when they’re able to have more breathing room in their booths, but I have to wonder how much they’ll love the decreased chatter from the enthusiast press when it comes to impressions of their demos that they spent millions of dollars to put on exhibit at E3 2011.

I’m hoping that those that struggle to get into the show this year are able to make their voices heard and that for E3 2012 the ESA will re-evaluate their approval process and allow for the little guy to attend the show again. If anybody is left out of the show this year, and they need a hands on preview or two, let me know and I’d be happy to do some freelance work free of charge in exchange for a link or two my way.

Game Critics Awards Best of E3 Awards

The story can be found at, but here’s the list to save you the click (winners in bold).

Best of Show
– Brütal Legend (Double Fine Productions/EAP for PS3, Xbox 360)
– Mass Effect 2 (BioWare/Electronic Arts for Xbox 360, PC)
– Modern Warfare 2 (Infinity Ward/Activision for PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
– Splinter Cell Conviction (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft for Xbox 360)
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (Naughty Dog/SCEA for PS3)

Best Original Game
– Alan Wake (Remedy/MGS for Xbox 360)
– Bayonetta (Platinum Games/Sega for PS3, Xbox 360)
– Brütal Legend (Double Fine Productions/EAP for PS3, Xbox 360)
– Heavy Rain (Quantic Dream/SCEE for PS3)
Scribblenauts (5TH Cell/WBIE for Nintendo DS)

Best Console Game
– Brütal Legend (Double Fine Productions/EAP for PS3, Xbox 360)
– God of War 3 (Sony Santa Monica/SCEA for PS3)
– Mass Effect 2 (BioWare/Electronic Arts for Xbox 360)
– Modern Warfare 2 (Infinity Ward/Activision for PS3, Xbox 360)
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (Naughty Dog/SCEA for PS3)

Best Handheld Game
– Gran Turismo (Polyphony Digital/SCEJ for PSP)
– LittleBigPlanet (SCE Studio Cambridge/Media Molecule/SCEE for PSP)
– Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story (Alphadream/Nintendo for Nintendo DS)
Scribblenauts (5TH Cell/WBIE for Nintendo DS)
– The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (Nintendo for Nintendo DS)

Best PC Game
– DC Universe Online (Sony Online Austin/SOE)
– Dragon Age: Origins (BioWare/EA)
– Left 4 Dead 2 (Valve/EAP)
Star Wars: The Old Republic (BioWare Austin/LucasArts)
– Supreme Commander 2 (Gas Powered Games/Square Enix)

Best Hardware
– DJ Hero Controller (Freestyle Games/Red Octane/Activision)
“Project Natal” (Microsoft)
– PSP Go (Sony Computer Entertainment)
– Tony Hawk Ride Skateboard (Robomodo/Activision)
– Wii MotionPlus (Nintendo)

Best Action Game
– BioShock 2 (2K Marin/2K Games for PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
– Halo 3 ODST (Bungie/MGS for Xbox 360)
– Left 4 Dead 2 (Valve/EAP for Xbox 360, PC)
Modern Warfare 2 (Infinity Ward/Activision for PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
– Singularity (Raven/Activision for PS3, Xbox 360, PC)

Best Action/Adventure Game
– Bayonetta (Platinum Games/Sega for PS3, Xbox 360)
– Brütal Legend (Double Fine Productions/EAP for PS3, Xbox 360)
– God of War 3 (Sony Santa Monica/SCEA for PS3)
– Splinter Cell Conviction (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft for Xbox 360)
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (Naughty Dog/SCEA for PS3)

Best Role Playing Game
– Alpha Protocol (Obsidian/Sega for PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
– Dragon Age: Origins (BioWare/EA for PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
– Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story (Alphadream/Nintendo for Nintendo DS)
Mass Effect 2 (BioWare/EA for Xbox 360, PC)
– Star Wars: The Old Republic (BioWare Austin/LucasArts for PC)

Best Racing Game
– Blur (Bizzare Creations/Activision for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC)
– Forza Motorsport 3 (Turn 10/MGS for Xbox 360)
– ModNation Racers (United Front/SCEA for PS3)
– Need for Speed Shift (Slightly Mad/EA Games for PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
Split/Second (Black Rock/Disney Interactive for PS3, Xbox 360, PC)

Best Fighting Game
– Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes (Foundation 9/Capcom for PS3, Xbox 360)
– Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny (Project Soul/Namco-Bandai Games for PSP)
Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All Stars (Eighting/Capcom for Wii)
– Tekken 6 (Namco Bandai for PS3, Xbox 360)
– The King of Fighters XII (SNK Playmore for PS3, Xbox 360)

Best Sports Game
Fight Night Round 4 (EA Canada/EA Sports for PS3, Xbox 360)
– Madden NFL 10 (EA Tiburon/EA Sports for PS3, Xbox 360, Wii)
– NHL 10 (EA Canada/EA Sports for PS3, Xbox 360)
– Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 (EA Tiburon/EA Sports for Wii)
– Tony Hawk Ride (Robomodo/Activision for PS3, Xbox 360, Wii)

Best Strategy Game
– League of Legends: Clash of Fates (Riot Games for PC)
– Order of War ( Enix for PC)
– R.U.S.E. (Eugen Systems/Ubisoft for PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
Supreme Commander 2 (Gas Powered Games/Square Enix for Xbox 360, PC)

Best Social/Casual Game
DJ Hero (Freestyle/Red Octane/Activision for PS3, Xbox 360, Wii)
– Guitar Hero 5 (Neversoft/Red Octane/Activision for All Systems)
– Scribblenauts (5TH Cell/WBIE for Nintendo DS)
– The Beatles Rock Band (Harmonix/MTV Games/EAP for PS3, Xbox 360, Wii)
– Wii Sports Resort (Nintendo for Wii)

Best Online Multiplayer Game
– Halo 3 ODST (Bungie/MGS for Xbox 360)
Left 4 Dead 2 (Valve/EAP for Xbox 360, PC)
– MAG (Zipper Interactive/SCEA for PS3)
– Star Wars: The Old Republic (BioWare Austin/LucasArts for PC)
– Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (Naughty Dog/SCEA for PS3)

My top ten games of E3 2009

I published my top ten games of E3 2009 over at Kombo, but I figured I’d share them here with a little bit more info on each one. They are presented in no particular order, except for my game of the show (which is obviously number 1). Here we go.

  • Metroid: Other M – When Nintendo rolled the trailer for this I was pretty surprised. Before the conference I had Tweeted that I expected a New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and I had been telling friends that I also expected a new Metroid, but Other M still managed to surprise me with how it looked and with the fact that it’s co-developed by Team Ninja. I really can’t wait to see how this plays out.
  • Modern Warfare 2 – I feel that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the best console FPS of all time, so it’s only natural that I’d be hyped up for the sequel. I thought that the game looked great at the show, and I’m very interested in seeing more as the game gets nearer to release.
  • Heavy Rain – While there are still a lot of questions surrounding this game, there’s no denying that it looks fantastic. I’m hoping that due to all the branching storyline paths that this game will be very replayable.
  • The Beatles: Rock Band – When it was first announced I figured that this was basically Rock Band with a Beatles skin, but after having played the game at E3 and watching it for a while, I’ve come to see that it is indeed a new experience. With support for thee-part harmonies and some gorgeous art, this looks like it’s going to be well worth the price of entry.
  • Uncharted 2 – Few games at E3 so thoroughly wowed the audience as Uncharted 2 managed to do. The game looks absolutely stunning and it seems to have received a significant gameplay and AI upgrade. The first Uncharted was awesome, so there’s no doubt in my mind that this one deserves a big old hype train.
  • God of War III – The God of War series is really, really, good. If you’re not a Sony guy, it’s possible that you’ve passed on this series, and that’s tood bad. God of War III looked amazing at E3, and the demo was a blast to play. Somehow they manage to take the action and carnage to a higher level with each release, and God of War III is no exception.
  • Sin and Punishment 2 – Seeing this playable on the show floor was a little surprising, as the game is not due out until 2010. After playing through it a few times it was safe to say that Sin and Punishment 2 was one of my favorite demos at the show. The game controlled well, had nice flow, and was full of that classic Treasure style. The game should be a big hit with fans of the original, myself included.
  • Alan Wake – Of all the games that Microsoft had to show at their conference, I fell that Alan Wake was the most impressive. The game has been a long time coming, but it’s looking like it’s been well worth the wait. As expected, the game looked incredible. It differentiated itself well from Heavy Rain and proved to be the more action-orientated title between the two.
  • New Super Mario Bros. – I called it! Heh, this game was a blast to play on the show floor in a 4-player setting, but I’m quite sure that the single player experience will be great fun too. It’s hard not to get excited about a new and playable Mario game at E3.
  • Scribblenauts – In the end, my game of the show was Scribblenauts for the DS. Here’s a direct quote from my writeup at Kombo on the game: In a year when all three major consoles really came out and had excellent showings, it took me by surprise that I ended up singling out a handheld title for my top pick of E3. Handled correctly, Scribblenauts could be the next runaway sensation on the DS. The game’s approach to problem solving is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before and it should keep all types of gamers interested in seeing just how many different ways they can manage to meet their goal. Each time I walked away from the demo station it was all I could do not to turn right back and try one more thing out on the game.

Honorable Mentions

The games listed here are pretty much as good as the top ten, but they either didn’t have the same surprising impact behind them, maybe they weren’t playable, or maybe they just ended up here because I could only pick ten games and I sadly had to relegate a few to the outer edges. Here are the other games I was big on at E3 2009.

  • Super Mario Galaxy 2
  • Mass Effect 2
  • Wii Sports Resort
  • Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
  • Splinter Cell: Conviction
  • Battlefield: Bad Company 2
  • Brutal Legend
  • FIFA 10
  • Left 4 Dead 2
  • Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time
  • Borderlands
  • Mafia II
  • Shadow Complex
  • A Boy and His Blob
  • Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story
  • Assassin’s Creed 2
  • The Last Guardian

E3 link dump, photo slideshow, and general awesomeness

Below you’ll find a slideshow of some of the pics I took at E3. I might be adding more as time goes on, so if you care, check back and watch the slide show again to see anything new. After that, I have links to some of my hands-on articles that I wrote for I’m still going to do that E3 wrapup podcast and will also reveal my top picks for the show soon. I imagine your hype for said things must be through the roof. You can view a full screen version of the photo slideshow by hitting that little button with the four arrows on the bottom of the image window.

Links to hands-on articles (I will be adding to this as more stories go live):

E3 2009: Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Multiplayer
E3 2009: Mafia II Impressions
E3 2009: A Boy and His Blob
E3 2009: New Super Mario Bros.
E3 2009: The Beatles: Rock Band
E3 2009: Sin and Punishment 2
E3 2009: The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
E3 2009: Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time
E3 2009: Real Heroes: Firefighter

E3 Summary Day 3

Ah, the final day of E3. Day three is the day when you wrap up your last interviews and appointments and you make a mad scramble to get some hands-on time with the games you’ve had to pass over due to time constraints or that you just didn’t catch wind of the hype train until this point. This is the day when you have to shrug off the burnout you’re feeling and really get out and play some games, because it’s quite easy to wear out and miss out on some games. I usually like to be up and ready to go a little early on day 3 so that I can be there as soon as the doors open. I like to head straight to the demo I have just can’t miss that I haven’t tried yet. Unfortunately for me, my day would start a little too early.

Day 3 of E3 started for me at approximately 3:30am when the fire alarms went off in the hotel. After being scared right out of bed by an ear-piercing screeching noise, I poked my head out into the hall to see what was going on. The large fire doors were closed in the hall and a few other hotel guests were trying to make sense of what was going on as well. I could tell that the air was a little heavy, so I figured I’d head for the stairwell. Before doing so, I stuffed my laptop, my camera, and my wallet into my backpack. I also quickly got dressed and slipped out of my room hoping that I wouldn’t lose everything I left behind in a fire. The door to the stairwell was locked, and I looked down the hall and noticed a gathering near the emergency exit. I headed over and found that people had already started climbing down the fire escape, and in the distance we could hear fire engines coming toward us. Within about a minute four fire engines, an ambulance, a couple of police cars were out in front of the hotel. One fire engine extended its ladder to the roof, one to the middle of the hotel, and firemen poured out of all four and into the hotel either via ladder or through the lobby down below. As I climbed down the fire escape I could hear a handful of people starting panic that were further up the exit. Not good. When my feet hit solid ground I felt a bit of relief, and I began fishing into my backpack for my camcorder. People continued to climb down the building and pour out of the lobby. Around 4:15am the firemen said it was safe to head back in, and I took a little bit of video of them announcing the all clear. You’ll notice in the (extremely shaky) video below that as they’re telling us to head back in that there’s still someone climbing down the fire escape. 45 minutes to climb down?! After the all clear we all went back to our rooms, but the air inside still felt heavy. We all guessed that it was something along the lines of an electrical fire that had been dealt with, but we were never sure. I slept very light the rest of the night, obviously.

After that start to the day, I was somehow still feeling excited and energized for day three of the show. I took the shuttle to the expo, bought a horribly fattening cinnamon bun from the grumpiest cashier LA has ever seen, and sat down to eat while I planned my day. I had two appointments for the day, so most of the day would be free. I spent the remaining time before the show floor opened checking my luggage at the bag check and up in the media room writing some articles and watching a pinball restoration DVD on my laptop (yeah, so maybe my focus had waned a little by day three). At 10:00 I headed downstairs and into the West Hall for my final day.

Again, the line to Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks was well over an hour long, so I headed over to Sony instead and played Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time. Boy, what a great demo! I’ve always loved the R&C series, and A Crack in Time seems to be another great one in the making. As I played a Sony booth attendant came over and asked me what I thought of the game, a little bit about the site I write for, and what I thought of the show as a whole. He left me with a fist full of Uncharted 2 multiplayer beta codes to give out to readers. I still have a couple left, so let me know if you’d be interested.

After Ratchet, I puttered around the Sony booth and played the PSP Go, Uncharted 2, God of War III (thanks to a booth attendant allowing me to jump the line), and a handful of the 3rd party games. I really wish I disliked the PSP Go, because I think it’s terribly overpriced but I already want one. If they can deliver on the promise to make most of the games downloadable, I’ll be sold on the little machine. I just hope that some of the obscure stuff, like Gradius Collection, is good to go at launch. Uncharted, as expected, was pretty dang cool. That game should be a bit hit for Sony, and we all know that God of War III is primed to be a top contender for action game of the year.

One side of Sonys Booth at E3 2009 (click).
One side of Sony's Booth at E3 2009 (click).

After a quick lunch I dropped into the South Hall and got some hands-on with the game that probably impressed me most at the show. Yeah, I’m talking about Scribblenauts. If you don’t know what this game is, you’ll have to do some reading up, but I’ve embedded the trailer below. Really, it can’t be overstated just how cool this game was to play around with. I couldn’t stump the game, and I put in some really random items. If you get a chance, hunt down the video with the Nintendorks and Nick Suttner setting up a fight between The Kraken and God. Yes, it is possible in Scribblenauts.

Next up was my booth tour with EA Games. I picked up my media badge and was escorted into the Dragon Age: Origins showing shortly after. I’m not exactly sure how I feel about this game. It looked pretty good, it seems to be deep, and it had nice visuals, but I just got a strange vibe from it. Maybe it was that the demo felt kind of slow, but I was both impressed and disappointed at the same time by the game. After the demo, they allowed press to play, and since I was the only press member there at the time, I got to hang around alone and play through a dungeon. Even after playing, I felt the same way…impressed and disappointed at the same time. Who knows, maybe the game will come around for me a bit more with some more development time. BioWare is a great developer, so I’ll keep an eye on the project.

After Dragon Age I ran into Ron Yatco outside of the Army of Two: The 40th Day closed-doors booth. I met Ron when he invited me up to the EA Community Day event for Skate 2 up in Vancouver back in November. After catching up a bit, he urged me to check out the Army of Two game, despite my less than favorable opinions of the first title. I’m glad I listened to Ron, because Army of Two showed very well at E3. Things were still pretty rough as far as polish went, but the gameplay and setting of the game looked great. I think this title already looks light years ahead of the original and I’ll definitely be giving it a fair chance when it releases. Some of the co-op mechanics in the game were truly innovative.

The next game I checked out at EA was Battlefield: Bad Company 2. This game showed quite well and I got to play through a multiplayer match with some of the EA employees. My full hands-on are up over at Kombo, so I’ll keep my comments short here. I really liked the first Bad Company, but like many sequels at E3 this year, Bad Company 2 felt like a big step forward over its predecessor. The scope of the game felt much bigger, and combat felt like it had been refined significantly.

Not related to EA, but yeah, I found Waldo at E3 (click).
Not related to EA, but yeah, I found Waldo at E3 (click).

The last game I spent any real time with in the EA booth was FIFA 10. Yeah, I know most people aren’t going to care about a soccer game, but I happen to play FIFA games quite a bit with friends online. The advancements in FIFA 10 were very impressive. The game is receiving an overhaul in the AI, physics, and online integration departments. Rather than just a new coat of paint for another year, the FIFA 10 team is really getting aggressive with improvements based on both community feedback and internal testing.

EA’s booth had quite a few more games in there that were drawing a lot of attention. To get some hands-on time with Brutal Legend you’d have to dedicate at least 30 minutes to get through the line, and both Need for Speed games were seemingly popular. Madden 10 was looking pretty solid, but I have a lot of skepticism for that series based on the past few years. I keep hearing that this year is going to be the year it takes a big step forward, but I’ll need to see it first before I’ll believe it.

A video showing The Sims 3 in EAs booth at E3 2009 (click).
A video showing The Sims 3 in EA's booth at E3 2009 (click).

After my time at EA I had to hustle to the meeting rooms up above the West Hall for my last official meeting at E3. I had a time set up with Majesco to review their lineup. At first I was a bit disinterested in their showings, but once I got my hands on A Boy and His Blob I was excited in a big way. I’m a fan of the original game, even if it was brutal in its difficulty level. This re-boot of the series looked, played, and felt great! The graphics are charming, the puzzles were clever, and the game just oozed with personality. I am really pulling for this title to perform well upon release. I walked out of the Majesco booth happy, despite it being time for me to end my E3 experience. It was a great way to put the finishing touches on an absolutely amazing show.

After walking down from the meeting rooms I took one last glance through the doors of the West Hall. Part of me wanted to make one more lap around the booths or to quickly jump on one more demo unit, but I knew I needed to get my bag and get headed to the airport. I grabbed my bag from the bag check, walked out to the front of the expo, and headed over to the row of taxis with a pinch of sadness that it would be another year until the next show. On the other hand, I was buzzing with excitement to get back home to see my wife and newborn baby boy. Within a few minutes I was in the back of a taxi, Tweeting my farewells to E3 and praying for safety as my taxi driver weaved through traffic and sped down the LA city streets. The LA convention center disappeared behind the skyscrapers and smog behind me and with that my E3 experience for 2009 was done.

Day 1 Summary

Day 2 Summary

E3 Link Dump, Photos

E3 Summary Day 2

After a very rough night’s sleep, I just wanted to get out of my hotel after rolling out of bed and taking a quick shower. After brushing my teeth I dropped my toothbrush on the floor, and this would be a big mistake, which I’ll explain later. Rather than wait for the E3 shuttle to arrive, I took the cab parked outside of the hotel. This turned out to be a big mistake, as it was nearly $15 to get to the Expo, even though it was only about 2 miles away. The slow pace of LA traffic makes that taxi ticker roll up big bucks faster than you’d think.

Just outside of Club Nokia, where the Nintendo conference had taken place the day before, I remembered having seen a Starbucks. I ran in real quick and picked up an overpriced muffin and a protein drink that tasted like ground up chalk, salty water, and a touch of fruit juice. Not a good way to get going in the morning. After choking down the drink, I hustled over to the show, as I had a 9:00am meeting with Splitfish. I did take a moment to buy another drink to kill the lingering aftertaste from the protein sludge. As I tried to enter the South Hall, security stopped me and told me that nobody was allowed in until 10:00. Great. I looked around and noticed that a bunch of journalists were getting turned away, so I decided not to sweat it and made the walk over to the media room where I could bang out a handful of articles.

Right at 10:00 I decided to try and get over to Nintendo to get some more hands-on time with The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, as it was one of my favorites that I played on the first day. Well, I wasn’t alone, and despite getting into the hall only about a minute after the doors opened, I noticed the line to play Zelda was at least an hour long. With a ton of time on my hands due to giving up half my meetings for the day to a fellow Kombo writer who needed more appointments, I really got a chance to check out some of the lesser-hyped games.

For some reason FF: The Crystal Bearers didnt carry much hype (click).
For some reason FF: The Crystal Bearers didn't carry much hype (click).

One title that I found particularly interesting was Real Heroes: Firefighter. This won’t be the next big hit, but I have to respect what they were doing here. The title will be published by Crave, and it’s basically a FPS without any killing, any real violence, or any harsh language. You play as a firefighter, and your enemies are nothing more than flames. The project is being handled by former Call of Duty developers, so its mechanics were solid. The devs said that this game was one that was safe for families to enjoy while still providing hardcore gameplay. Again, it’s not the next big franchise in the making, but I do respect what they’re trying to do there.

This sight would become an eery bit of foreshadowing for day 3... (click)
This sight would become an eery bit of foreshadowing for day 3... (click) Image credit: IGN

As I’m a sucker for pinball and arcade games, I had to check out Crave’s pinball collection titles. Both the Williams and Gottlieb collections were great, but the real treat in the booth was an actual Medieval Madness pinball machine! I was probably one of a very small number of show attendees that managed to get excited about the machine, but I had to take an opportunity to play the game. For the next 30 minutes I played and grinned like a little kid before moving on. Fun fact: Tina Fey did voice work for Medieval Madness.

As I wandered around I noticed that day 2 was plagued with people causing traffic jams all over the place to take pictures of and with the booth babes. I found this to be more annoying than in past years for some reason, but I guess I should accept it as it’ll never go away.

Its not the booth babes themselves that are the problem at E3... (click). Image credit: IGN
It's not the booth babes themselves that are the problem at E3... (click). Image credit: IGN
...its the dorks that plug up the walking lanes by posing with them (click)! Image credit:'s the dorks that plug up the walking lanes by posing with them (click)! Image credit:

After some random wanderings I needed to get to my appointment with TOMY. I’m not the biggest Naruto fan, but I did enjoy what they had to show me, especially the Naruto fighting game for the Wii. The TOMY booth was comfortable and the PR and presenters were great to sit down and speak with. Before leaving they hooked me up with some nice swag, including a copy of their latest DS release. Again, I had a few minutes to check things out before my next appointment, so I took some pictures in the South Hall between playing random demos.

Bayonetta was surprisingly popular at E3 (click).
Bayonetta was surprisingly popular at E3 (click).

The real highlight of my day came next. I had a meeting with Harmonix to see The Beatles: Rock Band. After a short performance and presentation of the game by some Harmonix team members, we were let loose to play the game for ourselves. After getting a chance to try the game, which was EXCELLENT, I noticed Jeff Castaneda walking around from MTV Games. Having met Jeff before at a private party at Sundance, I went over to see how things have been for him. We talked family, Rock Band, E3, and just did some general catching up. Before leaving, Jeff hooked me up with an invite card to the MTV Games/Rock Band private lounge at the O Hotel. That was pretty awesome, and it drew some jealous reactions from my fellow staff writers. Thanks again, Jeff!

Some Harmonix booth attendees trying out The Beatles: Rock Band (click).
Some Harmonix booth attendees trying out The Beatles: Rock Band (click).

After the time spent with Harmonix I was feeling pretty tired from another long day at the expo and I decided to head back to the hotel. I wanted to replace my toothbrush that I dropped, because I was fully convinced that it was beyond contaminated after hitting that dingy hotel tile. I asked the front desk where I could get one, and the concierge told me that it was a short walk to a Rite Aide store. We drew it up on a map, and I was on my way. Short?! Since when is a 45 minute walk short? Not only was the walk long, but it took me into a really crappy area of LA. Everything was shutting down in the area, and it was only 6:00. By the time I got to the store, everything else was closed and the only people on the street were either homeless, sporting gang colors, or people hustling out of there. The store was depressing. Even the toothbrushes were under lock and key. I was in a bad part of town. After buying my toothbrush I asked where I could get a cab and the cashier said, “look, honey, cabs don’t come in here, ‘cuz cabs don’t got no reason. Ain’t nobody here got money and ain’t nobody got nowhere to go. If you are going walking, you just keep to yourself and you’ll be fine.” Great. So the next 45 minutes consisted of me walking with my head down and a whole lot of hoping that my nice shoes and clothes wouldn’t get me into trouble. When I finally made it out of that neighborhood, I was elated.

After my long walk, I picked up a Subway sandwich near the hotel and headed up to my room. I watched the US get pounded by Costa Rica in soccer on TV, got a few articles written, and tried to get to bed early. As you’ll see in the day 3 summary, sleep would prove impossible for another night.

Day 1 Summary
Day 3 Summary
E3 Link Dump, Photos