Kris McMahan (designer) and I, ready to demo at the SOE booth.
This marks the first year I have attended the E3 Expo in about 5 years. During my last trip to the convention center, E3 was massive, loud, and I was attending strictly as an interested visitor. This year, I was involved with actively doing walkthroughs of The Agency, and the experience was entirely different. Overall, the show floor seemed to be about the right size and noise level for an industry event targeted at press and retailers. Sony Online Entertainment had a very sizable booth, checking in at about half the size of the Playstation and Nintendo booths. Games on display included Everquest, Free Realms, DC Universe Online, Kung Fu Hustle, The Agency, and a number of PSN titles.
I arrived as part of The Agency E3 entourage on Monday night. As is typical when bringing your game to a new environment, there were a number of setup challenges involved. Fortunately for myself and a few of my colleagues, I was one of the team members that was able to get a good night's rest for the first day of the show. We were up and ready to go early Tuesday in order to do prep work and test runs before the show floor opened. Everything was humming along and working fairly well by the time we arrived. The Nintendo and Sony press conferences ran until about 1PM so we didn't have much foot traffic until then. Once 1PM rolled around, there was a steady flow of press coming through the booth until the show closed. During this time, a few of my colleagues performed demonstrations to the foreign press in the private SCEE booth upstairs. The upstairs area was smaller and more intimate, with demonstrations being done on couches rather than standing up like we did in the SOE booth. Once we finished our runthroughs, we headed back to the hotel to change and then out for a nice dinner at a local Italian restaurant.
On Wednesday, I spent most of my time in the upstairs area with fellow designer Clancy Powell and producer Jose Araiza. Jose is fluent in Spanish and his help upstairs was much appreciated by the team as well as the Spanish speaking press. At a few points during the day, I went back downstairs and helped out with the increased flow of traffic coming through the booth. After the show was done for the day, we took a cab down to The Stinking Rose for some amazing garlic inspired dishes.
On Thursday I split my time between downstairs and upstairs. Upstairs proved to be regularly quiet while the downstairs area remained busy up until we had to leave for our flight out. We were happy with the response to The Agency and walked away with Best of Show nominations from both 1Up and GamingExcellence.
I was able to spend a brief amount of time checking out the show floor and got a chance to get hands on with Dark Void, Lost Planet 2, God of War 3, Heavy Rain, Gran Turismo PSP, the new PSP Go, and DC Universe Online. While I would have liked to see more, my breaks were largely spent waiting in line for food at the convention center, where I watched about a hundred pepperoni pizzas being made before a cheese or veggie became available.
Overall I enjoyed my time at E3 quite a bit. Working a convention feels very different from being an attendee, but it's fun to be part of the team that brings the show to life. I've attended other shows where a game I worked on was being played or demoed before, but this was the first time I was fully hands on doing demonstrations and interviews live. Overall I think I'd prefer to do a mix of attending conventions on both sides of the show, but the satisfaction of having a game that people respond to at a major event like E3 while you are presenting is definitely an experience worth seeing first hand.