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A Tale of Three E3s

E3 2001: The Planet and the Cube

by the NWR Staff - August 21, 2001, 10:29 pm PDT

Jonny Metts joins up with the rest of the PGC clan for the craziest E3 ever! The press conference, the GameCube, the Denny's...it's all here. Just clear out two hours and start reading!

Long before I even started making plans for E3 2001, I knew it would be vastly different than my first trip. Thanks to the 2000 show, I was now a staff member at Planet N2000, which became Planet GameCube in March. The difference in working for the Nformant and working for PGC was and is dramatic. At the Nformant, I was the only real staff member for one and a half years. Everything was up to me, and I liked it that way. I did all the work, I made all the decisions. After handing that site over to my friend Evan, I was suddenly thrust into a staff situation at PN2K, and at first I was a bit overwhelmed. Suddenly I had bosses to confer with, other staff members to help split the work, and a website reputation that was separate and larger than my own. The group environment infuses everything we do at the Planet, and I knew that it would make E3 2001 a completely different experience than the one I already knew.

The other major change was, of course, the GameCube. There were hardly even whispers of Project Dolphin in 2000, but Nintendo was making GameCube the center of its E3 showing this year, and we’d be there right in the middle of it all. E3 2000 was about software; E3 2001 would be more about hardware, and I wasn’t sure how that would affect things. We also had the Game Boy Advance to deal with, and barring a quick store demo, E3 2001 would end up being my first hands-on experience with the system at all.

My first problem in planning the trip was to find a traveling partner. David said he’d love to go but didn’t have the money for it, so there went that idea. Finally I found a willing candidate in Matt Hogan. Matt and I have been friends since childhood, and many of my early gaming memories are with him and his older brother. He was really interested in going to E3 to see the PC and Dreamcast games, which was fine with me. You might be wondering why I even needed a companion at all. The truth is that Los Angeles hotel rooms can be expensive...and even at a fair rate, I knew I’d be staying for five or six nights. Having someone to split the costs with you is nice. Also, I was totally unsure about the PGC staff...what if they turned out to be really mean and rude, or we just couldn’t connect like we do online? Having an established friend there guarantees some stability and companionship no matter what. Besides, I knew Matt really wanted to go...I would have taken him the year before, but he wasn’t old enough at the time.

You may remember that I only had two appointments for E3 2000. This year was, of course, a different story. Even before Planet GameCube’s launch, I was appointed as the more-or-less unofficial PR guy for the staff. The position had never been all that necessary in the PlanetN2000 days, but now that companies had real GameCube (and GBA) projects to talk about, it was high time to get something going with them. By the time we flew out to LA, Billy and I together had set up well over a dozen meetings and interviews...far more than I’d ever want on my own, but we had a staff of some fifteen or sixteen people at the show to cover everything. Some appointments didn’t work out (Ubi Soft comes to mind), other ones popped up spontaneously (our impromptu interview with Dave Dienstbier), and we even joined CloudChaser for a few of theirs. I’d say that we ended up meeting with around twenty companies, which was great. It got our name out to a lot of publishers and developers, and it let us snag some cool information and the obligatory press kits.

E3 is usually preceded by an unbearable period of silence in this industry, and I thought May would never arrive. It finally did though, and before I knew it, college finals were over and I was getting ready for my second E3 trip. Highly anticipated events have strange effects on me. With something like a new game, I tend to get really anxious and high-strung just prior to its release. Perhaps because it’s such a massive unknown, I’ve found that both of my E3 trips have come very quietly. Last year, the excitement never really hit me until Dave and I were on the plane...in 2001, it was when Matt and I arrived at the hotel and started meeting PGC people. We were so tired that things weren’t even registering properly, and I never felt the full onslaught of what lied ahead until the next morning, just before Nintendo’s press conference.

I did have a lot of short-term excitement and anxiety about meeting the staff. Ty Shughart became the second online friend that I ever met, as he was up on the hotel balcony when our taxi let us out. I waved up to him and exchanged shouted greetings, then went inside to get signed in for the room. The first thing I noticed about the downtown Los Angeles Comfort Inn was that the two employees at the desk are the only ones that speak English. The second thing I noticed were the guys in the lobby wearing Nintendojo jerseys. Jerseys, WTF? Anyway, since there were two or three people ahead of us in line to check in, I went up to the nearest ‘Dojo person and said something like:

“Hey, you’re from Nintendojo?”

“Yeah, Nathan Heckel at your service.”

“No joke, you’re MSTAnon? Well then...” (I pull out my E3 badge and show it to him.)

“Oh cool. Nice to meet you.”

“Yeah, so you like the radio trivia, huh?”

“What? Oh, wait a minute...” (He realizes that Jonathan Metts and Jonnyboy117 are the same person.)

That’s all I remember, but I think the conversation was either interrupted shortly thereafter or just quickly died out for some reason. Standing near Nathan and talking on the phone was a tall, Italian-looking guy also in ‘Dojo dress. I figured (correctly) that he was Eric Mattei, but I never knew for sure until the Nintendo press conference when he was wearing his badge. E3 is usually full of that kind of thing...you see someone that might match up with a name, but you’re not sure, and then you try to figure out ways to solve the mystery. Usually this just means moving around for a good view of their badge, but sometimes strategies can get a lot more elaborate. Jon Lindemann and I followed this one lady all over Nintendo’s booth trying to figure out if she was Perrin Kaplan...but she wasn’t, we eventually discovered.

Matt and I finally got checked in, and I started dragging stuff up to the room while he stayed in the lobby with the rest of our luggage. (LA is a dangerous place!) On my way up the stairs, I ran into Andres (BreakyBoy) and Zosha (Dragona), and we briefly chatted. I felt slightly uncomfortable; I can handle meeting one ‘Net person, but in groups I’m intimidated. Luckily, I got better at it throughout the week. One by one, Matt and I met the PGC staff...Ed Shih, Ty Shughart (and his younger brother Max), David Trammell, Jon Lindemann, Rick Powers, Justin Wood. Eventually Billy came back from a night on the town, and I got re-acquainted with him. If meeting Internet people is weird, seeing them again after a year of semi-faceless chatting and scheming is perhaps even stranger. But, Billy was more familiar than anyone else there (except Matt), and the fact that he’s older and pretty organized helped me settle into the PGC family early on. After a couple hours, Max Lake finally showed up. I was really excited to meet Max, because we both started at the site around the same time and had become good friends through collaboration. He and I spent many tough weeks getting Planet’s previews section started up and finalized, and since then we had both become some of the more involved staff members. Plus I had heard that he looks and acts like Shaggy from Scooby Doo, which is 100% true. So it was a blast finally getting to meet Max and talk a little before I finally went to bed. I needed all the sleep I could get...Wednesday would turn out to be one of the longest, toughest, and most exciting days of my life.

I never was very clear on what time we were leaving in the morning, so naturally the wake-up call came all of fifteen minutes before everyone’s taxis rolled up. Matt and I took VERY quick showers and got outside ASAP. The press conference didn’t start until 11:00 AM, but we wanted to swing by the convention center early to pick up badge holders (which are required for admittance to E3), and then of course we wanted to hit the press conference at least an hour early.

Picking up the badge holders was a pretty quick and painless experience. This was my first chance to see the LACC since leaving the year before, and it was emotional to an extent. It also got me pretty stoked for the show...in a kind of close-up, physical way that isn’t possible through memories and mental images. We got inside and went to the nearby badge holder pick-up stations, but quickly found out that media had a different station up on the top floor. So, we drudged up there and handled business. The media station was actually right in the middle of the whole E3 Media Center, which includes a pretty sweet computer area with about fifty PCs for hooking up to the ‘Net and updating. We’d end up using that area quite extensively throughout the show, especially for writing impressions immediately after playing a game.

After getting the badge holders, we split up into I think three taxi cabs, each one packed to the brim with PGC staffdom. (Trust me, it’s possible to get as many as six or seven people in a cab...as we learned in the coming days.) We headed off to the press conference, which takes place at the Biltmore Hotel. By this time I was getting insanely excited...in less than two hours, I would be introduced to the GameCube and its first officially announced first- and second-party games. My gamer half, which just wanted to play this stuff, was temporarily buried...my journalist side took over, and it wanted info info INFO!!!

The cab I was in arrived at the hotel first, and we quickly got in line for media check-in. It was a short wait, but I do remember one cool thing that happened. This guy named Tim Mulligan from Golin/Harris (Nintendo of America’s PR firm) came up to us asking where Billy was. We told him that Billy was in another cab and on the way. Then he started congratulating us on the website, especially our exclusive snapshot of the official GameCube logo just days earlier. It was kind of weird for me...this guy from Nintendo actually approached us, not the other way around!

Once we got checked in, the gang headed down into a little lobby area, which was stocked with cookies and some breakfast-type food, and bordered on one side by giant iron gates. Even an hour before the event, people were stacked up against the gates; still, most people were milling around and talking to other Nintendo fanatics and journalists. It was here that I met Adam Sessler of TechTV fame, plus some TechTV camera guys (and gal) who were very much Nintendophiles and actually fans of our site! I kid you not, one of them was playing his GBC right then and there. This was also the place where I first saw Mike Orlando, although I didn’t figure out exactly who he was until some three days later, on the show floor. We all pretty much stood around talking, getting to know each other better (hadn’t had much time for that yet!) and eating those delicious cookies.

At five minutes to 11:00, the lobby was standing-room only, and people were starting to really cram themselves and others up against the gates. Somebody finally came down to open the gates, and you can just imagine the logjam that followed. One of the gates was only cracked open before people started squeezing through, which led nearby NOA vice-president Perrin Kaplan screaming: “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD LET THE MAN OPEN THE GATE!”

Past the gates were stairs on either side, which led up to the exhibition room or whatever they call it. Basically, it’s a small auditorium. The first five or six rows in the middle had “Reserved” signs, but despite not being very close to the gate when all the chaos began, most of us PGCers got great seats. I ended up towards the front-right corner, along with Ty, Ed, and Justin Wood. Directly in front of us was one of a pair of giant projection screens...to the left of that was the stage, which currently was home to a single, beautiful object: GameCube. It was sitting in a little “nest” atop a podium. People were already getting in front of the stage (and a few ON the stage before NOA folks kicked ‘em off) to snap pictures or just get a closer look at this little marvel. I went up to take my turn as well, and simply couldn’t believe how small the system looked up there, just a few feet from my face. There it was: the little box of joy that had lived in my dreams and writings since E3 ’99, when all we had was a project codename and a few meaningless specs. Looking back on the entire experience months later, it’s still hard for me to fathom that I got to see and touch the GameCube. E3 is sort of cruel in how it gives you free reign with all this wonderful hardware and software, and then snatches every bit of it away from you for usually six months or more. Still, it is better to love and have lost than to have never loved at all...or however that saying goes. I say it’s fricking torture, but I wouldn’t give up my three days with GameCube for anything.

But I digress. NOA waited at least five minutes for people to enter and get settled, and then Peter Main finally came out. He and NCL’s Satoru Iwata talked for a while about the industry, and then they finally let Shiggy come out. Miyamoto entered from the right side of the stage, carrying above his head a GameCube in one hand and a controller in the other. Some other PGC folks likened the spectacle to a rockstar’s entrance...I like to think of it as just exactly what it was: a gaming star’s entrance. Needless to say, he got a standing ovation and many whoops and hollers. After a couple comments and jokes (in very good English!), the gaming legend directed our attention to the video screens for the first ever glimpse of real, confirmed GameCube software.

I remember being excited but not very surprised when “Super Smash Bros. Melee” first flashed up on the screen. I WAS surprised at how incredible the game looked...like a CG movie on crack. This was followed with footage of several other games, the details of which I won’t bore you with since the exact same videos are pretty easy to find online, and/or will be included in PGC’s E3 video. Yes, I took notes. I’m just a geek that way.

After the reel finished playing, Miyamoto brought out a translator to help him for the rest of the press conference. Then he actually played through the Luigi’s Mansion demo, explaining the background story and gameplay mechanics. Watching Shiggy play his own game is truly surreal...you can tell that he loves his job.

After that, I think Mr. Iwata came back to talk more about the hardware, and then Shigeru got up again to show us a totally secret game he’d been working on...Pikmin. He even brought out one of the game’s programmers to demo it for us, who was surprisingly non-Japanese. The guy did a good job of showing off the game during Shiggy’s commentary, even if he did look oddly displeased to be there. At the end of the demo, Miyamoto dismissed the gaijin by blowing a whistle; we all thought it was funny, but apparently this is an extremely Japanese practice whose humor was largely lost on us American folk. Actually, I should note that there were quite a few foreign correspondents at the press conference, including a lot of Japanese people and one very memorable (~ahem~) Japanese lady who at one point got in front of a cameraman to shoot a news story! Too bad she didn’t work for the Naked News...

Peter Main took the stage again, this time to introduce a video of Denis Dyack, Jeff Spangenburg, and Chris Stamper ranting and raving about the GameCube hardware. You could barely hear Denis’s comments for all our yelling...and we weren’t the only ones. Then Main did his closing comments and opened up the floor for questions. Two microphones stands were set up on either side of the room, and one of them was almost right next to my seat. The first question came from Nintendojo’s Nathan Heckel, who I ran into just the previous evening; needless to say, the next couple minutes would go down in history. Nathan asked his question in Japanese, which didn’t turn out nearly as well as I’m sure he hoped. The problem was that questions were supposed to be directed to Main, and if he couldn’t answer one, he’d repeat it to the translators behind him, who would work with Miyamoto and Iwata to get a satisfactory answer. The two Japanese guys were just talking amongst themselves idly...they didn’t expect any questions to be sent directly to them, so I think they only half-heard what Nathan was saying. Combine this with the poor fella’s probably less-than-perfect Japanese, and chaos pretty much ensued. Peter was heard saying something like: “My goodness, this is the first question!” The guys onstage finally just asked Heckel to repeat the question, and he wisely did so in English. “Mr. Miyamoto, why do you like working at Nintendo?” I honestly don’t even remember the answer...the whole room was filled with chuckling at the debacle, and I was caught between laughing at the situation and feeling bad for Heckel, who I’ve known for a while and respect very much as a trivia player.

The second question was put forth by our very own Max Lake, who asked where the heck Mario was in all of this. Miyamoto basically said to wait until Space World. ~sigh~ Max jokingly apologized to Main for PGC’s logo discovery (you could almost hear Billy groan, although I personally got a kick out of it), and then closed with a tongue-in-cheek “Domo arigato”.

By this time I was standing in line to ask my own question. I really didn’t know what to ask, only that I knew I HAD to ask something...just to say that I addressed Peter Main, Satoru Iwata, and Shigeru Miyamoto. I eventually settled on a query about which games would be at the show, and if any third-party GameCube stuff would be there. In retrospect, it was a weak question, but it was all I could do on short notice and amidst overwhelming excitement. It’s strange...I usually can think up great questions under pressure.

After receiving my answer, I sat down to take more notes and watch the rest of the questions. Someone tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the line I’d just exited. A fellow gaming journalist named Fran Mirabella III was near the back of the line, and one of the PGC guys was standing in the corridor to shake his hand. I immediately jumped up to do the same; Fran and I had gotten to be good acquaintances online during the previous year, but I’d never gotten to meet him before. I introduced myself, shook his hand, and asked: “So how much of this stuff did you guys already know about?” Surprisingly, he said, “Actually, not very much.” At this point I think he got distracted by someone else, so I returned to my seat.

A couple questions later, we were told that gaming questions were finished with, and Peter would now be taking only queries from financial analysts and crap like that. Fran never even got to ask his question...I’d have liked to see that. Some people were starting to show off these sweet GameCube backpacks, which doubled as media press kits. We found out that they were being given out in the lobby, so most of the PGC group decided to grab those and then get back to the hotel. It was update time!

We’d heard about a little Internet Cafe across the street from the Comfort Inn. So, with press releases in hand, several of us trekked over there to see what they had to offer. The place was empty, and I think the owner must have wet himself when he saw a gang of seven or eight teenagers (Billy stayed at his hotel room to upload media) enter the store and request every PC they could get. They said five bucks an hour, per computer. Fine with us! Unfortunately there weren’t quite enough for everyone to have a PC, but we needed at least one person just to handle all the papers and stuff. Matt even decided to make himself useful by taking materials back and forth across the street...I think everyone was very impressed at his willingness to help.

I gotta tell you, when I think back to my five days in LA for E3 2001, that afternoon in the Internet Cafe is the first thing that comes to mind. It personified the entire trip, and was almost like an awakening for me. There we were, Planet GameCube, having a staff meeting...except this one was in real life instead of in a chat room. The chemistry in the room was amazing and undeniable. Everyone was volunteering to do their share, and while we waited for PGC’s already battered and abused server to let us update, we talked about everything we’d seen that day at the press conference. We developed ideas for previews, discussed new theories of what might be going on with such mysterious games as Luigi’s Mansion, and reveled in the glory of being right there in the middle of one of the biggest events in the history of gaming. I was busy and proud and excited and captivated and intensely happy all at the same time. Not even twenty-four hours after meeting them face-to-face for the first time, I really and truly felt like a part of this group, and I felt proud to be working on a site like PGC and getting to do what I so love to do in such a fantastic environment and with such awesome people. I’d joined the staff some nine months earlier, but it was on that day that I finally felt like a Planet GameCube man, and it felt good.

We updated for about five hours that afternoon, and thankfully the Cafe owner cut us a deal and only charged about $100, if I remember correctly. We promised to come back the next day, but that never really worked out. Sorry dude! By the end of it all, we had profiles and/or previews for all of Nintendo’s first- and second-party GameCube titles, plus a freakload of GBA stuff and tons of new release dates and media. We were all exhausted and very ready for some food. Billy ordered pizzas and we pretty much pigged out. That’s when I looked up and saw two guys in the room that I didn’t recognize, so I asked who they were. “Oh, that’s Rimmer, and he’s Joshums.” Whoa! Both of these guys were frequenters of the Planet chat room and our weekly trivia, and they got into E3 by virtue of Ty’s side-project, Don’t Blame Games. I accepted Rimmer’s presence as I did most Internet folk...he was kind of like meeting another staffer, since I’m so used to him being around when I chat to Zosha, Striker, S-U-P-E-R, etc. But Joshums really threw me for a loop. I knew him a little from my radio trivia game, but we’d never really talked or anything. For him to be there in the room with us was totally unexpected and out of the blue, and it just caught me off guard. Both guys were, of course, very nice, and we got to hang out some more over the next few days.

After dinner it was time for the staff meeting in Billy’s room. We all got schedules for the whole event with interview times and stuff like that. Everyone volunteered for a few appointments (those can range from highly interesting and fun to exceptionally boring and unfruitful), and we also set up media room vigils so that we’d always have at least one PC staked out for updating during the show. That part of the plan actually worked out beautifully, and it’s one reason that our E3 coverage was so consistent and steady. Kudos to everyone on staff who gave up GameCube playing time to sit in there and keep things going.

So, with the meeting wrapped up, I finally started getting ready for bed. I had already convinced a few people to get up extra early for camping out at the doors...oh hells yeah, I was up for a repeat. Oddly enough, at this point I wasn’t very excited about getting to play GameCube the next day. A major chunk of my anticipation had been satisfied just by the press conference, and I had trouble imagining how the show could live up to the intensity and fun we’d had Wednesday.

No, the really awful anxiousness to play GameCube didn’t hit full-blast until Thursday morning. Three hours in front of glass doors, staring at Nintendo’s booth (hidden by curtains), can do that to you. At least having other folks around made the camp-out go by MUCH faster...in fact, I had a lot of fun just talking to Jon and Andres and Ty and his brother Max. Matt was there too, probably thinking me to be off the deep end for wanting to wait three hours at the entrance. We read the Show Daily magazines and whatever else we could find; Lindy played Pokemon Pinball, which is the greatest handheld game ever.

Just like in 2000, nobody else even showed up until we’d already been there an hour. But you know, I think that time spent in the nearly empty LACC was far more valuable than an hour’s worth of sleep. I’ve never camped out by a store before a system launch or concert ticket sale, but I think people do it for the same reason I love to camp out for E3. It gives you a sense of dedication...makes you feel that you gave up something to be there, more than the people who just show up at 10:15 and waltz right in. And, consequently, it lets you enjoy and appreciate the show that much more once your patience pays off and you’re literally the first person through the door. Judging from the other PGCers’ faces and attitudes around 9:30 (when the crowd really starts to form and get rowdy), I think they got the same effect out of it, and maybe started to think me a bit less insane for suggesting the camp-out and themselves a bit less for going along with it.

At 9:45 or so, Billy and Max and everyone else who covered the keynote address showed up at the entrance. Sure, they skipped line pretty bad, but nobody said anything. It got so chaotic by that time that I doubt many people noticed. They told us about the keynote and how PETERMAINCO destroyed the competition, and then we all started bracing ourselves for the opening of E3 2001.

By 9:55 my bladder was about to explode. I didn’t really have to use the bathroom at all, but you know how your body reacts to the mind’s tension. I started to just stare at the door in front of me, trying to flush everything out of my mind and just meditate or something...anything to calm me down a bit and make the time creep by even a teensy bit faster.

I don’t remember the exact moment when the doors opened. It happened without warning or bravada, and immediately afterwards, my mind was on a completely different subject matter. To quote Forrest Gump: “I was RUN-NANG!” Running really isn’t my bag, but I can be pretty fast with the right motivation.

Now you might think me insane, but I didn’t head straight for the GameCubes. My first mission was to ask the PR desk if they had anymore of those press kit backpacks. They didn’t, so I turned around and practically jumped into line for the nearest game: Super Smash Bros. Melee. It was the first game I wanted to play anyway.

Even though I was literally the first person through the nearest door to Nintendo’s area, there were already short lines at practically all GameCube stations...a frightening sign of things to come. The people were all exhibitors, either with Nintendo or (more likely) other companies who just wanted to check GameCube out before the crowds arrived. There were two people in front of me to play Melee, but one of them was finishing up just as I got into line. Finally I got up there and took hold of the GameCube controller. It was heaven. I stood there for a moment, staring at this little piece of plastic sex, in total disbelief that I was finally holding it.

Then I looked up at the screen and started playing. Melee actually feels almost exactly like the original SSB...the control feels slightly different because of the controller layout, but I adapted quickly and proceeded to get trounced upon by practically every opponent I ever faced off at the show. Yeah, I stink at the game, but it’s still fun as hell. And the graphics...wow. If you’re a fan of CG-cartoony visuals, Melee is up your alley. Some people might argue that Rogue Leader looked better; it certainly looked more realistic, but that’s not the same thing.

The second game I played was Luigi’s Mansion. On the way over to that area of the booth, I saw a tall, mostly bald man wearing glasses...oh hell yes. Peter Main was talking to someone else, but I went up to him and patiently waited until he was free...then I made my move. A handshake and business card later, I’m asking PETERMAINCO questions about Luigi’s Mansion and getting answers whispered into my ear. God I love E3.

So anyway, I made it over to LM and played through most of that demo. I won’t regurgitate my impressions, but it’s very visually striking and definitely off-the-wall. There are some pants-pissing moments for the easily frightened. My overall opinion was that it felt like a next-gen Ghostbusters game. Weird.

My next stop was probably Rogue Leader. The line to play this game was already very long, and it’s not a game that only takes thirty seconds to demo. I ended up standing in line for thirty minutes before getting a controller...my longest wait ever at E3. It really wasn’t worth it either, since I didn’t get to play for very long. I had to pick up where the previous guy left off, plus there was tons of pressure from everyone to hurry up and move along. I could have gone into the surround-sound booth, but people were already stacked in there to overflow proportions.

I wanted to play Eternal Darkness, which was right next to Rogue Leader, but it too was pretty packed. On top of that, I (correctly) guessed that the demo would be basically the same as what I played to death at E3 2000, so I could stand to wait a while. On the other side of RL was Wave Race: Blue Storm, so I wandered over there to check it out. Really cool game...control is upgraded from the N64 version, tracks were mucho improved (even though the E3 tracks were just N64 rehashes), and the water is the single most realistic and gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen in a game.

Eventually I made my rounds and played most of the games, if only for a minute. I even trekked over to the GBA area to play a few things. Diddy Kong Pilot is incredible...I was blown away right from the start. I was less impressed with Mario Kart Advance, mainly because it just feels like a remake or rehash of the previous ones. Where’s the innovation?

My first appointment was at 1:30, with Interactive Imagination. They’re the people behind Magi-Nation. I was 100% ignorant about the company and the game, but I could tell it was a small company due to the fact that we met them in a little cubicle-type office away from the busy main halls. Still, often the small companies make the best appointments... Ed Shih and I were tag-teaming Interactive Imagination, so we met up and stepped into the offices. We introduced ourselves, they introduced themselves, and we basically sat down for a really cool interview with Philip Tavel, one of the company’s founders. I didn’t expect that at all, and it was great. We learned all about Magi-Nation, Philip’s own experience working at Nintendo and then starting his own company, their GBA plans, etc. The meeting was a very pleasant surprise, and I think Ed and I both enjoyed it.

With that done, I ran to the media center to get a few impressions put up before my next appointment. Lemme tell you, that media room was packed. I finally found a couple PGCers though who had staked out some PCs, and I managed to get a couple updates in before heading off to talk to the kind folks at Universal Interactive...or not.

Ty was supposed to meet me for the Universal thing, but he got held up somewhere and never showed. After waiting for him for about fifteen minutes (and playing the new Crash for PS2, which had HORRIBLE load times...like more than sixty seconds to load a new level), I finally just went up to the PR desk and got it rolling. I explained who I was and that we were looking for anything on GameCube and GBA. The lady said, “Oh, well I think all we have for you is Spyro then.” Some other lady escorted me to Spyro for GBA, which I’d already played while waiting on Ty. The isometric levels are bo-rang, but this lady did show me the neato Mode-7 flying levels. So that was that...a helluva lot of trouble to be escorted to a game I’d already played. Pretty typical for an appointment with a huge publisher.

The next was worse though. CloudChaser had gotten a meeting with UbiSoft at 3:30, and we were invited to join in. I got there and met up with Justin Wood (J-Dub, as we called him) and some CC folks, including Bryan Dawson. Apparently they had already checked in and were waiting for a meeting room or something to open up...regardless, after some ten or fifteen minutes of wasted E3 time, everyone gave up and said screw it. We never did meet with UbiSoft, which is even worse than the average big-company appointment.

From there, J-Dub and I headed back to Nintendo’s booth to play some more GameCube. I was a bit miffed at having been burned on two out of three appointments, and I felt like releasing some aggression through SSB Melee. This time we went into the surround-sound booth and got to play four-player mode with a couple other people. I tried out Bowser and didn’t really care for him. But, noticing my frustration, the NOA guy in there said the game’s lead designer had just been through recently and had totally dominated with Bowser. So, I’m thinking that maybe he’s best for advanced players, which ain’t me.

Justin and I parted ways, and I headed back to the media center again to continue posting impressions and news. At this point in my career, I’ve trained myself so much to form opinions about a game when I play it that I can’t keep them bottled up for long. The prospect of playing games for five or six hours without writing anything is utterly frightening. I ended up getting so carried away with my work on the site that I went right through the end of the day. They start kicking everyone out of the media center about thirty minutes after the show closes down, and we were there right until the end. Looking back, there are definitely some games that I wish I’d played (or played more), but I’m glad that I spent so much time updating. That’s why I go...if I got there and just indulged myself for three days, I really wouldn’t deserve to be there at all. It’s hard to temper the excitement of E3 with a sense of responsibility, but everyone on the staff did so very impressively. The whole group had that mentality...we’re here to play, but we’re also here to work. And, we knew that if our huge group of people could work hard and cooperate, we’d kick everyone else’s coverage in the ass.

Don’t know about anyone else, but when I got back to the hotel room, I just laid down for a while. E3 can be absolutely brutal on your body...plus, I skipped lunch to save time and money. I must have been quite a sight, lounged out on the bed and shoveling Slim Jims and Reese’s Cups into my mouth.

We decided to just order food from the same place we’d gotten the pizza. They also had burgers, hot dogs, some pasta, etc. I had a cheeseburger and fries, and it was pretty good. Billy and some other guys from up North were complaining about the greasiness...seemed pretty normal to me. Anyway, we had another short staff meeting to discuss the day, our updates, how the appointments went, etc.

I think it was this night that we also watched video of the press conference, which was awesome. The conference itself was of course exactly like I remembered, but the real treat was getting to talk about it and crack up with everyone else. We all had to be pretty quiet during the real thing on Wednesday, but now it was time for all hell to break loose. All the wise-cracking, the discussion, it really amazed me at the time, and even more so now. For a guy like me, just sitting around and getting to talk about gaming with other people who know as much about it as me is an untouchable experience. I’m sure that goes for any interest you may have; conventions are a truly remarkable thing if only for the opportunity to be immersed in a sea of your peers. It’s especially true for an interest like gaming that’s niche enough that you may not have many (or any) friends who share your fanaticism. I can still remember many of the jokes and comments from that evening...but honestly, most of them aren’t suitable to be reprinted here. ;-D

The next morning was much different than the first day of E3. I slept until at least 8:00, since there’d be no camping out or anything like that. We still all got there by opening (9:00) or soon after, since the hotel was so close to the LACC. Several of our people had signed up for the Miyamoto/Newsweek interview and were really amped for that; I personally wasn’t that interested in watching someone ELSE interview Shiggy, and that was an hour and a half that I could use to play lots of games.

My main goals for the day were to play more Game Boy Advance and to play Eternal Darkness in preparation for our Denis Dyack interview. The previous day I’d looked at Eternal Darkness and briefly said hello to Denis (not sure he even recognized me in that dark room). Still, Friday morning was my first chance to actually play ED on GameCube. It was a bittersweet experience. One NOA rep helping Denis demo the game recognized me as the guy who wrote that article saying ED should stay on N64. He tried provoking me: “Come on, don’t you think this was for the better?” “Actually,” I said, “it was a very long winter without the game I wanted to play more than any other.”

As I expected, the demo was essentially the same stuff shown a year earlier at E3 2000. I solved a block puzzle with the Centurion, chose the green artifact, then shot a few zombies with the girl’s shotgun. It was of course fun and graphically superior to the original version, but not as much as I’d hoped. And, naturally, my journalist nature was disappointed that the demo contained so little new material, even though I knew that it was done deliberately and for pretty good reasons. (Silicon Knights is trying very hard to keep the game’s story and even a lot of gameplay elements secret, so as not to ruin anything for players.) I noted the changes I saw and some of the guys’ comments in preparation for the interview, but I left the Eternal Darkness booth still not feeling very enthusiastic about its E3 showing.

After that I played some more of Kameo and Dinosaur Planet. DP was disappointing in much the same way that ED was; as far as what the E3 demo showed, the game had made very little visible progress in the past year other than some graphical enhancements. After a few rounds with Diddy Kong Pilot and DK’s Coconut Crackers (which I didn’t understand at all), I decided to go visit Enix’s booth to see my friend Dan Harnett. Dan was cool to meet, and he even agreed to help me set up an impromptu interview with “Mr. Turok” Dave Dienstbier later that day. (Explanation: Dan’s PR company represented both Enix and Acclaim, among others.)

It was almost time for our interview with Denis, so I headed back to Nintendo’s booth to meet the gang in front of the Eternal Darkness area. On my way back, I ran into none other than Tim Stamper, co-founder of Rare! He was really cool, although I didn’t get to chat with him much. But, it was a good example of the neat, random things that tend to happen at E3...especially if you keep an eye out for familiar names.

Back at the ED section of Nintendo’s booth, I found Billy and Max and everyone else who would be going to the interview. Matt had also joined up for the occasion, and there was a new face in the crowd – Michael Cole, a.k.a. The Younger Plumber! He hadn’t been able to come on the first day due to school activities, but now he was there to jump into the “real-life” PGC staff. Poor TYP looked pretty bewildered. He was getting introduced to E3, GameCube, and the PGC staff all at once! I ducked into the curtained-off Eternal Darkness booth to get Denis, and we all walked outside so we could be away from the show’s noise and commotion.

While following the group outside, we also ran into this guy with a funny accent who apparently was familiar with the site. His business card wasn’t too helpful...Chris Town? But he said, “Hey guys, I’m Yorrike from the chat room.” “No way! Hey, we’re going outside to interview Denis Dyack, you want to join in?” “Sure!” So then we were once again on our way to this huge interview, now with one extra friend in tow. Sounds insane, but it really happened.

Denis Dyack is by far one of my favorite people to interview. His enthusiasm for gaming and for gamers is obvious and contagious, and he will inevitably get you excited about practically anything he talks about. Luckily, in the case of his games, the work lives up to his own personal brand of hype. I was incredibly anxious to talk to Denis about Eternal Darkness, despite any lukewarm impression I may have gotten from the E3 demo. By this time, my mind had come to separate the full ED experience (as I understood it) and the tiny portion of the actual game that we’d so far been exposed to. As illogical as that may seem, I believed (and still believe) it’s the best way to look at many E3 games, especially those as conceptually innovative as Eternal Darkness. The truth is that most E3 games are very lacking and very unrepresentative of what the final version will be like, with some notable exceptions like Mario Tennis and SSB Melee. You have to learn to assimilate everything you know about the game and everything you learn from talking to the developer with your actual hands-on impressions, and that’s the best approximation you’re going to get.

The Denis Dyack interview was grueling, fascinating, sometimes uncomfortable, and often quite self-gratifying for me. It would have been perfect except that only Billy and Denis had seats during the interview, which lasted well over an hour. Going from the constant physical strain of E3 to an hour-long stand-a-thon wasn’t so great on my tired feet. The other detriment was some God-awful forklift nearby that kept interrupting Denis’s answers. It was kinda funny at first, but the novelty quickly wore off.

But, of course, Denis and the interview itself were awesome. Other than an explanation of the game’s move to GameCube and a few comments about the graphics, Billy and Denis covered a lot of stuff that I already knew. I had a list of my own questions that I hoped to get in at some point. Actually, a lot of that list got answered anyway, or belonged to an aspect of the game that Denis couldn’t talk about. So, when Billy offered to give up his interviewer seat to me, I declined and just asked my few remaining, answerable questions from where I was standing. The most interesting answer from this part of the interview was his comments on the Legacy of Kain franchise, which Silicon Knights began. (There was a lawsuit involved with the game’s publisher; one result was that Crystal Dynamics obtained the rights to do all future games in the series.)

With the interview finished, I had about half an hour to kill before my appointment with THQ. I was finally gonna meet Reilly Brennan there. Reilly used to be our main contact man for Nintendo of America, before he left Golin-Harris (NOA’s PR firm) to work at THQ. Plus, I was hoping to play Tetris on GameCube and ask about upcoming wrestling games. While waiting for the appointment time, Jon Lindemann and I decided to check out New Legends for the Xbox. It was my first opportunity to hold the Xbox controller...needless to say, I was unimpressed. The button placement is horrid, and the whole thing is way too big, even for my large hands. I do like the analog triggers though; they’re like the ones on Dreamcast, except with a lot more resistance.

This New Legends game was really terrible. The gameplay was like a 3D beat ‘em up, which is okay, but the framerate was a joke. It was like playing Quake III on my old 56K modem...press the attack button, then wait a couple seconds to see if it worked or not. Some guy nearby said, “Do you mind if I play?” and I said, “Sure, this game sucks anyway.” “Gee, thanks,” he mumbles, and I realized he was one of the developers. Oops! Heh, well I figure he’s lucky to get some honest feedback...if your game stinks and you show if off at E3 anyway, you deserve to get the truth.

Lindemann and I headed to THQ’s PR desk to meet up with Reilly. While he finished up with another press tour, I saw this guy standing next to me in an unusual hat. Looked down at the nametag...”Henk Rogers”. OH MY GOD! The man who brought Tetris out of Russia and into the world was right there next to me. Not about to let such an opportunity pass by, I introduced myself to Henk and gave him a business card, making sure to accept his and study it carefully. (Japanese-style...Henk’s first company, Bullet Proof Software, was based in Japan, and Henk is one of the few non-Japanese people to have met Hiroshi Yamauchi and actually played Go with him!) I also commented that I’d just read two or three chapters about him in Game Over. Then he and I actually got into a short conversation about Tetris! He said that he wasn’t too happy with Tetrisphere, because it isn’t as easy to pick up and play as the original Tetris. He also told me that his company (Blue Planet Software) would be developing the next Tetris game, Tetris Worlds, in-house. Of course, Jon talked to him too, and we both later agreed that it was one of the coolest parts of the whole trip, just for the sheer spontaneity. Henk even complemented Jon for his Atari t-shirt!

Then Reilly showed up, and after a quick hello, we went to the back to check out THQ’s Game Boy Advance stuff. They weren’t showing anything for GameCube, but it was pretty clear that Tetris Worlds and an Aki wrestling game would be on the way. Still, there were tons and tons of GBA games to be played, and we checked out a number of them. My fave of the bunch: Star Wars Jedi Power Battles, which actually reminded me of the kickass Super Star Wars series on SNES. Jon also played the WWF game for Xbox, which looked early but at least decent. We did take the opportunity to rag even more on the controller though, heh.

After kicking it with Reilly and the THQ Funky Bunch, I spent most of the rest of the day trying to play GameCube and updating the site with more impressions. Playing even one or two sessions of GC could take up to an hour, thanks to Nintendo’s PACKED booth. The Nintendo booth from E3 2000 couldn’t even hope to compare with what I saw this year. At peak times, you'd sometimes get caught in the crowd and not be able to move forward or backwards for several minutes. Nintendo had hundreds and hundreds of people lined up all the way into Sony’s area, all wanting to play the quasi-roulette game and win a GBA. Sure, free stuff is nice, and a free system is nicer, but a one-in-ten chance of winning the GBA isn’t worth five or six hours of my E3 trip...and yes, some people waited in line that long. The most congested area was probably the narrow lane between Kameo and Eternal Darkness...obviously two games that people wanted to play, but they were only running on three or four stations each, facing each other, with maybe five feet of walking room in between. Once the lines inevitably formed, everyone passing through had to either slalom through or, more often, excuse themselves right through the middle. Come to think of it, I met Ken Lobb in just such a situation, but it was nothing more than a handshake before he ducked into the Eternal Darkness surround-sound booth and I headed off to Wave Race.

I don’t want to sound like a name-dropper. The truth is that meeting people, especially famous industry people, is one of the biggest thrills of being at E3. While it really means nothing in the long run (like getting your favorite sports start to sign a ball), it’s the sheer novelty of meeting someone like Henk Rogers or Ken Lobb that is so cool. (Thanks to Lindy for that phrase.) It’s actually really weird to realize that these famous people are walking around the show just like you, and there’s nothing but shyness keeping you from meeting them and (who knows) maybe getting a nice little morsel of info out of it. Or maybe that’s just my journalist side talking again.

The final event of the day was our interview with Dave Dienstbier. It wasn’t even on the official PGC schedule, because I’d just arranged it that morning. I still managed to round up five or six people who wanted to go and participate. Max was to be the interviewer, since he’d interviewed Dave a few years before. We all headed to Acclaim’s booth to find Tara Blanco, who would then use her magical PR powers to find Dave and let us talk to him.

Once Dave was ready, we all walked out to the top of a nearby stairway in the hall, where there was a little space for setting up the chairs and camera. Max sat across from Dave, and the rest of us settled down on the floor to enjoy the show. Considering that the whole thing was done on the fly with practically no preparation, I’d say it went very well. Being a fan of Turok games and the various glimpses into game design they’ve offered, I occasionally tossed in one of my own questions. Dave was extremely gracious and was willing to talk about almost anything. He has a great sense of humor and isn’t stuck-up or too business-like, which makes for a fun interview.

With that done, Max and I headed back to the media center to get all our new Turok info up at the site. Max wrote while I looked on and offered additions and suggestions...it was pretty neat getting to exercise my duties as “Previews Editor” in real-time, right there at the time of writing. That took up the last several minutes of the day, so pretty soon we were all catching taxis back to the hotel.

That late afternoon/early evening was fairly uneventful. I think a few staffers went out for food, but I just stayed in and munched on all the snacks that we’d brought from home. Matt was really part of the group by now, running off to Ty’s room for Dreamcast tournaments and even coming to the staff meetings. I didn’t feel like getting too crazy that night...there’s something quite sobering about the realization that you’ve only got one day of E3 left.

However, Billy got us into a private little party with the folks at Saffire. We knew it’d be a much smaller and more personal affair than the big shindig where I’d met Billy a year earlier, but I was still really excited. They were staying at the same hotel in Hollywood, but this time the “party” took place in somebody’s hotel room. Everyone was pretty jam-packed in there, but it was a good time. Hal Rushton (president of Saffire) was holding an LCD projector out the window, and we got to play Young Olympians: Mythos on the roof of the next building over! Very cool, albeit impractical. Then they turned the projector onto the hotel room’s wall, and we got to seriously play Mythos and find out lots of stuff about it from the project lead and one of the programmers.

The game is vaguely like Soul Calibur, with a very interesting (and mostly unimplemented then) sidekick feature. Definitely some interesting ideas, but the game was way too early to say much about...there was one playable level, two playable characters. Actually, my favorite part of the evening was learning about “Inverse Kinematics”, which is a programming trick for animating polygonal models by hand.

After the Saffire thing, we decided to eat at the In-and-Out Burger in Hollywood. I’d never eaten there before, but some of the other guys couldn’t shut up about how great it is. Well, it was pretty good. The only thing I remember about the meal was that Jon Lindemann gave me a new nickname: “C.B., or Cynical Bastard”. Whee! Then we hopped a cab to the Comfort Inn downtown and called it a night.

The next morning was pretty quiet. Everyone seemed to have realized that there was more E3 behind than ahead. The last day also had a weird start for me, as Ed and I were scheduled to meet Hal Rushton immediately after the show opened. Being a developer and not a publisher, Saffire didn’t have their own booth at E3. We ended up meeting Hal at the Titus booth and then talked to him on the stairs nearby. He showed us some of their GBA games in development and talked about canceled projects and such. It was low-key and not exactly an interview, but chatting with the Saffire guys is always fun. They’re very open and talkative, which is a breath of fresh air for a Nintendo journalist, I can tell you.

When Ed and I arrived at the Nintendo booth, most of the PGC gang was just finishing up their official NOA booth tour with Thom Leonard. We’ve known Thom for a long time, and it was nice to finally meet him in person. I sorta wish I’d been there for the booth tour; NOA people have the authority to skip you to the front of the lines. Mmmmm. Billy then had to dart off for an interview with NOA’s Beth Llewelyn, and the group split up into several sub-groups to explore the booth further and play more GameCube.

Me and a couple other guys decided to try some multiplayer GBA, but on the way we ran into a Rare employee. I figured it best to take my chances and try talking to the guy. He was oddly open for a Rare employee. Said he’d been a designer for Blast Corps and Jet Force Gemini...oh yeah, suddenly I have tons of stuff to ask this guy. He was in a hurry to go somewhere, but I did manage to squeeze out of him that Blast Corps for GBA is maybe possible one day. Oh yeah, and trust me: Rare knows the demand for Killer Instinct 3. They probably just like watching us squirm.

At this point, one of the guys pointed up to the HUGE video screen suspended near the roof over Nintendo’s booth. This thing had mostly been showing GameCube and GBA teaser videos and stuff like that, but now it was playing some weird footage from what appeared to be an F-Zero game! The graphics were definitely GameCube-quality or FMV, and I immediately tracked down some NOA employees to ask them about it. Unfortunately, nobody knew anything about it, and as of this writing, the video has never been explained.

After some a bit of F-Zero and Mario Kart four-player, I went to see the GameCube setup in Nintendo’s merchandising section. This is a weird little area where they show off game boxes and stuff like that to retailers who may be at the show. It also has displays of the things you see at Wal-Mart a couple weeks before a game comes out...you know, the in-store demo. Those things are really expensive. What was cool about this place is that two of the demo units were playable, and the games rotated every day. On the last day, one of the games was Rogue Leader, and the line for this demo thing was MUCH shorter than the lines to play it in the main booth area. The only downside was having to play with the crappy shiny plastic-ized controllers that are always used for in-store demos. Still, it was a chance to play Star Wars without wasting an hour in line.

After a couple rounds at the in-store demos, I began walking towards the next hall over for my appointment with Natsume. I did run into Mike Orlando on the way, and it was cool to finally meet him. At the time he wasn’t a staffer at PGC, but it was in the works. I’d actually seen him several times, even as early as the press conference, but I’d never been able to figure out who he was or get a good look at his badge.

I was early to the Natsume thing, and Grahame Markay, their PR guy, was still in a meeting with someone else. I took the opportunity to look around at some third-party stuff, which is most prevalent in that middle hall. Namely, I went to Activision’s booth to play Tony Hawk 2 on GBA. It definitely got me stoked for that game. The Spider-Man game was also cool, and reminded me of Spidey’s stages in Arcade’s Revenge for SNES.

Upon returning to Natsume’s tiny booth, I met Grahame and learned about the company’s upcoming games. Pocky & Rocky Advance sounded quite promising, and they did have GameCube titles in development, just nothing ready to show yet. Harvest Moon also wasn’t announced for GBA or GameCube, but was highly likely. Grahame also told me a little about Legend of the River King 64 and why it was never released in America. Overall, it wasn’t an especially informative appointment, but I always enjoy talking to the small developers.

The rest of the day passed by in a haze. I was out to play as much GameCube as possible, no matter what. There was definitely a lot of SSB Melee going on, as well as Wave Race and another play through the finite-but-fun Luigi’s Mansion demo. I also finally got my hands on Pikmin for some length of time, figuring out what all the little guys could do and barraging the clueless NOA rep with my nit-picky questions. The rapidly depleting time with GameCube weighed heavily on my mind; I don’t remember spending much time in the media room that afternoon.

With maybe fifteen minutes to go before E3 2001 shut down for good, I got the strange urge to go meet Capcom’s PR manager, Matt Atwood. At the time it was just a random impulse decision, but in retrospect, I think perhaps that I subconsciously wanted to get away from GameCube under my own willpower, instead of being pried away from it by NOA’s surly bodyguard dudes. So, I trotted off to Capcom’s booth some five minutes away, never to play GameCube again until the demos hit Wal-Mart in October.

At this most unlikely place to end E3, I was unable to meet up with Atwood. He was in a meeting with someone back in a private room, and ended up not getting finished until sometime after the place closed up. So...I wandered over to Capcom’s game demos, of course! And that’s how Maximo, the long-awaited 3D sequel to Ghosts ‘N Goblins, came to be the last game I played at E3 2001 (and actually one of the only PS2 titles I played at all). Capcom PR people began to rope off the booth and shoo people out, and I headed back to the main entrance to find my fellow PGCers.

Snagging a taxi was impossible, much less two or three taxis for our huge group. I guess most everyone wanted to keep laying until the last minute, because suddenly 50,000 people were flowing out of the LACC in search of a ride. It was chaos, so we just started walking back towards the hotel. The walk would have been at least thirty minutes, but I figured we could at least make ground until finding a calmer place to hail a cab.

We eventually made it to some other downtown hotel about halfway there, and I for one was about to die. Los Angeles heat aside, I had blisters on my feet and pains shooting up my spine, and most of the others were just as beaten up. A couple guys walked on, but most of us used the hotel phone to call a cab company. There were about a dozen Planet GameCube folks sitting outside that hotel, and we got home in just two trips. Yes Virginia, you can squeeze six passengers into a taxi.

With the hustle and bustle of E3 now in the past, we had only one event left on the docket, and it was a doozie. Dinner with Denis Dyack! Everyone showered up and put in a few updates while we waited for Denis to call with the details. Unfortunately, all was for naught; we had not anticipated the problem of seating for almost twenty people in a fairly nice restaurant in Los Angeles...on a Saturday night. There was nowhere to do it at, and worse, I think something important had come up for him anyway. Of course he was really sorry, and we were all pretty disappointed. That did leave dinner open though, and we thought it best to go as one big group for our last meal together. We waited a couple hours for the crowds to settle down (and also to allow time for deciding on a place...) and then we loaded up the taxis once again and went to that bastion of cheap American food we all know and love: Denny’s.

This Denny’s had the worst service I’ve ever experienced at a restaurant, ever. Admittedly we were a large group, but it shouldn't take two hours to get what is mostly an order of breakfast food. The appetizers shouldn’t arrive ten minutes after the entrees. We shouldn’t have to go ten or fifteen minutes without drink refills when we’re practically the only people in the entire restaurant. It was a joke...although in some respects, a pretty funny one.

Here was another really great opportunity for me to marvel at the collective gaming mind of PGC’s staff. I looked around the place...some five tables worth of us, and every single person was talking about games. How often in life does that happen? I’m so used to keeping mum about my favorite hobby, afraid that people consider it a taboo or, at best, niche topic of interest. But here in this crappy Denny’s restaurant in downtown LA, I was surrounded by people who you could not only talk to about gaming, but who would actually talk back with knowledge of the subject.

I’ll never forget watching Matt and Ty discuss fighting games. They talked and talked and talked about fighting games, practically for the whole time we were there. Both are extremely well-versed in the field, and even though I only vaguely understand concepts like “infinite combos”, I was mesmerized by this discussion. Probably never again in my entire life will I see two extremely hardcore fighting game fans sit down and talk like that.

The food finally came, and after what can only be described as a mass “scarfing” down, we got ready to pay the check. Max’s brother Patrick calmly went up to the place’s manager and explained he didn’t expect any of us to pay full price for this two-hour service. Apparently the manager agreed to take something like 20% off everyone’s bill. Something was wrong with my check though; they’d taken off two percent instead of twenty. That got straightened out, and we gladly left.

While waiting on a cab back to the hotel, Ty mentioned that he’d left a business card with the manager, along with a certain web address on the back... I won’t print it here, but let’s just say that the man hopefully got quite a shock that night. You chat room regulars will quite know what I mean.

Back at the hotel, everyone seemed torn between getting much-needed rest and milking as much as possible out of their remaining time together. I opted to stay up, and the Dreamcast actually ended up in our room, with a respectable crowd gathered to witness one of the best and wackiest party games ever conceived: Samba de Amigo.

First up was Billy, who owned the game and I think the maraca controllers. He played a moderately difficult song and did pretty good, something like a B+ grade. Then my buddy Matt got up there for his turn. You should know that Matt has been in the band for a long time and definitely knows how to keep a rhythm going. You should also know that he practiced on Samba de Amigo for a week prior to E3, thinking that he’d be competing in a CloudChaser tournament which ultimately never happened.

Matt rocked the house. He played the hardest song on the hardest difficulty and got an almost perfect score. I had no friggin’ clue that he was so good at the game. Everyone in the room, especially Billy, was just staring with mouth wide open. I wish Yuji Naka could have been there to see it.

At some point I took the maracas, which was a mistake right from the start. I’d played Samba maybe once or twice before and had always managed to embarrass myself thoroughly. This time was no different, and despite a pretty decent score on one of the easy songs, I was the brunt of many “SEXIESMAN” jokes that night. Most everyone got to play it eventually, but my fave dancer was Rimmer. He seemed a tad quiet and shy in person (at least to me), so it was extra funny to watch him dance around with those ridiculous maracas. Wow, what a great game.

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