Last week I shared with you a diary entry (we didn't call it blogging back then) from E3 1998. This week I bring you the adventures of the first day of E3 1999. Again, this was written twelve years ago, so keep that in mind. This was the first time I'd ever been to the west coast. On top of that, I flew out there alone. I had just turned 18 and it was during the second to last week of my senior year of high school. I don't really remember how I pulled off getting out of school for a week right at the end of high school, but I'm glad it all worked out. I flew out on Tuesday and met my friend Gary Barth at the Westin Bonaventure in downtown Los Angeles. I got to tag along with him for the day visiting Universal Studios (the them park and the game publisher's offices). The offices were decked out in all things Crash and Spyro at the time. We met up with some of his friends for dinner at a place across from Mann's Chinese Theater. This happened to be the week that dozens of people were camping on the sidewalk in preparation for Star Wars Episode I. Man...remember that? We also went by Naughty Dog's studio in Santa Monica.
Thanks to Gary, I was able to get a free room in the Westin since Sony had rented out just about the whole place. I just kinda hung out around the hotel area Wednesday and counted down the hours til Thursday morning. So, here's what I wrote shortly after getting home from the show...
E3 1999 - Day 1
Well, I had already spent two days in the "city of angels" and I was ready for the show to begin. I woke up at 7:30am in my Westin Bonaventure hotel room and got ready for Day 1. I went downstairs to meet Gary, producer of Underground, for breakfast and a meeting that he was supposed to have but it got called off so it was just Gary, Scott (Gary's main cameraman for UG), and I at breakfast. After we finished eating we spotted Alan, who I had met before at the past to E3's in Atlanta, and he showed us that there was a breakfast room set up for Sony to at and the rest of the PlayStation crew was already over there. Why no one told us still remains untold. They were all discussing business and their gameplans for the day at the show and after that we headed for the valet garage and it was off to the Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC).Once we arrived in the parking garage at the LACC, Gary, Scott, and Alan gathered up their gear and I laced up my backpack and digital camera and we headed inside to register. Gary had to get straight inside so the three of us stopped at the big line and handed the person our VIP tickets, entered our information into the computers, and picked up or ID badges at the counter. Alan and Scott had to take pictures of the entrance and stuff, and of course I wanted to get inside the show so I told them I'd catch up with them later and hit the escalator.
There it was, right in front of me for all the taking...the REAL Greatest Show on Earth, E3. Right as I walked through the doors I was standing in front of one of the things I wanted to see the most, WWF Attitude in the Acclaim booth. The gameplay isn't much different than War Zone but the detailed options and new modes make the game. I wrote a whole article for Attitude on www.wwfattitude.com, so I'll move on.
After getting a taste of Attitude, I moved to one of the best booths at the show...Midway. Midway was showing off a ton of new titles including MK Gold, MK Special Forces, Jackie Chan's Stuntmaster, HydroThunder, Gauntlet Legends, NFL Blitz 2000, and the two big ones...NBA Showtime and Ready 2 Rumble Boxing. I went straight for NBA Showtime because I've always been an NBA Jam fan and Showtime is made by the same slam-master, Mark Turmell. The game is bad-ass! The players look as real as ever and the dunks and special moves are more abundant than ever before as well. You can run fast breaks from the inbounds, watch instant replays, and there's even a foul system. The game's format is set up where it looks like you're watching the game on a regular Sunday afternoon on NBC, all the way to to the music at halftime and the score graphics. It's really authentic but with that arcade style. Right next to the Showtime cabinets was a netted cage holding the NBA Showtime Free Throw Contest. I got in line and when it came my turn, I made 2 out of 3 and received a great Ready 2 Rumble T-shirt and Showtime Mini-ball from one of the wonderful Midway cheerleaders for my efforts. Very cool!
I looked at my watch and saw it was 11:30 and I knew that EA Sports and WCW were teaming up to put on a show at the EA booth at noon so I went of there. Right in the middle of the EA Sports arena was a WCW ring. I made my way up to the security railing as the masses of people crammed into the area. Eventually Mean Gene Okerlund came out and prolonged the wait for the show three times. Then they started up Diamond Dallas Page's music and he came down to the ring yellin' at the crowd. He was right in front of me. They showed off the cheesy plastic "WCW Mayhem Title" and then Gene said that Goldberg couldn't be there and showed us all the clip from Slamboree where Bret Hart hit him with a chair injuring him. DDP, playing full heel, challenged fans to a match and called us all "computer geeks and Nintendo nerds." At that point, Sting came down from the rafters and challenged DDP to a match, which he refused. So Sting challenged him to a game of WCW Mayhem to which Page agreed. A TV lowered to the ring and the ref handed each of them each a cordless PSX controller.
They began the match, showing off lots of the moves in the game and the fight led down the aisle to the back locker room that WCW Mayhem is flaunting big time. Once there, Sting powerbombed DDP in the game, which pissed off Page who turned around and clocked Sting in the face for real. The TV raised back up and the two started fighting. After two Stinger Splashes, Sting wrapped DDP in the Scorpion Deathlock. That's when Bret Hart came running through the crowd right past me and got up in the ring and clocked Sting with a chair, disqualifying Page, and therefore giving the plastic belt to Sting. After they cleared the ring, I talked to Mean Gene for a minute about Underground. He was pretty cool and talked to the fans for a while. It was a good show.
Since Acclaim and EA were right next to each other I walked back to Acclaim to play a little more WWF Attitude and noticed a line forming at Acclaim's desk. I saw a poster that said Jeremy McGrath was appearing. So I got in line and got an autograph from him. He was a pretty cool guy and really friendly with the fans and gamers. Then I decided that since it was the first day of the show, I needed to familiarize myself with the convention center with some quick rounds to be better prepared for the next two days of roaming the show floors.
First thing to catch my eye was this year's Oddworld display. They weren't showing a movie again this year but they did have peep holes all over this box that you could look into to see a TV screen showing the making of the next two games. Next, I spotted EA's Final Fantasy VIII display. They had about four TV's set up with two FF8 crew members helping people. Those dudes knew everything about the game possible. It was almost scary. After checking that out for a bit, something REALLY caught my eye. The Eidos booth was once again rockin' and in the center of it all was a stage with a giant television above it, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle in the middle, and surrounding that bike were seven Playboy models in blue and white spandex Eidos jumpsuits. I knew what this was all about from last year, so I ducked in caught an Eidos T-shirt, bag. a deck of Tomb Raider playing cards and got the heck outta there.
That's when I decided to head towards the West Hall where the "Big 3" were hangin' out. In the middle of it all was the PlayStation booth decked out with giant balloons of all the PlayStation mascots (Spyro, Crash, Lara, Sweet Tooth, and Parappa). I went up to the front desk to see if they were doing another passport thing like they had the last two years and they were. So I picked up my card and saw that this year's games to play were Spyro 2, Crash Team Racing, Ape Escape, and Um Jammer Lammy. As I walked off to find the games I spotted Gary over near the PlayStation 2 pyramid. I walked over and he was making sure no one got in the way of Scott's camera shot of an interview Alan was doing with the guy in charge of showing the demos on the PS2. I said hey and went looking for the games since I knew he was working and didn't have time to talk right then.
The first game on the list I found was Crash Team Racing (CTR). If you liked Mario Kart, you'll love CTR. It's a cart racing game with all your favorite Crash characters including CoCo, Tiny, Neo Cortex, N. Gin, Polar Bear, and even a brand new villian Nitros Oxide. I had never heard of the game before E3 but it's definitely on my "To Buy" list.
Next was Spyro the Dragon 2. I'll probably still buy this game but it's not much different than the original. It's basically the first game with a whole new set of levels. Same ol' purple dude blowing fire and pickin' up gems from what I saw. I also had the chance to play one of the fly through levels which was very well done. The game's not done yet so I'm sure there's a lot more than what I saw.
Third on the card was Ape Escape. It's the first game on the PlayStation that requires you have an Analog Controller. The game is definitely innovative and it's takes some time to get to liking it. You run around as a kid with a bunch of acquired tools that help you catch monkeys in every level. Like I said, after you play it a bit and get used to the analog sticks, it gets pretty great.
Last and definitely not least on my card was Um Jammer Lammy. I'll admit it. This game gets your head bobbin' to the music. No matter how childish people say the look of the game is, the game rocks...literally. The sequel to Parappa the Rappa is here and this time instead of many styles of rap jams, it's loaded with all types of rock tunes. You play as Lammy, guitarist for the all girl band, MilkCan. There's even a 2-Player challenge match and co-op modes. You gotta hear this game!
After turning in my card, and pickin' up my new PlayStation bag-o-goodies for my efforts, I checked out all the decorations and displays of the PlayStation booth. The front was a wild display of colors with the giant inflatable mascots and in the very center of the front was a big, silver, four sided PS2 Pyramid. I didn't want to wait in the huge line to play the PS2 Gran Turismo 2000 demo so I took a few snapshots and headed for the catwalk that circled the entire PlayStation booth. From up there you could see everything in the West Hall. It was a photographer's dream up there because you take wide shots of entire areas including Sega, Nintendo, and the inner area of PlayStation.I came down and went towards the Sega booth. Their booth was very intriguing with everything in there being new with Dreamcast. I made a quick round through there catching glimpses of Sonic Adventure, Soul Calibur, and House of the Dead 2. I really wanted to see the Nintendo booth so I promised myself I'd be back to spend a lot of time at Sega and headed out.
As I strolled into the Nintendo booth my eyes graced the likes of Kobe Bryant 2, Star Wars Racer, Perfect Dark, Rayman 2, and the one everyone has been waiting for...Donkey Kong 64. DK64 is running on a souped-up Banjo engine plus a required 4MB Expansion Pak, which will be packed in with the game just like Star Fox 64 had the Rumble Pak. You can easily tell it's the same engine but on the other hand the differences in detail are amazing. Speaking of Banjo, no signs of Banjo-Tooie anywhere at E3. Anyway, the levels of DK64 are beautifully done with lots of vibrant colors and textures. The 3D renditions of the mine cart levels are the best. Instead of just jumping up to grab stuff like on the SNES, you can now lean out of your cart to grab stuff to the left and right. I got to fight one boss that was a big tank type guy with red, menacing eyes. The board was rainy and the lightning was really cool because that was the only time you could see him really well. He shot fire blasts and missles out of the sides of the tank as you ran from him around the circular board.
After playing DK64 for a while, I spotted two hot rods hanging on the wall over at the PlayStation booth. I walked over knowing it could only be...Gran Turismo 2! The interface and speedometer graphics are about the same but the game looks even better than the original already. From what I saw, Ford and Volkswagen have been added to the roster of cars. And now there's even some new off-road tracks to go tearin' through. GT2 is coming and it's going to blow everything else out of the water.
I got caught up in GT2 so much I almost lost track of time and realized that it was almost time for WWF Women's Champion Debra to be appearing at Acclaim's booth to sign autorgraphs. So I took a couple more shots of GT2 and stuff off of the catwalk and then high-tailed it back to the South Hall. I got in line and when I got to the front I told Debra that I was from Georgia because I knew she was from Atlanta and she told me how she had to fly to Philly that night for a house show the next day. I asked her if I could hold the belt and she was really nice and said sure. I tell you what...that thing is pretty damn heavy, and that's what I told her. Her response was "Yeah, it's pretty heavy for girl's belt don't ya think?" I got my 8x10 autographed and got the Acclaim rep to take a picture of Debra and I together. That was just too damn cool being the big wrestling fan that I am.
Well there wasn't much time left for Day 1 so I went back over to Midway and played some more NBA Showtime with three other guys...damn that game's fun. After that, I couldn't help it, I had to head back over to the party atmosphere of the Eidos booth. That place was just pure fun. After taking Polaroids with Eidos booth babes, they left the stage for the day.
On my way out I stopped by EA Sports to see the aftermath of the WCW match earlier in the day. The ring was still there but no guard rails. I walked up to the ring and was tempted to get in but I didn't it. And now they had four TV's set up running WCW Mayhem so of course I had to play it. It's hard to really tell how the game will turn out since it was only 50% done. The controls are a little slow. All in all, it looks like it could be good in the end.
About that time, all the lights came on in the LACC signaling that it was time to get the heck up outta there. I went outside, carrying a good 20 pounds more than when I came in. And walked home down Figueroa Ave to the Bonaventure. On the way, I spotted where they were holding the 2nd Annual Interactive Achievement Awards, but of course I wasn't allowed to go in. I shook Mario's hand though. He was greeting people as they got out of their limos. I got back to the hotel and unloaded all my stuff. I went down to the food court, got some grub, came back to the room and cashed out.
Day 1 was a blast and now I knew where everything was and where the hotspots were. Two more days lied ahead and I was going to make the best of them.