E3Expo Retrospective of 2006 Page 3

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by Tom “20mm” Hayden
Introduction

Southwest Airlines Flight 1639, non-stop to Tucson Arizona, made a smooth left bank over the Pacific Ocean and was heading east above the city of Los Angeles. I watched The City of Angels slide by the window from 8,000 feet up. I could pick out familiar landmarks here and there, places I had been or driven by earlier in the week. They looked familiar, but understandably distant. I read a little more “Speed Secrets” by Ross Bentley and when I looked out the window again, Los Angeles was fading into the distant horizon and then was gone.

I was left with only my memories of E3 2006.

But what memories they are! Come along with me now, if you choose, as I wander back along my E3 2006 memory lane and I’ll pick out some of my favorites to share with you.

Prior to leaving, I wanted to know as much as possible about what to expect. I decided to dial in with SimHQ’s resident consultant on these issues and more, “Bad” Baghdad Bob. Here’s how that went:

20mm: Bob, last year all we heard about was that simulations were a dying or extinct species, like the dinosaurs. Everything was going to the console, arcade, big bucks. What’s your take for this year?

BBB: That’s right, Mister 20mm. No more simulations. Zip-zero-nada, and you can quote me. By the way, what did you mean about dinosaurs? I have one in my back yard right now.

20mm: Really? Send me a picture sometime. OK, second, we’ve all heard the rumors about there being no Booth Babes at 2006 E3. True?

BBB: Absolutely, there will be none. Barren Booth Babeless, like the sands of the Sahara. Listen to me on this Mister 20mm, I know. What, do I look like I just crawled out of a spider hole or something?

20mm: No Bob, uh, I guess not anyways. Last, something that’s very near and dear to me. I like my good night’s sleep, especially while traveling. SimHQ tries to keep a target length on our E3 articles to 7 pages or so. Is there any possibility, any at all, this would be exceeded? Maybe by, say, twice as much?

BBB: (laughing loudly) Oh, Mister 20mm, where did you get such an impossible idea? Insane! That would be, what, 14 pages? The Mother of All SimHQ E3 Reports! You are such a silly man. No, no, no, not going to happen. You can rest easy.

Tuesday, May 9th

I can’t believe it’s almost been a week since Chunx and guod picked me up outside Terminal One of LAX. Chunx was driving the officially designated SimHQ SUV, which would take us through many harrowing miles of LA traffic and LA freeways. Big-time kudos to Chunx for tackling the driver duties! I would have never made it.

First (non) sightingI had my first Fry’s Electronics Store experience (wow!), and then we headed over to E3 to get our Media badges. What a breeze, especially compared to last year’s trauma. Then we checked out E3 prior to opening. Chunx talked his way through an office to get some great overhead pre-opening pictures.

And we saw (gasp!) our first Booth Babe (well, technically not a Booth Babe but certainly a Babe). She was doing a news video and she was simply stunning. For a while we thought maybe she was the only one, after all, we had “Bad” Baghdad Bob’s word on it. I wanted to trust him. I mean, he had that reputation thing going for him from 2003. With cred like that, he had to be right. Right?

As we prowled our way through the LA Convention Center, it occurred to me that something was missing. What? People, thousands and thousands of people, sometimes crushed together like small stinky fish in a can with a roll-up lid. Sometimes passed out stone cold in the reclined seat of their cars in the nearest parking lot, sometimes on the floor outside Kentia. Awake, or unconscious, lots of people.

Before we left, we went outside and took the first of many small video clips. It was the opening sequence, our welcome to E3 for our SimHQ readers. We took it in front of an America’s Army helo, and in the distance over downtown LA, three civilian choppers hung suspended high over the city. Chunx and I rehearsed for months in advance to get the video just right. Well, OK, we made it up on the spot. We left that afternoon with a big sense of anticipation for what was to come the next three days. How was I to know that when my head hit the pillow that first night just after twelve, it would be the earliest I would get to bed all week?

Wednesday, May 10th

The first full day was upon us. I met Hornit the night before and so we were a fearsome foursome, ready to take on the E3 world. I’ll remember the long walk in from the parking lot to the Convention Center, the sight of fire trucks with lights on in the E3 vicinity and wondering what was up with that. The huge Jack Black “Nacho Libre” movie promo on a building side.

Who could forget the crush of Early Media types waiting for the opening bell that didn’t ring (“And they’re off!”).

I recall how great it was to be able to sit and talk flight simulations with the guys from Lead Pursuit. Not a promo on their latest product, just a bunch of like-minded simmers talking about their hobby. Good stuff, that. Stopping by the CH Products area and meeting everyone there. I’ve mentioned those folks, except for one gentleman that I didn’t meet until Friday afternoon, Revvin. Nice guy and we had a good discussion. Unfortunately, 531_Ghost, who I was really looking forward to meeting, was called away on business and, as it turned out, would not be able to attend this year’s event. One of my bigger E3 disappointments. But when duty calls, Ghost answers, and I understand that.

I’ll remember driving GTR2 in the VRX seat, with the Logitech G25 wheel and pedals, sound cranked up and cruising. When Chunx was behind the wheel, I remember the crowd of onlookers that suddenly appeared and refused to leave. That is until he was through for a moment, and I took the wheel. Poof, the audience evaporated. My driving style must be an acquired taste.

Then there were Babes, Booth Babes. Lots and lots, they were everywhere. I called up Baghdad Bob and told him to return to the spider hole, he missed that one. The Boys in Burgandy were busy that day, my friends. With their cameras. As it turns out, Booth Babes, for the most part, do not mind you asking if you can snap their picture. Imagine that.

I’ll remember our dinner that night at Macaroni Grill. Stuffing my face with round after round of fresh baked bread, on a previously empty stomach. After a while, we began communicating our need for more bread with simple waves to the waiter. Then dinner itself, a salad and a huge pasta dish. All those carbs, plus two large glasses of water and two more ice teas felt like the Titanic in my stomach. Whoa, loosen up the belt time.

Thursday, May 11th

Holy moly, what a day. The Mother of All E3 Reports was upon us. I’ll never forget guod’s story of being awakened by a telephone call after only a couple hours nap time. Priceless. I’ll always the remember the remains of the “party hardy” crowd. Exhibit 1 was in the parking lot, sound unconscious behind the wheel of his car. Exhibit 2 was stowed up against a concrete wall just outside Kentia Hall, dead. Or just dead to the world.

This was the day I met Oleg Maddox. I’m sure he’ll never remember me, but I won’t forget. Very interesting man, very tightly focused.

And I began to see that the death of simulations was another Baghdad Bob fallacy. Not happening, not remotely. In fact, it got to the point where I really understood how monumental our task was. Not just the interview schedule we already had, but trying to capture all the other goodies that were around us. And knowing full well that with only four people, we could not hope to get it all done. We began to think along the lines of priorities and what we could accomplish with the resources we had. The rest would have to wait and our readers would have to understand.

I began to realize the importance of those burgundy shirts. It made us stand out, it gave credence to us being professionals and being a team. People who might not otherwise know who we were, yelled out “Hey! SimHQ!”Awesome.

Hey guod, we need more shirts for next year! Mine got a little stinky towards the end. [Editor’s note: A little??]

I started to sense a pattern in which it was clear that once again simulations and their physics, their graphics, their “1”‘s and “0”‘s would be pushing the edge of the technology required to play them. “We recommend 2 GB’s of RAM” was a fairly common comment. Looking at the graphical gaming goodness of a Storm of War: The Battle of Britain, or a Whirlwind of Vietnam: UH1, or a GTR2, or a PT-Boats Knights of the Sea, and more, made the point. We’re looking at upgrade city here, folks, or new system town. And I say this not in a bad way, because it means that simulations are pushing the envelope again, going to the next level. Making us drool over the screenshots and the video. Like the Golden Age of Simulations. Remember those days?

Thursday was another interesting gastronomic experience. We concluded our day’s interview at the AMD booth and the good guys there had cookies. Wonderful, amazing cookies! I had three, four, maybe more. I lost track. Coming at 5 in the afternoon, it was all I had to eat so far. The evening’s repast, with beer, in our room, came around 9 that night and consisted of great, greasy pizza. My gut has still not returned to normal. The pizza and cookies diet tastes good, but it’s not good for you.

Friday, May 12th

All of a sudden, it was nearly over. Our final E3 day.

This day was marked with Land Combat, Naval Combat, and Motorsports Combat. Uh, Motorsports Racing that is.

I’ve said this before, but one of the most impressive parts of E3 to me has always been the people you meet. Whether it’s Oleg, or the CH Products gang, or two Motorsports guys we hooked up on Friday, Gjon Camaj of ISI, and Diego Sartori of SimBin, they are just really fine people. So interesting to hear what they have to say. Chunx led the conversations from our side, because he’s forgotten more about Motorsports than I know, but it just great to be a part of it all.

This was also a day where I had another disappointment: We flat missed our appointment with rjetster of FighterOps. We’ve apologized and we’ll catch up with Rick soon and get you all an update, but it sours me when I think about it. There are reasons why it went down like that, sure, but an appointment is just that, something you keep. I still feel badly about it.

Continuing the tradition of taking pictures of nonexistent Booth Babes, we took pictures, and more pictures. Video and more video. Why? Ask “Bad” Baghdad Bob, he just crawled back out of his spider hole.

Friday afternoon, a fifth member of the SimHQ team made the show, Vince “Beer Camel” Putze. It was great meeting Vince and later on having our SimHQ wrap-up dinner. A very good meal at a great local restaurant. Good food, good company, good conversation.

I tell you what, you think you know a little bit about aviation? Try sitting in on a conversation between three military pilots! Heh, most of the time I had no clue what they were talking about, but it sure sounded fun.

I’ll close my E3 2006 Recollections very much the same as I did my 2005 one. I simply cannot tell you all what a great bunch of people SimHQ has on our Staff. Every time I meet somebody else, and I was fortunate to meet two more this year in Hornit and Beer Camel, it just reinforces that even more.

We had never met in person, but they were instantly part of the SimHQ team. Hornit hit the ground running and if he wasn’t quite used to the midnight oil school of pressure-packed writing we do because of our same-day style reporting, you would never have known it. The man can just flat write. I wish Vince could have been with us for the whole week.

The other part is the writing. I hope you all appreciate it as much as I do. It’s quality stuff, and I know how that sounds, the old “pat yourself on the back why don’t you?” routine. I guess it didn’t hit me until I got home Saturday. That was actually the first time I had to sit down and read through the finished reports. Until then, I had only seen my little slice of the text pie. When I saw the finished product, with pics and video, and understood for the first time what excellent quality material my fellow writers had produced and what a primo job guod did in editing, cross-checking and assembling it all together into what you see today, well, it was very humbling.

My hat’s off to everyone on this team and I’m proud to be a small part of it. Thanks everyone for reading and I hope to see you next year for E3 2007!

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