With E3 starting next Monday I thought it would be nice to update the E3 Pro-Tips article I ran last year. For those of you who read last year's article just skip to the last page as that's where I've put the new information. I've made a few other tweaks and fixed last year's article as well which are in bold)
Comfortable shoes are your friend
- The LA convention is nothing but hard concrete floors and while some companies will put down some carpet in their booths you’re still going to be standing/walking on hard concrete for seven hours plus a day. By the end of the first day you won’t be able to feel your feet, by the end of the second day your knees and back will hurt, and by the third day of the show you’ll know why the show is only three days long.
If you were planning on buying new shoes for the show you should have bought them a month before the show. Dan can tell you what a mistake bringing new shoes to a convention trip as breaking in new shoes on a trip like this will generate some impressive blisters. I recommend a nice pair of sneakers or well broken in business casual shoes. Flip flops and sandals should be avoided as they don’t provide any kind of support for your feet and honestly no one wants to see your toes. Any shoes you bring should be well broken in and make sure you have some comfortable socks to go along with them to help alleviate the pounding they are going to take on the show floor.
Be prepared to wait in line - One of the sad truths about E3 is that there are long lines for almost everything. There are lines for the big name games, there are lines for the bathrooms, there are lines for food, and in some cases there are lines to get into other lines. Be sure to bring a DS or PSP so you can kill some time while waiting in those lines. Make sure your phone is charged so you can read about the stuff you haven't seen yet (assuming you have a smartphone of some sort). Extra batteries for your phone is also a great idea as this is the best way to keep up with what's going on during your down time.
Pick up your badge holder early
– If you can get to the convention the day before the show (Monday) to pick up your badge do so. This will save you from having to wait in long lines the day of the show and will ensure that you won’t run into any technical difficulties like the power outage that knocked out registration for a bit during the 2006 show. This will also gives you some time in case there are problems with your registration.
Make a list of games you want to see
– One of the most painful lessons of previous shows was leaving the show on the last day and realizing that I hadn’t seen a games that I desperately wanted to see before the show. That’s why I started making a list of games I wanted to see before the show and making sure I crossed them off after I had played them. I also try to track coverage on other sites to see if there are any sleeper hits that seem cool and I add them to the list as I go.
If you want to take this a step further print out a map of the show floor and highlight the areas where the games you want are going to be so you know where they are ahead of time. It's worth noting that some games are being shown off in more than one place (i.e. at the Microsoft booth and at the publishers' booth) so be on the lookout for alternatives in case there is a long line.
True obsessive compulsive will sort and/or categorize the games they want to see to ensure that time isn't wasted on a lesser title but even I'm not that OCD.
The quickest way to get from A to B is not necessarily a straight line
- Conventional logic is that the quickest way between two points is a straight line. Unfortunately conventional logic factor in heavy crowds in a convention center. One of the best tricks I've found over the years is that the hallways to the side of the contention center are the best way to get around the show. Sure the view isn't as scenic as scenic as walking through the show floor but if you need to get someplace quickly they can be a lifesaver. It's also worth noting that the outdoor path between the South and West halls is the quickest way to get from hall to hall, although you do have to deal with the blazing LA sun.
This wasn't as bad last year as the show didn't fill either of the halls. That said it's still faster to get around the edges of the show than go through the middle usually.
Bring your own food
- Unless you like spending a lot of money on very little food I would recommend that you either bring your own food or find places around the LA Convention center to eat. Cyril and I both really like the Italian joint that’s right up the road on Figueroa and there are a few other places in the area that serve decent food for a decent price. There are a few decent places to get food inside the convention center but they are usually jam packed with people and the food quality can be a little iffy.
The other reason to do this is to maximize your time on the show floor. Why wait in line to eat food when you can scarf down a PowerBar on your way between halls will save you 20-30 minutes of waiting in line and having to find a place to sit and eat your food. Like last year I'm going to pack five power bars for the trip and use them to get me through the day.
Shower daily (with soap and shampoo)
– I realize that personal hygiene can vary from culture to culture but for the love of God please shower everyday with soap and shampoo. The funk of thousands of sweaty people in a confined space can be nauseating and it does nothing but perpetuate the stereotype of gamers as unclean, anti-social losers. For the sake of your fellow gamer please, please clean yourself before the show every day to help keep the convention center tolerable.
Actively manage your swag
- There's a strong temptation to pick up every single bit of swag and freebies that you come across but remember that you're going to be carrying that around the show floor for the entire day. In previous years there were free magazines in bins around the entrances. While it was great to get free magazines the damn things were like lead rocks after two to three hours of being carried around the convention center.
The trick to actively managing your swag is realizing what you actually want to keep and what's really a pointless trinket that you'll throw away when you get back to hotel. T-shirts are always a keep because even the worst t0shirt can be burned into a dust rag or used to clean up poop. Everything else you need to think if it's worth keeping or not as you're going to have to carry it back to the hotel, pack it in your luggage, and take it back to your home port.
Just as a heads up there wasn't that much swag to be acquired last year. I'm not sure if that was me not looking for it or companies cutting back but either way you should manage your expectations.
It's also worth noting that you if you are flying to/from the event you need to factor TSA into the equation. That awesome letter opener is going to get confiscated so you'll either need to check your bags ($15-$20 per airline) or mail it to yourself ($2-5 USPS).
Leave space for swag
- The corollary to actively managing your swag is making sure you have a good mechanism to carry it. In the past companies have handed out ginormous shopping bags. While huge, they tore easily and were a pain in the ass because people would constantly walk into them (they increased your personal hitbox by about 40% around the legs). Backpacks are really the best for swag storage as you can spread the load over two shoulders and they are visible enough that people aren't going to run into them too much. This also applies to the luggage you bring with you as you should leave a good chunk of space to bring stuff back with you. I usually try to save about 25% of my luggage for goodies and I'm not the biggest swag whore (that title goes to Ben).
There is actual business getting done at E3, be mindful off retailers, presenters, and press
- Not to be too much of a buzzkill but the real purpose behind E3 is not for gamers to sneak in to play upcoming games but for retailers to meet with publishers to see what games are coming out and for the accredited press to get a chance to play the games so they can report on them to their audiences. They aren't there for the swag or the booth babes (well mostly) but are there to actually get stuff done. I'm not saying you have to treat them like royalty but if you get pushed by a media type or someone gets priority in line to play a game just realize they are probably there for work and not trying to be an ass. I'm not going to say there aren't press people who abuse this but just keep an eye out as some of us are booked solid and are trying to get as much in as possible.
Check out the Into the Pixel Exhibit
- One of the hidden gems of E3 is the Into the Pixel Exhibit which features concept and game art framed as actual art pieces. It's a great way to kill time before or after the show and it provides some cool insight into your favorite games. It's also one of those things that shows you who much effort and creativity that goes into our favorite industry. I know it sounds like a waste of time but the show is really one of the highlights of E3 and worth your time.
Don’t be a dick
- I saved this for last because I think it's the one most important thing about the show. Be mindful of people working at the show and your fellow gamers as they are trying to enjoy themselves and get work done. This is an important year for E3 as it marks the return of the big format and companies are going to want to make sure they get the maximum bang for their buck. This means that they don't want to have people stealing their games out of the demo consoles, they don't want people turning off their TV's as a joke, they don't want to be annoyed by a constant stream of angry fanboys.
The worst case I saw of this was watching an angry fanboy berate a FASA dev about why they weren't support the Steel Battalion controller in MechAssault 2. It went on for nearly ten minutes before the guy found an out to get away.
This also applies to diving for swag. There's plenty to go around so you don't need to drop elbows or knock someone down to get whatever mindless trinket Sony is giving away this year. Let's keep it safe for everyone's sake.
New for 2010:
3G on the iPhone is useless
- If you're one of the cool kids with an iPhone you're going to find that your phone is nearly useless for browsing the web. That's because there are tens of thousands of other cool kids who are trying to do the same thing. The best thing to do is to drop back to Edge level service or make friends with one of the new cool kids who have a 4G EVO.
Bring more business cards than you expect to use
(Ben Berry) - You're going to burn through your business cards faster than you expect (especially if you hit some of the parties) so make sure you have at least 10% more than you expect to use.
Take time for breakfast (Ben Berry) - Tired and hungry == forgetful and grumpy, which are two traits you dont want to display in interviews
or in front of other PR people. We know Chuck lives this way most of the time but he's the exception rather than the rule.
Bring Backup Equipment (Ben Kuchera from Ars Technica)
- Also bring backups for your equipment. It doesn't have to be as good as the original, but make sure you have two ways of doing everything you want to do.
Don't be afraid to introduce yourself (Ben Kuchera from Ars Technica) - If you see someone at a party or an event that you want to meet, it is not rude to have some self confidence and say hello, and in fact many good interviews are done this way, especially at the parties.
I had an intense interview with Jack Tretton from Sony and then Ed Boon right before Mortal Kombat vs. DC came out. Both nice guys, and some of the best conversations I've had in this job. And I found out that my vocal recorder had died. So now I have a dedicated vocal recorder and the voice recorder function on my iPhone. And between you and me and your readers, I'll often record important interviews on two devices because I'm paranoid.
But, and this is a big but, be sure to watch the other person's body language, and when they're ready for the encounter to be over, move on and let them relax a bit.
Try new games (Ben Kuchera from Ars Technica)
- make room for independent games or things you haven't yet heard from.
Don't overbook yourself
(John Yan) Nothing's worse than trying to run from one appointment to another and not given the due time to someone you are visiting. As well, you want to gather the most information accurately and if you are rushing you might miss a few things here or there. Plus, your stress level will be lessened when you don't have to write on so many companies in a very little time.
I know it's a lot to digest but if you've got any other tips or tricks leave them in the comments.