E3 Diary (part 1)

After the positive reception we received from our GDC Diary blogs earlier in the year, we decided to write another covering our experiences at E3 in June.

The Kings of Geeks

In the weeks before the conference our focus was to get our games into a state where we could showcase our latest builds. We had to ensure that all the new features we had in Spirit Hunters Inc were coded into a playable state. As escapeVektor: Chapter 1 was being bug tested, we were keen to have all bugs fixed so that we could show the final version in LA.

Unlike GDC, there were no formal press interviews being set up but we were still keen to show the press the latest builds of our games. Renting a booth at the show is way too expensive for a small developer like Nnooo, and if we were to do this we would need to have someone staffing it at all times which is just not practical for us. We needed another way to reach out to our press contacts which would not cost an arm and a leg. We also wanted to meet up again with the other Nintendo indie devs who we met at GDC. We thought it would be cool if we brought everybody together in one place. Then we could show everyone what we were working on and introduce our indie mates to some press contacts.

Geeks? What geeks?

We were to be staying at the Figueroa Hotel, an ex YWCA turned into a Moroccan themed hotel close to the Convention Center. The hotel looked like it had some cool entertaining areas so we decided to send out invites to our press contacts and developer friends for free beers and a play of our games. We scheduled this for the Monday evening, the night before E3.

With invites sent, software updated and hardware packed, it was time to head off to LA. By the way, a tip to those flying with Wii and DSi test kits, enough wiring to kit out a small town and plenty of computer hardware in carry on luggage – you will ALWAYS be stopped at airport security as they incredulously and meticulously search your luggage, certain that they are seeing the King of Geeks going on holiday. Be prepared for delays and get used to it!

Monday June 6th – The Nintendo Indie Club meets the Press at Rick’s Place

We arrived in LA the morning before E3 and went straight to the hotel. After a couple of hours snooze and a freshen up we set off for the Convention Center to pick up our passes. There was still plenty of preparation going on in and around the Center. There was also a large screened off area just outside the Nokia Theater where Nintendo’s press conference was due to be held the next day. We were intrigued by this, particularly as Nic had an invite to the press conference.

After a few plates of mini burgers and some local beer we headed back to the hotel to set up our gear for our “drink & play” event. We agreed with the hotel manager that we could use their open air venue with its own bar, called Rick’s Place. Press attendees included a team from Australian site MMGN, a group from Nintendo World Report and a few people from games site RipTen. The game developers included Tyrone Rodriguez and his team from Nicalis (Cave Story), Alex Neuse & his colleagues from Gaijin Games (BIT.TRIP series) and Hersh Choksi from Intrinsic Games (Divergent Shift). This was a great chance to meet old and new friends and showcase our current projects in a nice relaxed setting, with of course a few beers.

Press & devs arriving for our "drink & play" night

Our event went well and our games were well received by press and developers alike. Justin Berube from RipTen produced an impressions feature of escapeVektor: Chapter 1 only a couple of days after. We were very impressed with how quickly he turned it around!

We also had a chance to preview some of the other developers’ games which they had brought along. Cave Story for the 3DS & Intrinsic’s Amoebattle for DSiWare both look really cool. The more we get to know these other developers, the more we find we have so much in common with them. It’s turning into a great little Nintendo indie club!

Tuesday June 7th – Microsoft and a long, long line

The first official day of E3 started for us with Nintendo’s press conference. We only had one invite so Nic went off to the Nokia Theater while Bruce & Steven stayed in the hotel and watched the conference on a live feed. We were frankly blown away by the Wii U unveiling and couldn’t wait to try it out in the days ahead. The screened off area outside the Nokia Theater contained a load of 3DS’s with upcoming Nintendo software for the audience to play after the conference had ended. Despite only having recently received dev kits for Nintendo’s 3DS, our thoughts were also turning to when we would be able to get our hands on Wii U dev kits too!

Before heading off to the Convention Center, Nic & Bruce had an introductory meeting with Microsoft where they showcased both Spirit Hunters Inc & escapeVektor: Chapter 1. Nnooo is pretty much fully focused on Nintendo hardware for the moment but we are certainly interested in the potential of extending our reach to other platforms. E3 is the perfect opportunity to arrange these kind of introductory meetings. Spreading our reach would also reduce our complete reliance on Nintendo as an income generator, a risk for the business. We’ve no idea what will come of it at this stage but it always helps to widen our contact base.

Hey dude, never mind the Wii U, check out SHI

After the Microsoft meeting, it was time for Nic & Bruce to meet Steven at the Convention Center. Steven was so keen to get his hands on the Wii U controller that he headed straight for the huge line waiting to try out the Wii U “experience”. Dedication indeed, given the expected waiting time was around 2 hours! Ouch! Nic & Bruce decided to have a wander round the conference as they knew they would have a chance to experience the Wii U later in the week without having to stand in line.

After a very relaxed wander round both halls of the show for a couple of hours, Nic & Bruce returned to check on Steven’s progress. They were delighted to see him showing off Spirit Hunters Inc to someone lining up behind him (hopefully now a potential new customer).

After Steven had a decent play on the Wii U, we filmed the first Ask Ogy segment for the t-shirt competition we ran on our Facebook page. Then it was off to a local steakhouse for dinner, followed by few drinks with the LA based programmer who worked with us on escapeVektor: Chapter 1.

Coming up in E3 Diary¬† (part 2) – some dodgy redheads & How U Doin’?

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