Miguel's Fanfest V/E3 report
There's alot to say, but where to begin? First off, many thanks to Bungie for helping make Fanfest V another rousing success. The damn thing just gets better and better.
Even before the Fest started, alot of cool things happened. We got our first glimpse of the Halo mobile, otherwise known as the Halo SUV:) I got to meet Jane, one of the only avid female Marathon players I've ever met. Those of you that attended the Fest saw her collecting money at the front table, along with Tom and Mike, two other very helpful volunteers. Tom gets a real big shout-out from me because being a native LA resident, he had been very instrumental in getting some aspects of the Fest rolling early on. I also got to meet Gary Simmons AKA Battle Cat, another infamous old time marathoner. He's now helping Frigidman run Evichra. Gary wrote up his experiences at the Fest here. Claude himself had been in touch with these folks for years but this was the first time he had ever met them face to face. Add to this the special appearance of Craig Mullins, artist extraordinaire. He was there to not only show his support for Bungie but also to sign a stack of prints of one of his paintings. These were later to be given away either via raffle or as a prize. All in all, it was alot of fun meeting all these people.
So now the Fest was about to start. People were starting to line up outside the ballroom. I ran back to my hotel room and changed into a suit and tie: my attempt at raising the respectability factor 'up a notch' at the Bungie Fanfests. Little did I realize that it would take alot more than that to counter any silliness that was about to transpire.
I quickly welcomed everyone to the event, thanked those from Bungie and Microsoft in attendance and introduced Matt. Matt surprised us right away... we were actually not only in attendance at a Fanfest, we were also at Bungie's own 10 year birthday party. So what do you do at a birthday party? For the first surprise of the evening, Bungie had two birthday cakes wheeled out on stage. Matt then got me to lead a sing-a-long of Happy Birthday to the boyz, while Alex, Max, Peter, Matt, and David all blew out the candles. Yes, I was a little embarrassed, singing into an open mike :) All attendees where promised a slice of cake as well as pizza later on.
So now Matt continued with a quick 10 year retrospective slideshow. Plenty of lewd early photos, double-entendres, and general 3rd grade behavior was sprinkled throughout his presentation. Yes, Matt never disappoints. :)
Once the keynote finished, I took the opportunity to ask Matt to comment on the whole Bungie.net server issue. He explained that sometime the following week (5/21-5/25) it should all be back up. Bungie hired someone specifically to work on Bungie.net as well as whatever future networking projects Bungie takes on.
After the keynote, we all had our pizza and cake. Soon after, Matt ran a great Trivia Contest modeled after that hit, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? We had snappy contestants, and folks in the audience played along really well. I can't wait to see what corrections Hamish comes up with this time. :) The final prize, if you answered all 7 answers correctly, was a FREE Xbox and copy of Halo. Redeemable, of course, when XBox launches in November. Unfortunately, the highest score anyone got was 5. The questions themselves were quite unbelievable, prompting more than one person to think aloud "Are you serious?" Yes, Matt was completely serious. :) For some reason, Alex was only asked once to assist a contestant. You'd think The Man would get leaned on more for the scoop.
After that, we had our raffle, with plenty of very cool stuff offered. That included signed Craig Mullins' prints, Soulblighter figurines, Oni Soundtrack CD's, etc.
Now came the really good stuff! First Matt announced that as a gesture to the hardcore fans that made it to the Fanfest, all attendees received a FREE pass to the E3 exhibits. That's a savings of about $140! Those that stuck around this far into the Fest were quite lucky... yet there was still more to come!
For his finale, Matt unveiled 2 Xboxes with 4 controllers each, tied together and running the latest E3 show build of Halo! First off Peter ran thru a demo of one of the solo levels, showing off the various weapons as well as how to use the controls. This is the 13 minute movie entitled First Solo Level in Halo. Whenever there's a pause in the gameplay, Peter is talking into his mike, so you should crank up the volume to hear what he has to say. Good stuff :)
Once that was over, the boxes were linked up and a multiplayer map was loaded. Now folks got a chance to try the game out for themselves in a non-stop game of 4x4 Capture The Flag. Needless to say, the next hour was quite fun. Alot of that initial 'how do I control this thing?' confusion fades enough that you can completely submerse yourself into the action. Man was it fun! We uploaded a small snippet of the ensuing action, but we have alot more to pass around. Expect it soon!
After an hour or so, we had to start to wrap things up, so Max quickly took one of the boxes and loaded the SECOND solo level, and showed off a bit more of the game. He showed off the Rays of Buddha effect thru the swaying trees, which illicited many oohs and aahs. This is the video entitled Second Solo Level in Halo.
Once that was done, we all went outside and took a group shot of us standing in front of the Halo SUV! Claude and I jumped on top of the car, as well as a few others. I don't think the driver was too thrilled about it, but we were careful.
So thus ended the fest! It was great meeting you all, some new faces, some old faces, and I hope to see you all again next year! Right now, I gotta start figuring out what to do for MWNY in July. Because the folks are under the gun to finish their game in time for the Xbox launch, as well as MWNY occuring so close to Microsoft's own Fanstock event, it's very doubtful that any actual Bungie presence will be at MWNY. But I'm fine with just arranging to get some folks from various facets of the Bungie community together for a lunch or dinner. I think that would be great. If you have an idea, drop me an email.
We even had our own little 'gathering' after the Fest: Forrest and some other members of Sphidia came over to our hotel room and brought over their macs. While Claude and I were busy doing our updates, we ordered some expensive yet bad hotel food and tried to play a few games. Peter/VJ, fellow Clan Plaid member was also there and we all had fun talking about the events that evening.
Speaking of dinner, the following night Bungie invited the folks that helped out during the Fest to a meal. Due to scheduling conflicts, etc., it was only Claude, myself, and the very helpful Tom (mnemesis) that got to attend. I was hoping to meet up with the =PN= folks, but unfortunately it was not to be that night. We ate at a restaurant called "The Milky Way." It serves Kosher Dairy food, which I had never had before. It was delicious! Besides the great food, it's owned by Leah Adler AKA Steven Spielberg's mother! And she was there! She came over and schmoozed with us for a few minutes and made us feel very welcome. That's her in the pictures we took at our table. She is quite a character, never missing a beat as we setup the picture: "Here, I'll feed you!" Who am I to say no to Mrs. Spielberg!?! Major props to Peter for picking such a great location. I think I'll be visiting that restaurant again the next time I'm in LA.
I would be remiss if I did not reveal that throughout the dinner, less was said about gaming and more about drunken debauchery, silly corporate shenanigans, and failed attempts at 'closing the deal' :) My lips are sealed or else I'll be visited by some drunken genius at my doorstep, wielding jello shots and an army of cabdrivers that don't have anything right now.
The night wasn't over yet! Matt and Peter were going to attend the Microsoft XBox party but Max was going to pass 'cause he was so pooped. Claude was also pretty tired plus he wanted to update some pages. So I figured it was up to me to go in Max's place. The party was held at the Palladium, and unfortunately we missed the first band that played, Third Eye Blind, but I did get to see Blink 182. That was pretty cool. Meg/Pallor mentioned that she was going to be there, but unfortunately I didn't see her, the place was so big. I did get to see some hot club dancers gyrate to some canned DJ mixes. I even snapped a few pictures of them without getting into any trouble. Eventually, I started just wandering around, all by myself, checking out the looping video of select XBox titles on the ring of plasma screens spread around the club. I noticed that there was a very long (about 5 minute) video clip hilighting some Halo scenes, some stuff I had never seen before... mainly showing off the beautiful long-range views in the game. I later discovered this was the same clip that was looping way above the main XBox booth. Anyway, so after I had my fill of all the music and free finger food, I took a cab back to my hotel room. I was pretty wiped!
Speaking of E3, as expected it's frikkin' huge!!! There are 5 different halls of exhibits, I believe, but Claude and I spent all day just wandering around the main one, and even then we missed some booths.
On the last day of E3, we visited one of the smaller halls, and found some interested off-the-beaten track products. I secretly snapped a photo of our fearless leader riding an excer-cycle that was hooked up to a moto-cross console game. After we were done there, we spent the rest of the day in front of the Halo booth. I finally got to meet Rob Swenson, AKA Noctavis of Rampancy.net, another Bungie fansite. He was really enjoying himself and furiously jotting down notes. I'm sure he'll have interesting thoughts on his visit posted on his site.
I also got to meet Halo Level Designer Jaime Griesemer and Meg. I had met Meg before during Fanfest IV, but this was the first time I could talk to Jaime at length. Jaime was happy to see that Halo was being received so well at E3. He hinted that there's plenty of good stuff coming to XBox that should convince anyone sitting on the fence to go ahead and purchase as soon as it ships in November.
Claude and I also bumped into Craig Goodman again, AKA Santa's Head. He was trying his hand at Halo and was having a great time. I wrote up a report on my experiences with Myth III and submitted it to the folks at our sister site, myth.bungie.org, expect the report up there ASAP.
For the rest of E3, Claude and I were hanging around the booth for so long that at one point Hamilton asked me to run the Blue team side of the multiplayer booth while he took a much needed break! I think I did OK. :) But the real treat was when Max challenged Claude, Noctavis, Craig and myself to a game of MP Halo vs him and 3 rabble. We won, but barely! Even later, we took on more of the Bungie crew, but got our asses handed to us at the end. There's always next year! At the end, I can assure you all that Claude is hooked on the game... It's nice to see that our fearless leader is still a boy at heart.
When the show finished, we hung around while they were knocking the booths down. I took the opportunity to grab some goodies :)
Yep, this means I will now start offering Halo cards to anyone that sends me a SASE. The PO Box address is on the home page of Bungie Sightings, so I'm waiting for your letters! The placard I'll keep since it's really nothing special, just a little memento for my attending E3.
Claude and I parted ways since I was flying out that evening and he had to bunk up elsewhere. Since I had a few hours to kill until my flight back home, I stuck around with some other folks from the Bungie/Myth community: AxeMan, Poppinfresh, and Cunbelin. We were pooped and hungry, so we walked around for a bit and settled into a diner for some grub.
One last thing, I've noticed some folks post on several forums observations about in-game lag and reduced framerates. I'm not sure if this is news to many of you or not, but the XBox development boxes they've been using is only running at around 50% capacity. Why? Because they're emulating sound and other things off a Pentium. Supposedly all XBox developers are getting 100% boxes as we speak. What little bumps and burps I saw don't look like they're going to bother a new machine that's running at 200% improvement over the existing development box (please know your math before you start to flame me :)
BTW, something else we're not seeing is a high-def version of the video out. Even on those plasma screens, the display was strictly SVGA.
The pictures and reports below are from earlier dispatches. Many many thanks to Harry of B.ORG for assisting me in updating the site. I never could have done it without your help Harry! Hopefully, he'll help me also spruce up the rest of the site, it could use it!