Like most gamers, I've been following this event online for many years now, never thinking I'd attend, let alone exhibit - that's for EPs and VPs and top brass. So I was expecting it to be overwhelming and probably exhausting. But it turned out to grow exponentially more insane as it progressed.
Warning: Name drops inbound.
Before anything started, there was a day of press conferences, with Sony's being the main one for me. No Man's Sky was featured prominently, and a bunch of other indies were shown on this screen (everyone was tweeting this back and forth and playing "Where's Waldo" with each other's logos). Bonus Trivia: The devotion logo was designed by Nick Suttner's girlfriend. My favorite AAA part? The Batman trailer.
In contrast to the press conference presentation, the Axiom Verge kiosk happened to be at the very front and center of Sony's booth, so everyone saw it, plus a lot of traffic was passing by just to get to the high-profile brands behind it. It also didn't hurt to have Nidhogg on one side attracting a constant crowd, and Velocity on the other, looking beautiful.
Behind me (and wrapping 270 degrees around the whole booth) was a giant screen blasting the squishing sounds of AAA monsters dismembering each other. But often it would also play indie trailers.
Basically I spent the entire three days hovering over my two kiosks, demoing AV and talking to journalists and devs, and trying my best to keep hydrated.
I think the best part was probably the people I met there. James Petruzzi of Chasm fame was there with his wife Trang, and they brought with them a lot of much-needed down-to-earth-ness to counter the mayhem. Chasm and Axiom Verge have a lot of similarities, not just in gameplay but also sharing the underlying technology (XNA and/or Monogame) and also development (regular people making games that remind them of their youth). I just wish Baltimore and Las Vegas were closer together.
Rami Ismail (maker of Nuclear Throne, Luftrausers, Ridiculous Fishing, and other popular titles) stopped by and gave me a hug, which was nice. And I mean, how often do you get a hug from a respected indie celebrity? He also found a bug in my room transitions and gave some pointers on general game development stuff.
We traded stickers, too. Flame bears! What happens when they meet up with water bears?
Here's Ian Stocker, who recently hooked up with Tim Schaefer for a publishing agreement for Escape Goat 2. I'd been twittering back and forth with him since the Escape Goat 1 days. Did you know he originally envisioned it as a Metroidvania, but decided to focus more on the puzzle aspect? It was really good to finally meet him.
Alex Preston, designer of Hyper Light Drifter, also stopped by! I'll say that HLD is probably my most anticipated indie game. It was actually playable on Vita just behind me, but as a sole developer, I didn't have a way to leave my kiosks and play other games (at any rate I probably want to wait for the full version so as not to spoil the experience.) Alex himself was stationed at Microsoft's booth to helm the XBox One version of the game, which is releasing on every platform ever made*.
*Possibly not entirely factual or correct.
For some reason I didn't take any pictures of it, but there was a fancy dinner for Sony developers at Soho House (I found this image in a Hollywood Reporter article). I sat at the same table with Jonathan Blow - probably the most famous indie developer ever - though it took me a while to recognize him because he'd let his hair grow in. This scene from Wayne's World explains succinctly how that felt. There were also a lot of older "suits" types. I was really tired from a full day at the show so I mostly tried my best to stay awake and not to be completely incoherent talking about garbage collection and IMGUI with the people seated beside me.
Also on Day 3, GameSpot and IGN dropped these placards off at my kiosk. If getting to meet industry celebrities gave me a shock, this was like some new level of absurdity altogether. The two biggest gaming sites think I could be best of show? I'm just a guy with a laptop. What's going on? Gamespot actually gave me a bag full of "best of E3" buttons for my "team". There were about 15 buttons in there. I used them to make a scale mail shirt.
I guess word must have gotten around because shortly thereafter, Reggie Fils-Aime showed up. I was at a loss for words at that point; I think I said something like, "Is that...?" (the ellipses which were practically audible). Reggie looked at my kiosks and said, "oh yeah, that does look like Metroid," to which a nearby journalist quipped, "Hey, somebody needs to make a Metroid, it might as well be him!"
Things you don't expect to happen to you, ever: Reggie shook my hand and congratulated me.
Then he was off.
Later, while riding the elevator up to my hotel room, I saw a woman with the same "Best of E3" pin that GameSpot gave out, and while pointing to my own, I said something like, "Hey, we have something in common! What game do you make?" Honestly, I was thinking she was probably another indie, until she replied, "Dragon Age."
So, was E3 overbearing, overwhelming, and insane? Yes, absolutely.
But am I glad I went?