It was the spring of 1996 and the first day of the second-ever E3. In a remote corner of the Los Angeles Convention Center’s South Hall Al Hastings, Brian Hastings and I were standing nervously next to a game kiosk. The kiosk was basically a wooden stand holding a 13-inch color screen and a PlayStation 1 hidden inside.
But on the screen was our first game, Disruptor. I recall a few people stopping by, picking up the controller and playing through the first level. When I say “a few” I mean a total of around 30 over three days.
For the three of us, it was amazing. Here we were – three industry noobs surrounded by huge games, getting to show off our little newcomer to the whole world.
Through the years we’ve experienced similar E3 highs. Like 1998 in Atlanta where the Foo Fighters played under a giant Spyro the Dragon banner. Or in 2004 where we demoed the first online multiplayer platformer ever, Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, onstage at the Sony E3 press conference. Or in 2006 where we had Resistance: Fall of Man multiplayer running on a crazy number of kiosks in the Sony booth.
However, nothing comes close to what happened this year. For me and for all of us at Insomniac this particular E3, our 19th, was extraordinary.
There were many E3 moments last week to choose from that I could call my favorite.
Ultimately, what I’ll remember most occurred in the show’s final minutes. After more than 40 live Sunset Overdrive presentations, dozens of press interviews, ushering thousands of players through our booth lines and sharing hundreds of pounds worth of Overcharge Delirium XT cans with fans, Insomniac and Microsoft team members who worked at the Sunset Overdrive booth gathered there for celebratory photos. I was moved by the pride and enthusiasm apparent on everyone’s face despite their exhaustion, especially when Drew Murray, our game director, gleefully jumped on creative director Marcus Smith’s back. The entire group felt such a clear and overpowering sense of ownership in Sunset Overdrive…that’s when you know you’re a part of something special.
We all had a lot to be happy about at E3 2014 – 18 years after that very first time we showed off one of our games.
First and foremost Sunset Overdrive garnered more than 50 E3 nominations and awards during and after the show – an unprecedented amount for us. That alone would have been enough to cap this E3 as Insomniac’s most successful. Yet we still had other exciting news to share about our upcoming PS4 re-imagination of the original Ratchet & Clank to coincide with the movie. Add our recent strong debut of Outernauts on iPhone and iPad, where we’re enjoying a 4.5-star rating and nearly 2.8 million beast eggs have been hatched since we were featured on the App Store home page, and last week eclipsed all of our past E3s by a country mile.
My own E3 actually started the previous week, deep in the bowels of the Galen Center on USC’s campus. Everyone associated with the Microsoft press conference spent much of the weekend rehearsing for the big show. I don’t think I was the only one who got nervous when reminded that millions of people around the world would be watching. No pressure…
As stressful as the press conference was, the one-block bus ride to the green carpet in our Sunset Overdrive-themed vehicle almost exceeded it. Security officers wouldn’t let the bus, filled with Insomniacs dressed as Sunset City survivors, into the Galen Center parking zone. They even threatened to arrest the bus driver! The misunderstanding was eventually corrected, and we made our unique entrance – after another shuttle bus rear-ended ours.
When the show floor opened on Tuesday, those of us manning the booth watched as fans literally ran to our booth to be the first in line to play Sunset Overdrive. Their enthusiasm was infectious, and I’m sure inspired both Insomniac and Microsoft team members working the booth. That excitement never wavered throughout the week. And I still can’t believe the volume of Sunset Overdrive promotional items Microsoft provided throughout the show fueling the fire – wall clings in bathrooms, small Fizzie balloons , cool t-shirts, Overcharge!!! and of course a very BIG Fizzie balloon spewing insults. We’ve never seen that kind of support for one of our games. And it was awesome.
I spent a lot of time throughout the week meeting Insomniac fans and talking games. That’s always my favorite part of E3. So when I was asked to help host an Xbox One event for retail partners after normal show hours mid-week, I was a little disappointed at first. Why? Frankly I expected a gaggle of businessmen in suits to show up, have no idea what our game was about and basically ignore us. Man, I was wayyyy off!
The retail guys and girls who came to the event couldn’t have been cooler. They’re avid gamers, like all of us, and probably even more hardcore. Their passion and knowledge re-invigorated all of us at the event after several long days. Hearing them chant “Ryan!” while Ryan Schneider played through our single-player campaign demo was a special highlight.
Now that E3 has come and gone, our entire studio has taken a collective deep breath to savor the public’s response before we dive back in to finish the game. We’ve had our ups and downs when it comes to revealing new games, and were a little apprehensive as a result heading into E3 this year. Since Sunset Overdrive looks and plays so differently when compared to traditional shooters, we weren’t sure how people would react when picking up the controls for the first time. But when we saw fans coming back to play the demo for a fourth or fifth time…well, it was pretty clear that things were going to be okay.
To all of you who played and shared your thoughts, or sent us notes, or commented on forums and social media, thank you for your feedback! It means a lot to us, and please know we are always listening. In fact, we created Sunset TV, a weekly show dedicated to all the latest Sunset Overdrive news, specifically to keep you informed both online and eventually in the game itself when we launch in North America and Europe on October 28, 2014.
Again, it was an incredible week for all of us at Insomniac. In a way, it was a lot like Sunset Overdrive itself: Loud, vibrant, hordes of people rushing around…and Fizzie.
Thanks for reading, and if you’d like, share your favorite E3 memories with the team and me in the comments section below or via Twitter. You can reach me at @igTedPrice.