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Half-Life Stuff!

Back from E3!

Wedge here- We're back at Valve now, following a whirlwind tour of our home town in Florida - our well earned post E3 vacation! Yeah boy, nothing like mosquitoes and humidity! Our E3 trip to Atlanta took us so close to home that we couldn't resist dropping down to Florida. Being back home and hanging with old friends was a blast! Eric, Adam, Heath, Mona, Grady, Ron and Andy- It was great to see you all again!

The Goods:

E3 was the first trade show John and I have ever attended. Demoing Half-Life was a grueling, but amazing experience. It was exhilarating to see so many people excited about our game - without the adrenalin from that excitement we probably would have died halfway through the first day. One part of the demo that drew the biggest oohs and aahs was the group behavior from our military grunts. We've set up a little section about them, so before you read our E3 report you must check out the AVIs and info here.

Here begins the tale of our trip to E3:

Day One
The Airport
We landed at the airport and picked up our baggage then we shuffled out front to find a cab, where this crazy James Earl Jones looking guy was running back and forth across the street shouting and flailing his arms wildly at all of the cab and shuttle drivers. He was wearing a tie, so I thought maybe he was an executive gone berserk. It took us a good minute or so to figure that this guy was directing airport traffic. He must have been doing a pretty good job, though- the line was absolutely huge and it only took us 10 minutes to get a cab. When the traffic guy saw that our cab was standing still, he stormed over to us and bellowed, "Come ON, man! Let's move! Go! Let's GO, MAN!". Our driver shouted back, "Don't you yell at me!" then took off, muttering a couple more unintelligible phrases as we rounded the corner onto the access road out of the airport.

The Inforum
Our cabbie screeched to a halt outside of the Inforum, the building where all of the CUC Software exhibits were set up. (CUC is the company that owns Sierra OnLine, publishers of our first title, Half-Life). John and I hooked up with Gabe (who had been at the show since the day before) and we went to take a look at our booth. We hadn't even been on site for ten minutes when a couple of people rolled up and started asking about Half-Life. We starting demoing to those two guys at 5pm and didn't stop for the next five hours. Gabe was constantly fetching water for us (I'd never had to yell this much in my entire life) and fielding questions from people that couldn't get through the mosh pit to talk to us. During one of our quieter moments, The Rogue guys stopped by for a demo and chat and invited us to the HardRock Cafe event that night. About 3 hours into the show, all of the free booze was starting to take effect and there were more than just a few sloshed spectators staggering about the Inforum, including this guy that was trying to fix John up with a woman that was watching the demo. Finally, around 10pm things started to calm down and we were able to shut down and get out! It took Gabe fifteen minutes to find a way out of the parking garage.

The Hotel
Once we checked in and dropped off our luggage, we decided on two things: We were tired, and we were hungry. Going all the way back downtown for the HardRock party seemed out of the question. We plodded across the street to a restaurant called 'The Brookwood Grill' and chowed.
Day Two
Roll Out!
At about 10:30, we got up and cabbed to the Inforum. Our cabbie was a musician who told us a story about how his band gigged at a wedding in Seattle, and the guy that threw the party paid roundtrip airfare for everyone in the band on top of the fee for the show. Far out.

The Show
Gabe was going to spend the entire day in the CUC press room giving private demos to people with appointments while John I and worked the floor. We decided to take turns working the Half-Life floor demo while the other ran off to the main E3 show. I was first up to go to the show, so I trotted all the way to the main show where I caught Onethumb and Morbid walking out with their arms full of press kits. I gave them a couple of Half-Life goodies and chatted for a few minutes, then headed on in.

I was dragged along with the surging mass of people heading through the expo hall towards the main E3 show, and I really can't describe how I felt when the crowd exploded through the double doors to the show floor and scattered, leaving me standing there alone in a cloud of artificial fog with unbelievably loud explosions and game music pummeling my skull. Everywhere I looked there were blazing monitors, babes, and people dressed up as game characters. I managed to mumble "Hoey chit!" to myself before I actually started moving around. Within fifty steps I saw at least 10 of the games I'd been most looking forward to over the last several months. I decided not to stop anywhere yet- I wanted to find out how big this show really was (Half-Life was being shown in an entirely different and signifigantly quieter building about a block away). It took me about 45 minutes to find my way to the other side of the show and along the way I wound up at the Ritual booth and took a super quick peek at Sin. Giggler was the only guy around and he had his hands full driving the demo, so I decided to try to come back later.

About this time I started getting worried that the Half-Life booth might get slammed and that there wouldn't be enough staffers to handle all of the people so I hoofed it back to the Inforum and sure enough, there was a pack of people gathered around the Half-Life booth so I took John's place demoing and let him take a break. He was supposed to take his turn going over to the main show, but he stuck around to demo and help field questions. There was no one around to fetch water for us this time, and we were dying. Finally it slowed down a bit and I went out in search of frosty beverages for us. I thought for a moment of poor old Gabe working his butt off in the press room, and I decided to drop in on him and see if he needed anything.

I quietly pryed the press room door open and crept in backwards, closing the door slowly so as not to make much noise. After the door settled into the jamb with a quiet 'snick', I turned around and was appalled at what I saw: icy buckets of cold soda and beer, glass plates piled high with brownies and spice cake, and 20 or so kiosks set up where various Sierra titles were being shown to small groups of onlookers who were feverishly taking notes. Across the room I spotted Gabe giving a Half-Life demo while sitting on a leather stool with a cool refreshing can of Coke in front of him, being fanned with large palm leaves as beautiful women fed him grapes. Well, maybe it wasn't quite that lush- perhaps working out front for four hours with no water reduced my concept of luxury to "a can of soda and a chair," making the press room look like the Promised Land. I snared a soda and took Gabe's place demoing while he bolted off to the main show for a bit. When he came back I went out to the front again and finished up the day giving demos and talks out there with John.

Gabe set a new personal record of 13 minutes, 10 seconds for finding his way out of the Inforum parking garage. We went to dinner celebrate. I had tasty blackened halibut that later ate its way through my esophagus and kept me up all night with the worst case of heartburn in human history. I checked the snack vending machine and the hotel front desk for antacid but alas, there was none. I drank $20 worth of Lipton Iced tea from the drink machine outside my room in a last-ditch effort to staunch the pain and around 6am (no thanks to the tea), my chest stopped smoldering and I finally fell asleep. At 8 o'clock, the hotel fire alarm went off. In case you haven't heard a fire alarm since your last high school fire drill, allow me to tell you that times have changed. Some guys on an obviously well-funded safety board got together recently and decided that the old iron bell with the motorized hammer just wasn't annoying enough. No sir, they came up with this great new piezoelectric alarm that generates a tone designed to shatter the bones in your inner ear. The next step is a mechanical arm mounted to the ceiling that drops down to your bed and shoves an icepick into your ear whenever someone activates the alarm. I woke up again about 45 seconds later, shuffling down the hallway behind 20 or so other dumbfounded people. When we got to the ground floor I heard someone say "Someone bumped into it.", so I just assume that they meant the fire alarm and turned around, still half-asleep and went back upstairs to my room. I buried my head under three pillows and died. (We learned later that some prankster set off the alarm). Grr.
Day Three
But this isn't Vegas!
Again we got up at 10:30 and called a cab to take us to the show. This time our cab driver was Elvis. We had to sit in the cab and wait for him to go into the hotel and use the bathroom. We were in no real hurry so it wasn't a big problem for us. Dunno about him, though... the hotel lobby toilet was backed up like traffic.

Deja Vu
Day three was much like day two: we all took turns demoing out front, in the press room, and taking breaks. None of us made it to the show this time- we were slammed all day. Boatloads of really cool people stopped by to chat and look at Half-Life. The folks we actually had the time to chat with include most of Ritual, some Rebel Boat Rockers, and a few from 3DRealms. A lot of other people came by when we just didn't have much time to talk- guys like RonSolo, Wendigo, Avatar, Polish, and Blue of all people!

On the whole, this day was a bit quieter than the previous two. I attribute that to the fact that free Baskin-Robbins milkshakes were being served in place of the free booze. They should serve free Baskin-Robbins milkshakes at riots to quiet people down. We were really stoked about the Ion Storm/Ritual Nightfall party that evening, so when the the clock struck 6 we took off!

Back at the hotel Gabe decided he was too tired to go to the party, so John and I took the rental car and went looking for The Chili Pepper- the club where the party was going on. We were fashionably late due in part to my driving abilities. We flashed our swanky invitations to the guy at the door and he sent us up to the roof where we found the average population to be roughly ten people per square foot; those circus clowns that cram ten of themselves into a Yugo had nothing on The Chili Pepper that night. Right by the door we bumped into LevelLord and Jim Dose, first chance any of us had to actually talk for a bit. In the middle of the floor we hit another Ritual clot where sCary tipped us off to a LAN party that was going down that evening at Terminal Oasis. I snagged a free beer and shoved my way through the crowd a bit, bumping into a bunch of people I was looking forward to meeting. I was really stoked when I got to spend a bit more time talking to some of the people (like RonSolo) that dropped by the booth earlier when we didn't have time to talk to anyone. After an hour, there were so many people on the roof of the Chili Pepper that a second layer of people was forming on top of the first. We crowd surfed to the door and took off.

After driving the wrong way down the right street for almost 30 minutes, we busted a u-turn and eventually ended up at Terminal Oasis, the LAN arcade where everyone was supposed to show up. A buncha guys were already there and even more (Polish and some folks I didn't recognize) barged in carrying fast food bags minutes later. We waited around for quite some time for some Ritual or Ion guys to show, but we were running out of time in which to meet our pal Steve at the SegaSoft party. Since we got lost and ended up late for every event thus far, we took off early in hopes of actually finding the SegaSoft party. We never did. We looked for two solid hours using a map that we later found to be innacurate (Thanks anyway, Andy!). It was now 1am and all restaurants we saw were closed with the exception of two famous american 24-hour breakfast establishments. We subjected ourselves to the one with the breakfast bar. We ordered drinks, and had been waiting for about 5 minutes to actually place our order when a pack of 4 large drunken southern women came in and descended upon the bountiful breakfast bar, stripping it of all but 4 biscuits and two spoons of grits before actually looking for a place to sit. It was amazing. We dined on biscuits and grits while waiting for someone to restock the bar. When they did, I scored some runny eggs, greasy potatoes, and dry bacon. I ate two mouthfulls of my 'breakfast' and hit the road.

Day Four
Ridin' in Style
I forgot to return the rental car keys to Gabe, so he had to take a cab to the Inforum and we got to drive in the rental. A cab would have been better because I got us lost AGAIN. It's been almost a full year since I've delivered a pizza and my orienteering skills have atrophied as a result. We were almost 45 minutes late but it didn't matter, cause today was our day to enjoy the show instead of being in it!

Now this was the stuff we came for! I can't even think of getting into detail about our entire day at the show, so I'll touch on some of the stuff that I liked the most at E3:

Nintendo 64 I was very interested in getting a look at the upcoming Nintendo 64 titles, since I've had the machine for almost a year now and I only own 2 games. Either I'm an idiot or Zelda64 was not on public display at E3, this really disappointed me. Konami seemed to have a great collection of upcoming N64 action games- most notably Metal Gear: Solid and Hybrid Heaven (said to be a working title).

Playstation If it weren't for Tekken and Tekken 2, my Playstation would have become a plant stand a long time ago. There are tons of PSX games, but few that are worth owning. I was very suprised at the quality of some of the PSX games being shown at E3, particularly by SquareSoft. I'm looking forward to Final Fantasy VII, MediEvil, and Spawn, among others. Capcom busted out with Resident Evil: Director's Cut and Resident Evil 2. Resident Evil rides high in my personal top 20 of all time list and I can't wait for RE2! One Playstation game hooked me on first sight, though. It's called PaRappa The Rapper and its the wackiest game I've ever seen, which is reason enough for me to fall in love with it right away. I played for about five minutes using a 4 foot wide PSX controller mounted in front of a six-foot array of monitors and now I have to deal with my addiction till the game comes out in August (according to the Sony representative I talked to). To stay sane, I've been administering heavy doses of the PaRappa .MOV's from PSX Power. If you don't want to download all of the movies, number 2 and number 5 are mandatory.

The PC! Most of the uncoming 3D Shooters are covered on wendigo's fascinating narrative of E3 (great job, Wendigo!), plus you'll see the worst pictures ever taken of most all of the people involved in making them! I was looking mainly for Ultima Online, Myth, Populous: The Third Coming, and any upcoming flight sims with 3d hardware support, and since John was digging on some other games, we may end up doing a little bit of individual coverage of our E3 PC Favorites.

I'm starting to think that I don't like to travel. On the flight back to Seattle, I decided that I'd rather spend 2 days driving somewhere in my own car than sit on a plane for 4 hours. There are just too many comfort factors that are out of your control on a commercial airline. For instance, if you are on a road trip and think to yourself "Y'know, some truly rancid food would really hit the spot right now!", you can pull over at a greasy spoon or roadside hotdog stand. Other times, you think "Wow. I miss having the guy in front of me recline right into my lap." This one's easy. Just tilt your steering wheel into a near-vertical position and scoot your seat as far forward as possible. Bliss! That's what's cool about travelling in your car. You are free to make these choices.

Select Hocopus E3 Trip Highlights:
(In no specific order, details withheld)

  • Gabe ran over a possum with the rental car. Splut.
  • Getting awakened at 8am by the hotel fire alarm. If you did that, you suck.
  • The hotel laundry service lost Gabe's underwear.
  • Gabe's underwear resurfaced at the front desk in a dainty little box. (So cute!)
  • The backed up toilet in the hotel lobby.
  • The backed up toilet in the Wendy's next to the Inforum.
  • The guy that snapped and cussed out the entire Georgia Dome Exhibit.
  • The Ion Storm/Ritual maximum occupancy party. (Thanks, guys!)
  • Sleep! (all three hours)

  • FYI:
    I released the source to the Aircraft project last week, and I'd like to clear up some wrong assumptions concerning the state of the project. This release of the aircraft is highly improved over the previous beta version in that almost all bugs have been fixed and many suggested changes have been made, but we do not consider the Aircraft project "Finished". By releasing the source code in its current condition, we are acknowledging that we will not be working on that project anymore. Just as Quake never needed 100 people writing cheesy gore patches, the Aircraft doesn't need dozens of isolated individuals trying to finish it. Take the code and apply it to your own noncommercial work. Have fun!

    As far as other news goes, Please disregard anything you read about us having finished, cleaned up, polished, or otherwise prepared the aircraft for "Final" release.
    download from
    get the readme.


    I was talking to my buddy Marcus at Spacetec (the spaceorb folks) about how they had a space orb in the movie Men in Black. He shared with me this interesting story:
    Want to hear something a lot cooler? The Mars Sojourner Rover Control Workstation has one, too. Problem is that poor guy has to work with about 10 mins of lag due to the distance to Mars. They scan the sorrounding terrain, render it in 3d, and he uses stereoglasses and the Spacecontroller to position/move the Rover. In the meantime, they cross their fingers and wait for confirmation that the Rover's sensors and AI worked properly and they didn't hit a rock and flipped over. Can you hear the excuses if they messed up? "It's the lag I tell you! I lost calibration!" ;-)
    He goes on to add:
    Anyway, I gave up on Pork Riblets. Lately it's been Cod filets.
    Y'know, I haven't been eating many riblets lately, either. I've been eating at a place called Teriyaki Madness! (daily special: Teriyaki Chicken +more rice and meat, five bucks. Woop!)

    Hey Marcus. Everyone knows you eat Cod filets now. Eww.

    Hot Damn, It's in the Mail

    By the end of this week, Origin expects that all 25,000 Ultima Online beta test discs will be in the mail. That's right. Phase 2. Let the cheese thieving commence. To hold you over, take a moment and dig on Grogan's Phase 1 Screenshots. You won't be disapointed. Especially if you start with Day 5.

    Till next time,

    Wedge & Choryoth.