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Newsletter #43
July 2024

Hey, All.

Hope each of you is safe and healthy.


This month, I have four topics concerning the Manticore Troop, controversial features, pirates, and the third and last installment of the HoMM3 Recollection relating to E3 in 1998.


Following this Newsletter, the next will be in October.  Therein I plan to give an update regarding my health, and take a brief rest from doing HoMM3 Recollections for one publication, before resuming in January.


Until next time.




Fanstratics Game Director & Designer







Fanstratics Troop: Manticore


Like most Troops in the Chimeran roster, the Manticore is a versatile warrior.  Able to fly, this fearsome fighter can occasionally shoot stingers from its scorpion’s tail.  With both its melee and ranged Assaults, the Manticore can also inflict a Paralyzing Venom, and through this terrible toxin, repeatedly still Enemy Divisions.  Keeping the Enemy out of the fight, for prolonged periods of time, is a Manticore’s forte, making them an especially valuable Troop in every battle.


When we started work on the Manticore, I was cautiously optimistic.  Overall, I was confident Justin would realize what I had in mind, but I worried the process would be more difficult than other Troops.  With this particular concept, we were in largely unknown territory.  While visual reference for a Manticore was easy to find, visual reference for an anthropomorphic Manticore was near non-existent.  To my delight, Justin took the task very seriously and breezed through our standard operation of thumbs, to rough, to final render.  Very happy with one.  Another favorite.


For those who want to see Justin create the drawing, check out a VOD from his Twitch stream.




Fanstratics Question: Is there is a chance, if you put any controversial features in the game, they will be optional for the player to check or un-check the rule?  (similar to what HOMM 4 did for Neutral creatures moving around)


Not sure how to answer this question, but if a specific feature is ‘controversial’, it will more than likely be optional.  Darkest Dungeon did this with their ‘corpse controversy’.




HoMM3 Question:  Regnan pirates are alluded to throughout the MM series and occasionally encountered until finally arriving in full force in MM8.  Later in HOMM4 there was also a pirate kingdom represented by Asylum.  Through modders did we eventually get Cove.  Was a pirate faction ever in the talks?


At one point, I had considered such a faction, but it never got past a line or two in my brainstorming notes.  Had I stayed at New World Computing (NWC), it may have been elevated for discussion, but this is pure speculation on my part.




HoMM3 Recollection: E3 1998 (part 1 of 3)


HoMM3 Recollection: E3 1998 (part 2 of 3)


HoMM3 Recollection: E3 1998 (part 3 of 3)


For Day 1 of E3, 1998, not wanting to be late, not wanting to look like I just rolled out of bed, I set my alarm early.  Between Ben Bent and me, I was the first into and out of the shower, and the first to finish dressing.  Wearing a nice pair of shoes, jeans, and my black 3DO shirt, I once again went over in my head, my prepared presentation.


I felt I had it down.


I felt I was ready.


One of the few requirements, mentioned by Mark, was a collection of my 3DO-issued business cards.  I had brought a hefty stack, and thought it best to avoid cramming them into my back pockets.  After all, a tattered and worn business card doesn't give the best first impression.  So, I carefully held them in hand, as Ben and I took a complimentary bus from the motel to the Convention Center.


Upon arriving, we took the long walk to 3DO’s room at the far edge of the convention center.  When we entered the 3DO room, it was buzzing with activity.  Personally... I gotta admit... it was contagious.  It truly felt like something special was about to occur.


Me, after locating Mark Caldwell and Scott McDaniel, “Okay.  What now?”

Mark, “Turn on the computers.  Wait for the show to begin.”

Scott looked at this wristwatch, “In about 30 minutes.”

Me, turning to Ben, “I’ll get the computers, why don’t you get the monitors.”

Ben, “Okay.”


Quickly, I set and straightened my business cards at my kiosk, then... as I had done the day before... multiple times... I 'scrunched' myself between the room wall and the line of kiosks.  Shuffling down the line to the Requiem: Avenging Angel computer at the front, I then stepped backward, successively pressing the On/Off buttons for the Requiem computer, then Heroes of Might and Magic 3 (HoMM3), then Might and Magic 6 (MM6), then Vegas Games 2000.


From behind the kiosks, I emerged and checked my shirt for residual dust.  One of the significant downsides of the black 3DO shirts, was their ability to show the slightest speck of dust or worse... dander.


Returning to the HoMM3 kiosk, I ran into Keith Francart, who had just arrived from the airport.


(I’m not 100% certain concerning this detail.  Previously, I recalled Keith joining us on the original flight out, but after further thought, I suspect he may have joined us a day later via his own flight.  Either way, in 1998, Keith was at E3 to demo MM6).


Already wearing his black shirt from 3DO, I assumed Keith had changed in one of the Convention Center bathrooms.


Me, “Hey, you made it.”

Keith, “Yeah.  Long flight.  Is my computer ready?”

Me, “Yep.  Ben and I set it up yesterday.  You should be good-to-go, but I’d double check it.”

Keith, “Will do.”


Sitting on my stool at my kiosk, I started the Heroes3 demo and practiced it yet again.  Working through the steps... yet again... a part of me still waited for just the smallest portion of guidance from Mark or Scott.  They had experience presenting at E3.  I had none.  To my mild surprise, there would be no forthcoming supervision.  I was on my own.  As I had wondered so many times before... was anyone other than myself genuinely invested in the game's success?


Looking about the room, I weighed getting up and attempting to socialize, but decided against it.  Everyone I could see was at least 10 years older than myself, and from how they dressed, I deciphered they were clearly management.  If you were, like myself, an ‘in the trenches’ developer, you were sitting at your kiosk, waiting for the show to officially begin.  Glancing at the clock on the Windows Taskbar, I saw it was ~9:30AM, or roughly 30 minutes before the show doors opened.  So, I sat and waited.


From my seat, on the right side of the kiosk, I had a relatively unobstructed view of the double doors opening into the 3DO room.  When not giving a demo, I could easily see who was coming and going.  One of the first people I noticed was a young man of Asian descent.  He was the first person I’d seen about my age.


Dressed like a typical game developer (t-shirt and jeans), he carried a cloth briefcase bag.  Walking further into the 3DO room, he found and spoke to someone I didn’t recognize, who then showed him to the Requiem computer.  After stowing his briefcase bag under the Requiem kiosk, he took a seat on the kiosk’s right-side chair.


Placing his hands on the mouse and keyboard, he double-clicked the desktop shortcut, started Requiem, and began playing the game.  A minute later, he turned up the volume on the computer’s speakers.  Another minute later, he turned up the audio yet again.


It was loud.


I mean... really loud.


From across the room, you had no problem hearing Requiem.  For me, being the only adjacent kiosk, I wondered if Requiem’s audio would drown out my own demonstration.  So... I stealthily reached out... and turned up my sound.  Hopefully, there would be no further escalation.


Continuing to watch the ‘Requiem Guy’ play, his game, I noticed just beyond him, entering the room for the first time... Jon Van Caneghem (JVC).  Wearing a button-up shirt and blue jeans, Jon carried an overnight bag.  I suspect he had arrived fresh from the airport, just in time for the show’s opening.


Striding deeper into the room, Jon scanned the chaotic collection of faces.  I assume he was attempting to pinpoint Mark, Scott, or Trip Hawkins.  Doing the same, I visually swept the room while keeping my eye on JVC.  Unintentionally, my gaze came to rest on Trip.


Escorted by a man and woman unknown to me, Trip emerged from the middle of the room... walking in my direction.  Both the mystery man and woman were middle-aged, wearing business attire.  Clearly, they were not gamers.  Looking back, I suspect these two individuals were independent public relations contractors, hired by 3DO, to push the company name into the mainstream news cycle.  Exuding his own unique charm, Trip smiled and smoothly motioned to the row of different PC kiosks.


Trip, “On this side we have our PC games.  This is Meridian 59, our online product.  Next to it, Vegas Games 2000, our budget title, then Might and Might.  It’s the sixth in the series, which we released early this month to stellar reviews.”


Stepping forward, Trip indirectly engaged me at the HoMM3 kiosk.


Trip, “On this end we have Requiem, which we’ll get to, but this is Heroes of Might and Magic.  It’s the third in the series.  Very big seller in Europe through our partner Ubisoft.  We’re releasing it this Christmas.”


In the several months I’d been at New World Computing (NWC), no one had ever mentioned HoMM3’s intended release date.  Here at E3, to my subtle shock, Trip Hawkins had just informed me, the game I was designing would release for Christmas... in six to seven months.






In my opinion, we needed at least another 10 to 12 months, and I was still processing this new information when Trip looked directly at me.


Trip, “Could you tell them a little bit about Heroes3?”


Flustered and caught off guard, I realized Trip didn’t want a Heroes3 demo.  For these two individuals, broadly smiling and eagerly awaiting a concise overview, Trip wanted a HoMM3 'elevator pitch'.


While I had spent considerable time crafting the presentation of the Heroes3 demo, I had done nothing concerning an 'elevator pitch'.  Falling back on what a typical games journalist would expect, I improvised and unfortunately... spat out a list of features.


Me, "Uh... this is the third game in series.  We’re displaying the game in a higher resolution.  800x600 versus 640x480.  Higher color depth.  16-bit versus 8-bit.  While all game graphics are 2D, the sprites are derived from pre-rendered 3D models.  We have eight town types, versus six from Heroes2.  A bigger battlefield...”


As I blathered on, I saw the eyes of the man and woman glaze over and their broad smiles fade.


I had just lost my audience.


These two people were not gamers, something I had previously recognized, yet I was vomiting verbiage only a gamer would find interesting.  Only now, when it was too late, did I realize they wanted a ‘story’, not a list of features.  These two individuals were my first E3 audience... and I had fumbled the attempt.  Quickly, I wrapped up my poor, stammering excuse for an elevator pitch.  Trip, staying positive, thanked me... and moved the pair onto Requiem.


Sitting at my kiosk, I stewed in my failure.  Thinking how I needed to be more proactive in reading any potential audience, I saw JVC.  Looking out of place and discomfited by the surrounding crowd, Jon approached the HoMM3 kiosk.


JVC, awkward and squeezing out a pained smile, “All ready?”

Me, “I’d like to think so, but I just annoyed my first group.”

JVC, furrowing his brow, “Really?”

Me, discreetly pointing toward the two people Trip has just ushered to Requiem, “Those two.”

JVC, smirking, “Don’t worry about them.”


Thankfully, JVC’s reassurance was just what I needed.


Me, trying to make small talk, “This should be old hat for you.”

JVC, “You mean the convention?”

Me, “Yeah.”

JVC, “Well, this is the second year in Atlanta.”

Me, “I don’t understand why they moved from Los Angeles.”

JVC, shrugging his shoulders, “There's a lot of finger-pointing and accusations as to who's to blame.  Still, they should have just gone to Vegas, not Atlanta.”

Me, “Like CES?”

JVC, thinking back with a chuckle, “Yeah.  CES.  Those were the days.  Back then CES was held twice a year.  Summer in Chicago.  Winter in Las Vegas.  We only went to the one in Vegas.”

Me, “Are you gonna be here all three days?”

JVC, clearly displeased by the thought, mustered a sour expression, “No.  Just today.  Make my appearance.  Show my support.  See some old friends.  Do some press... if necessary.  Fly out tomorrow morning.”


At this point, two strangers approached the kiosk.  Not wanting to interrupt, they looked to JVC, then to the title card above the monitor displaying ‘Heroes of Might and Magic III’, then to me.


Stranger, eager, “Is this the new Heroes of Might and Magic?”

Me, “Yes, it is.  Would you like a quick demo?”

Both strangers, “Yeah.”


As one of the Strangers sat into the empty kiosk seat, I looked to Jon.  Silently acknowledging I had work to do, JVC nodded ‘bye’ and disappeared into the growing crowd.  For me, this was the real beginning of the show.


Over the course of the day, with each presentation, I tried to look at individual name tags and business cards, but the personal interactions were too quick.  Retailer?  Press?  Developer?  Fan?  I never knew who was who, and I quickly gave up trying to discern various roles.  On this first day, of all the presentations I gave, only two stood out.  Two rather indistinct, middle-aged men, were involved in the first.


Approaching the kiosk, the first indistinct middle-aged man asked, “This the new Heroes of Might and Magic game, right?”

Me, “Yes it is.  Would you like a demo?”

First indistinct middle-aged man, “That’s okay, I was watching earlier.”


His friend, standing next to him, was holding a stiff folder.  On the folder, he held what looked to be a page of professionally printed stickers.


Second indistinct middle-aged man, “Is this system running an Intel CPU?”

Me, puzzled by the question, “Uh... yeah.”

Second indistinct middle-aged man, “Okay.  Good to know.”


Reaching out, the Second indistinct middle-aged man peeled a sticker from the sheet... and right in front of me... stuck the sticker onto the lower portion of the monitor’s bezel.  It was a company logo reading, “Intel Inside.”  I couldn’t believe what he had just done... right in front of me.  He didn’t ask permission... he just did it... like had a right to do it.


First indistinct middle-aged man, “Looking forward to the game.  Looks good.”

Me, hesitant, “Thanks.”


As the two walked off, I watched them repeat their behavior.  Both would approach a kiosk.  Intel Guy #1 would chat up the operator.  Intel Guy #2 would then stretch out and place a sticker on the monitor bezel.  I had nothing against Intel, but I did have a problem with the disrespectful behavior of these representatives.  Turning back to my system, I picked at the Intel Inside sticker, removed it, and flicked the wadded-up remains behind the kiosk.


My second notable presentation occurred when JVC approached the kiosk again, this time accompanied by a quiet, confident young man of Asian descent, about the same age as myself, with a backpack slung over one shoulder.


Jon, “Greg, this is Elliot Chin.  He’s a senior editor at Gamespot.”


Elliot and I nodded to one another and shook hands.


Me, “Hello.”

Elliot, “Hello.”

Jon, “When Elliot worked for Computer Gaming World magazine, he gave Heroes2 a 5-star review (1)(2).”

I smiled at Elliot then looked at Jon, “No pressure, huh?”

Jon chuckled and addressed Elliot, “In the future, if you want to know anything about Heroes3, Greg’s the guy to contact.”


Reaching over my computer’s keyboard, I grabbed one of my business cards and offered it.  Elliot took my card, unzipped one of the front pockets of his backpack, and fished out his own.


Me, after taking Elliot’s card and adding it to my growing collection, “Would you like a demo?”

Elliot, sliding onto the open ‘audience chair’, “Sure.”


Overall, Elliot seemed to like the demo.  We spoke informally concerning a couple of different topics: the art overhaul, the game’s scope, the new mechanics, etc.  It didn’t feel like I was talking to a journalist.  It felt like I was talking to a gamer who happened to write about games.


With the conclusion of E3 Day 1, after a quick cafeteria dinner, Ben and I returned to our motel room.  As I wanted to be refreshed for Day 2, I was quick to get into bed and nod off.  During the night, while deeply asleep, I vaguely remembered Ben kicking my bed, me acknowledging this event, rolling over, and going back to sleep.  In the morning, shortly after waking, unsure if I had dreamt the entire episode, I quizzed Ben.


Me, “Did you kick my bed?”

Ben, chuckling, “Oh yeah.  You were snoring.  Loudly.”

Me, “Oh.  Sorry ‘bout that.”


Given this interaction, I assumed I had Ben’s permission to return the favor in kind.


Day 2 of E3, 1998, was the show's busiest day.  At the start, Mark walked over and handed to me a color ‘magazine’ named E3 Show Daily.  Each day, before the show started, the E3 organization published an issue of the E3 Show Daily.  Around 72 pages, it covered various industry business subjects highlighted at the show.  Actual games were an afterthought.


Still, HoMM3 got a mention in the magazine's second issue.  I don’t recall much from the short article, but I believe the aim of the write-up was really about 3DO and its attempt to transition from hardware to software.  Accompanying the article was a small color picture of the Castle Town screen.  It wasn’t much, but it was something.


For the day, people were mostly polite and seemed to genuinely enjoy my HoMM3 presentation.  At one point, upon finishing a demo, I turned to see... to my surprise... I had drawn a crowd of roughly 15 people.  Walking about the 3DO room, all had quietly stopped to watch my presentation.  This was the moment where I began to think... just perhaps... we were doing something right.  Of course, this doesn’t mean it was all sunbeams and butterflies.


While giving a demo, an overweight, middle-aged man, interrupted me.


Looking and sounding exactly like the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons, he pointedly asked, “Do you have colored magic in the game?”


Magic the Gathering, having grown quite popular since its release in 1993, had popularized the concept of ‘colored’ magic.  Specifically black (death), blue (logic), green (nature), red (fury), and white (life).


Somewhat puzzled by the question, I replied, “Uh... no.  We have ‘elemental’ schools of magic.”

Comic Book Guy, sticking up his nose, “Too bad.  Your game would be better with colored magic.”


Before I could respond, he walked off, seemingly declaring himself the social victor.  Scratching my head, I remembered thinking, “That was weird.” 


In contrast to the ‘Comic Book Guy’, there was also one very specific encounter which sticks with me to this day.  Right before lunch, from my spot at my kiosk, I spotted a girl about my age, entering the 3DO room.  She stood out for a couple of reasons.  First, she sheepishly entered the room, looking about in a suspect manner.  In hindsight, I suspect she knew the 3DO room was technically ‘invite only’, and she was ‘crashing’ the event.  Second, she was pretty.  Shoulder-length dirty blond hair, she wore argyle stretch pants and a color-matching short jacket.


Stepping further into the room, she scanned the various kiosks in a clockwise manner.  I wasn’t sure who or what she was attempting to find, but I noticed her.


Returning my attention to my job, I gave another demo to someone who had entered my area.  When I had finished, following the departure of my latest spectator, I turned and saw the pretty Young Lady.  She had stopped at the HoMM3 kiosk, and caught the tail end of my presentation.


Seeing she had caught my attention, she smiled and waved, “Hi.”

Me, enamored, “Hi.”

Young Lady, “This is Heroes of Might and Magic 3?

Me, “Yes, it is.”

Young Lady, “I saw it in this morning’s E3 Show Daily.”

Me, “Did you catch the demo I just did?”

Young Lady, “Just the end of it.”

Me, “Uh... would you like a full demo?”

Young Lady, smiling, “Sure.”


Upon taking her seat, I proceeded to give her a demo.  Just her and me.


When I had finished, she said, “Looks good.  When’s it coming out?”

Me, grimacing, “Not sure.  I suspect 3DO wants it for Christmas.  I think that’s a stretch.”

Young Lady, “Are you on the dev team.”

Me, “I am.”

Young Lady, smiling, “It’s nice to meet you.”

Me, smiling, “Well, thank you.”

Young Lady, leaning forward to read the time on the Windows Taskbar, “What time is it?”

Me, “Almost noon.”

Young Lady, “I gotta get back to the booth.  I’m on my lunch hour.”

Me, not wanting to let her go so easily, “Uh... are you a dev?”

Young Lady, smiling, “I am.”

Me, “Which game?”

Young Lady, “No name yet.  We’re in pre-production.  I just volunteered to help at the show so I could attend.”

Me, nodding, “I get it.”


Slipping off her chair, she turned to leave and waved ‘goodbye’.  I did the same and watched her go.  I never saw her again.  I wish I had.


Day 3 of E3, 1998, was my day to ‘see the show’.  In the past, when I walked the floor to see the games from the other developers, it was typically Day 1.  For my time in Atlanta, my only real opportunity to ‘see the show’ was on its last day, when the crowds were supposed to be significantly smaller.  So, early in the morning, before people began visiting 3DO’s room, I approached Mark and Scott.


Scott, “How have the presentations been going?”

I shrugged, “Good, I guess.  It’s hard for me to tell.”

Mark jumped in, “It’s been good.  He rarely gets a break.”

I stared at Mark and raised my eyebrows, “I could use some help.  I haven’t seen the floor yet.”

Mark put out his hands and laughed, “Hey, just let us know.  We’ll take over for an hour or two.”

Scott, “It looks like you have a steady stream of people, and a lot of watchers.”

Mark turned to Scott, “Phil (Steinmeyer) was here.  He watched him give a demo.”

Scott seemed to relish the thought, “Oh, Really.”

Me, “When?”

Mark, “Yesterday.”

Scott turned to me, puzzled, “You didn’t see him?”

Mark replied to Scott, “He’s never met Phil.”

Scott slyly replied, “Ohhhh.”


At this moment, I spotted someone hovering around the HoMM3 kiosk.


Me, “Gotta go.”

Scott called to me as I left, “Let us know when you need a break.”


To my surprise, regarding foot traffic at the kiosk, Day 3 started as busy as Day 1.  For me, this presented something of a dilemma.  While I wanted to ‘see the show’, I didn’t necessarily trust Mark and Scott to properly present Heroes3.  Still, I wanted to ‘walk the floor’, so I decided to be somewhat selfish.  Around 1:30PM, I waved to Mark and Scott, and pointed to the kiosk.


Me, “I’m taking two hours.”


Mark and Scott, drinks in hand, walked on over.


Scott, “Don’t worry, we got it.  Take your time.”


Upon leaving the 3DO room, I quickly grabbed and ate a couple of hot dogs and drank a large soda pop.  Finally, I had my chance to ‘see the show’.


As the number of spectators was less than the previous two days, I figured I could absorb ‘the floor’ in two hours.  I could have taken three hours, but truthfully... how could Mark and Scott possibly present HoMM3 in the best light?  They really had no idea what we were doing.  Not to mention... they had no idea what ‘not’ to click on each screen.  They could easily crash the demo.  Unable to shed this thought, I decided to be relatively fast, and get back to my kiosk in a reasonable amount of time.


For some background, keep in mind, my first E3 was in 1996, at the Los Angeles Convention Center.  At the time, Sony (Playstation) and Sega (Saturn) were battling for home console supremacy, while Nintendo was fighting to remain relevant with the impending launch of the Nintendo 64.  3D gaming was in full bloom... and in total... it was exhilarating.


In 1997, I missed E3 for two reasons.  First, I was between jobs, leaving Activision, and joining Dreamworks Interactive.  Second, the show was in Atlanta, Georgia, and paying for travel meant only the ‘important’ people could attend.  Now, in 1998, with New World Computing, I was technically one of the ‘important’ people.


Striding onto the floor, I immediately noticed the disparity between the Atlanta and Los Angeles convention spaces.  Atlanta was much bigger... arguably too big.  In Los Angeles, the show was packed into every available square foot.  From wall to wall, E3 Los Angeles was an all-out visual and auditory assault from a thriving industry.  In Atlanta, roughly 1/3 of the convention space was unoccupied.  When you reached the edge of 'the show', there was... nothing but empty floor space.  It looked bad.  It looked like the business was in decline.


Don’t misunderstand me, there was an abundance of hype and more than 70,000 attendees, but for me... personally... I was underwhelmed.  There were plenty of good games, but nothing I hadn’t already seen extensively previewed in various gaming magazines.  If there were any ‘surprises’, they were kept away from the public and shown behind closed doors.


For myself, the only memorable game from the show was Thrill Kill from Virgin Interactive.  I had heard little about the game, but it looked very creative and downright insane.  After seeing it, I remember thinking, “Okay.  I’ll give it a look when it releases.”  Well, it never reached store shelves.


Other than Thrill Kill, my only other noteworthy experience was exploring the Secondary Hall.  As I have mentioned previously, in Newsletter 15, the main hall for the show was in Building B, where the secondary hall was in Building A.  From the beginning, E3 was created to highlight video game consoles.  In the main hall, you would find Nintendo, Sega, Sony, and all the 'large' publishers (Activision, EA, Ubisoft, etc.).    In the secondary hall, you would find all the businesses who couldn’t afford a spot in the main hall.  This included small publishers, small hardware developers, retailers, etc.  Basically, anyone attempting to maintain a presence, or get a foot in the door, of the very competitive video game industry.  It wasn’t uncommon for the secondary floor to be called the ‘E3 slum’ or the ‘E3 ghetto’, and it was here I stumbled across the area occupied by Gathering of Developers.  This was where I observed Phil Steinmeyer.  For more information on this particular moment, and why I considered it noteworthy, see the aforementioned Newsletter 15.


Returning to the 3DO room, I strolled inside and paused to observe my surroundings.  Even on the last day of the show, at this late hour, the room was just as I had left it.  Still relatively well populated and buzzing, I couldn’t deny this E3 was a moderate victory for 3DO.


Turning my attention to the HoMM3 kiosk, I saw Mark and Scott, free drinks in hand and mildly intoxicated.  They were pitching HoMM3 to someone, who I assume was a retailer they knew personally.  Laughing and stumbling over each other’s sentences, not bothering to show what we had actually built, they explained to this enjoyably amused person how HoMM3 was better than HoMM2 because of its higher resolution, more creatures, etc.  No mention was made of the new game mechanics or better-quality art.  It was just as I had feared, but it could have been worse.


Hovering about, I waited for Mark and Scott’s friend to leave.  I then returned to the kiosk.


Spotting me as I approached, Mark and Scott welcomed me with a boozy, “Hey!”

Me, “Everything go okay?  No crashes?”


Mark and Scott looked at each other and laughed.  From their reaction, I got the impression they hadn’t bothered giving a demo.  More than likely, they had charmed any potential audience with an abundance of vocabulary.  In short, they tried to sell the car without giving a test drive.


Quickly attempting to change the subject, Mark reached over the computer’s keyboard and tidied up my collection of business cards.


Mark, playfully mocking me, “We got you three new business cards for your collection.”

Me, smirking, knowing what Mark was attempting to do, “I’ll wrap it up.”


Chuckling, knowing it was time for them to depart, Mark and Scott stepped away and left me to finish out the remainder of the show.


Re-taking my seat, I looked about for Ben and Keith.  Both diligently attended their respective games, and both looked as worn as I felt.  Without a word between us, it was clear we all wanted to be done with the show.


If I recall, Day 1 and Day 2 concluded at 5PM, with the final day ending at 3PM.  Looking at the Window's Taskbar clock, I saw there was about an hour left before the show was officially concluded.  In my head, I began counting down the hour, and when it was approximately 2:40PM, I caught Mark’s attention.


Me, tapping my wrist, “Are we done?”

Mark looked at this wristwatch, “We got like... 20 minutes to go, but yeah.  We’re done.”


I looked at Ben, who looked at Frank, who looked back at me.  Collectively, we shrugged our shoulders.  Now what?


Me, addressing Mark, “Now what?  Do we disassemble the computers?”

Mark, “No-no-no.  The union guys are going to do all that.”

Me, “So... what?  Just wipe the games from the hard drives?  Turn everything off?”

Mark, “Oh, yeah.  We should probably do that.”

Me, “Then what?”

Mark, “Wait for our taxi to the airport.”


Myself, Ben, and Keith quickly deleted our respective games from the hard drives of our computers.  Then, for the last time, I journeyed behind the kiosks.  With my foot, I switched off the power strips feeding electricity to all the computers, monitors, and speakers.  Emerging, I joined Ben and Keith, near the center of the room, with several other second and third-tier 3DO employees.  Together, our group had chosen to gather on the floor and socialize.  As we were trying to stay clear of Convention Personnel ‘tearing down’ the surrounding kiosks, we didn’t have much choice.  There, huddled on the floor, I realized... it was done.


E3 1998 was finished.


Finally, I was able to relax.


About this time, I saw Helmut Kobler, one of the founders of Cyclone Studios, the developer of Requiem.  For some reason, he went out of his way to approach me, put out his hand, and introduce himself.


Helmut, extending his hand, “Hi, I’m Helmut.”

Me, shaking Helmut’s hand, “Hi, I’m Greg.”


I don't exactly remember, but I believe I saw Helmut on Day 2 around the Requiem kiosk.  He stood out because he acted like a developer, yet wore a suit.


Helmut, “I saw you showing... Heroes of Might and Magic?”

Me, “Yeah.  Heroes3.  Third in the series.”

Helmut, “Seems like you had a lot of traffic.”

Me, chuckling, “Was it a lot?  I don’t really have a frame of reference.”

Helmut, being complimentary, “I would say it was good.”

Me, “You’re with the Requiem team?”

Helmut, “Sorta.  I run Cyclone with my partner, Ron Little.  Are you on the Heroes of Might and Magic team?"

Me, nodding, “Yeah.  I’m the Lead Game Designer.”

Helmut, “Well, it looks like you have a winner.”

Me, smirking, “We still have a long way to go.”

Helmut, smirking, understanding, “Yeah.  I know the feeling.”

Me, “I had my eye on Requiem.  You seemed to do well.”

Helmut, shrugging and seemingly unsatisfied, “I think we would have done better if we’d been on the floor.”

Me, nodding, “Well... maybe next year 3DO will be on the floor.  Hopefully, in Los Angeles.”

Helmut, smiling and extending his hand a second time, “It was nice meeting you.”

Me, shaking Helmut’s hand a second time, “Likewise.”


Roughly half-an-hour after my brief encounter with Helmut, Mark and Scott waved to me, Ben, and Keith.


Mark, “Let’s go.  Time to fly.”


In the morning, before we checked out of our motel, we had packed our bags and given them to Mark (I’m unsure concerning this detail, as we may have brought our luggage to the show).  Everything was set for our return flight to California; all we had to do was reach the airport and board the plane.  Four-and-a-half hours later, I tipped the Burbank Airport Valet, got in my car, and was on the road just in time to catch rush hour traffic.


Being so tired and brain-dead from the convention and the accumulated travel, I found the slow drive home strangely soothing.  With my car window cracked, I settled in, and eventually found myself in my home neighborhood.  Hungry, and not wanting to wait for a meal to be delivered, I stopped by my local All-American Burger.


Fifteen minutes later, in my apartment, at my desk, I gorged myself on a chili-cheese burger, two chili-cheese hot dogs, and a vanilla milkshake.  As I ate, I surfed the web and caught up on the 'winners and losers’ of E3.


Heroes3 didn’t get any real mainstream attention, as I’d hoped, but I remembered to keep my expectations in check.  E3 was always a 'console-centric' event, with PC and handhelds a distant second and third.  If HoMM3 had any real impact, it would manifest in next month's PC gaming magazines.


After a very lazy Sunday, where I did little other than eat and sleep, Monday morning marked a resumption of my typical NWC routine.  At the office, thinking it prudent for me to summarize my experience for David Mullich, I deposited my briefcase bag in my office and walked next door.


After I sat in the guest chair, David immediately spun around and smiled, “Well?  How’d it go?”

Me, “Mark hasn’t spoken to you yet?”

David, “Not yet.  I saw him earlier.  He said he was going to send out a summary email, but I want your version of events.”

Me, "It went well.  At least, I think it went well.  Arguably, very well.  We spent the first day setting up the computers...”

David, interrupting, “Wait... wait.  We should be telling this to everyone on the team.  Do you mind having a meeting?”

Me, “Like in the meeting room?”

David, “Sure.  We could do it there.  In fifteen minutes?”

Me, shrugging, “Yeah.  I guess.”

David, “Okay.  I’ll send out an email.  I’ll also tell John and Phelan.”


Returning to my office, I killed a quick 10 minutes checking my email.  Afterward, together with David Mullich and David Richey, we walked to the central NWC Meeting Room.  Already, most of the testers had assembled and occupied the available chairs.  Soon, most of the artists arrived, along with the remaining programmers: John Bolton, Gus Smedstad, and George Ruof.  I would guess about 20 people had assembled, with most standing or leaning against a wall.


Looking at DavidM, he checked his watch, “It’s been 20 minutes.  Might as well start.”


In under 10 minutes, I recapped my E3 experience, emphasizing how we had consistent traffic, how the demo didn’t crash, how the artwork was well received, and how... on the second day of the show... we got a mention in the E3 Show Daily Magazine.


At this point, in an oddly out-of-character moment, Phelan (Sykes) said, "This is a big deal.  This game has the potential to be a big seller."


Clearly, Phelan was addressing the NWC art staff, and in retrospect, I suspect she was having trouble getting good work from them.  Perhaps she thought, by emphasizing the public’s growing expectation, they might take their jobs more seriously.


Shortly after our improvised, Heroes3 post-E3 meeting, Mark emailed everyone at NWC.  In the message, he complimented me on setting up all the computers, and noted how HoMM3 distinctly got the most interest of all the products in the 3DO room.


For the remainder of the workday, I was little more than an office zombie and didn't accomplish much work.  When I wasn’t looking for E3 wrap-up news, and scanning for any mention of HoMM3, I put into a three-ring binder, one by one, my assortment of E3 business cards.


Going through my collection, I figured less than half of the people who received a demo volunteered their information, yet I accumulated over 60 business cards.  My assemblage was a mix of people from different industry segments: development, marketing, distribution, retail sales, and games journalists.  This was the only concrete measure for estimating the total number of demos I'd given.


I suspect I averaged at least one demonstration every ten minutes.  As each presentation lasted ~5 minutes, it was five minutes on, five minutes off, for approximately seven hours a day, for three days.  Bottom line, I had been kept busy.


At the end of the day, I remember sitting back in my office chair and taking a moment to relax.


One thought stuck in my head, “Well, E3’s over.  All we have to do now... is make the game.  In time for Christmas?  Simple... right?”

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