Blizzcon, the annual game fest celebrating all things Blizzard Entertainment has been going on since 2005. In my list of gaming events I want to (or have already) attended, it is up there with the likes of Comicon, Quakecon, and DreamHack. Unlike QC, this event is not free, so one must purchase a ticket during a limited sale. I attempted to purchase a ticket in 2010 and was not lucky enough to get one before they all sold out.
As the sale date occurred this year, I attacked the sale with renewed vigor. There were 2 opportunities this year around June (I think it was June) one was midweek at 9pm Pacific and the next came on Saturday at 10am PST. On my first try at the evening sale, as soon as the store went active, I found myself at 12,000ish in the queue 60min wait and watched as all the tickets for that batch sold out in 29 minutes. On Saturday, I tried again...at about 5 mins till, I started hitting the F5 key on my keyboard like it was going out of style. As luck turned out, I got in at 1000ish in line with a 6 minute wait time. $175 later, I was the holder of a Blizzcon ticket...uh receipt...real tickets would not be released until September as part of a crackdown on scalping.
I did not want to book my travel until I was sure that I had a seat. Another issue was with the price. Flying from CLE to JWN (Orange County is the closest) can be as low as 250$ round trip and as high as $1000 if you wait too long. I missed the good $250 price on Aug 26...about a month later I got an email from one of my many airline ticket trackers and ended up paying 380$ through Delta. As for the hotel, that was much easier. The Anaheim Convention center sits right next to Disneyland so it is a variable hotel smorgasbord. I got myself 3 nights at a Hilton discount brand Garden Inn. In total the trip cost me about $800 when I included food, taxi/shuttle, and souvenirs.
The actual event occurs on Friday and Saturday. I took 2 days of vacation and flew out on Thursday. I had received and email that indicated I could pick up my badge between the hours of 4 and 10 pm. Having arrived at my hotel, at around 2:30pm I started my 1.3mile walk(I like to build in exercise on my vacations to counter the horrible for me but good tasting food I eat like Waffle House) to the convention center. When I arrived I found a line of what looked like about 10,000+ people wanting to pick up their passes as well.
If you know me or have read my Quakecon notes, I gave up standing in massive lines a few years ago. Knowing that Disneyland was nearby I went sight seeing figuring in an hour or two this line would be gone and I would casually stroll up to the doors and get my pass without the wait. I love going to Downtown Disney, it is all the theme park stores with out having to go into the actual theme park.
I returned after 2 hours of walking and found that my plan failed, the line had grown by 150%. So, thinking with my stomach, and because I was in southern California, I went off on a quest to find Mexican food. Two blocks later, I found myself happily occupied by 3 great fish tacos, a pile of re-fried beans, and a big iced cup of Horchata (cinnamon rice drink).
Returning to the convention center, it was now around 5:30pm. The line was now only wrapping half way across the front of the building and shrinking rapidly. I think my total wait was only about 10 minutes. They had set up this impressive bar code system that had me with a pass and bag'o'swag in record time.
I was impressed by my patience..I actually managed to walk the 1.3 miles back to my hotel before I started tearing through my loot. What a treasure haul it ended up being. There was a collectors Diablo 3 Tyrael statue, a mini Thrall Mega-block Character, a Diablo 3 Mobile Authenticator, WoW Murkablo unlock-able in-game pet, and a few other items. Out of curiosity I checked e-bay a found this goodie bag selling for around 250+$. The businessman in my says I should sell all this and recoup my ticket costs...but the geek in me says I should keep them and hug them and snuggle them and name them George.
I actually slept in and didn't really get to the show until about 10am (30min late). The opening ceremony occurred at 11am and was quite the spectacle. They CEO of Blizzard addressed the crowd with some big news. He quaffed at shouts for D3 keys, but seemed to appease the crowd with his offer of free copies of the final game for those WoW players that committed to 12mo of subscription.
That turd! I was planning on quitting WoW to play D3. Now I have this conflict to deal with : P
He also introduced the new WoW expansion, Mists of Pandoria. I peed a little when Pandaren Monks were introduced.
About an hour later all 26,000 of us were set loose upon the show floor. There was plenty to do. Please note, this is not a LAN party;however, blizzard has play areas for all of the new game demos and most of it is multiplayer...so it is like a LAN that you don't have to BYOPC.
The floor is separated into 4 distinct areas.
First, there is the main stage where all the big shows, finals, and Q&A occur. This was the spot where on day 2 the Foo Fighters would be playing live.
Next, there is the Starcraft 2 area. This area was about half demo of the upcomming expansion and the new DOTA mod while the other half was a Korean pro gamer love fest. I was not surprised to see Antec, Asus, Nvidia, and Razer hanging out here. I took some time to play the new Starcraft 2 expansion campaign.
Then, there was the World of Warcraft area split into half demo and half battleground PVP pro tournament. They had the new Panda expansion fully playable so I made sure to enjoy this a few times. The new Monk class is really fun, mostly DPS. I found humor in the fact that one NPC was part of a guild (all the pandas look the same). The joke got repeated later in the demo when I was killing mutant bunny rabbits (also hilarious) and I came across a town blacksmith that had the tag
Finally, the last section (and my Favorite) was dedicated to the Diablo franchise. Not only was there an updated beta to play but there was also 4v4 pvp arena mode D3. Blizzard also placed the artist stage here so we could watch 3 highly talented Blizzard Entertainment artists do their magic at any given time from hand-drawn to complex 3d modeling. The art demonstrations were amazing and there was a great deal of artwork being auctioned for charity. Between both days, I managed to play every new class in Diablo 3. Just like the WoW demo, the Monk turned out to be my favorite (closely followed by the Demon Hunter [ranged].
There was also a Blizzcon store near the D3 demo area were I wasted a whole bunch of money buying things I didn't need including Diablo Night Lights, the 15 year Anniversary Diablo Soundtrack, and a few t-shirts to commemorate my trip.
Most of my day consisted of moving between these areas and trying the new games and hardware. I did take a break midway though the day, walking back to my hotel for a little nap and a late lunch. This proved to be a smart move because it gave me the energy I needed to stay for the whole show.
At 6PM comedian Jay Moore took the stage to lead the Dance and Costume contents (a Blizzcon staple). While I do not typically partake in these activities, I found the show very entertaining. I do have to admit I have dressed up in a costume in the past (to those of you who friended me on Facebook, there are some Viking photos of me floating around out there)...so I can not make fun of the COS players. On the other hand, much to the chagrin of my non-WoW playing fellow gamers, there are alot of really hot girls that play WoW and like to dress up as the characters. For me it was a little bit of geek/cleavage heaven
So day 2...what can I say...it was much like day 1...except even better.
I made sure to play D3 another 5-6 times. I just wanted to be sure that I got my fix to tide me over until I finally got into the beta...if that ever happens. At all three of the demo stations, they had placed Easter eggs in the game randomly such that if you found one, you would win an autographed poster. I saw maybe 3 people win during the whole show...I think the in-game odds of finding one of these rare items was 1:10000.
I also reluctantly tried the new SC2 DOTA mod that combines heroes from across the entire set of Blizzard games. When it comes to games like DOTA, HON, and LOL I tend to hate playing these games with experienced people because of the steep learning curve for new players and I usually get crapped on. I went ahead and joined a random team and decided to play as Thrall from Warcraft as a support/healer. Luckily, I had 4 other very talented dps/tank who steamrolled the other team. I decided to quit while I was ahead.
During my last run of the new WoW expansion, my machine's timer glitched and I was able to play for a full hour instead of the normal 20 mins they were forcing on everyone so I got to explore more of the new game then I probably should have. As I said, I managed to find and kill large mutant bunny rabbits which I thoroughly enjoyed because it made me think of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Once again, I took a mid afternoon lunch break.
I returned to the show to witness the final Starcraft 2 tournament match between IMMVP and IMNesTea. For as much as I hate pro gamers and pro gaming in general, I surprisingly found this was a really great game to watch. The final WoW pvp 5v5 match was also fun to watch. I think it was the excitement of the whole thing...the main hall was filled with all of us and every time something big (like a death or zerg rush) was about to happen we would all (20k+) cheer in a thunderous OOOOOHHHHH!
Finally, to wrap up the show, the Foo Fighters took the stage (pre show was done by Blizzard Employee death metal band Level 90 Tauren Cheiftains). I have never seen the Foo Fighters play live, but I like their music and they played all my favorites. I would say the best part was when Dave Grohl took a guitar soloing stroll through the audience and thanks to camera angles and a well placed sharpie, signed some lucky woman's bosom. Then a few minutes later he recounted the event on stage...the narrative sounded like the old Chris Farley SNL skit "do you remember...yea that was great".
Thus ended my first Blizzcon...I gotta say, it was very exhausting and at the same time completely AWESOME. I want to go again...maybe next year...and there will be 4 tickets purchased so I and 3 of my friends can go. This is definitely a very social event. I am even tempted to do a little CoSPlay myself...what?...you know you wanna get hugged by a night elf. Someone described the event as a safe haven for geeks and a place where the nerdy can go to be energized. I totally got half a dozen compliments on my Doctor Who shirt, more than in the last year alone...at Blizzcon I was definitely "home". 1 year till the next party!