So anyway, BlizzCon! It was awesome. My brother and I arrived in Orange County bright and early on Friday morning, picked up our passes, dropped off our luggage at the hotel, and made our way into the Anaheim Convention Center to see what Blizzard had in store for us.
The entire convention center was dark, illuminated only by multicolored lights and spotlights shining the Blizzard logo on the ground. Various islands of booths, displays, and photo areas were placed around the floor, and much larger areas were sectioned off to house many rows of computers set up for people to try out all of Blizzard’s latest and greatest (Starcraft 2, Diablo 3, and Wrath of the Lich King).
In the convention center’s largest room, a massive hall of chairs had been set up for the opening and closing ceremonies, and for other announcements and forums where the audience size was expected to be large. At the opposite end of the center, a smaller stage had been set up, as a special place for awards to be handed out to tournament players, as well as an alternate viewing area to the live events happening in the main hall.
Various other areas included a small elevated platform with a desk on the top, at which a few commentators would sit and deliver their take on the event as it rolled on (for pay-per-view viewers), two merchandise stores, a retrospective on past Blizzard games, a collection of concept art, a TCG / adventure game store and play area, information booths, and small bars, where drinks of all sorts could be obtained. An upstairs room was also reserved for other segments of the conference, and huge screens were set up all over the convention center so that no matter what one was doing, the important stuff would not be missed.
You can view a map of the event here.
After a quick breakfast at the Rainforest Cafe (the only restaurant that was open at the time) in Down Town Disney, we arrived at BlizzCon. My brother (Spencer) and I wandered around for a while just taking in the various sights and sounds. We leaned over the low barrier to watch fans trying out Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2 for the first time. We gaped at the seemingly endless lines to get into the Blizzard stores. And we checked out the display set up for Blizzard’s past endeavors in gaming, which included the Lost Vikings games, an isometric racing game, and of course, Warcraft.
We then settled into the standing-room-only crowd in the main hall to watch the opening ceremony, which lasted an hour, and then filed out again to go look at more stuff. We briefly visited a discussion panel set up for World of Warcraft’s UI design, and then decided to head back out for a breather – we both only got about two hours of sleep the night before, and the lack of rest was starting to affect the experience. There was nothing else we wanted to see until later in the day, so we trudged a few blocks down the road and back to our hotel, and after looking through our BlizzCon goody bags for a while, we were both fast asleep.
We ended up heading out again at about five o’clock. We made a quick stop for pizza, and were on our way back in only about twenty minutes. I had wanted to check out the World of Warcraft and Diablo 3 art shows, but we’d slept through them. I was happier to have had some revitalizing sleep however, and throughout the show we got plenty of chances to watch the actual games being played, so I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. The /silly contest was in progress when we walked back through the doors of BlizzCon, and we proceeded to watch over two hours of fan-crafted jokes, the dance contest, and though we missed the formal competition, many fans dressed in their best imitations of their favorite characters from Blizzard’s games. The dance contest was the best part; seeing a full range of people, men, women, fat, skinny, young, and old recreating the dances their characters perform in World of Warcraft was really funny at times, and slightly impressive at others. We also saw a brief (and funny) interlude by The Guild, and this was all hosted by a very lascivious Jay Mohr.
Once the festivities were over for Day 1, my brother and I walked back over to Down Town Disney and hit up the ESPN Zone for some beers and arcade games. Lucky for us, Spencer is a DisneyLand annual pass holder, so we got 15% off of everything in DTD. He smashed me at hoops, I got winded on a bicycling arcade game, and then we went back to the hotel for the night.
In the morning of Day 2, we went back to ESPN Zone, but this time sat down in their sports lounge for some breakfast and to catch up on all the football going on the weekend. At around noon we made our way back to BlizzCon to catch the show for upcoming World of Warcraft dungeons, as well as part of the Q&A that followed. The dungeons looked pretty sweet, and though I rarely have enough time to do the scheduled runs with my guild, I hope to explore them at some point.
One member of the audience, who asked an argumentative question about hunters and their pets (if I remember correctly), had the gall to tell the game’s designers that they were wrong in their judgement of his question, which was met with furious booing from the crowd.
After all that, we decided there wasn’t much else we wanted to see until the closing ceremony that night, so we left BlizzCon for our hotel yet again, and ended up playing a few games of the World of Warcraft TCG, which actually turned out to be pretty fun (especially when I almost came back from a near shut-out with just one well-timed card). We had debated whether or not this time would have been a good opportunity to get in line to try out Diablo 3 or Starcraft 2, but we decided against it, as the lines for those games quadrupled after the dungeon preview session ended.
At around five o’clock, we descended on BlizzCon for the final time, arriving early in hopes to grab some seats in the main hall. Walking in, we noticed that about 75% of the seats in the hall were already taken, but to our dismay, every available seat left was being reserved by someone for a group they belonged to. At one point, we encountered someone saving four seats for friends, and we also observed at least one man with a disability (he was walking with a cane) being denied a place to sit by one of the seat-savers. I’m still planning on writing Blizzard to complain about this. If people wanted to see save a seat for themselves, they should have sat in them.
In any case, Spencer and I decided we didn’t want to watch the three hour closing ceremony standing on the sidelines of the floor, where the acoustics prevented much of the audio from even being understandable, so instead, we made our way over to the second stage on the other side of the center, where only a handful of people had gathered. We weren’t sure if they would show the closing ceremony on the handful of screens there, but figured it was worth the chance, as we’d be standing to watch in the main hall regardless of if we were there when it began or had to hustle back over. My brother bought us a round of beers, and we sat and waited.
As it turned out, the closing ceremony was indeed played on the second stage, and we had a good time watching it as we took turns buying rounds of drinks. Two comedians, including Patton Oswalt, gave performances, and were followed by Level 80 Elite Tauren Chieftain, and finally a performance of various Blizzard game music by Video Games Live. I didn’t catch much of the opening comedian (he was dressed like a lumberjack), but I thought Patton Oswalt was pretty funny. L80ETC was alright, though their music isn’t really my type, and I really enjoyed listening to Video Games Live. By the time the whole thing was over, Spencer and I were on our fifth or sixth round of drinks, and we stumbled back to our hotel room and got to sleep pretty early that night.
We got up early on Sunday and ran over to DisneyLand for a few hours of rides (I hadn’t been in over ten years!) and then we made our way back to the hotel a final time to get our stuff together before our mid-afternoon flight home. I would have liked to have had more time to spend at DisneyLand, but by the time we were leaving, the park was getting to be so full of people anyway, I was partially glad to be leaving.
All in all, it was an awesome weekend, and despite the amount of running around, standing around, and junk food, I came out of it feeling pretty good on Monday – which is rare for my usual trips. I think I owe a lot of that to the fact that we ended up getting a decent amount of sleep every day of the trip, save the first. I would definitely attend BlizzCon again, but maybe again on another year when they have another slew of huge games on the horizon. It was good to just “nerd out” and enjoy myself for a weekend.
Of all things BlizzCon, there was really only a few things that I didn’t like. The seat-saving bit was annoying, and expectedly, the bathrooms at the convention center got particularly gross at times. The only part that I really didn’t anticipate (and probably should have) was that when you got into large groups with others, to stand and watch a performance or when a large crowd was exiting one of the halls, you were treated to the overwhelming smell of body odor, with the occasional fart thrown in here and there. I would liken it to the smell of a locker room after a football team just had a big game. Kinda gross sometimes, but not so frequent or strong as to be a deal-breaker. Still, if you’re planning on attending BlizzCon, expect to get a good whiff of this smell at least a few times!
For the curious, I thought I’d list the contents of the BlizzCon goody bag, which I was pretty impressed with (even though I know a lot of it is the standard give-away fare, with a Blizzard theme attached):
- Blizzon Pass (with World of Warcraft character name included)
- BlizzCon Gift Card (includes code for special WoW mount, and participation in upcoming StarCraft 2 beta)
- World of Warcraft Heroes of Azeroth TCG Starter Pack
- Inflatable Frostmourne Sword (some bags had inflatable Paladin hearth / bubble instead)
- Special StarCraft 2 board game square
- Rubber BlizzCon keychain
- Metallic Diablo 3 keychain
- Orc mask
- Diablo 3 stress ball
- Kleenex packet with “QQ Noob” printed on it
- Zerg Creep packet of colored goo
- WoW mousepad
- WoW Alliance necklace
- Pandaren Brewmaster beer holder & bottle opener
- StarCraft 2 wristbands
- Double-sided WoW / SC2 comic book
- Hand Sanitizer
- Diablo 3 Cinnamints
- WoW Pin
- Event map & schedule
There was probably more stuff in there that I forgot to list – but that’s a lot of stuff as is, and I was anxious to drop that sucker off at the hotel room so I wouldn’t have to carry it everywhere!
Anyway, I think I’ve rambled on long enough. I had a great time, and I hope I can visit sometime again in the future. BlizzCon rocks!