or being their inaugural Blizzcon, Blizzard did a good job at pulling through and satisfying the fans in attendance for this sold out event. Located in beautiful Anaheim right outside Disneyland, the Anaheim Convention Center made for a perfect location for such an event. Surrounded by palm trees and distant views of the mountains, the weather turned out to be perfect making for a nice sunny weekend in the heart of California.
Arriving around 1pm, the lines had long passed and the dreaded registration booth had subsided to nothing more than some ropes and 4 old women waiting to process credit cards. Entering the main hall (Hall A), there was no question where you were. Dimly lit and full of exhibits, the main hall was full of sponsor booths, hundreds of computers, demonstration areas, and two stages for presentations and tournaments.
Taking a quick glance around, the art exhibit immediately stuck out as a place of interest. Full of concept art and sketches from both the upcoming expansion and Starcraft, the room had a quiet yet proud presence to it that demanded the attention of any photographer (Art1, Art2, Art3, Art4, Art5).
|A taste of the sponsor booths
With lines for goody bags, expansion playtests, and battlegrounds running into the 1-2 hour range, it was time to check out some of the various exhibits set up around the hall. While there were various people dressed in costumes, this exhibit by Microsoft was the most disturbing. To the naked eye, everything appears to be normal. What you don't see is the desperate lady standing next to these paid costume wearers begging fans to come in and mingle with them. In the background a DJ stands looking almost as confused as the tauren beside him. Without any purpose, this exhibit ended up looking more like a zoo than anything else.
A few yards away was a ZBoard, Newegg, Brady Games, Western Digital, Upper Deck, NVidia, Penny Arcade, Intel, Brady Games (their Atlas was a must purchase) Pocket Books, and TokyoPop booth (along with a few others). This made up the majority of the sponsor booths as they all were grouped into one section. Some notable sights were the World of Warcraft boardgame. I watched a game for upwards of 15 minutes and left more confused than I came. The game certainly showed some potential, but required a D&D background and a patient gamer to grasp, neither of which fit the bill for me.
Scanning once more around the perimeter revealed this man, the very talented author Richard Knaak. Richard was extremely welcoming and friendly, talking for a great deal with me about the books, future releases, and my digital camera which he was oddly obsessed with. He gladly snapped a picture with me as I moved onto the meat of Blizzcon, the panels.
The first panel I attended was the Art and Design panel. Only expecting to get a background into how a sketch turns into an in-game model, it was relieving to see some substance shown at this panel. They were more than willing to not only give a peak at weapons for Ahn'Qiraj (one, two), but they also went into good detail on new models they were working on for creatures in the area as well. After getting past some information on the instance (which will be released with patch 1.9), the panel then started talking about art and weapons being worked on for the Burning Crusade. Some concept sketches of the blood elves and several new creatures were previewed for the expansion (EXP1, EXP2, EXP3). Blizzard made it clear that for much of the new models they are increasing the poly count in order to add more detail while still staying within the realms of the style of the game. More interesting to note were some of the new weapons (continued) being previewed. The panel made note that they've been working on different types of reflective patterns (as seen on the shield in the first screenshot) that have not been seen in the past. With hundreds of weapons in the game, it's becoming clear that the team is working hard on continuing to innovate with new weapon models although they did note that they're still working on improving current weapon and armor models throughout the lower levels.
As seen on about 900 other fansites, the Starcraft:Ghost photo opportunities with the beautiful model was a must. I couldn't help but ask her how much she was getting paid to wear the costume as she didn't appear to be very comfortable. Ironically enough, we ended up talking for a while during the costume contest which she did not enter (would have easily been a finalist if she could).
Since I now had blondes stuck in my head like an Arby's commercial, it was time to head over to the expansion and check out the new FOTM, the Blood Elves. The playtest of the expansion was limited to 30 minutes in which you could either play with a level 60 character of your choice and attempt to join a raid (all geared in tier 2 epic gear) or play as a Blood Elf. I chose the latter of the two. The small island that you're confined to was bright and vibrant. Some may ask why such a dark and twisted race such as the Blood Elves would have a land so beautiful. As stated by Chris Metzen during the Art Panel, the Blood Elves are only putting up a facade. Their green eyes reflect the hunger and desperation they have for power. Facade or not, the starting area is as nice as they come with new architecture, new creatures, and plenty of exploring to do (I couldn't resist). While some texturing bugs still existed, the race appeared like it was nearly ready for release. We'll have to wait and see if the alliance side of things gets as much close attention paid to them.
Sitting in on a class discussion panel, I was able to get screenshots of all of the powerpoints that were presented by the panel. Here is the exact text presented for each class [ my comments are in italics]
- Warcraft 3 Archmage + Sorceress
- High Damage Class
- Chains of Ice (crowd control philosophy)
- War3 as more a caster class rather than traditional armored cleric [They wanted their priest class to work differently than other RPGs so that it could be both a damage dealer and healer without the armored shell]
- Racial Spells (Undead holy spell issue)
- Witch Doctor + Shaman + Farseer
- Shaman in lore were powerful warriors
- Different totem approaches (too many, too few) [Several approaches were taken with totems. At first there were only a few totems, but the process of using them was too linear. Later on they considered having all shaman spells be used through totems, but this proved to be far too many]
- Warrior - D&D, other RPGs [Wanted the warrior to be a more enjoyable class to play. The team felt that warriors in previous MMOs were not as enjoyable as they should be]
- Originally did not have rage bar
- Watered down version of Paladin
- Rage bar concept came from fighting games
- Head hunter, Ranger, Huntress
- In beta had focus bar [The focus bar acted as allowing the hunter to use more powerful abilities by standing in one place for a given amount of time in order to gain focus. This ended up being a rather boring way of playing the class since so much time had to be spent standing in one location waiting for a bar to fill up]
- Changed to mana bar
- No real Warcraft 3 equivalent, roots from other RPGs
- Originally the Assassin [This limited the class in too many regards, so it was opened up to include combos as we know the rogue today]
- Had similar problems to Warrior before we added energy bar and combos
- Orc Warlocks in Warcraft lore
- All about Fire and Shadow magic
- Demon pets had several iterations before we got to where we are today [They want you to be able to use different pets for different situations, but not to force you into one over the other. For a while the system was set up so that you could only use a pet once every x minutes or x fights. This proved to be too limiting thus the current system was adapted as we know Warlocks today]
- Evolution of pet bar
- Druid of the Clar, Druid of the Talon, Keeper of the Grove
- Druid almost didn't make the game due to lore reasons since they were night elf male only [Metzen fought hard to keep druids more lore focused, but had to give in to game mechanics in order to make the class playable for release]
- Only true hybrid class in WoW
The Future of Classes
- More class mechanics 60-70 [4-5 new spells for each class during the level 60-70 gap]
- Extended talent trees [10 additional talent points in each tree allowing for 41 point talents]
- Increased racial differentiation
- Heroes? [not for some time]
|Enough for one day
By now, I'm sure most people have heard about the costume contest that took place. There were over 85 people that participated in the contest making for some great entries and the inevitable murloc which got a huge cheer from the crowd.
After a full day at Blizzcon, I had gathered a plethora of junk, a hole in my pocket, and a mild buzz from the day long cash bar. I was already looking forward to what would be waiting for me when I woke up in the morning.
|The little things that count
I made a point to make my way towards some of the more random events taking place within the convention center. I never got a chance to play ping pong as the tables remained occupied throughout the day (the guy on the right looks very similar to Grubby, the $10,000 winner of the WC3 tournament). There was the wall climb as well as the jousting that also lied around the perimeter of the convention center.
While I did my best job to flaunt the truck, these two made much better use of the scenery. I snapped this photo as the interviewer was asking about how much they were getting hit on throughout the show. She gave the typical not interested, I have a boyfriend response. How dull. Community member Vhenloch was also spotted before entering battle. Only speaking in small ramblings, he was very reluctant to get a picture with me (not really Vhen).
Saving the best for last was the lore and quest discussion panel where Metzen stole the show from the start. Being grilled with questions from why females are allowed to play druids (game mechanics), to hints at the alliance race for the expansion (no major hints given other than the surprise that will ensue once we find out), fighting Arthas (it will be an epic battle, he says), and the future of the game (we will have kids by the time it's all said and done), it made for a humorous and uplifting discussion with the brains behind the game. You couldn't ask for much more.
I was able to snag a front row seat for the $10,000 Warcraft 3 faceoff between Grubby and Zacard, two Orc players (Love the Orcs!). A little while later a raffle took place in which brand new nVidia cards, hard drives, and even a brand new Alienware computer was given away, none of which I had the pleasure of winning. There was also a silent auction for some rare pieces of art, signed memorabilia, and a lifetime subscription to WoW (which went for $900).
Instead of heading right over to the concert afterwards, I spent the next couple of hours taking in some rounds of 10v10 Ghost multiplayer on XBox. Although the game suffered from some balance issues, the multiplayer proved to be extremely addicting. One multiplayer format involved capturing a mobile station and returning it to your base and the other (much more popular) game involved capturing a series of resources, controlling those locations, and then taking down your opponents base (between terran and zerg). Games tended to run anywhere from 10 minutes up to an hour long with each kill allowing you to move up in what you could play as (Infantry, Marine, Firebat, and Ghost) for Terran and (Zergling, Hydralisk, Infested Marine, and Mutalisk) for Zerg. This proved to be a good use of time as the concert that lied ahead wasn't worth the $40 put towards it.
|Pretty fly for an Offspring guy (or not)
With the doors opening at 6:30, there were two opening acts followed by the Offspring. It appeared as though the show would only go until 10pm, so I arrived at 9:00 hoping to catch the tail end of an exciting Offspring show. After waiting for 30 minutes, the band finally came out and rushed through songs, making little attempt to communicate with the exhausted crowd. I stuck around till around 10 when it was time to call it a night. Not a thrilling end to the evening, but the weekend was well worth the trip.
Blizzcon top 5 most random moments
5) The man dressed as a murloc who was seen yelling at developers during panels for murloc slavery, interviewing random people about their opinions of murlocs, and crowdsurfing at the Offspring concert.
4) A man dressed in polka dot shorts and mickey mouse glasses heckling people outside of Blizzcon telling them that he's a probation officer and they must obey him.
3) A girl asking the panel during the career panel why barely any women work for Blizzard. After a programmer said he's seen two girls programming in the past 15 years, another stepped up and said, "Don't worry, we like girls".
2) Rob Pardo acknowledging his criminology degree while being asked what the best degree to have when applying to Blizzard would be.
1) Chris Metzen being stumped during the lore panel and acknowledging that even if he made something up, it'd still be correct.
Blizzcon top 5 biggest disappointments
5) The announcer for the costume contest should not have been announcing. That's all I'll say.
4) The Offspring concert wasn't too special. Alright it sucked.
3) Lines for the store were 2+ hours the first day and a half, then subsided once the only items left were XXL Starcraft shirts and cell phone lanyards.
2) The playtest for the expansion was a bit dry. Would have been nice to explore some of the new areas other than the Blood Elf lands.
1) Need more random junk at the store. T-Shirts (which we'll be giving away), laser cells, posters, and keychains were about as far as it went. Prices weren't bad.
Blizzcon top 5 moments
5) The location and presentation of the event were top notch.
4) All day cash bar. Enough said.
3) Warcraft and starcarft tournament finales. The announcers and players put on a real show.
2) Starcaft:Ghost. The game, everything from trailers to gameplay, kicked ass.
1) The lore panel. For all of the doubters out there, as long as Chris Metzen is at Blizzard, the game will continue to stay at the top.
Hope you all enjoyed our Blizzcon coverage. Feel free to browse back to our day 1 and day 2 summaries and post your comments on our forums.