Let’s Talk About Blizzcon

It’s been a week since I was at Blizzcon. Kind of amazing how time flies, no? It’s hard to imagine that on Sunday I was flying back to home from LAX. Of course the fact that I left my iPad on the plane kind of cements the memory in my brain… but let’s not focus on that.

Instead we’re going to talk about the convention itself! I have plenty of “con” experience under my belt. It all started back in 2005 when I attended Celebration III with my brother and father. From there I’ve gone to two Wizard Worlds, four Comic-Cons, and four PAX Easts. So I was certainly curious to see how Blizzcon ranked among these.

In terms of scale, the convention was bigger than Wizard World, but definitely smaller than the rest. The whole thing essentially takes place on the expo hall. Panels, tournaments, signings, food, and booths are all on the same level. There were a few exceptions to the rule, such as the Hearthstone Tavern and the cosplay area which were on the second floor. But aside from that practically everything was in the same room.

IMG_1661I wondered at first how you’d be able to hear the panels over all the noise of everything else going on. Shockingly though, everything went smoothly. The expo hall was large enough that everything seemed to have enough space. The panels were small and in little corners so they weren’t interrupted by the noise of the crowd going back and forth throughout the hall.

Since Blizzcon is a single company convention, they don’t exactly have a lot of products to market. At the moment Blizzard has six different franchises and with the exception of Diablo, all of them were at the forefront of the show. That said, it also didn’t mean there were a ton of “absolutely must be there” panels. Apparently everything interesting that’s going to be announced at Blizzcon is going to happen at the opening ceremony.

The opening ceremony is basically the keynote at a PAX or a Hall H presentation at Comic-Con. It’s at Blizzcon’s biggest stage. President Mike Morhaime came out on stage and basically spent an hour going over all the announcements for Blizzard’s products. Now here and there other people would come out on stage, depending on the game, but he was more or less our host for the next hour.

IMG_1668The announcements were mostly sub par. None my friends and I are fans of World of Warcraft so all of the Legion announcements flew right over our heads. Though the cinematic they showed was well done. The StarCraft 2 stuff was basically a reminder that the Tuesday after the show was Legacy of the Void’s release date. Diablo was completely absent from the opening ceremony – and most of the convention itself actually. The bigger announcements came in Blizzard’s latter three products.

My friends and I had spent the prior days speculating about what kind of Hearthstone announcements Blizzard would make. An expansion seemed to be the most obvious thing, but we had hoped for more. Maybe a second player mode? They’d just experimented with co-op Tavern Brawls so that didn’t seem too far-fetched. Maybe some kind of tournament mode? Maybe something more than the obvious…?

Nope. The League of Explorers expansion was all they announced. New cards are fun and all but the game has been stale these past few months. Frankly the latest expansion they put out – The Grand Tournament – did very little to change things. So I have to wonder if Blizzard pushing this out so soon is an act of desperation to keep the game fresh.

The other stuff was for Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch. I don’t really play Heroes but the idea of a hero played by two players seems interesting. I just hope he doesn’t turn out to be more of a gimmick than anything else. Overwatch was revealed to be a paid product, with a $60 edition having extra skins and some other goodies. The fact that Tracer is going to be added to Heroes of the Storm gets me interested in a game that has otherwise bored me.

IMG_1673And that was… kind of it. It seemed like a lackluster year for the most part. I wonder if next year will hold stronger announcements since Overwatch will be released and Legion will have been out by then as well.

The rest of the convention was spent meandering around the expo hall. There were a few non-Blizzard booths, mostly hardware manufactures. Nvidia, Corsair, Gigabyte, and more were there. They’d have cosplayers at photobooths and give away dumb little buttons or pins. The other areas were booths for each of Blizzard’s games, signing areas, and theaters for the panels.

I spent most of my time getting my poster signed. Over the course of two days I got about forty signatures or so. It looks pretty awesome and once I get it framed I’ll be sure to post it here for all to see in its glory. I also played the first level of the Hearthstone expansion. It’s out now, so the only interesting thing was seeing some of the cards in action.

IMG_1709I went to some panels as well. They were all voice acting focused. I was surprised by the amount of people I recognized there. Many of them were there for World of Warcraft, so I certainly knew them from other projects outside of Blizzard.

At the end of each panel there were signings. These were run a bit differently than usual. You actually got time to talk with each actor for a few minutes before going on to the next person. This was great when you were up there, but if you were in line then you’d be waiting quite awhile for your turn. In some cases, the actors would have to leave before you got up there. This was frustrating when I knew that if people had been just a bit faster then I could have gotten there. Anyways, the actors were great and a ton of fun to meet. That’s the important part.

I also got to play Overwatch. Even though the line was huge, it only took about forty-five minutes to an hour to get through the whole thing (normally I would have guessed it around three/four hours). This might be because it’s a team game and you can get six people on one team. It just so happens we were a group of six, which meant we got paired together.

Blizzard also had all of the PCs networked with voice chat so we could all hear each other during the games (some more than others, apparently two of us had mics that were off originally. Oops!). But because we all knew each other and had a general sense of how to play the game, we destroyed the other team. I might write up some more in depth impressions of the game later, but after playing it I really wished that I had beta access!

Overall the show was a blast. The only complaint I have is that Blizzard doesn’t list their panelists on their program. There’s no way of knowing who will show up until the panel starts. It’s a little frustrating because I’d like to know where I should spend my time beforehand. So hopefully that will change with Blizzcons down the year.

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