This past weekend, I took a trip down to Anaheim to attend BlizzCon 2008. I had to jump through a lot of hoops to get the tickets. First things first, Blizzard needs to find a better way to sell the tickets. I was slamming their site with page refreshes on the date of the ticket release and their servers kept crashing. Luckily, I was able to create an account and fill out my shipping info on their EU site so when the page did load, I did not have to create one then and there.
The drive down to Anaheim was relatively pain-free. Having a GPS is a must nowadays, especially the closer you get to a metropolis like Los Angeles. At one point, we were heading towards a Frys from our hotel and we had to change freeways four or five times before arriving at the destination.
Back to BlizzCon. The show was a bit over-hyped I think or maybe my expectations was too high. The place was pretty much like any other gaming convention with long lines, dark lighting and very little space. The main attractions of the show was the three potential game releases–World of Warcrafts’ second expansion pack: the Wrath of the Lich King, Starcraft II, and Diablo III.
My main reason for attending BlizzCon was to check out Diablo III. I played Diablo a bit in the past and the game mechanics were intriguing at the time. Random dungeons and random gear drops? I’ll play until the sun dawns! At one of the Diablo III panels, the developers announced a new class to go along with the Barbarian and the Witch Doctor, namely the Wizard.
The class is awesome. Nukes all around. I know what class I want to be when the game comes out. It was like they combined a shaman and a frost mage and then threw in a bubble for kicks.
The gem attachment mechanic was interesting as well. Attaching different gems to the character dramatically changes their spells. Examples they showed was a fireball becoming a bouncing fireball and a lightning bolt becoming a chain lightning bolt.
On the Starcraft II front, I attended a community match between a professional Starcraft player and a Warcraft 3 player. The two players were given an hour or two to familiarize themselves with the units before their match. I have no clue why they used a Warcraft 3 player in the match, it became obvious he was at a big disadvantage. The Starcraft player toyed with the guy for both matches they played and crushed him mercilessly.
I am not much of a RTS player. I have problems micro-managing my units and production as well as defending early game rushes. The new units though made me rethink my thoughts of purchasing the game. The protoss looked especially fun with their blinking stalkers and the beam-shooting giant spider-looking things which seems to have been a directly lifted from Tom Cruise’s movie about aliens. I didn’t see much new for the zerg from the Warcraft 3 player. He pretty much built a bunch of zerglings and walked back and forth along the map.
Although World of Warcraft: The Wrath of the Lich King was front and center for most of the two days at the show, I did not attend any panels or even play the game. Although, I was able to look over the shoulder of other people playing the game. One guy was playing a hunter with a T-Rex pet while another was sitting on his gnome mage typing away in guild chat. I was not able to spy anyone playing a warrior with the titan grip which was probably the most interesting new skill available.
Obviously, the two events that made the show was the contests on the first day and the closing ceremony on the second day. The contests included a costume competition, dancing competition and a one-liner competition. The one-liner competition was a complete dud. Either the mic was not turned up high enough or the contestants were all mumblers. I could not hear any of their one-liners where I stood in line for the store.
The costume contest was competitive until the obvious winner appeared. A warlock riding a giant mechanized turtle. She was scooting on the turtle all around the stage and even Jay Mohr convinced her to give him a chance to ride the thing. It was obvious she was going to be the winner.
The dance contest was the crowning moment of the show as can be seen from this video:
The last person shown in the video was the winner; she has amazingly limber arms and body control.
The closing ceremony on the second day was interesting to say the least. The show started off with a pair of comedians. Home Improvement’s Al look-alike led into some guy whose name escapes me. After them, the Level 80 Elite Tauren Chieftans played a number of their songs. I couldn’t hear any of the lyrics or the music because it was extremely loud. Ear-shattering loud. The best part of the show ended up being the Video Games Live orchestra. Nothing like a little classical music to mellow out the crowd.
If I were to attend future BlizzCons, I would definitely go there with a plan instead of half-assing it through the day. Pick up tickets the day before the actual event to stow away the schwag bag. Upon entry, make a mad dash to the gaming lines. Re-queue to play as much as you can until the dance contest. Repeat process on the second day. Go to the store after the closing ceremony where the lines become 30 minute waits unlike the 4 hour stand-a-thon on the first day. Bring a better camera to take pictures. All my pictures were fuzzy and had too much noise. The only clear picture was the BlizzCon billboard picture at the top of this post and that was only presentable after heavy doctoring in Photoshop.
On a totally unrelated BlizzCon note, DQ has one of the most tasty milkshakes. I should have bought another one on the second night after dinner.
The hotel room at the Menage hotel is one of the best ones I stayed at. The room comes with a giant HD tv hanging on the wall. This was the first time I saw HBO in HD and now I am having trouble adjusting to the non-HD of my TV at home. I also like the divide between the shower/toilet area and the sink/mirror area. In the future, I would like to have that layout at home. Practical and an energy-saver.
On the way back from southern California, we were witness to a rather dramatic incident on the freeway. A pickup truck loaded with baskets and furniture was speeding along in the fast lane with a Lexus trailing behind. One of the baskets slipped off the bed of the truck and smacked the rather expensive car in the windshield before flying off into the lanes across the divide. Obviously the victim was rather pissed and started to tailgate the truck. The truck pulled to the right and signaled that he was exiting. Right before the exit became the only path, the truck swerved back onto the freeway and started to weave in-and-out of traffic. The Lexus jumped the lines to get back onto the freeway and followed the truck through the traffic, chasing them off the next exit. I wonder what happened to them afterwards. Did the Lexus catch up or did the truck lose them?
All in all, the trip was a good experience. I wouldn’t mind going back in the future.