BlizzCon 2017 has to have been perhaps the most legendary and satisfying convention I’ve attended in recent years, if not ever. The highs were stratospheric but the lows were relatively minor.
Technically, my epic time started when I arrived in Anaheim on Halloween with firm plans of going to Disneyland for the first time ever. Sure, in previous years, I’d had the intention of going to Disney the Sunday after con, but either budget or more often weariness nixed that idea. I’d been to Downtown Disney a couple of times in years past, but honestly, that’s like an extended Disney store with restaurants, not an actual Disney experience. First, however, I had to check into the Marriott (thanks to Elvine for the tweets in April that got me the epic deal for $150/night for the whole week via Kayak). I scored a really sweet room with a balcony!
So, Disneyland on Halloween is awesome. Next time, I plan on getting the tickets to Mickey’s Halloween Party, cos they were sold out by the time I got my regular park ticket. The cool part is that not only were the cast members in costume, many of the park visitors were too. I didn’t have a costume ready, but I did wear my Jack Skellington baseball shirt and ears. The amusing thing is that I was waiting for the Disney app to download to my phone so I could let them scan my tickets, and I heard someone calling my name. It was my friend David Bass, and I was wildly amused to randomly run into a friend in all of the chaos on the plaza. Once I finally got into the Magic Kingdom proper, I meandered up Main Street and took a lot of photos of the Halloween decorations, particularly the iconic Walt and Mickey statue. The photographer taking pics of the visitors with the statue was really good and very energetic, so I got a few good ones thanks to him.
On the advice of LotRO/DDO‘s Cordovan, I made my first ride the Haunted Mansion. Being a Nightmare Before Christmas fan, I didn’t mind the revamp to make it all about NBC, but there was homage to the original Grim Grinning Ghosts tune at the end. Btw, always get a FastPass if you have the MaxPass option on your tickets. Soooooooo useful. Actually, the Disney app was pretty useful too.
Next, of course, Star Tours. What Star Wars nerd wouldn’t do Star Tours? Well, sadly, I can say that thanks to my motion sickness issues, I won’t be doing it a second time. Still, there were First Order Stormtroopers to take photos of (and with!) and the Star Trader shop to buy stuff in. As usual, a bit bummed that none of the cool design t-shirts were printed in either adult or me-sizes. I also went to the Launch Bay to check out the displays of costumes and ships and cool stuff. Afterwards, I had to have a go on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. It appealed to the silly English nerd in me, and I was amazed at how they contorted the ride into such a small space. I’m sure if I saw it in regular lighting and had a walkthrough, it wouldn’t seem all that impressive, but I did appreciate the mechanics of the thing.
Afterwards, because I’m a GD adult, I rode the carousel. By that time, it was getting late, and I didn’t want to overextend myself, so I started making my way out. Also, the Magic Kingdom closed early for the ticketed party, so I couldn’t stay. Even tho I did have a ticket for California Adventure, I didn’t really feel like walking too much more, even tho they were doing special Halloween decorations. None of the rides appealed to me. So, I went to the Hilton, where people were already collecting and hanging out, so I got to say hi to Bajheera and Jen and my friend Terran Gregory, and also meet up with Malkarii, the infamous Lady of Horsemasks.
Wednesday was a big day, even tho I only had one major appointment all day. The Blizzard developer known as Celestalon likes to color people’s hair in his spare time, and I got one of the coveted timeslots, so bright and early Wednesday morning, he collected me from the Starbucks near his place and proceeded to color my hair bright Blizzard (or Derpkitty) blue. Other than that I left the goop on my hair too long due to waiting on someone to stop by my hotel room to drop their costume off, it came out pretty well. The original intention was to get blue shaded into silver, but due to the extra stewing, the silver never came out and now kinda looks like a green shading to the blue in certain spots.
That evening, I got to spend time with my favorite floof, a lovely Eurasian dog named Flint and his owner, a Blizzard cinematics dude who goes by the name of Tumblebuck. After that, I went with my friends Tyrnn and Yarv to get KBBQ at Gen in Tustin. Ironically, our friends Kithrak and Illandria were at another Gen.
On Thursday, I got to hang out with Terran again, and this time, he was joined in the silly selfies by Elvine and Towelliee, the latter of whom surprised me by recognizing me twice over the weekend, which I presume due to my association with Omeed Dariani, CEO of the OP Group. Later that evening, I went to the benefit dinner which was a $750 ticket, but definitely worth it. The food was pretty good, and the company was also pretty cool. I managed to get selfies with Hearthstone Game Director Ben Brode and WoW Game Director Ion Hazzikostas as well as Terran himself. I had lovely chats with Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime (who I found out was a huge Weird Al fan) and composer Derek Duke. Having a proper chat with Derek and mentioning that I wished I could have seen his former colleague Russell Brower’s hand-written scores that were up on the walls in the audio department last year would pay a dividend the following Monday, you’ll see.
The next day was the big day. BlizzCon HYPE! This year, the con was even bigger than last year, cos it took over the whole convention center, including the new areas in the North Hall. I think I used up my lifetime supply of all-caps during opening ceremonies. I seriously enjoyed the Overwatch and Hearthstone announcements early on (BlizzardWorld is a stroke of genius!), tho wasn’t very surprised they didn’t include a Diablo segment. Jeff Kaplan is a master of deadpan humor (‘I know most of you don’t know what payload means…’ and ‘If you want to know how to spell Moira, it’s OP AF’), and Ben Brode is like a kid in a candy store. I loved the Hearthstone announcement as a choose your own adventure, but was Ben really surprised that everyone chose options like ‘certain death’? 😀
In all the teasers and leaks and whatever (I try to avoid leaks or rudely datamined content, and sometimes wish Wowhead would use more spoiler protection on their posts), I didn’t have a hint that they were going to drop the announcement of classic WoW servers, or, as J. Allen Brack joked on stage, his favorite flavor was vanilla. However, that was it for the announcement, beyond that they’re gonna do it. We have no information as to how or which flavor of vanilla or what quality of life improvements they might add to the game. Probably the funniest thing all weekend to me was when Brack remarked that they were probably going to need those old auctioned-off server blades back, and my good friend Gareth ‘Gazimoff’ Harmer tweeted the following:
Still, the lack of info on the implementation is unusual for Blizzard. They even admitted they were in very early stages on the project, and all we know is that they’re spinning up a separate team to work on it so it won’t impact the current game. Personally, I believe they made the announcement to head off most conversations about legacy/pirate servers where that community would no doubt have a field day if Blizzard didn’t announce something.
However, afterwards, the big deal was announced. The new WoW expansion, Battle for Azeroth, brings the game back out of the stars and refocuses on the core conflict in the Warcraft universe, Horde vs. Alliance. Some players love it, some players hate it, me, I’ll wait to find out the story reasons why my Alliance paladin is suddenly not friends with my Horde paladin when they’ve worked side by side for over a year now and will have worked together for presumably two years by the time the xpac launches. While we don’t know the exact launch date, the current signs seem to point to a late summer/early fall launch in 2018. I’m intrigued by the new allied races, although I do again scratch my head why the Nightborne are going to the Horde despite my Alliance toons having saved their Withered butts. Again, waiting on the full story, although there are already hints in comments on the Vindicaar that lead into this.
Another cool part of BlizzCon for me was discovering that my main, draenei paladin Kyriana, was one of the 10,000 randomly-selected attendees’ characters 3D-printed and placed on the Guinness World Record-winning diorama of the Battle for Lordaeron. Later on Saturday night, I tried to get a picture of her with the cameras they had strung over the diorama, but it was really rough getting a good shot, so I’m not entirely sure. I really wish Blizz would work with the makers to sell or otherwise send each character’s figure to the player. I’d even be willing to donate to charity or pay a nominal fee for packaging and shipping. It’s not the same to have it printed at one of the fansites.
I did make a point of pacing myself, so I missed some panels I wanted to see, but with the virtual ticket I can watch them all later. However, some panels had to be viewed in person, such as the Junkertown cinematics panel, the sound panel, and the Overwatch voice actors’ panel. Each were a delight, and it was awesome to get to see friends on stage. I also managed to make it to the Pepe meetup. In Blizzard circles, Pepe isn’t the green frog guy stolen by terrible people as a mascot but rather a fat orange birb, created by the kind and generous Jordan Powers. A bunch of people gathered their custom Pepes and Jordan and we took photos at the fountain outside the convention center. I also took a turn through the art gallery, and there was a lot of art from upcoming content, such as Moira in Overwatch, and the new zones in Battle for Azeroth.
After that, it was mostly time to hang out with friends. I was happy to get to say hi to my friend Darin De Paul after his signing and also hang out with the voice actors under the stewardship of Andrea Toyias in the Hilton bar lobby, getting seconded as security when the fans were pressing too close.
Sunday was food day, with my annual treat of Roscoe’s chicken and waffles for lunch, and KBBQ with Malk and the crew for supper, winding up sitting next to MysticalOS, the guy who’s primarily in charge of the Deadly Boss Mods add-on. And yes, cos we were hanging out with Malk, horsemask happened. 🙂
Monday was my final day in SoCal, and Becca Hallstedt had invited me and some others in the <smol puppers> guild to visit Blizzard’s campus. The tour was amazing and I got to hug my friend Monte Krol in his swanky office and see the art department and the engineering areas. I also had my own special visit planned at the orc statue. Since the Overwatch wrap party was going to happen that afternoon, I got to take photos at the orc with Darin and his lovely wife Debra, and also hugged Matt Mercer for Kageyama Satsuki. My lunchtime ‘date’ was one Samwise Didier whom I hadn’t seen all weekend, and when a passing lady and her son realized he was coming over, her son said it would be awesome to get to meet Sam. Even tho my time with Sammy was limited cos he had a meeting afterwards, I had no qualms about making introductions and letting the young man chatter away with his hero for some minutes and get some good advice in return on how to get into the industry and into Blizzard itself. His mom said her son was autistic, so he was over the moon to get to meet Sammy, and I just smiled happily to be able to make the kid’s day (or weekend or month or whatever!). I also introduced smol pupper Crow to Sam cos why not?
As I mentioned earlier, having a goodly talk with Derek Duke at the benefit dinner on Thursday led to dividends on here on Monday. Well, he saw me talking to Sam near the orc and came over to offer me a quick tour of the audio wing. While the Russell Brower scores on the walls had been relocated from where I’d glimpsed them last year when I was on tour with Terran, Derek was kind enough to grant permission for me to take photos for later in their new location, just as long as I didn’t look around much at anything else.
After the initial visit and getting to see friends such as Josh Augustine and Lance Kimberlin, I left after taking a few pictures of the Overwatch voice cast as they assembled in front of the orc, including getting to meet Michael Chu and Jeff Kaplan and getting selfies (and telling Jeff his troll game was A+). Went across the street to get some lunch at S’wich (highly recommended, their candied bacon is to diiiiiiiie for).
Becca asked me to come back at 5 for something super-secret. I originally assumed it was a group thing, but she also knew my audio department request, so she’d asked Geoffrey, one of the OW sound guys, to take me through. I felt really bad since Derek already did the one thing I wanted to do, but I wasn’t about to let Geoffrey waste his time, so we did a proper tour, and I got to go into the foley room and see the kind of things they made sounds with.
But, but, but, but… as Geoffrey and I were leaving building 1 to go on our mini-tour, I looked across the quad where Andrea Toyias was talking to someone, and my mind fried. It was Chris Metzen. Now you see, I had the chance to meet him two years ago. Dave Kosak, formerly on the WoW team but now on Hearthstone, had offered to introduce us in the Hilton bar, but ditched me (I’m sure he had a good reason!), so I never got to say hi, and Metzen left the company last year. I still kept giving Kosak crap about it ever since. I honestly figured I’d never get a chance to meet the guy. However, Metzen and his family had come to BlizzCon as fans and apparently him wearing a ballcap was enough of a disguise that most of the con didn’t realize he was there. And there he was, just across the quad by complete and utter happenstance! I asked Geoffrey if we could go over and say hi, and he agreed cos he hadn’t met the guy either.
Chris laughed at my story about how Kosak ditched me two years ago and we called him names, and when I told him that I’d read his Tirion Fordring story whilst flying on a plane that was skirting a hurricane on the way back from Star Wars Celebration in Orlando some years ago, he thought that made the story sound even more epic. He graciously let us take pictures, so here’s proof I met the guy. All around solid and down to earth (no surprise from all the stories I’ve heard about him, but still!). He also approved of my Horde kilt. 🙂
After that, it was time to head back to the hotel and start to pack to go home. I mean, after meeting Metzen, where else can you really go, right? That’s bucket list right there! So, that was my BlizzCon. So many friends to catch up with, a handful I didn’t get to see, and it wasn’t perfect, but it’ll be hard to top that next year.