It seems like just yesterday I had booked the hotel, successfully bought the tickets, and began counting down with muted excitement for the day BlizzCon would arrive. This marked my third trip out to sunny southern California for the convention and, two years after the last, it was with a completely different guild.
Personally, I had a really awesome time. I met some amazing people that I only once knew 140 characters at a time, and got to meet up with some great friends that I only get to see all-too-seldomly. And of course there was experiencing first-hand all the WoW news and getting to try out the new expansion and see some of the new content — that was all invaluable. Wouldn’t have missed any of it for the world.
Months earlier, Antigen, Meloree, Theck, Vosskah, Vidyala, and I all agreed to fly in a day earlier for a couple of reasons. The first was to avoid acclimating to all that comes with arrival day along with the thousands of other attendees who’d be showing up on Thursday (there’s something to be said for the peaceful anticipation of the Hilton lobby bar on Wednesday). The second was just to have the day to hang out as a group and get a nice steak dinner — holy cow, that steak — before all the craziness of the con and all its social implications.
On my way out to CA, I had a stopover in New York City for two hours. I finally arrived LAX (which pained me, but cheaper tickets…) somewhere around noon and proceeded to wait for Antigen, Meloree, and Theck for our shuttle to the hotel. Finally there the first objective was to get food. I had only sustained myself that day on some blue chips that JetBlue handed out and it didn’t help that Theck reeked of carrots. At the food court we were soon ambushed by Voss and Vid, back from some shopping trip, and were soon joined by Anafielle before she had to disappear again (that latter bit was a constant theme of the convention).
After lunch we shuffled over to the lobby bar and just chilled out for a few hours, Antigen and I sucking down gin and tonics while Mel and Theck got months of pent-up mechanics discussions out of the way. Hands were waved furiously, I assure you.
Once we had pre-gamed enough, it was time for our reservation at Mortons, and so off we went to that. When we finally got to sit down at the table, we got to enjoy a true feast. Probably one of the top five steaks I’ve ever had, and the company was great too. Totally an excellent capstone to a long and arduous day of travel. Bed followed soon after, we all had a busy day ahead of us.
Started the day off with a nice (though long!) breakfast at the Hilton lobby restaurant with Voss, Vid, Antigen, and (in doing so met for the first time) Hamlet, Perculia, and Sarah Pine from WoW Insider. It was the right start to the day, and was a nice counter from the craziness that would surely follow.
The day before the convention opens is, obviously, the big travel day and all it’s the day of two huge events: the big WoW Insider/wowhead party and the early badge pickup line. The two obligations line up, so choices had to be made of when to tackle each. After about noon there were a concerning number of people beginning to line up for the badge line. This, however, was such a rookie mistake. The best time to tackle the line is typically at the back end of the night, after all the early birds got out of the way. While BlizzCon is infamous for being LineCon, there’s no reason to stand in superfluous lines.
At some point in the afternoon, while everyone was off meeting up with newcomers or ticking objectives off lists, Antigen and I took a cab to In n Out Burger and fulfilled the pilgrimage we had committed ourselves to months ago. Being from the half of the country which In n Out doesn’t exist in, the burger was a rare treat. It was pretty good too — totally worth the cab fare, though that may have been mostly thanks to the animal-style sauce.
When we got back we met up with Voss and Vid, who was handing out some of her business cards to the folks who bought badge art from her. I got to meet some great people as they came over to say hi to her, including Timbersham, Arielle, (guildmate) Elfi, and a few others.
Not long after we got ourselves in gear and headed off for the WoW Insider party before the line got too intense. The group of us, despite having three writers for the site, stood in the line though we apparently could have cruised right through. (Oh well.) Either way, once inside we opened bar tabs and found a spot near the pool that wasn’t baking from all the heat lamps while the deck filled up. And it proceeded to do so, quickly.
I’m going to be charitable when I say there were some interesting characters at the party — there was an awful lot of dudebro-ing going on. And I didn’t envy the tangled mass of people piled up in front of the MC, clamoring for free swag. Not my scene, thanks.
One random rogue cornered Antigen and I and began to level a rant against rogue design in WoW and how he believes that class representation is low because all the specs are the same and they have no utility. When Antigen counterpointed smoke bomb, the rogue compared the radius of its effect to the size of his junk. I asked him how long he’d been waiting to use that line, and he said he’d been delivering it all off the cuff. Yet, once we had escaped him, I’d occasionally see him out of the corner of my eye flitting from group to group like a possessed hummingbird and delivering the same rote rant. It was bizarre.
Anyway, thankfully, there were way more awesome people there to totally set off the throng — including Tikari and Kristin, Hestiah, others whose names escape me — and it was great to get to hang out with them. At one point Voss made the mistake of offering a compliment to me in front of all those lovely people and I immediately tweeted about it. That earned me a smack, but dammit, it was worth it. (I should have recorded it, perhaps made it my ringtone. Regrets.)
After enough time passed we had to rush out to hit the badge line, though reports were rushing in from Twitter that it was still massive. When we finally entered the line, it was parallel with the entrance to the Hilton lobby and we had about 90 minutes to make it through. Thankfully the line was moving really fast by that point — there were so many turns and bottlenecks down the line that it seemed there was enough time for the badge counters to clear people out as new folks stepped up. As a whole it was a ridiculously efficient enterprise. It think it only took us 30 minutes in total to pass through the whole thing.
On the other side, some people (Hamlet and Theck) dodged back to the WI/wowhead party, while the rest of us went up to the suite that Voss and Vid had gotten at the Hilton to hang out. The lobby was already a madhouse, as you’d imagine. Voss played host and ordered food and drinks, and everyone proceeded to decompress and shoot the shit. That’s pretty much how the night ended, with everyone conserving energy for the craziness that would soon follow.
Friday: Day One
If there’s one line that I am absolutely dead set on getting the best spot in, it’s the opening ceremonies line on the first day. That line position determines your seat for the opening and the big reveal of the next expansion and it had to be done right. Antigen was kind enough to indulge me and get in early, skipping breakfast. We weren’t as early as Theck, who was right by the fountain in front of the doors with Kerriodos, Derevka, and other Something Wicked people. Antigen and I snuck through the line and joined up with those folks. Voss and Vid went for breakfast first and were stuck way far away from us by the time they joined the line. Meloree opted to avoid it altogether and just cruise in once everyone was inside.
I severely underestimated how the line would flow — and, sidenote, to call it a line is charitable; they just piled everyone up in a throng in front of the doors, and I was honestly expecting a horror story about a trampling later — and the doors opened probably an hour after we got in line, though two hours before any ceremonies started. We then spent about 15 minutes in the lobby before the doors to the convention itself opened and we barreled forward trying to grab seats. Somehow Kerri, Theck, Antigen, and I stuck together and we grabbed seats on the left side of the main hall. They were decent seats and (I would argue!) better than the row that Voss, Vid, Tass, and Elfi grabbed.
The opening ceremony was great and by the time Metzen started ruminating on the old days of Warcraft and honor and how the Alliance should feel great about themselves (little obvious what they were trying to do) and it was so blatantly obvious that very soon he was going to say the words ‘Warlords of Draenor’. It was only a matter of time. So they ran the trailer for the next expansion and it was awesome. I swear the line about “new character models” was easily the biggest applause point throughout the whole thing. Moreover, I have it on good authority that the first time a draenei appeared on screen, Vidyala began vomiting rainbows.
After that Voss, Vid, and Tass joined us in our obviously superior position for the What’s Next panel. I won’t go too far into that because I want to do a separate post about all the big changes, but suffice it to say, Vid wasn’t the only one vomiting rainbows.
That was pretty much it for the must-have panels, so went out to grab some lunch before the big art panel that Vid wanted to go to at 3:45. Meloree took us down to the restaurants on Katella and someone chose PF Changs. That was amazing, I can’t believe I’ve never been to one of those around Boston before. Then again, I’m a sucker for fried rice.
Back at the con, Antigen and I broke off and checked out the exhibitions. We played the demo for the next expansion, which was painful to do thanks to default UI and keybinds. It looked awesome, though, and the item squish was not noticeable at all. I snagged pictures of the level 100 talents, but everyone else was miles ahead of me on twitter before I had gotten to that.
Later that night, Voss, Vid, Antigen, and I headed over to the Twisted Nether Blogcast party where I got to meet Fimlys and Hydra and eat copious amounts of bar food. I also ran into Glaciel who used to be in Enveloping Shadows, which was trippy. I’m sad I didn’t get more time to reminisce with him. Not too longer after the start Chronis and Kaleri joined us and the group of us huddled around a table and engaged into some awesome, Blue Moon-fueled tank talk. That party was easily one of the highlights of the trip for me.
On the walk back to the Hilton, Chronis seemed to desperately want to call it a night, but no one was letting him off the hook that early. We dragged him back to the Hilton lobby where Voss and Vid bid us good night. Antigen was hopped up on gin at that point and was intent on scoring another hit, so I went to the bar with him. Finally he got the attention of a bartender and got our drinks and then we circled around until we found the Apotheosis folks. I hadn’t met them all yet, so I got to introduce myself to Serinne, Serrath, Colin (I have no idea what your character name is!), Srsbusiness, and a few more. Got to spend some more quality time with Chronis as well.
At one point Ghostcrawler walked by and Apotheosis immediately swarmed him. Serrath kindly offered to take a photo of me and Antigen with GC, so we slipped over to him and asked if he’d take a photo with a couple of paladins. He laughed and immediately offered a “fuck paladins!” With his normal routine, it was hilarious. It was really nice of him to indulge us and take a photo with us.
As it always does, 2am hit and the Hilton staff cranked up the lights and began to herd everyone out. Was a good cap to the night!
Saturday: Day Two
Saturday was a much more quiet day, and much like with regards to writing this recap, the first day had completely drained my batteries. I’m not a social butterfly to begin with, so extending past my natural reticence was beginning to take its toll.
The day itself at the convention was really quiet. There was nothing super critical to get there early for. The live raid is always cool, but I didn’t think it was worth standing up for a while for. I took my time and grabbed breakfast with Voss and Vid while Antigen scooted off to grab some seats for the following general WoW panel.
When we met up with him, it turned out he was in just about the same area we were in for the What’s Next panel the day before. So that was convenient. The gameplay panel, again, I won’t go too far in to it — but the highlight was obviously the stats and design discussion. I am ridiculously excited for some of what they talked about.
After that panel, Antigen and I went to walk around the con. We watched a few Starcraft matches, which I was able to follow despite knowing next to nothing about the game. We tried out Hearthstone on the tablet, and the Diablo 3 expansion on the PS4, and fell victim to how sold out the Blizzard store was.
At 4pm it was time for Pallypalooza at the meeting stone, which was ok. I got to talk a bit with Meloree, Kerri, Colin (sorry again), and Antigen while Theck was swarmed by grateful prots and Anafielle shmoozed with the high-end raider prots like Slootbag and Treckie. We took a big group photo which I was super paranoid I got cut out of because some guy that looked like Tom Hanks on the island from Castaway started to edge me out. Thankfully, I made the cut.
After Pallypalooza, we had the guild dinner over at sushi place way down Katella Ave. It was really, really good. And I was happy to be able to just calmly sit and chat with my guildmates over copious quantities of fish and rice. Vid got the manager to take a group photo, though I’m not sure where that went.
The night ended quietly as well. I eventually crashed after hanging out with the BTers and Jed and his friend for a bit. It was a long week and I was definitely nearly out of steam.
When I woke up the next day, just about everyone was in full “get out of dodge” mode. People were flooding out of the Hilton and surrounding hotels, catching shuttles and cabs, and heading to the airport. Blizzcon was over and it was time to return to normalcy.
Had breakfast with Voss, Antigen, Theck, and Mel, and Arielle joined us a little after. I got to enjoy a little tank talk at the table, mostly listening to Theck and Arielle talk about their blue interactions the other night.
By the time the afternoon rolled around, it was like a bomb went off. Everywhere you went, where the day before there may be hundreds of people filling some spot, there was no one. No throngs crossing the streets at all time, not long lines for Starbucks or the food court, just… emptiness.
Meloree was still around until his flight on Monday and he was awesome to spend the day hanging out with me. Antigen left at 1pm and Theck a little before him, and with Vid at Disneyland and Voss out shopping, it was just the two of us for a while. So we hung out and talked a lot and drank a decent amount of coffee until eventually Voss returned and we went for a long lunch. Then it was just the three of us until finally it was time for my shuttle to LAX, that night. I met up with Anafielle and we hopped in the shuttle and rode off for our respective rides into the sunset.
My plane took off a little after 11:30pm, and as the wheels retracted and LAX faded away in the distance I reflected a bit on the trip while trying to jam those JetBlue earplugs into my ear canals. It was a really awesome week and I think I officially accomplished all I had hoped to, along with a little bit more. Most of all, I’m glad to have gotten to spend time in person with good friends — some for the first time, some for yet another time. But hopefully not the last time.