So BlizzCon 2011 was my first ever BlizzCon. I'm putting this blog together with some of my quick thoughts and a few photos. Right out of the door I'm going to say I was pretty disappointed with how SC2 was handled. It was nearly impossible to see non-featured stage matches, the stage matches they chose to show were questionable and there was always the issue with the maps in the back of my mind. The downtime between games led to a lot of boredom too at what was supposed to be the premier franchise event.
It started out fairly promising. We walked in to a huge area filled with demo PCs, sponsor / vendor booths and a huge seating area for the stage. The line was really short so me and Hot_Bid hopped into a 1v1 HotS game. I went Zerg and teched up to try out the new Swarm Host and Viper. Hot_Bid meanwhile had gone Protoss and I had no idea what the new units were. As I was messing around with the Swarm Host, I started getting attacked by what I thought were my own Locusts, the tool tip for them said "Player 0" which I thought was maybe a bug, but it turned out the players are numbered 0 and 1 and HB had used the Replicant on one of my units. I was thoroughly confused for a good five minutes by this. We then messed around with air units, HB made a fleet of Oracles and Tempest and continuously denied my mining and then destroyed my entire muta ball in a few seconds. It wasn't really a serious game though, we were just messing around. I did miss the overseer, I felt like getting detection was suddenly a lot harder to do under pressure instead of just grabbing an overlord and upgrading it.
After the demo (time limited to 30 minutes) we headed down to the esports area where some games were already underway. The setup was a long desk next to a wall with chairs either side. This meant you couldn't even see half the players that were playing and there was no large display or anything - it was just watching their screen. Combined with the little standing room it was pretty much impossible to follow any non-stage game unless you were right at the front by the roped off area. MLG's open player area was way more accessible compared to what was at BlizzCon. It's also worth noting that this player area was almost crammed right into the back corner of the exhibition hall, the lighting was really dark and it made it incredibly hard to even get photos of the pros playing.
I caught one of the earlier rounds on the stage with Day9 and JP casting, the setup for the stage was really nice with five total screens, two situated half-way back so you didn't have to be right up front to be able to get a good view. The production quality of the stage matches was also very well done, they had great crowd shots, FPviews of each player, booth cams and well balanced audio. Outside of this however, the choices of what they showed on stage was incredibly weird. They have Korean pros who didn't get a single game aired during Day 1. Let that sink in for a minute. If you followed the bracket you will see there were several games where Nestea and MVP went 2-1, which would have made for way more exciting games than what they did end up showing. Showing LB matches when there are WB matches going on made no sense either.
Of course the big thing on Day 1 was the GSL Final. We actually decided to skip the first few matches and instead watched HerO play his WCG Korea Ro16 matches from the hotel room. He unfortunately fell out of the group going 1-2 after just barely missing a Nydus Worm in his main in the 3rd game.
After watching HerO, we went to the EG Friday Night Barcraft event. Apparently they were no longer letting people into the Blizzcon exhibition hall since it was so full - the crowd looked amazing, I really wish I could have gone earlier and got a feel for it in person. The barcraft was pretty packed with a good number of esports celebrities present. At this point I started drinking to drown out the sorrows of seeing HerO lose . The barcraft setup was a little odd as the main projector screen was set back in front of two columns of TVs showing sponsor logos on loop. The brightness from the TVs was contrasted pretty hard against the projector view and if you were sitting to the side you weren't able to see the full game screen. Props to their setup though, I didn't notice any lag or similar technical issues that usually plague barcraft events.
After the barcraft ended, a lot of people ended up leaving which I thought was a bit weird as the LO3 was supposed to be one of the main attractions too. I didn't really enjoy the LO3, it seemed rather loud and crude compared to normal shows and there wasn't really much time for them to do anything other than shave a few heads as the event closed down at 12:30am. Mingled at the Hilton bar for a few hours before calling an end to Day 1.
Woke up early since we had an interview with Dustin Browder scheduled in the morning (which should be posted pretty soon right Kennigit?? ). I won't go into details as you should watch the interview, but it ended up being pretty good and we managed to ask all the questions that made it onto our list. After the interview we had to head back to the hotel to edit and post-process etc and grab lunch, by which time most of the other SC2 games had already finished. At this point the lines for the SC2 or Diablo III gameplay demos were stretching well outside the roped off areas so I wasn't able to get any more hands on time with either game. D3 looked pretty similar to the beta, although I saw some kind of PvP arena thing which I wasn't really that interested in (PvP in Diablo has always been kind of stupid since it's more based around equipment than skill).
I wandered around for a while trying to get some photos until the finals started. I luckily managed to find a seat near the back and watched one of the silliest final games I've ever seen. Yes I was amused and I enjoyed it but without going too much into the whole match fixing thing, Nestea definitely was not playing like a normal pro gamer would play Zerg with 15k resources banked. It left a bit of a bad taste knowing that they didn't really care about the match.
After grabbing a fancy IHOP dinner, we met up with a ton of other TL staff and users for the quickly-becoming-traditional games of mafia. I sat out the first few rounds, electing to ferry drinks up the room for myself and Sheth. The final game had the moderator try to stack the deck to make the mafia "dream team". I'm usually pretty quiet in Mafia games but after a few drinks, me and Ghostclaw were owning it up. Destiny ended up joining us and I was pretty sure he wasn't mafia since I was trying to get him to vote with me and Ghostclaw against other people. At the end of the round he told me he was going to kill me. And then he did . Luckily the remaining five people figured it out and we ended up winning. We played until 2am at which point we left to go to the airport and fly back to NYC. Then I wrote this blog!
+ Show Spoiler [Mafia Photos] +
It didn't really feel worth flying out for two days of Blizzcon. MLG seems to have it right - three days seems the perfect event length. IPL 3 felt a little too long at four days, but that might also have been the lack of interest in the first two group play days. Blizzcon definitely seemed short at two days though.
Overall it was a fun event, but definitely a lot less than I had anticipated. After the first few hours on the first day, lines for the demos became excruciatingly long and I didn't want to waste my time. For SC2 fans there wasn't really much else going on. I did wander over to the Diablo 3 section for a couple of hours, but again, outside of the actual gameplay there wasn't much in the way of activities. There were a lot of panels where they discussed design, artwork and other topics but I felt like there was missing stuff to actually do rather than just listen to. I barely even saw the SC2 progamers on the event floor, understandable I guess but outside of the signing with Liquid and SlayerS there wasn't much in the way of fans being able to interact with players. Don't even ask why the BW pros were there... didn't see them once the whole event.
On that note, BlizzCon really sucked for taking photos. The convention center was pretty dark, but the area where they had the SC2 pro-gamers set up was in some far back corner up against a wall making it even worse. It was nearly impossible to get a good angle let alone enough light for a good exposure. The stage was set up in such a way that you couldn't really get booth photos either due to parts of the stage, booth structure or camera equipment that was in the way. I took a few hundred photos overall but I wasn't happy with the vast majority of them which is why there's only a small sampling above.