Sunday, June 29, 2008

Blizzard WWI 2008 impressions

I had a great time Saturday at the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational 2008, and I'd like to share some impressions of the event. You can find videos of the opening ceremony and various debate panels elsewhere, I'm just telling a few stories of what I saw and thought.

First of all I have to thank Blizzard for their hospitality. Having a press pass is a huge improvement to the convention experience. That starts with being able to use an extra Press/VIP entrance instead of queueing in the morning. Then there was the well-equippped press room, with WiFi, some computers to play WotLK on, and snacks. The press pass allowed you to jump the queue in the gaming areas, and you got a reserved seat for the various ceremonies and panels.

I still ended up waiting in queues several times. Like everyone else I was eager to get a look at the goodie back when they opened up the distribution tent right after the opening ceremony. That of course caused long queues. There were two kind of goodie bags, English and French, and somebody had attached signs to that effect on the FRONT of the goodie bag tent, the side you'd see if you came from the entrance. But of course in this situation everyone came out of the hall, and there were no signs at the back of the tent, just two queues, causing lots of people to end up in the wrong queue. Some Blizzard staff had to repeatedly tell people in which queue they were, until in the afternoon somebody came up with the brilliant idea of moving the signs to the back of the tent where the queues started. By evening the queues were gone, so when we went again for my wife's goodie bag, there was no wait at all.

Similar situation at the Blizzard Store: long queues during the day, getting much shorter in the evening. Apparently they had underestimated the demand, because several items were sold out by Saturday afternoon already, with no fresh stock coming in on Sunday. So even if I had wanted a Blizzard Authenticator to keep my account from being hacked, I couldn't have gotten one because they were sold out. Another problem was that in one corner of the hall some guys were presenting a new WoW boardgame called World of Warcraft: the Adventure Game, which looked fun. But while the guys who presented the game said there was lots of stock and you could buy the game in the Blizzard Store, the game wasn't actually on the order form you had to fill out to buy anything, and so couldn't be bought. Only the old, huge WoW boardgame was for sale, the new game has half the size and appears to be better suited for casual boardgamers.

I must admit that before I arrived I had no clue why the event wasn't called "Blizzcon Europe". Only during the opening ceremony did it dawn on me that the core of the event was a worldwide tournament of the best players of Starcraft, Warcraft, and the WoW arenas. Thus the "invitational". Paris not being in South Korea, I had the impression that these tournaments didn't attract all that much attention. You could always get a seat there to watch, while people were queueing up for anything else.

Sunday morning in the hotel breakfast room I met two models. You know, the kind of girl where you can see that their beauty isn't totally natural, and with an unlikely tan. And after wondering for a second what they would be doing there, I realized that I had seen them disguised as WoW mages Saturday in the convention hall, posing with visitors for photo shots. And as they were wearing "original" WoW costumes, and WoW epic cloth armor for women is on the skimpy side, Blizzard had to hire good-looking models for that. Who else has a perfectly tanned flat belly and looks good in a push-up bra? The male hired costume wearers appeared to be just regular guys, there are no hulking barbarians in loincloths in WoW.

A few attendees also came with costumes, I even saw one guy lugging a self-made murloc suit around. If you hadn't brought a costume, there was a stand where you could get a costume and make-up from Blizzard, be photographed in front of a blue wall, and get the background filled in with a scene from the World of Warcraft. If that was too much effort for you, you could also just have a friend photograph you sitting on the frozen throne of the lich king, or in front of other WoW decorations like an orc mailbox or a full-sized nightelf statue.

The convention spread out over two floors, but after one full day I had seen everything. As unsurprisingly Mrs. Tobold had a different idea of how to spend a weekend for two in Paris, I didn't go back to the WWI for the Sunday events, most of which were about various tournaments anyway. Instead we visited a museum, walked around the quartier Latin, ate good food, and saw Notre Dame, before taking the train back home. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday in Paris either.

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