Man, it feels like that plane just took off for California and here we all are back inside our homes, giddy with what awaits on the horizon for for our favorite Blizzard games. 2 days is just not enough sometimes to get around to every panel, play every game demo, or meet the people you want to meet up with. Although the mere sight of the Cheesecake Factory might induce some serious napping, the trip was everything I could have wanted and then some. The worst part about the entire trip, aside from it ending of course, was the first flight, where security told me my carry-on had to be checked as luggage, even though it was only a size of a back pack. Someone else was also lacking on coffee for that morning.
Change of Scenery if Nothing Else
Being that the convention was, unusually, held a month later this year compared to years past. This years trip helped relieve my disdain for suddenly cold weather, with temperatures in the 70s all weekend and sunshine, compared to the flurries that were falling when I was leaving the airport.
But the weather is only a small benefit to being around 30,000+ convention goers who all share avid enthusiasm with you, so, onto the con!
You Have Reached Your Destination
If for nothing else, conversing with nearby gamers who also make you feel bad for not being horde, the slow moving serpentine of a line leads to exuberance at the end, as gamers dive into their bags to see what they are getting this year. It was rather rewarding getting the extra two hours in of power napping in and not camping out a spot close to the front of the line this year, as the small group of people I was with spent about a total of 90 minutes in line from when the doors opened at 4pm. This left a lot of time for people to freshen up and head out of pre-con festivities on the town, before Friday’s kickoff. A small group of friends and I headed out for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory (and this will be a recurring spot visited), to get something in us for the WoWInsider/WoWHead meetup. By the time out dinner had concluded and we made our way over to the Annabella, a line was already fully deployed outside of the Tangerine mezzanine. One of the staff memeber told us they were letting people inside in 10 minute intervals, and after being on a plan for 10 hours, and standing in line for an additional 2, this was a bit of a let down to us, and we decided to not partake in that meetup.
The Games and Panels This Year
Warlords of Draenor (WoW)
While WoW is the biggest timesink a lot of us might have, there was not too much that stood out from my perspective with the trailer and question panels. I really like the item squish that is finally being implemented, its been far too long, and was the biggest detail that stood out to me. The character model designs definitely have a more realistic look while maintaining the cartooniness we love. The garrison is an interesting idea that has a lot of potential and a lot of us will be curious as to see what exact we can do with our personal in-game stead. I spent the majority of my time at the panels and discussions with Kaliope and Emylia of Llane, both of which were extremely ecstatic to be at the convention for the first time after only being able to watch the live stream in the years previous.
Reaper of Souls (Diablo 3):
While I was not able to play the PS4 version, the line at the PC version was non existent each time I passed by that way, so I was able to get a good amount of demo time in for a game I used to play a considerable amount. The new highlighted features of this expansion are the addition of the Crusader class, the new Act 5, nestled in scenic Westmarch, and of course the reason people keep coming back, the new loot 2.0 system. The graphics are still the same from the core game, and there is nothing too new or exciting, with the exception of the ray of death ability that was playable by the crusader. Seriously, badass. Speaking of Crusaders, they have a nice style of play that allows for almost a ranger like hybrid, being able to stand toe-to-toe in melee, or lash out and strike enemies with holy damage from afar. One thing that I was looking forward to was possibly seeing the Blessed Hammer ability, shades of the Paladin from Diablo 2, unfortunately, it was not implemented in game for that level range, but most people were quite pleased with the skills given to their disposal. And loot 2.0, oh how it made me loathe the system currently in game. Those legendaries, that were supposed to be rewarding after a long day of demon slaying? How about 3 in the span of a 15 minute demo? While I love the sight of shiny gear, a balance should be found, so that when trading games are available when the game goes live, there isn’t an oversaturation of gear available to players, like with the auction house.
Having had zero playing time on this game prior to the event, this was the game I was most looking forward to trying out, as the last time I played a game similar to this (Magic: The Gathering), was way back in the late ’90s. Much like the style back then, the first deck I built consisted of huge, bruising minions ready to crush an opponent after a few turns. Unfortunately, this always left me vulnerable, and usually dead, just like my first playthrough on the demo. Strangely enough, the priest deck felt clunky, but the mage deck really felt like being a true caster instead of a support/healbot, much more conducive to the role of preference carrying over from WoW. After a bit of practice I was able to string together 6 wins for the small prize at the booth, which was $20 off a purchase of $75 or more at the store there. Which would have been REALLY GREAT had I not been to the store right before going to the line. There is a lot of potential with this game as well. The suggestion I left, would be to make class specific legendaries for each hero, that added specific flavor to the game. Mages get Atiesh, Warriors Thunderfury, Hunters, Thori’dal, etc. Also, perhaps a small implementation of mana burn to sap your enemies ability to line up cards with a quick but inefficient monkey wrench as part of your mana would also be lost. Demo felt smooth and I very much enjoyed the game.
Heroes of the Storm (DotA/LoL)
The game that really got my attention at the opening ceremony was Heroes of the Storm. Combining everyone’s favorite heroes spanning the last two decades, the demo of this game instantly became something I wanted to experience before I left, as my ability with RTS games has been shaky at best. This game was wildly popular with the attendees this year, as the line forming seemingly wrapped around endlessly, like a python squeezing the life out of its prey. To my team’s delight, we were able to get in as the last group of players right as the convention was coming to a close. The event staff even came over to watch us rumble. I went with the Elite Tauren Chieftan, and was pleasantly surprised how great this character played. (Note: I am a shameless cheapskate in games like this, and characters that can stunlock [see: Chieftan, Tauren Elite] get bonus points from me.) I like the secondary objectives to create minions or capture shrines to turn the tide of battle, its a dynamic element instead of camping creeps or the feed of enemies from each lane. One thing I have liked in previous generations of this game was the ability to equip and mold weapons and armor to have unique abilities, like lifesteal, cloaking, +regen, and +% weapon damage. The game itself right now is moderately dependent on using your abilities at the right time instead of hoping for a couple of big hits from an auto attack. Beta invites are live, and everyone is anxious and willing to get their e-hands on them!
I am not a huge starcraft buff, I play the campaign a bit, but there was nothing at the con that was interesting. It is not a game I am gushing over.
No, not Disneyland. A large contingent of our guild had made the trek to the convention, and we convened at the Meeting Stone at 4pm on Friday afternoon. We even tried to summon some guildmates who were not in attendance. In addition to that, how about 6 different meetups with groups, including 5 dinner get-togethers. And if cheeescake is even mentioned in the next week, I might pop. A high-light of the weekend was watching Sheepeater down a hot dog stirfry, with a vegetarian Alfredo sauce for a marinande. Both oddly appetizing, and yet extremely confusing at the same time.
So, now that all of the panels and games have been done, what else is a con-goer to do? Well, like in years past, everyone sooner or later found there way over to the Hilton lobby, where it got difficult to even move at times. And then, whats better than having a few drinks with your friends and new acquaintances. This is where a lot of people met up with each other some, for the first time, firmly etching in a memory that will not soon be forgotten. Too many people I was introduced to this year, outside of my guild, I met Anafielle, Arielle, Vidyala, Vosskah, Rhidach, Zerena, Novalas, Kaliope, Emylia, Hestiah, Ghemit, Elvine, and everyone’s favorite lead systems designer, GhostCrawler himself for the first time. I also met Sara, Kristin, Grumdy, Colin, Sheepeater, Serrath, and Sturm as people from in the guild for the first time. And lastly, I met with Shawnelle, Aerista, Jasyla, Kaleri, Chronis, and Tikari again at the convention. (And If I missed someone, I am sorry!) A lot of good people and interesting personalities were met and enjoyed, but as I said to my brother as I walked out of the airport and back to the world we know as normalcy, “It feels like I just got up, and should be getting on a plane out, not coming back home.” It was an enjoyable 4 days away from home, and I look forward to returning next year and meeting up with hopefully even more people than before, but until next year: For the Horde!