For The Horde and For Blizzard!
It has now been a week since I sat within the hollowed halls of the Anaheim Convention Center, attending the seventh Blizzcon. Since then, everyone has been asking me what my thoughts and feelings are in regards to the announcements made about the upcoming expansion, as well as to the vibe that Blizzard gave off over the course of the two days that it was going on.
Having been fortunate enough to have been able to attend all of the past Blizzcons, I would say that it has given me a certain familiarity and underlying awareness as to how this Blizzcon stands in relationships to the previous ones.
First and foremost, I would content that this years Blizzcon was by the the most energetic, enthusiastic and overall encouraging Blizzcon in recent memory. The previous Blizzcon there came across a sense of weariness, defensiveness and an overall lack of energy from the panels. Having said that, I still enjoyed myself greatly and have some great memories from that year. It just seemed that the spark of passion was missing in a broad, overarching sense. It was as if Blizzard was going through the motions per se, so I was actually pleased to learn that there would not be a Blizzcon the following year. That was a smart choice for Blizzard to take, for it allowed them to focus upon their tasks at hand, to continue keep creating and crafting the beloved games that we love and play.
So what about this most recent Blizzcon? The few weeks leading into it, my buddy Matt and I each gave our speculations about where WoW was heading by way of our WoWNewZ podcast. Thursday, after picking up my friends Wisp and Thunder who flew in from Pittsburgh and then getting our Blizzcon tickets discussed over our “traditional” meal over at Denny’s restaurant what we thought Blizzard had in store for us. (As an aside, I had a chicken sandwich, since I have been focused on getting in shape and have lost eighty pounds…so no whole wheat pancakes or waffles this time.)
Friday morning, I woke up at five am, drove down to Anaheim and walked over with Thunder and Wisp to then wait in line for several hours before the doors opened. For those of us who like to sleep in, this might sound like not a whole lot of fun to do, but trust me, it is a lot like sleeping over on the sidewalk in order to watch the New Years Rose Parade in Pasadena. It is all part of the total experience! You never know who you are going to meet, but you know that everyone around, even those who are Alliance, are all friends!
One such Alliance who we struck up a friendly conversation with was with Arixan from Argent Dawn! We were poking fun at the lengths certain individuals were going to get at the very front of the doors. A few had donuts and coffee and made it seem as if they were brining them up to their friends, when in fact it was all just a clever ruse! At some point though, there boxes of donuts being passed through the mass of attendees, to which both Thunder and Arixan partook, I being on my “good behavior” declined, after which Thunder made the joke of saying what if there were poisoned after eating his!
That is one of the great aspects of attending a con, be it a comic, film or gaming con, it really does provide an easy means to make new friends, and so hanging out Friday morning with Arixan was a lot of fun. We were of course talking about all things WoW and Blizzard games, like everyone around us, which made the time pass quickly.
Then, it was time! The doors opened and we were usurer within. Well, more like a sea of bodies cascading within, where once the inner doors of the convention center were open was a mad dash to find the best seats in the main hall where the opening ceremony was to take place.
Sitting there, with Arixan a few people behind us, there was very much a palatable sense of anticipation and feverish buzz. One subtle difference I noticed and mentioned to Thunder was the fact that in all the years past, there was always Blizzard gaming music being played over the hall speakers, where as this year it was more along the lines of dance/trance/electronic genres. I was thinking that this has to be a Blizzards employees personal playlist. There were some cool, groovy songs on his or her collection!
When the founder and president of Blizzard Mike Morhaime came out on stage to do the introductions, the room was electric! He related a simple story of how he was profoundly touched by the unassuming and gentle gesture of a little girl, who came up to him and gave him a hug as a way of saying thank you for the happiness that he and his company have allowed her and so many others to experience.
I have my own Mike Morhaime story that I can share. A few years back, when myself and my friends were leaving the convention, I happened to spy him walking just aways in front of us! I bolted ahead, saying” follow me!” much to the obvious confusion of my friends. ‘Where is Kernhoof leading us now?!” I bet they were saying. Coming up along side Mr. Morhaime, I asked if he might take a moment to sign autographs with us and take a picture. He was so gracious and such a good sport. He took the time to stop and chat with all of us for a bit, his family off to the side. That moment spoke volumes to me about the type of person he is and the character of company that he founded. I am sure he doesn’t recall that particular moment, but for myself and my friends, it made a lasting impression upon us, one that we all cherish.
Rob Pardo was next on stage, relating some of his own thoughts and favorite moments of Warcraft over the years. It really hit me then and there that I have been playing World of Warcraft for nine years now. I still can think back to how excited I was to be within the original beta, it was much like the wonder and excitement of Christmas morning, I still wonder whatever happened to my first WoW in game friend named Wasabi. After the beta ended sadly, we lost contact with one another.
Then Chris Metzen took the stage. One of the past highlights for me at the previous Blizzcon was his “geek out” speech, which would be best summarized as “embrace being a gamer, revel in it and recognize the fact that thee are many other just like you who enjoy computer gaming, comics, fantasy, sci fi and old school, role playing games. We come in all ages, shapes, colors and backgrounds, but we are united by way of common appreciation and passion for the games that we play and enjoy.” I was able to get his and Samwise’s autograph last year, which was so cool to have a moment to shake both their hands and say how much I have approached the story and lore of the game, and how much it had meant to me as a player.
Metzen worked the crowd as only he can. If you have not watched any of the videos of Blizzcon, they are tons posted on YouTube, so after you finish reading this post, so check them out, so as to get a sense of the crowds reaction while he is making the big reveals as to what is next for Warcraft. As I said previously, there was such an energy and a high level of anticipation that I found myself entering into the moment with my own hoots and verbalizations during the “big announcement”. Talk about having a rush!
Oh, before I forget to mention, when they previewed the cinematic for Heroes of The Storm, the place went absolutely bananas! For those who may not be aware, Heroes of The Storm is a new game of Blizzards which will pit all of the various major and much loved characters found throughout all of Blizzards games and pit them against one another. So for example, imagine the Lich King up against Diablo! I don’t want to spoil the ending of the cinematic, suffice to say, it ROCKS!
So what are my thoughts and feelings In terms of the actual announcements made in regards to Warcraft?
I could not be happier!
As I mentioned a moment ago, it is so evidently clear that those working on Warcraft and Blizzard as a whole are really join g for the gusto! They have shown that they are not afraid to make the necessary changes to the game and to my way of thinking are being quite bold in terms of the direction they are taking.
In no particular order, some of the aspects that have me really pumped up about the coming expansion:
Garrisons: I can recall posting about wanting player housing back in 2005, along with a mirdred of others. Over the years, the Blues have said that it is something they would like to have within the game, but only it it were done right. Well, by all intent and purpose, this is player housing done right! I love the ideas that you can have followers who will be able to do professions, dungeons, raids, quests which will help your character, as well as being able to place it anywhere one would like within Draenor. This has been on one of my wish lists for a long time, so to have this finally a reality has made me really pleased.
Bag Space: For anyone who has followed my blog, you know well just how much bag space has been a challenge for me over the years, only to have it reach a critical point this expansion. I have not even played my main Kernhoof very much the last several months, for the simple reason that I do not have any more bag space and will not jettison any more items that I have worked hard to obtain or that are items that are really meaningful and cherished. To learn that heirloom gear, toys and possibly tabards are to all have a similar storage tab akin to the pets and mounts tabs has made me both relieved and ecstatic. I certainly hope that there will be a tabard closet, if not this expansion, then the next, for that would free up eighteen slots alone. So pretty please with Gnomes on top to make that happen!
Speaking of Gnomes, new character models. The preview of the some of the work done thus far looks so impressive. I, along with everyone else within the audience melted when they showed the new rendering and animation of the female Gnome. Absolutely awesome and so adorable! The orcs looks completely fierce, the forsaken look gnarly and the dwarves look as a dwarf should! They did show the Taurens briefly, though not to sound persnickety, I didn’t quite think they looked right to me. The old model looks more fierce and have a bit of grittiness about them. The newer model needs some slight tweaking and adjustment to capture the essence and sublet nuance of the older model.
Out With The Stats: This may seem like more of a “mundane”, under the hood change so to speak, but it will provide a much better and less stressful and confusing element which has hampered players and developers alike. Gone are stats like hit, expertise, dodge and parry. Reforging is also gone. I can’t tell you how often guilds would get a new item, then begin to stress over what has become the complicated process of then adjusting the gear in light of the new upgrade, let alone how much gold was spent to do so. This is such a welcome change and one that I know everyone will be so thankful for once it is in place within the game.
The Overall Story Arc: Having played Warcraft I, II and III, suffice to say that what drew to playing World of Warcraft was the universe and lore. I love the story elements and history of the game, though I am far from being as well informed as say Epic Red Shirt Guy. My contention about Garrosh Hellscream is that the whole mess that we are in currently within the game, has more to do with Thrall’s wrong decision with choosing Garrosh as the Warchief than anything that Garrosh has done per se. I think that this topic is best served as a future post, but suffice to say, I really how the story is being played out that Garrosh escapes imprisonment and goes back to Draenor so as to amass a pure and totally focused Iron Horde, with which to seek revenge and retribution upon the Horde and Alliance.
The Horde: One of the highlights for me was making it to the mic to ask a question at one of the panels. My buddy Thunder somehow manages to be able to get a question off during the Q and A’s after an panel and this year when he said he was going to go up to ask a question, I thought to myself why not join him and see what happens. Well, to my surprise, I got to ask a question, the last question to be asked! The question which I put forth ever so eloquently I might add (totally tongue in cheek here), was about the state of the Horde. Chris Metzen talked about how at the Alliance are now for all intense and purpose a “superpower” while the Horde is in complete disarray and shambles. I asked for a further explanation or to better expound upon the state of the Horde in light of all that has transpired with the ramifications of Garrosh’s defeat and of Vol’jin as our new Warchief. It was answered by none other than Metzen himself, which you can watch allele after the 47 minute mark on the YouTube link at the end of the post.
When I came back home that night, after driving up and logged into WoW to tell my friends and guildies all about Blizzcon, I was flooded with tells from a whole host of folks saying that they saw me while watching the live feed of Blizzcon! What a hoot!
Signatures/Autographs: One of the ‘Traditions” that I would do at ever Blizzcon was to take my program and have the front cover signed by the various Blizzard artists, programers, developers and anyone else who was present at the signing booth that worked upon the various Blizzard games. That has been for me one of the really cool aspects of attending Blizzcon is being able to take a moment and talk with the individuals who are responsible for making one of my hobbies so much fun and so enjoyable.
Sadly, this year, there were no programs to hand out. There was a simple map of the convention floor and an app which was released to take the place of the program. While I can understand and appreciate the cost and environmental cost of there bing no program, I was a bit bummed to not being able to carry on my little tradition. But much to my surprise, Blizzard had something even better in mind. They had little mini posters of their games which they passed out at the various signing booths. I was able to obtain a Diablo and a Hearthstone mini poster and have them signed by the very folks that work on the game. So it was really neat to make my way down the line of the people who worked on the game and spend a moment chit chatting with them. How cool is that!
The icing on the cake though has to be having my Blizzard art book signed by none other than Chris Metzen. Before leaving Friday evening, I happened to take a walk around the floor, where I came across Insight Editions, a book publishing company that published the Blizzard art book I purchased some time back. I stopped a bit and talked with Byron who was manning the booth and he mentioned to make sure to come back tomorrow morning, when Mr. Metzen would be book signing. I was not going to pass up that opportunity, so Saturday, I made sure to drive down early in the morning and stand once again in line with Thunder. Once the doors opened, I made my way back to the book booth, where I had the distinct pleasure of having my book autographed and being able to spend a moment talking with him. Similar to my brief encounter with Mike Morhaime, Chris Metzen is genuine, down to earth and personable. I hope in the future I get the chance to chat with him some more and at greater length. I would love to ask him about some of the D&D adventures he played in.
Obviously there is more that I can write about, but for the sake of brevity I think for now I will end this article and continue it within my next post. Just to finish for now with a final, parting thought was to once more reiterate, not only how much fun I had, but how optimistic I am in terms of where Blizzard is going with Warcraft.
Current Tauren Mode:
Updated, Work-In-Progress Model:
Link: Blizzcon 2013 World of Warcraft: The Adventure Continues Panel…I am at the 47:55 Mark)