by Jeff Lange and Trista Olson
What’s that stampede of thousands of pale-skinned, darkly clothed, screaming and cheering gaming fans? That’s right! It’s that time of year again! Blizzcon 2010!
Every year Blizzcon gets a little bit better at handing out badges and organizing the convention goers prior to entry. The addition of a barcode system emailed in advance provided a sort of ticket to get your ticket made the long line as simple as it could hope to be.
And let’s talk about the goodie bags. Oh yes, the goodie bags. The legendary bag of loot often-lusted, even dreamed about! In game giveaways this year were a World of Warcraft “Deathy” pet and special decals for your Starcraft 2 units. The feature goodie this year was a dragon statue known as “Dethling” that really pops! There were far fewer elements to this year’s goodie bag, but in terms of quality over quantity, I definitely think Blizzard got it right with opting to go with one excellent item rather than 10 different boxes of mints, a bouncy ball, etc. Dethling now oversees my entire operation from a perch of honor on top of my computer system.
Very early on during the opening ceremony we were told we could pick up our souvenir program (which was conspicuously missing from the goodie bag) immediately following the opening ceremony. “Yeeeessss!” I thought. “That means there’s going to be a major announcement they don’t want spoiled by the program!” Would it be news about their next MMO? News about the movie? An entirely new game? Blizzard games moving onto console platforms? Would the news be as exciting as any of those things? No. No it would not.
So what WAS the big news at this year’s Blizzcon? A Diablo class was announced. No, I’m not kidding. You may remember Blizzcon 2008, where the only major announcement was that a caster class would be present in Diablo 3. They did it again. This year, we learned that in Diablo 3 there will also be characters that shoot arrows. This time it will be known as a Demon Hunter. If the Amazon and the Assassin from Diablo 2 created a lovechild, the Demon Hunter would be the result.
Minor announcements include an arena system of PvP for Diablo, the ability to downloadable Cataclysm expansion for World of Warcraft, and does anyone remember the WoW movie they said they were working on 2 years ago? They have a director – Sam Raimi. Any news about the next-gen MMO they’ve been hiring for and working on for years? Nope. “Don’t expect any sort of information about that this year or next.” Much like the lackluster Blizzcon of 2008, the 2010 version had very little in the way of breaking information about Blizzard Entertainment’s plans for the future. A great disappointment for sure after the wealth of exciting developments discussed and put forth at Blizzcon last year. When discussing the lack of new information present at this year’s event with a veteran of every Blizzcon all the way back to 2005, she pursed her lips and sighed, calling this year’s event “Disappointing” and “the most boring one yet.”
The lack of news about future works was exacerbated by the massive lines that pervaded the entirety of the convention. It appears that many of the smaller vendors present at Blizzcons past were either not invited or chose not to attend this year’s event, meaning the lines at the vendors who were present were absolutely flooded and overwhelmed by convention-goers. The craziest story I heard was from a man who stood in line over FOUR hours for the infamous swirling “Loot Elemental” booth. His reward for standing in line for over 240 minutes? Nothing. Good game sir, now go get in another line. Now of course Blizzard cannot control who stands in what line, but when the main gaming attractions consist of a 10 minute playable demo (Diablo 3), a few custom games for Starcraft 2, and a small snippet of a beta that has been going on all summer long (WoW: Cataclysm), convention goers will be angling for more to do.
So what was offered in the stead of new information? Panels. Lots and lots of panels. And they were good! They have always been insightful and educational and Blizzcon 2010 was no different. The problem is that they do not generate buzz. There was no buzz at Blizzcon this year. Instead of being absorbed in excitement and hearing all the chatter of what’s next to come, Blizzcon 2010 had all the excitement and energy of an art museum.
The nightly events served as a cap to each day of the convention. Jay Mohr was back to serve as MC for the costume and dance contests, and his unique blend of sarcasm, humor, and wit played nicely to the gamer crowd. This year however, he was paired up with Kat Hunter, who served as a co-host for the event. In as much as Mohr succeeded as a vibrant host for the event, Ms. Hunter dragged down the energy. She seemed completely out of her element, unable to respond to Mohr’s blend of humor, and wins the award for Best Stick-in-the-Mud at Blizzcon 2010. Blizzard would be wise to let Mohr work the show solo at future Blizzcons, or at least find him a suitable partner. He understands what it should all be about.
The stage design for the costume contest can be described in no other words but “Epic Fail.” The contest was dragged to a snail’s pace as instead of “oooing” and “ahhing” over the excellent costume work, fans got to watch cos-players play a unique game of Frogger as they struggled to walk up and down ramps and stairs in their elaborate costumes. That’s right, you know that costume you just worked 6 months on? Good luck keeping it from breaking while trying to get on the stage! Seriously, this is something that should never have happened and it is atrocious that, for so many costume designers, their one moment of recognition was ruined.
The final concert featuring Tenacious D was excellent. It seems that Blizzard has finally (and wisely) put their tongue-in-cheek metal band “Level 80 Elite Tauren Chieftan” to rest and let Jack Black, Kyle Gass, and the band bring the roof down on the Anaheim Convention Center. It’s hard to imagine a better choice of band to rock the lives of this demographic. Kudos to Blizzard for getting this one right! It’s just disappointing that the biggest highlight of Blizzcon 2010 came from a group totally unaffiliated with Blizzard Entertainment.