Another year, my 9th now, and another con in the can.
It had its ups and its downs, the moments of perfect escapist bliss, and the ending wherein one realizes that the problem with escapism is that the world still moves on and the best escape is to build a life that feels like con everyday.
Last year for me, that meant trying to steam and make videos on my own, and well, that didn’t go so well.
This year, it was a mass of conflicted feelings, as I finally got to wander the halls of Blizzard, to meet the WoW team, to see Ion, in his office (which he shares with 3 others), and to know that someday, I really want to be there. I felt like I belonged. I had lunch there with my girlfriend and the employee that offered us the tour, and we chatted for an hour over food about the nature of BfA and classic WoW. He asked my opinion on the gameplay systems of BfA multiple times, and the team seemed to be rather excitedly at work.
They told me, candidly, the things that went wrong, and in that moment, I saw something I knew intuitively – despite the distance of the internet, there are real people here with real passion, working on this game, and it made a lot of the feelings I have about systems interactions, Azerite, Islands, and the like softer, in a way.
The con itself was a force of reckoning, a space in which fantasy prevails, but the boundaries of reality in 2018 America were all too real. Surrounding the convention grounds, a wall of fence, clad in an appropriate blue tarp. Metal detectors and uncaring, rude security guards await at the borders, as though you are unwelcome as a citizen of Blizzard’s community. Atop the convention center – multiple police snipers, a harsh reminder of the true nature of these measures. Inside, the whimsy of the community present in full force, however – the wall of blue serving in a way to force the separation of reality from the world inside.
The very quintessence of a convention, a gathering of people passionate about a thing, is that it delays the nagging thoughts, in a way. There is no time to contemplate the nature of gameplay loops and feedback, as you are being bombarded by sensory overload from all angles. Day 1 was the jamming into convention seats, ready to hear about the big thing for Diablo, and the sense of disappointment that announcement carried washed away any concern for the particulars of other things. For example, there wasn’t much more shared about Azerite armor, and the sense I got is that the team wants to see how 8.1 goes, and yet, no one raised a stink about it on site or even online. The announcements weren’t as heavy as the equivalent WoW: What’s Next panel from 2016, where the team mapped out a complete outlay of what Legion had in store, minus particulars about Argus and the 7.3+ content. What was there, I think, was solid – a good mix of foundational systems updates (Timewalking rolls forward to WoD, Arathi Basin and Warsong Gulch will be visually updated), and new content (multiple new zones in 8.2, a new dungeon, new raid, and multiple vectors for story content).
I played the Diablo: Immortal demo, and came away both more disappointed and yet satisfied – it is a good mobile game, but that it requires the qualifier of the dirty word “mobile” at all is not great. I know my opinion is shared by many but also disagreed with by many – I am not excited for this as my life just does not support mobile gaming’s conveniences, and when I arrive home, I can’t force myself into playing a game on my phone with my PC right there. I enjoyed the panels for the sheer memeability of the whole thing – comments about not owning phones and delayed April Fool’s jokes, and yet I remembered my trip to that Blizzard campus and knew that the people being roasted on-stage were passionate in a real way about this thing, and I felt a little bad for them.
Warcraft III Reforged was a genuine surprise, and a joyful one – a solid way to introduce a new generation of players to a large amount of foundational Warcraft lore. As someone who only sorta-played WCIII, I am very excited to play it. It did look early – new models were the only “new” present, as everything down to the UI was ripped from the original client and superimposed onto wider screens through the use of gaps on the sides of it. It played great, exactly as I remembered, and so I look forward to seeing it next year.
The Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch announcements only barely interest me, as someone who rarely plays these games, but I am glad to see that the communities around both are excited, as they tend to be more positive than my favorites of WoW and Diablo.
Starcraft II was shafted, but it still remains an e-Sports original, and has an audience. I want to see more actual content!
Hearthstone remains mainly interesting to me as a means to play Blizzard games with my girlfriend, but I enjoy the more fun, light-hearted nature of its take on WoW lore, and the use of the freshly introduced Loa in Rastakhan’s Rumble is a fun way to keep the card game brother of WoW current with the mainline MMO.
And there was WoW Classic, an endeavor which interests me mechanically but not terribly from a gameplay perspective. The announcement it would be bundled in with your WoW subscription is good news, but left unsaid is if a purchase will be needed or not. The behind-the-scenes of how the team retrofitted the 1.13 code to the current 8.0 engine was fascinating, and having fired it up on my PC at home just prior to writing this, it looks and feels as old and dated as one would want, if accuracy was the key.
The musical performances did not interest me, and I spent the last day watching a lot of the Mythic Dungeon Invitational All-Stars and WoW Arena finals – both were great activities with a group of fans around cheering. I had 5 of the Starcraft anniversary beers and spent the last hour of the con allowing the post-con depression to set in – the realization that I want to be closer to the experiences I have at Blizzcon year round, and in that, a forged pact to get a degree, resume streaming, video creation, and more frequent blogging, and to be more outgoing.
Don’t let the introspective, somber tone of this post fool you – I had a great time, despite the concerns voiced, and am eagerly looking forward to Blizzcon 2019.
I will dive into these more later this week, but there are things to unpack and relaxing to do after 9 hours on the road!