Wardí's Trip to Blizzcon
Going to Blizzcon has always been somewhat of a dream for me. The first Blizzard game I ever properly played was in late-2006, when I first picked up World of Warcraft just a month before the first expansion was released. It was the first time, despite having played many games in my earlier years, that I genuinely lost myself in a game. I'll never forget my first day of playing, falling off of the tram and being stuck for hours, yet still being amazed by the fact you could genuinely jump off of the tram which took you between cities. It's fair to say that in the past 9 years I have since put a lot of time into Blizzard games and as the years went by watching the Blizzcon opening ceremony and the other panels through the weekend became something I was more and more interested in, especially as I became invested in their other game titles and mostly in the competitive Starcraft 2 scene.
The first Starcraft tournament I ever watched was actually the European Blizzcon qualifiers, where Ret beat Naniwa in the grand finals. I still remember segments of the first map I ever watched of that tournament, Metalopolis between Strelok and Tarson. From this point on I found myself hooked on a game I picked up mostly because my WoW guild-mates had suggested it to me for us to play Tower Defence on the Arcade together. It was probably watching the grand finals at Blizzcon that year which really sparked my obsession with the convention. What had once been a spark was now a glaring flame, a dream that I wished would come true each year.
After Blizzcon 2014, with the hype of the LotV announcement and the incredible stage for the SC2 finals I realised I really couldn't put this off any-longer and so I began making plans to attend the 2015 convention. I got my ticket on the first day of release in April, after a shaky 20 minutes of refreshing, and last week I finally flew out to California to attend my first ever Blizzcon!
I arrived in Anaheim two days before Blizzcon started - but the hype was already there. On the bus to my hotel I passed the convention centre and saw my first glimpse of the huge Blizzcon sign on the side of the convention centre as well as the banners for each of the games. The atmosphere in Anaheim itself was just crazy - a place which is built around the attraction of Disneyland. Wherever you went you could not escape conversations about Hearthstone, WoW or other games.
The next day I went to pick up my badge early. One of the impressive things I noticed throughout my trip is how efficient everything is. Despite the queue being quite long when I first got there I got inside and got my badge within twenty minutes. Standing in the queue set the precedent of what to expect for the weekend - seeing a few personalities walking by and into the convention centre. I avoided the Blizzcon store initially because I didn't know what I actually wanted to buy - which was a bit of a mistake as the queue only got longer.
Walking into Blizzcon on the first day of the actual event was magical - I imagine I felt similar to what hundreds of children were feeling just up the road as they walked into Disneyland. As you passed the security check and entered the main halls of the convention centre the lights dimmed and I had to stop to take everything in. All of the stages were beautiful, statues of multiple Blizzard characters were scattered along the main walkway. I actually walked into the centre in front of the Illidan statue, which was a really awesome first sight to see. I wandered towards the main stage - which is indescribable in its size - and found a seat to watch the opening ceremony.
I don't want to really talk about everything I watched and what was announced - but watching the opening ceremony in person and cheering with everyone at the trailers and cinematics which were shown was when I really appreciated just how amazing Blizzcon was going to be.
Obviously one of the major points of going to Blizzcon was to watch the final 8 of WCS 2015. This year was the first year I actually attended a Starcraft event (Gfinity & WCS Season 1 Finals), so it was really amazing to see these players, some of whom I had met during nights which have many stories, take part in the grand finals. It was also really amazing to see legends such as Life, herO and Classic, who don't take part in quite as many events outside of Korea, in the flesh.
If the players aren't enough to take your breath away then the stage certainly will. Seeing it on the stream and seeing it in person is completely incomparable. The stage is absolutely huge and having the players sit in booths in the centre of it is just an awesome design. The screen also has a lot of depth to it, so you really get pulled into the animations on the screen - animations which really are just completely stunning. First the animation for whichever map is next loads up, a sweeping motion reveals desert, rocks or grass as appropriate. A defining feature of each map is show in a high definition screen below.
As the players are introduced a race-appropriate animation takes place on each players side of the screen - either creep spreads or a protoss border warps in or an SCV builds a terran setting. This is all fantastic and compelling to watch - but my personal favourite part of the projector based system is when one player wins and their races animation takes over the rest of the projection. Specifically for a Zerg victory, watching a baneling-esque explosion followed by creep spreading to the opponents half of the stage was absolutely jaw-dropping every single time it occurred.
The actual tournament was great. There was very minimal down-time, the casting and hosting was excellent and the games and story lines were out of this world. I was cheering for Life and was devastated to see him come so close and fall, but if there was anyone for him to lose to I had to be happy that it was SoS. Seeing the finals go to all 7 games almost had me losing my voice, but it was worthwhile. If you ever want to invest money to visit a Starcraft tournament I highly suggest you attend Blizzcon. The atmosphere of a max-capacity crowd in a huge stadium with amazing production put this tournament head and shoulders above the other events I attended this year. Also there was cool show-matches and I got to see the legends MVP, Boxer, Nestea and Yellow in the flesh - players who I honestly never imagined I would see or meet in my life.
Blizzcon is definitely a great event to meet and hang out with a wide range of Starcraft personalities. Coming from Europe there were only a few people attending Blizzcon who I had met before - but as the weekend went on I realised I was making a lot of friends and talking to a lot of people who I wouldn't have expected to hang out with so much.
It really goes to show just how great the Starcraft community is when you come away from an event with many great memories and moments and a bunch of new friends. From having my first ever In-n-Out dining experience to circlejerking about r/starcraft, Blizzcon truly proved to be an amazing way to expand friendships and more.
Blizzcon 2015 has been an event I will never forget, I am sure of that. It was an amazing experience and I know I will be doing my best to make a return next year to experience it all over again. Legacy of the Void is out now and with all the great news about Starcraft that came from this Blizzcon I am sure there will only be good things to come for the future of Starcraft over the next year. To everyone that made my first Blizzcon an unforgettable experience : thank you!