Blizzcon 2013: Impressions

Blizzcon entrance, as seen from the glowing fountain of doom.

Blizzcon 2013 was not for the faint of heart. Between the travel woes, heat and the general fatigue that kept hitting me like a child with a wiffle bat, there was a lot of things to see and to do and it felt like I needed a time turner or perhaps de-aging myself 10 years to properly enjoy it all. Not to mention a lot more money. It was all worth it, though at times I wished I could have been curled up on my couch with the Virtual Ticket instead of braving the crowds. A lot of my best moments happened not in panels but rather behind the scenes hanging out with friends and meeting Blizzard people. However, this is going to be a rundown of the content we all got to see. I’ll save the granular discussions on particular issues for later.

Note: This is all based on my personal experiences and in the attempt to get this out today, I haven’t watched the panels I missed via the Virtual Ticket yet, so there’s gaps in my memory and knowledge. Be a little patient with possible corrections.

All That Real Life Stuff

Most of what gets discussed after the con is long over is not necessarily the panels but all the great memories you have while being at the con and getting to hang out with friends. This year’s Blizzcon theme definitely centered around the idea of friends and community and I felt like the feeling on the floor was no exception. Some of the greatest moments I had at Blizzcon was getting to just spend time with people I had only seen on Twitter or heard on podcasts. I admit that some of my real mopey-ness was feeling more like a public persona than being around people who know the “real” me like my guild-mates, most of whom weren’t in attendance this year. I did see a few though, which made me feel a lot better.

Getting to meet some of my heroes (and new faves like CM Nevalistis!) too though was also a big highlight – I got to meet Dave Kosak (head of Narrative), Helen Cheng (Quest designer and story bad-ass), and Craig Amai (head of Quest) as well as Bashiok and Nethaera, who was a personal inspiration. I had great conversations with all of them, some of whom I’ll go into more detail in other posts! I got to talk with Craig about Ji Firepaw and the need for representation in WoW, Helen and I got to finally meet and talk about the new expansion, and I got to briefly talk to Kosak about story stuff. Nethaera in particular is someone I got to speak with at length and as someone who particularly enjoys community engagement and public relations, seeing such a talented, storied woman publicly fronting Blizzard makes me really happy.

Warlords of Draenor

Let’s be real, there’s a lot of stuff about this expansion that I’m cautiously nervous about but I can unpack that later. The new expansion, despite all the weird timey-wimey-ness still seems really enjoyable to me. The quality of life changes (HIT, GONE! EXPERTISE, GONE!) are what really caught my attention overall. I love the idea of a garrison as someone who is an avid Animal Crossing: New Leaf player. Buy upgrades for my own personal town? Sure! Have helpers and followers? Absolutely.

The fact that the raid sizes and flexibility changes are now across the board except for Mythic is interesting; it might give me a new lease on raiding again, at least enough to do Heroic (basically the new Normal difficulty) even with a casual social guild. Being able to raid cross-realm from the start of the expansion on new content is basically what I had been hoping for since the beginning as much of my love of raiding comes from doing it with friends but often we didn’t have enough people to field a full 10P raid on new content. Flex mitigated that somewhat but not being able to do it with my core raid team was sad a lot of days. This might give me the needed flexibility (ha!) to get back into raiding a tiny bit. We shall see.

The idea of going back in time to a revamped Draenor is pretty interesting to me, even if it is just that my fangirl dreams have always included seeing a restored Temple of Karabor. From a roleplay standpoint, I know that I will be dusting off my deadspeaker draenei priest for sure.

Also, hello? Did anyone see those new model previews? Is anyone overjoyed at that sassy gnome lady face? Yesssss.

The fact that they also hinted at sticking in new content for explorers like myself as well as a lot of stuff for those of us who are on the more casual end of things (Potential future transmog changes? What!?) means that I feel less alienated by this new expansion even moreso than when I hit Mists of Pandaria, which was pretty alt-unfriendly and killed a lot of my drive to do stuff at 90.

I unfortunately did not get to play the demos as often or as long as I would have liked. When I sat down the one time to play Warlords, it was mostly to poke around Shadowmoon Valley (which is gorgeous by the way) and to explore. I didn’t tackle any of the quest content, which I really should have. I got most of my information about that from my boyfriend Alex and Sally Pine from WoW Insider.

Heroes of the Storm

Blizzard jumping into the MOBA/DoTA-like genre is both ironic and also not surprising. What is surprising is that I’m hearing that it has more elements of a character brawler and some PVE-ish elements to make it slightly different from your other fare in this category. I’m not a MOBA player at heart and I’ve never really done well with PVP-based games, nor grasping the complexities of item building and such. If Blizzard can make something similar to League of Legends but with an ease of entry for those of us who have been too scared of the community or too confused by the mechanics, then I suspect they will have a runaway hit on their hands.

The cinematic for the game also featuring two women was also a big plus for me. We will just have to see if there’s tons of female champs and if they go to the route that Riot did and made them pretty skimpily dressed. I’m hoping this isn’t the case.

Unlike the case with Diablo 3, where I got to try it out at last Blizzcon, the line for this was so extensive both days that I didn’t have the heart (or the feet) to stand in line to poke at it.

Diablo III and Hearthstone

I must admit I don’t have many things to say about either game. I know there’s been sweeping changes with D3 and I’ve been in the Hearthstone beta for a while now. What might push me back into doing D3 is the the demolition of the Auction House as well as transmog changes. My biggest gripe with D3 wasn’t combat or gear but rather that I was doing the same content over and over multiple times. As someone who is not used to that type of game, it was very boring to me despite liking the story, aesthetics and gameplay. So I’ll probably pick D3 back up when the new expansion material gets added.

As for Hearthstone? I’m really glad to see a potential e-sport that mechanically requires no trash-talking. Card games have always been alien to me but the idea of one that I can play on tablets or phones while I’m doing nothing else and don’t have to worry about gross people is really cool to me. I’ll get good at this game eventually. Eventually.

Blizzcon was really great for a lot of reasons and even though the negatives were there, I felt that it all balanced out. The only real drawbacks was that it exhausted my poor body very thoroughly and I’m going to take some time to recuperate. I know this rundown wasn’t nearly as juicy or potentially inflammatory as it could have been but I’m looking to do some piecemeal analysis once I get back on my feet. Expect stuff in the next couple of hours or days!

As always, it was a lot of fun meeting fans, listeners of my podcast as well as friends. You’re all wonderful. Same goes for the Blizzard employees who had to spend long hours working and dealing with fans.

 

 

Blizzcon 2013: Intermission

Hey, if you’re reading this because you got linked here by the very generous Nethaera about Warlords of Draenor, welcome! I am very sorry that this is not actually a post about my discussion with Helen Cheng (quest designer from Blizzard) but rather a sincere apology that I literally haven’t had the resources to post anything up yet.

The reason for this is because I’ve not been on consistent Internet outside of my smartphone and it’s very hard to compose blog posts there. Once I get a couple hours on steady internet with my laptop or Thursday when I finally get back home, I promise I will brain dump over the next couple of days about my more critical experiences at Blizzcon.

Things you can expect:

  • Discussion about the women of Warlords of Draenor, including my  notes from speaking to Dave Kosak (briefly) as well as Helen Cheng.
  • Meeting Craig Amai, head of quest development about Ji Firepaw as well as his thoughts on Warlords and representation.
  • Presentation of Warlords in broad strokes of masculinity and “boys trip” from Metzen.
  • Summary of all the people I met.
  • Aggra and the #RiseofAggra hashtag.
  • The use of “savage” and other racial tropes via the orcs.
  • Assorted notes from the panels I attended.

Lots of things to look forward to, and I say hello to all my potential new readers. I was up to a lot this last week. If you’re interested in hearing Helen Cheng talk about quest design from Mists of Pandaria, feel free to listen to the interview we did with her over at Justice Points.

Blizzcon 2013: The Relaxining

At Medieval Times

The lengths I go through to get the absolutely important coverage to you, dear readers. Because the internet in our hotel is somewhere in the “not worth it” range in terms of prices, I am sitting in the Hilton lobby stealing data like the gung-ho press hound that I am pretending to be, drinking a comically oversized coffee.

California has been largely good to me and yesterday was no exception. If you may remember from my blogpost yesterday, Days 1 and 2 of my Blizzcon odyssey were traveling so Wednesday was the first day I really got to sit down and hang out.

The day started off very early again as I think my body still hasn’t adjusted to the time or daylight. I managed to get up, grab a shower and breakfast before anyone in my room even had woke up so it made me feel vaguely productive even though technically I am only here on vacation versus doing anything useful like report on the actual convention. More people had started to trickle in. The first person I got to see was Ilaniel (aka Sarah Pine from WoW Insider) and we spent a bit of time together.

We decided to walk over to the fountain and met some podcast people that I’ve only ever watched/listened to: Jules from Tauren Think Tank (and her husband Arcayne), Hasteur from Group Quest, and Robert from Blizzcon Countdown. It always feels so strange to meet internet personalities or content creators for the first time since you have this image of what people look like in your head, even if you watch them online and them being in three dimensions is still incredibly startling. Maybe I’m just a robot.

I also met up with my hotel room-mate Hestiah. So great meeting one of my fab feminist lady pals finally! She had a great idea that we should go to Medieval Times so after getting to meet Olivia from Wow Insider as well, we took Anne, Alex and myself in Hestiah’s car and drove to Buena Park.

Now, I went to Medieval Times when I was 12 or 13 and it wasn’t nearly as much fun as this. I think that a lot of it has to do with who you go with and your enthusiasm for really getting into the story. We all bought flags and settled into the green section to cheer on our knight and be a part of the story. Also something I had forgotten about Medieval Times: the sheer amount of food they give you. We got half a chicken, short ribs, bread, tomato soup, drinks and a pastry. It wasn’t the best food but it was definitely good. The story was basic but the atmosphere is what made it so enjoyable. It also didn’t hurt that our section was the rowdiest and loudest when cheering. The Green Knight was also by far the hottest hot dude out there and we suspect that he’s the guy who plays Varian when the arena puts on the Warcraft-themed story. After everything was said and done, our voices were shot, our bellies were full and we had giant grins. For a group of nerdy 20-and-3o-somethings, it was pure unabashed fun.

After that, we drove home and I moved my stuff from Alex’s hotel room to mine in the Marriott. It’s very weird being in a hotel that feels upscale and is so close to the convention center. It will definitely help when the Saturday muscle soreness sets in and it makes me feel more centrally located to all the socializing. This was pretty apparent after Hestiah and I decided to sit in the lobby and drink and we kept running into people we knew. I finally got to meet Anafielle (of Sacred Duty fame), Kelesti, Sha of Happiness and saw another lady pal of mine, Dysmorphia.

Eventually we decided to take the party to the Hilton lobby and the atmosphere was decidedly different. Hilton lobby effectively acts like a nexus or a bus station for a lot of con-goers. It is consistently packed, especially at night because there’s a bar right on the ground floor, dead center. There were already many drunk people there and while I got to be introduced to some Twitter names or faces that I had heard of, I mostly felt alienated. Drunk people en masse, particularly when I am not that drunk, tend to wig me out. It didn’t help that most of them were dudes and I have problems with drunk dudes for obvious reasons. I left early and spent some time sobering up watching late night TV by myself. I’m not a sad sack, really, I promise.

All in all, yesterday definitely felt like a nice way to get in some vacation time before the madness of Blizzcon truly descended on Anaheim.

Editor’s note: I’ll add content links when I’m not in a hosed data connection and not on a laptop with no mouse.

 

Blizzcon 2013: The Road to Blizzcon

The Anaheim Convention Center, home of Blizzcon and blue water fire.

My promise to fully document my trip to Blizzcon has fallen slightly short just do to the level of fatigue that accrues when you fling yourself into the meat grinder that is modern air travel these days, on top of the whole Daylight Savings Time, time-zone wibbly wobbly timey wimey nonsense. But I will endeavor to record as much of my progress thus far, despite being on a laptop in an awkward position due to how our hotel room has a very low desk chair and a very high table.

If you would like to read my boyfriend’s version of events, you can do so over here on Wow Insider.

Day 1 

We began our auspicious journey by staying up all night so we could leave to go to the airport at Dark O’Clock. While I feel that air travel is largely still the most expedient way to go, especially long distances, the convenience is hampered somewhat by how much airlines have mangled service due to flagging profit margins. In the past 10 years or so, it has turned from something exciting where you step on a plane and land in a new magical place into a hellish torture that maybe only sadists would enjoy inflicting on people. Our itinerary to get us to Colorado, where we’d meet Anne Stickney, our third, took us via Houston. Milwaukee to Houston is not a convenient route by any cartographers stretch of the imagination and going several thousand miles south out of our way to swing back up on another flight is bizarre. There’s also the problems with the fact that airplanes are now just expanded sardine cans. Barely any amenities are given out despite the ticket prices and you spend most of your time cramped, hungry and irritable. I suffered the least given that I am half the size of my poor boyfriend, who was folded literally in half to try and squeeze into the airplane and then his seat.

Despite us almost missing our connection, we did make it to Colorado and it was all as promised. We met up with Anne and quickly got onto the road since we had to be at least to our Utah midway-stop by nightfall. Driving through Colorado and Utah was everything I dreamed of and possibly a bit more. As someone who grew up on the East Coast and largely around very small mountains covered in trees, the alien landscape that we were presented with on our drive was breathtaking. Mountains that went beyond the clouds, striations of every hue imaginable and alien landscapes that I know I had seen in quite a few sci-fi movies were around every twisty-turny  mountain pass or long desolate straightaway.

Driving by car, preferably when you’re a passenger, is easily the best way to do trips. Getting to laugh at jokes, debate World of Warcraft expansion news and goggle in awe at the scenery made the flight torture worth it.

The beauty of Utah.

We ran into a sudden snowstorm on our way through some mountains and so we went from Fall to Winter in the span of an hour. It also gave us the chance to see vistas kissed with snow once the sun re-emerged and then fog that would put Silent Hill to shame rising off the scrub grass.

Stopping on roadside stuff wasn’t really a highlight of the first day but we did get to experience the creepiness of truck stops. Including one in Beaver, UT, which yes, did have “I Heart Beaver” merchandise. I felt like mentioning that because I’m actually 12.

We pulled into St. George, Utah by the time it was dark and stayed there for the night, enjoying a part of our first day that didn’t involve being cramped.

Day 2

I do not sleep well in hotels. Either the temperature isn’t right or the blankets are too heavy or I am really uncomfortable. Despite only getting a handful of hours of sleep the day before and being so exhausted by travel and adrenaline, I still woke up at 4 AM with no ability to go back to sleep. I meandered around the hotel parking lot in the deep chill of the night and waited for the lobby’s complimentary breakfast to go up at 6:30 AM. Once the sun lightened up the sky some, I noticed that our town had a giant red cliff ridge directly above us. Talk about surprising.

We managed to get back on the road again by 8 AM for our second and slightly more exciting leg of the trip to Anaheim. The views were largely as expansive and inspirational as the first day but once we passed through the large mountain range nearing the Arizona and Nevada borders, we came across way more high desert flats. It was very Night Vale-esque for those of you who listen to that podcast, and suddenly the sights got a lot more weird. Tiny burned out shanty towns dotted the shrubby plains, odd roadside attractions and places that had only one stoplight or one church and nothing save for trailers seemed to be the norm.

We skirted around the outside of Las Vegas and it didn’t disappoint even if we didn’t stop. I got to see some of the glittering towers of gambling, the pomp of roller coasters and elaborate facades.  Alex commented on how most of the names we were seeing on signs also appeared in Fallout: New Vegas and I can see why. The idea of a post-apocalyptic game taking place in the desert of Nevada seemed all too apt. Given the number of ruins of old tourist attractions that we saw littered on our drive, it almost felt like we were  in the game already. (We made a plan to visit the grafitti-ed shell of a waterpark that we passed somewhere around Minneola, NV on the drive back)

Then we saw it: A giant road-side ad for Alien Fresh Jerky. Given both our propensity for good dried meat and the strange, we decided to follow that lead all the way into Baker, California where the jerky was to be found. Our questions were pretty routine – “Do the aliens make the jerky or are they what the jerky is made  out of?”

In a town that literally one road with a handful of greasy spoons, burned out trucks and bluffs, there was one shining beacon of tourist hysteria: Alien Fresh Jerky. It was a clean looking establishment with a made-up alien car, spaceship and promises of jerky on the inside. Once we stepped into place, we know why we went to all this trouble to get there. Sure, it was mostly overpriced food and tzotchkes of dubious provenance, but the excitement was being a participant of something this bizarre. We all love a good story to share and this is precisely why roadside ghost towns, giant balls of twine and houses filled with baby dolls continue to excite. We tried some invisible jerky, bought relics with alien faces for too much money and giggled at all the paraphernalia.

From there we sped on towards California proper. We stopped in Barstow, which was an official Route 66 stop and got to peer inside of a traincar shopping center and racist gas stations.  Finally we started to hit places that were familiar to me, as I had driven to Blizzcon from Arizona three years ago and it felt properly SoCal with the tiny oases of planned communities with palm trees dotting the crispy landscape.

Once we finally made it Anaheim, we promptly dropped our stuff off and went to peer at the convention center. Much to our surprise, there had been a lot of landscape work done. The entire front of the center that used to be a glorified taxi park and car-driven death trap for pedestrians in a hotel corridor was now this beautiful walkway with recessed lighting, statues and sculptures. There’s even a new fountain in front that lights up blue and white, with heavily graduated steps that take some climbing to get to. It feels like a much cooler place to meet up, hang out or take pictures now and while I know that it wasn’t really for that intent, it still makes this already magical voyage look the part. We took our pictures and went to finally relax.

I’m fully hyped for what the convention proper has in store now after that long, strange trip.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Mailbox

My mage and my long-lost friend.

My mage and my long-lost friend.

“Did you used to play on Cenarion Circle?”

I always fret when I ask complete strangers random whisper questions as I know that people doing the same to me piques my anxiety. But here I was, standing at the mailbox at Shrine in what can best be described as a head-on collision with fate. It’s hard for a skeptic like me to wholeheartedly accept the role of True Believer but sometimes you have to go along for the ride when life presents you with something too unbelievable to chalk up to mere mortal calculations of probability and chance.

As of maybe a couple of days ago, I’ve been using my boredom with the end of the expansion to start chipping away at some of my neglected alts, most notably my Horde characters on another server from my main, who is Alliance. This is my mage, Misandry, that I created for my first mage leveling guide (obviously titled “Levelling Through Misandry.”) She’s been bounced around a lot – first created on Mal’ganis, then moved to Drenden and then gently settled on Earthen Ring in my guildies’ alt guild for our Horde toons. Little by little I’ve been pecking away at XP, a handful of dungeons and poking at the Horde storylines I had yet to see via questing. I was stuck in Camp Nooka Nooka and needed to use a mailbox to do some auction housing. Instead of teleporting to Orgrimmar, I decided on a whim to fly to Shrine since I hadn’t really been there but I somehow magically had the flightpoint.

I was standing at the mailbox only half-paying attention and disenchanting items when I see a mage log in. I mouseover their frame as they had MyRoleplay installed and I have a habit of reading people’s backstories. The name looked familiar to me but given the usual cobwebs with my memory, I couldn’t place where. Slowly it dawned on me – was this one of my old friends from Cenarion Circle? That name was fairly unique and it wouldn’t hurt to ask. So I timidly whispered to the mage standing next to me.

What happened next can only be described as a sheer unbelievable luck. Yes, she had played on Cenarion Circle. I asked her if she remembered my gnome. She remembered me. We started shrieking. It was my friend that I had used to play with and roleplay with. The warlock who I had RP-fights with, her Horde, me Alliance. The person who dueled me on plateaus in Nagrand while we laughed ourselves stupid as we would fall off and die. Out of nowhere, we just happened to run into eachother. On a server that I barely play on, and her, a day after re-upping her WoW account and logging into a character (her 10th 90) that she barely plays with the same name as her Horde warlock. We just happened to randomly be standing next to eachother at the same time in Shrine when I had decided to go there completely by chance.

It was like a deluge of things being said, like if you had run into someone from your past on the street.

How are you?

What have you even been up to?

Wait, didn’t you used to have a stalker problem too? How did that work out?

The deluge of past and present came tumbling out. It was weird that both of us seemed to have similar trajectories regarding reasons for dropping off the radar; a combination of toxic people on our home server, life changes and dealing with harassment. She was one of the few people I had wished I had kept better contact with and here she was, right in front of me. We both were overjoyed at the idea that both of us were doing so much better now, that we had come so far and gotten to better places in our lives. The idea of meeting an old friend and knowing she was a survivor too was also emotional but I was mostly just unbelievably happy knowing that even if we lost touch, that stories went on relatively happily. The odds of us running into eachother, now, seemed impossibly low. But yet…

We quickly exchanged Twitter accounts and battle tags, something that wasn’t nearly as easy to do even 3 years ago. A lot of people prior to the introduction of RealID and Battle tags especially would move off-server and then just drop off the face of the planet unless you knew them outside of the game. Social media and particularly WoW’s move towards socialization has made things like this more possible, if you are so lucky to find yourself in this position. I know I am beyond lucky and I have to wonder if this wasn’t some higher force. Obviously, I can’t be certain but this has conceivably made my month.

With Blizzcon around the corner, plus now this, I can’t help but think that despite us all being nerds playing a video game, that the connections we form online can be just as impervious to time as any others. Much like remembering the face of someone you hung out with in kindergarten, coming across a person you once knew happens, expanded to a global scale. Obviously World of Warcraft is a far smaller place but I still can’t help but feel that this was almost too good to be true, and so I felt moved to write it down hastily, in case I woke up tomorrow and it wasn’t real.

I’ve struggled all my life with losing friends rapidly in short time spans due to some sort of drift and I always regret it. Even if not for every individual person but just that it happens so much and it haunts me. The idea of getting a second chance to see someone I enjoyed being around due to kismet, fate or whatever you want to call it makes me feel a little less alone. The Internet having an endless memory may be true in more ways than just preserving the shitty moments you’ve tossed out there into the ocean, but perhaps something you put out there finally washing back up on shore.

Blizzcon 2013: Where in the World is Apple Cider Mage?

Having fun at Blizzcon! Featuring Deedle, Zable, Tadge and Boddi.

Having fun at Blizzcon! Featuring Deedle, Zable, Tadge and Boddi.

I think my excitement generator for Blizzcon is now permanently cranked to 11. I’m starting to move from “This is in the future” to “This is really happening! I better go get things ready!” Thusly, I thought that taking a moment to write up my grand plans for Blizzcon might be of interest to some of my readers, fans and friends who want to know where I might be and what I’ll be up to while I’m gone. This year’s Blizzcon trip is different from my last go-around in 2011 in that it is:

  • A full-fledged vacation. I will be on the road for 10 days.
  • The first time attending Blizzcon as both a community entity and content producer.

The first point is pretty fun – I do not really get to go on vacations save for Blizzcon (this will be my fifth) so the fact that I will be traveling with my boyfriend is exciting. We’re also combining Blizzcon with a fun road trip to the convention and back with one of his co-workers, hence why we will be gone for so long. It takes a day or so to drive from where we’re flying into to California. I always love road trips so I’m stoked. I’m sure we’ll (Anne and I) be driving Alex up the wall with our incessant talking. I also will be bringing along my laptop, Nintendo 3DS, Kindle and phone because I cannot properly disconnect from technology or Internet while I’m gone. This also means that I will try to document my trip, potentially for my own amusement and for the blog.

The fact that I have a blog and podcast now, heading into Blizzcon, is why the second point is a wee bit scary. When I went to Blizzcon 2011, my blog had been up for maybe a week or two. Handing out business cards may have gotten me new readers but most people had never heard of me. I also wasn’t as active in the WoW fan-community as I am now – in fact, I missed meeting a couple of people that I consider really good friends because I simply had no idea who they were. I’m nervous of running into people that potentially hate me or see me as a fire-breathing man-hating ogre. I’m decently sure at least a couple of Blizzard CMs have my face up on the wall like a Wanted poster. The only thing I have going for me is that most people have no idea what I look like, so I’ll just say I’m actually Ghostcrawler.

This year’s Blizzcon feels like a lot more pressure to perform as a community entity and to talk to fans or present myself in a more professional manner. The list of people I’d like to hang out with, chat with or generally just touch base with is miles long. The parties I have on my docket are numerous and “making an appearance” seems to be tantamount to most other things. I want to hang out and have fun but I also don’t want to go to a giant place with thousands of people only to have people wondering where the heck I was. This is definitely an added layer of my persona that I will be grappling with now – not just going to the con as a casual participant and fan, but as someone that other people look to and want to meet. Most of it is a type of peer-ship, obviously. I don’t feel like I’ve reached any sort of celebrity status and given my work, I doubt that will happen any time soon.

The upside to this being is that people can finally see who I really am behind the internet “mask” of my persona that I have to present via my blog, podcast or Twitter account. A lot of people always presume I’m a really mean or angry person in real life but the truth is that I laugh way too much and I’m just as awkward and nerdy as most of you. I’m a bit outgoing (especially when I’ve been drinking adult beverages) but for the most part I like to chat and crack jokes. I’m not the humorless, nasty feminist that most people think I am. It’s hard to be that way all the time, though I might tell people to knock off bad language if I hear it! I hope people don’t feel like they can’t come up to me and say hi or have a conversation with me, I don’t bite (much).

Anyways, enough navelgazing, on with the schedule (that is due to change)!

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Blizzcon 2013: A Survival Guide

 

Cosplayers from Blizzcon. A blood elf is helping a hunter with her helm.

This sums up Blizzcon for me. (Taken at Blizzcon 2011)

Blizzcon (November 8th-9th) is almost upon us, GET HYPED!

However, before we get completely  hyped over this awesome event, I should probably give you some of my invaluable information regarding how I’ve managed to make it through four previous Blizzcons and been alive to tell the tale (and attend the fifth!) Most of this is pretty common sense information, advice but if you’re new to the Blizzcon or even convention scene, it could help make your time spent in Anaheim go from “meh” to “wow!”

Take care of your rad bods!

Unless you’re someone who spends their day walking upwards of 8 hours a day on pavement, the bodily toll on you during the convention will be anywhere from moderate to severe. Make sure you pamper your body and give it the best possible chance of recovery. Firstly, make sure you dress appropriately. This Blizzcon isn’t taking place during the scorching heat of the summer like previous years, so we don’t have to worry as much about overheating, but wearing good supportive shoes and temperature-appropriate garb is a good idea. With the exception of cosplayers, it’s better to go more for comfort than style!

Also really crucial is hydration. There’s water fountains and plenty of drink vendors inside and having a bottle of water with you when you’re outside of the convention is good, even if it isn’t very hot out. Water is amazing, drink some! On the subject of fluids, I know that I may have partaken of adult beverages while at Blizzcon and making sure you stop drinking well before you go to bed every night and getting a lot of water into you (and eating while you drink) keeps you from having a nasty hangover the next day. Make sure you know your limits as well and don’t get sick! It’ll just make Blizzcon worse.

If you’re someone that needs to eat on a regular schedule, there’s quite a few vendors inside but also restaurants within walking distance of the convention center. Making sure you get a good breakfast has always worked well for me, but also bringing snacks to your hotel room can help you feel full and not cranky all day when you’re constantly running and doing things.

Last but not least is making sure you get plenty of rest! Rest includes getting a decent amount of sleep but also possibly taking breaks during the day – it’s not even a “out of shape” thing but just making sure you don’t push yourself too hard. Sitting down inside the convention center or going back to your hotel room is great to let your legs get some recoup time. I also advise napping if you need it as well as just getting some “quiet” time away from other people. If you’re someone who doesn’t handle social situations very well, it’s amazing for your piece of mind to have silence and introvert energy replenishment.

I’ll spare you guys a hygiene spiel because you’re all adults and you know the benefits of washing your bods regularly. (Do it!)

Make a plan…but don’t necessarily stick to it.

Now that Blizzard has finally released a final schedule of events for the con itself, it means we can all better plan what things we want to hit. Perhaps you have meetups you want to go to, parties to attend as well. Pick and choose the things you really want to see and do. It’s hard not to want to do everything – everything looks really fun. Knowing at least the top things on your list you want to see helps you prioritize but let me tell you, not every panel is going to be as great as the rest, and oftentimes the best fun you can have is randomly wandering around just looking at stuff or hopping to a restaurant with some people (guildmates?) to grab a quick lunch. Every year I’ve made a really detailed plan of stuff I wanted to hit and only ended up doing a third of it. It’s so chaotic at times between people you want to see and content that you will just have to make some choices.

On the subject of getting your tickets, however, there’s only two real ways to go: Do you want to absolutely attend the opening ceremonies? If you do, get into the huge-ass line on Thursday as early as possible, otherwise take your chances on Friday morning and have way less of a line (or none at all) to contend with. I’ve done both and honestly, either strategy is fine. I definitely want to attend opening ceremonies this year, so I’m going to try and get mine on Thursday afternoon.

Speaking of Thursday, this is when most of the parties happen. Wow Insider/Wowhead’s party is happening then (at the Anabella), as well as World of Podcasts (Red Lion Inn). Some happen Friday, and then the final corporate one happens on Saturday night. But the big fan meetups tend to be Thursday evening, so that’s always something to consider hitting if you like that.

Also for the first-time attendees, most panels are simulcast in different places or spillover panel rooms so don’t fret if you didn’t get into the main D hall to watch something big. While it is nice to be in the room, so to speak, avoiding crowds and just chilling in a quieter hall isn’t a bad option, especially if it means you might snag a seat.

Get used to standing in lines.

This is central to the Blizzcon experience; you will be standing in a line a lot. Whether it is for buying merch, meeting someone to autograph something, or wanting to test out a game demo, you will probably be entertaining yourself in a myriad of ways. Bring a DS, or your phone or a friend to talk to. Otherwise, get used to memorizing all the lines from every cinematic in Blizzard’s history (They will be playing on the screens overhead, mostly likely.)

Make sure to actually get people’s phone numbers.

This is more of a concern for those of us who have smartphones, but your data traffic will get hosed. The convention center tends to either kill a lot of carriers or is so completely overloaded with data traffic that you cannot expect to be able to check Twitter to get in touch with people unless you’re outside. So get people’s numbers if you want to hang out with them. But also know that texting gets similarly hosed for no reason I can figure out so plan accordingly. Having a solid time and place to meetup is great because once you are inside, there’s no guarantees your phone will be useful.

Due to this, don’t expect to be able to live-tweet a panel. Trust me, I tried to when they announced Mists of Pandaria and it didn’t turn out so well.

Respect everyone’s space, time and privacy. Conversely, if you feel uncomfortable, don’t feel bad about getting out.

This is hinging on the fact that Blizzard didn’t pass a Code of Conduct for the con (yet) and so I felt it needed repeating: respect people at the con. If someone is cosplaying, ask to take their picture. Don’t harass them or touch them. Same goes for any other con-goer. If someone wants to be left alone or spend some time by themselves, let them. This con is incredibly nerve-wracking and overwhelming for people who are not great with tons of social interaction, so sometimes people need space. If you are someone who doesn’t comport themselves properly, especially when you are drunk, then maybe you shouldn’t drink. Let people have their own space and privacy.

On the flip side, if someone is making you feel uncomfortable, even if it’s just a “gut feeling,” don’t hesitate to get away.  Make an excuse, duck out, lose yourself in a crowd. Let friends know where you’re going if you’re by yourself. Ask someone to come meet you at a party or walk you home. If something serious happens, get a friend and find a security guard or Blizzard employee, or at worst, a cop or a hotel employee if something happens on-site.

And this goes for everyone, if you see something happening, tell someone. Or help the person out. I know it’s incredibly easy to just say that stepping in would screw things up but often sometimes just saying “Hey, is everything okay here?” tends to break up a tense situation. I had an incident in 2011 where some guys were being gross to someone well-known in the WoW community and so I told them to knock it off and leave them alone. It might not have really done anything but it made them stop so I felt like I did the right thing.

PS: If you’re a Horde player and you’re yelling at or otherwise harassing Alliance players, stop that shit. Are you two? Come on. There’s no difference between factions, you’re all nerds.

Quick Notes on food, travel, and other pleasantries:

If you’re flying into John Wayne airport/SNA, there are shuttles that cost around 10 bucks that will take you right to your hotel. There are also cabs but those tend to be way more expensive unless you split with a friend. LAX also requires a shuttle or cab and I’d opt for a shuttle.

The main restaurants around the convention center are the food court in the Hilton, the IHop across the street, and any restaurants in the surrounding hotels. There’s quite a few more places if you care to walk farther, such as the Denny’s up the road or Main Street Cone Shop that’s beyond the Anabella (personal recommendation, great food!) I also truly believe the Anabella’s restaurant has the best breakfasts. I am sad I am not staying in the Anabella this year just due to this reason.

Within quick walking distance of the convention center is an outdoor mall and Downtown Disneyland as well.

…but most of all, don’t forget to have fun.

This is a great time of the year to meet up with all the personalities, Twitter friends and guild-mates you’ve always wanted to see. Hang out with people, chat, and have a great time. The convention is super great as well but I’ve always found that the socializing aspect is the best bit of the convention. Being healthy, safe and well-informed is what will make your experience at Blizzcon amazing!

Blizzcon Badges for Sale

Sample badge for Blizzcon.

You can click on this to see it full sized.

Blizzcon 2013 – the social event of the real life Warcraft community is finally happening again. For those of us lucky enough to get tickets, it represents nervousness, excitement and anticipation! I myself did manage to get tickets for this year’s con again and it will be my fifth year attending. However, due to real life circumstances, I find myself needing a little bit more funding than previous years. Therefore I am offering to do badge art for other attendees who want something unique and commemorative for their voyage.

Note: I cannot afford to do printing/laminating of these myself. All sales will include a .JPG and .PSD that is at print-quality resolution. These will fit in the badge laminate that Blizzcon uses for their badges.

Price List:

  • Basic: This is just your character’s portrait with no armor. Includes character name (or other), server information and faction background – $10.00
  • Frill: Includes a head frill such as small decoration (eyepatches, orbs, etc.)  – $15.00
  • Shoulders: Includes shoulder armor. – $20.00*
  • Advanced: Includes anything else you could possibly fit on there. – Negotiable

*Some shoulder armor might require more time.

If you are interested in purchasing one of these badges, email veryapplecider@gmail.com with the following information:

  • Name
  • Type of Badge you are interested in
  • Link to appropriate character’s armory or a clear screenshot (this is probably better if the Armory makes your character hard to see)
  • Character details you want included

I will e-mail you back to discuss particulars and send you my Paypal information. I require people to pay upfront; if I cannot do your art, I will return your money. Turnaround time for badges should be 4-5 days but I will e-mail you if something comes up. If I get a lot of requests, I will work in a queue in order of who paid first.

If you don’t want a badge and just want to donate to getting my butt to Blizzcon, I also have a Paypal donation button on the sidebar of my blog!

Hope to hear from you soon!

(Font provided for the badges is League Gothic, open source font from League of Moveable Type.)

Homophobia at Blizzcon and Beyond

Trigger warning: Homophobic language. I also use “queer” occasionally to describe people across the GSM (Gender and Sexuality Minority) spectrum.

I’m sure by now, by way of either the forums or various other blogs on the subject, you’ve all heard about the Blizzcon incident with Level 90 Elite Tauren Chieftain and Corpsegrinder from Cannibal Corpse. For those of you who have been outside the reach of social media this entire time, the summation is this – during the L90ETC opening act, Blizzard showed a video of Corpsegrinder talking about Alliance calling us “homo” and “cocksuckers.”  He goes on to call blood elves “queers” and “faggots.” Corpsegrinder then took the stage with the band and proceeded to call out the Alliance again before going into the set. There’s some contention as to whether the video was bleeped out or not, but despite any editing or not, Blizzard made a really horrible decision to give this person both a platform and audience for this homophobic grossness. What is deeply ironic is what was going on with me during Blizzcon when this all went down, hence why I don’t remember this very well.  As Mythrai wrote at her own blog:

Strangely, when the Corpsegrinder incident occurred, I was taking advantage of the (supposedly) shorter lines for the Diablo III demo with Apple Cider Mage and sucksmybrain about the Lore Q&A discussion around explicit LGBT characters in upcoming WoW stories, and how excited we’d all be if that came true.   We tossed around cheery ideas about Quae and Kinelory, Koltira and Thassarian, Sassy Hardwrench (come on, with a name like that, you know Sassy is an enterprising young gay goblin.)  To come out from that discussion to find that degrading homophobia was being played, promoted and even implicitly supported by the Blizzard team at the same time we were feeling hopeful about being represented by a major gaming company we loved and supported… saying it was a crushing blow is putting it mildly.

Coming back to the hotel that night to start reading Tweets and forum posts about what occurred was shocking and hurtful. How could Blizzcon support this? Over a Horde/Alliance conflict no less? People were jumping up to make it about some stupid video game faction dispute when the larger problem was looming there. Homophobia should never be a part of a company’s public face, especially at an event that features many, many fans that are queer, gay, or transgendered. Some of whom I hung out with a majority of my weekend and had great times with. Some of whom are me, even. Allowing someone like Corpsegrinder to express the same bigoted language and slurs that we hear in battlegrounds, trade chat, and even in our guilds and raids is damaging. It means Blizzard is condoning that language as a company, despite having rules in their TOS against it.

People started writing letters to the company post-haste, posts were written, petitions were created. A forum threads was eventually made (with a lackluster blue response), and L90ETC apologized. To some people, all it read as was “I’m sorry you are offended” which to some of us this is never an apology, merely a dismissal of the audience’s feelings.  It wasn’t until Mike Morhaime himself (president of Blizzard, also member of the band) stepped up to offer the more sincere of the apologies. My hope is that Blizzard really takes this incident to heart and forever changes their public face in regards to what kind of language they support out of their company, as well as a harsher look at their audience. My deepest desire is that maybe they even make good on their Q&A panel admission that they might see fit to include more LGBT characters in their game should they fit. Unfortunately, regardless of what Blizzard does, a situation still remains looming over our heads.

Because, really, the problem here on a more daily basis is not the giant company. It is society and nerd culture. Blizzard fucked up but the people we play this video game do not even see the error of their ways, despite playing with queer people on a regular basis. Rising numbers of social minorities of all stripes are playing World of Warcraft, and yet the audience still talks and reads unspeakably cis-gendered, straight, white male. This was never more evident than by watching the live raid that also took place at Blizzcon and seeing Blood Legion using racial slurs against a well-known priest called Kinaesthesia (of Learn2Raid fame) from Vodka as well as other inflammatory language and unsportsmanlike conduct. If these are the “leaders” of the raiding community, why does the rank and file have to act better than them?

It galls me and makes me incredibly angry that this is still what we have to deal with every day in the nerdy community and I am set on calling it out wherever I see it. I hope the rest of you have the strength to as well (but I can understand if you don’t.) We need guilds that uphold these things as policy, reports to GMs whenever we see it in-game, and a larger community presence. Because nerd culture needs to wake up to the smell of its own manure that it has been wallowing in all these years and realize that the time of the pervasive racism, homophobia, rape jokes and general disgusting-ness is over. I want an Azeroth where all of us feel safe to be ourselves, to see our stories and strife reflected in the characters we play and interact with, and people to get over their ignorance.

Some other blogs that wrote on the subject:

The ‘mental Shaman – Blizzcon: This is about homophobia not Horde v Alliance

MMO Melting Pot – The homophobic Corpsegrinder rant at Blizzcon explodes

Apple Cider Mage Does Blizzcon 2011

Business cards with the blog's header image on them.
Sorry about the quality of the image today – I had to take it with my phone’s camera in low light. If you can’t tell what they are, those are my business cards. I’m taking a cute white box full of them with me to Blizzcon this week. Oh, wait, I didn’t mention I was going to Blizzcon? How silly of me! Then let’s back it up a bit and start from the beginning.

The Convention

Blizzcon, for you World of Warcraft devotees, is Blizzard’s annual convention that celebrates all of their game properties – most notably World of Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo. It takes place in Anaheim, CA, in the city’s multi-hall convention center, right near Disneyland. I’ve personally been going every year since 2008 and I always have a ton of fun. This year should be no exception – not only does their promise to be some juicy unveilings (new Warcraft expansion, possible DLC for Starcraft II and maybe even a whiff of Blizzard’s secret project, Titan) but a lot of talk about next year’s hot release, Diablo III.

The schedule of events for the convention has been posted (sort of) via their mobile phone app, as well as various Warcraft news sites, but not on their actual event page. I’m using their Android app to figure out where I’m going each day and what I want to see. A rough plan of things I want to hit looks like this:

Friday

  • Opening Ceremony  11 AM-12 PM, Main Stage
  • World of Warcraft Preview 12:30-2:00 PM, Main Stage
  • World of Warcraft Class Talent Systems 2:15-3:15, Main Stage
  • World of Warcraft Dungeons & Raids 3:30-4:30 PM, Main Stage
  • World of Warcraft: 4.3 Raid and Deathwing 5:00 PM-5:50 PM, BlizzChat: Live Forums
Saturday
  • World of Warcraft Lore and Story Q&A, 4:15PM-5:15 PM
Items that are bolded are ones I’m definitely not missing, hopefully, as I go to them every year. You can also see that my schedule is fairly Warcraft-oriented. I tend to keep my schedule fairly loose though and allow myself to wander or go elsewhere as necessary.

Meetups and Parties

Besides just attending panels and trying out demos of the new games, I also go to a couple of social events in and around the convention. Most notably is the WoW Insider party at 5 PM on Thursday, October 20th, at the Annabella hotel, which is right around the corner from the east entrance of the convention center and up the block. It’s an amazingly gorgeous mission-style hotel and I’ve had a blast every year I’ve attended this party. The WoW Insider staff are always fun people to hang out with, with lots of MCing, podcasting and prizes/swag. Just don’t get pushed into the pool. This year the party is being jointly sponsored by WoW Insider and  Wowhead and should promise to be the biggest party yet. Don’t be late and get stuck outside because there’s no room! I heard that this year there’s even going to be faction-inspired cocktails so everyone can imbibe for the Horde or the Alliance.

I also go to my server’s meetup every year but since Blizzard doesn’t display the times for that until the day of the convention, I have no idea when that will be. In past years, I’ve taken part in the Elitist Jerk’s /flex picture outside, as well as hanging out with some of the fine ladies at WoW_ladies.

This blog doesn’t have a ton of fans (yet) but hopefully if any of you guys are going to Blizzcon, that maybe we’ll get to say hi. If anyone wants to hang out or get in touch, you can send me an e-mail at my address from my contact page. Also if anyone wants to invite me to anything, just let me know as well.

Hope to see some of you there!