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Episode 11

In our eleventh episode of BlizzCast, we have a roundtable discussion with members of the community team to recap the major happenings, announcements, and other highlights of this year’s BlizzCon. Join our discussion as we relive some of our favorite moments from the show.

BlizzCon 2009 in Review
BlizzCon 2009 in Review Bashiok (Diablo Community Manager), Karune (RTS and StarCraft Community Manager), Nethaera (World of Warcraft Community Manager)
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Rob: Hello everyone, and welcome to Blizzcast Episode 11, where we’ll be discussing some of the highlights of BlizzCon 2009. My name is Rob Simpson from the eSports Team, at BlizzCon this year I did shoutcasting for the World of Warcraft Arena Tournament, as well as the StarCraft II Exhibition matches. I’m joined today by Diablo Community Manager Bashiok, Real-Time Strategy and StarCraft Community Manager Karune, and World of Warcraft Community Manager Nethaera. Say hello!
Nethaera: Hello!

Bashiok: How's it going?

Karune: Hey!
[ 00:14 ]
Rob: Let’s start with you, Bashiok. We kicked off BlizzCon almost straight-away with an announcement of Diablo III’s newest playable class, the Monk. Will you talk a bit about the information we released and reflect upon the reaction you saw from the fans at the convention?
Bashiok: We announced the Monk, as you said, it is our fourth playable class. We still have one class we haven’t announced yet. The Monk is sort of this “East-meets-West”, he’s got a lot of kung-fu moves but he also looks very Western. He has this big, red, bushy beard and a shaved head. He’s primarily a hand-to-hand fighter, he does use weapons but a lot of his weapons, it does look like he is using hand-to-hand combat. He’s kind of weak as far as his armor and health goes, but he gets in there fast, kicks the crap out of dudes, and gets out of there.

The reaction from the fans was overwhelming. We had stations where people could fill out feedback on the demos while they were playing them and the Monk was overwhelmingly the favorite at the show, which was just announced, so it wasn’t too surprising, but it is still a very fun class to play.

[ 00:42 ]
Rob: Definitely a fun class. Nethaera, given that there was a lot of speculation about World of Warcraft’s third expansion prior to BlizzCon, can you tell us what you thought of the reaction from attendees when Senior Vice President of Creative Development Chris Metzen let the Cataclysm trailer roll?
Nethaera: To describe it would be electric. There’s just something about a live event like that, having everybody see what we’ve been working on, that the developers have been working on, that our video team has been working on and putting out there for them, like I said, is electric. You just feel this sense of energy coming off of everybody and it really invigorates you and I think the reaction was extremely good and I think people were very excited for the entire time after hearing it from our lips.

Karune: Were any of you guys actually there in the crowd among the fans?

Nethaera: Absolutely!

Bashiok: I actually have a hilarious anecdote; it was hilarious to me, anyway. So I was out in the crowd and there was a journalist next to me, I don’t know if people at home could see this, but we actually had pyrotechnics set up in the hall so when Deathwing comes up on the screen there was this huge explosion and it just went “boom”. There was this journalist next to me, live-blogging on his lap with his laptop, and the boom goes off and he literally jumped in the air, and the laptop went flying when the boom went off. He was like “that doesn’t happen again, does it?”, and I just looked at him and I was like “no, it doesn’t”.

Karune: That boom went off, actually, when I was behind stage, I didn’t even expect it to happen. It went off right next to me, I was walking by the different panels.

Nethaera: It was just so loud in there, too. Everybody was just cheering as soon as they saw it come up and they hear the music.

Bashiok: Yeah, I think every feature, they did the feature call with level 85, new professions and all that stuff, everybody was cheering with everything that came up.

Nethaera: Yeah, absolutely.

[ 01:52 ]
Rob: You also moderated a lot of panels where a great deal of information was shared about Cataclysm. How did the audience receive the outpouring of new content previews, and were you surprised by any of the questions during the Q&A portions of each panel?
Nethaera: I think everybody was just really excited to get so much information and find out more about what we have in mind for the future. That’s always one of the things that people talk the most about on the forums. What does the future hold for them in the game, how are things going to progress, how are things going to change. A lot of people worry about what changes are coming, some people, that’s what they look forward to the most, is when things change. I think it was really well-received. I don’t think I was really surprised by any of the questions, although there was one kid that I thought he had the best poise when he came up to the microphone. He’s standing there and he’s probably 11 or 12 years-old at the most, and he comes up with no fear of the cameras, the microphone, or anything else and he asks one of the best Hunter questions. Everybody just started cheering, because here’s this kid, that just really asked this hard-hitting, poignant question right there in front of everybody, with no fear what-so-ever. It was a great moment because it shows how widespread our audience is and how people just really get into it.

[ 03:43 ]
Rob: The audience interaction really adds a lot to those panels. We gave BlizzCon attendees this year first access to Cataclysm content. Have you heard from many players who had a chance to try out segments of the Goblin and Worgen starting areas we had available at BlizzCon?




Nethaera: Oh boy, the debates between Goblin and Worgen, let me tell you. You’ve got your people that are die-hard Alliance players and they’re looking forward to getting the Worgen. Then you’ve got people on the Horde that are like “I don’t know, maybe we should have gotten Worgen”, and then you’ve got people that are so into the Goblins that they just cannot wait, finally their chance to get their hands on them.


The feedback that has come out of players who have tried the demo has been really, really good. They are very excited for the Terrain Phasing and all of those things. The backstory for the Worgen, finding out more about Gil’neas, they’re finding out what’s going on with the Goblins and how they get to be a part of the Horde and what’s in store for them. I think overall the reaction was just really good, and like I said, the debates are going on between which one is going to be better, but you’re going to get people that are Horde, or they’re Alliance.

[ 05:03 ]
Rob: Karune, BlizzCon attendees had, for the first time ever, a chance to progress through a piece of the single-player StarCraft II campaign. What aspects of the campaign were they given to try out, and what has the feedback been like there?
Karune: The community and the fans were really just able to jump straight into single player. We threw them into a mission where Tychus and Raynor are defending an outpost while the Zerg are invading and stuff so it was really fun just seeing people be really excited right from the first mission. They were able to choose, go through all of the different functions between missions, choosing what they want to equip their army with for the next mission, where they want to spend their resources and so-forth. There was a bunch of excitement around how single player has changed compared to the original StarCraft.

It’s a lot more than the talking heads now, there’s a whole bunch of cinematics in between, there’s a lot of options for you to explore and really immerse yourself to the world of StarCraft. I think the fan reaction was really big.

It was also fun seeing people who won posters and stuff, we gave random drops as we do for the other titles as well. Did you guys get a chance at all to check out some of the StarCraft stuff?

Nethaera: I didn’t get a chance to sit down myself, but I knew a lot of people that had never touched StarCraft before, they sat down and they got to try the demo, and the first thing they said was “I’m going out and getting the original” because they were just so excited to find out more about the series. They weren’t RTS players, they weren’t interested in it to begin with, but they thought “what the heck, I’ll check it out since I’m here” and they are now the biggest fans.

Bashiok: Personally, I was working backstage for the entire show, so I don’t think I saw another human face for the entire show, but I’m sure it went off great!

[ 06:17 ]
Rob: In addition to the StarCraft II single player campaign being made available to attendees, and a head-to-head StarCraft II exhibition tournament taking place, Executive Vice President of Game Design Rob Pardo also dropped a great deal of information about the future of our Battle.net service in one of the BlizzCon panels. Can you talk a little bit about that and how Battle.net will define the future of the Blizzard Entertainment gaming experience?
Karune: Yeah I really think Blizzard is going down a very interesting path right now. It is a very exciting path for Battle.net and trying to bring together the communities that surround all of our Blizzard products is going to be really ambitious, and is going to be a lot of fun. We have 11-million subscribers for World of Warcraft, and we also did announce 12-million active users on Battle.net as well. So, bringing together these communities, Blizzard did, obviously, started on Battle.net, it is a huge multiplayer platform. Being able to play online for free has been very exciting for a lot of players and that’s what kind of got people into a lot of the Blizzard games originally.

They’re building upon that, they’re really making the multiplayer very state-of-the-art as far as matchmaking. Nobody wants to go on and get beat by somebody that’s super good, play someone that isn’t matched very appropriately. So what they’re doing right now is very exciting, and I think it is very progressive as well.

In addition to that, they’re really also adding a lot of social media features. The internet has changed a bit over the last ten years.

Nethaera: Just a little bit.

Karune: For a while people thought there wasn’t going to be many changes into 2000, and all of the sudden, every two years it feels like something new is coming out and there is a new way of sharing information. With gamers, gamers want to share a particular type of information, being able to share that with their friends, to build clans and communities around that and to share in those same interests. Whether it is modding, artists, drawing fan art and so forth, or lore, I think that there is a lot of potential in Battle.net and we are taking all of that into consideration while doing that.

Nethaera: I don’t know about all of you, but I have played all three franchises since they were released, and I know a lot of other people have also. This is a great way that, if you’re playing one game, you can still talk to your friends in another, and keep in touch with them, and play it all. If you want!

Bashiok: And also with the matchmaking system, I might actually play StarCraft online.

Nethaera: You might not get crushed immediately.
Rob: No one said anything about victory.
Nethaera: That’s true.

[ 08:04 ]
Rob: So we had another announcement about the voice of Kerrigan. Tricia Helfer will now be fulfilling that role, how has fan reception been about that so far?
Karune: Definitely a question that I’m sure is on a lot of people’s minds. Personally, I am a Battlestar Galactica fan as well, and I am really glad that she is being a part of the whole experience as I think a lot of us StarCraft fans were. Honestly, it was great having her on the panel, she was very nice, very easy to talk to. I think everybody is very excited, I don’t know if you guys have seen a lot of the feedback on the boards or in the forums, more or less everybody is really excited to see what Kerrigan has done in the past four years between Brood War and StarCraft II and she is very enthusiastic to take that role.

Nethaera: I heard that panel was packed, that she was kind of a surprise wasn’t she to a lot of the attendees? They didn’t even realize she was going to be there!

Karune: Yeah it was a huge announcement on our behalf.

[ 10:30 ]
Rob: Alright, now that we’ve recapped on a healthy dose of the news we unveiled at BlizzCon, let’s talk more generally about each of your experiences at the show. How was it this year compared to previous years? Let’s start with you Nethaera.
Nethaera: You know, I got a chance during the times that I wasn’t working at a panel, I finally got to go see something else as far as the events going on, and one of those things was the live raid with the guild Premonition. That was a lot of fun, and it was great seeing them take on all these different bosses, and of course at the end, we had to bring out the ultimate boss, Hogger, which managed to take them out. You know, if it hadn’t been for Hogger to save the day, they would have won it all.

Bashiok: Yeah, the developers wanted to throw something a little bit unique in there, they patched in a unique Hogger that had tons of health and tons of damage right before BlizzCon. They spawned him in and he completely destroyed Premonition.

Nethaera: I have to say, they did such a fantastic job really adjusting to everything that was thrown at them, and they were really good sports about the whole thing.

Bashiok: They weren’t spawning in normal bosses, these were combinations of bosses. It was like all of the debuff bosses thrown at you all at once.

Nethaera: It was a lot of fun. It was great watching the crowd cheer when somebody died, and cheer when they actually beat a boss, it kinda went both ways so it made it a lot of fun.



[ 11:23 ]
Rob: How about you, Bashiok?
Bashiok: As I said before I was backstage most of the time, managing Hall C, but from a show perspective, I don’t know if anybody knows, hopefully they do, it is mostly run by Blizzard employees. Everybody that works at Blizzard chips in in some way, if it’s running the store, running the queues in lines, making sure people get on and off the demo stations. Badges, information, working the stages, all the panels and everything, it was by far the smoothest show we’ve ever had, and I think we’re just getting better and better at running these shows. To the future!
[ 12:52 ]
Rob: Alright, so Karune, how was your BlizzCon experience?
Karune: I have to agree with Nethaera and Bashiok. It is great seeing BlizzCon grow every year, it has really become that much bigger, and has become a part of the subculture around each of the franchises. It was amazing, I remember, when I was first walking into the lines where you pick up your badges and it was a huge room and the lines just went ridiculously long, but at the same time, people were flying through. Everything was very smooth, very professionally done, and I think the fans really did appreciate that, and having enough computers. I know last year it was a little tougher, the lines were a little longer waiting for computers, waiting for the store, every single year we take a lot of the feedback, we set up a lot of computers to get a lot of the feedback as well. We’re actively using all that stuff to change things and it is just great to see that improvement every single year.

Nethaera: You can tell that people that come to the event are making it more a part of their regular routine every year. Whenever we hold it we had two couples that said they were using that as a celebration of their honeymoon. For somebody else, it was their honeymoon, to come to BlizzCon. Then of course, there were couples that actually proposed during BlizzCon. It is really neat to see that people are making it part of their vacation plans and everything else. I would like to hope that we continue to make it the best event we can for those people.
Rob: We actually saw a pretty big proposal between Grubby and his now wife-to-be proposal, Cassandra.
Karune: Yeah! You were actually there on the stage right?
Rob: I was backstage, I was able to just catch the end of it, the saying “yes” and the celebration.
Karune: Did you know that was going to happen?
Rob: I did! He had talked to us a little bit about it.
Nethaera: I was pretty excited when I saw that flash on the screen later, I was like “Look! Finally!”
[ 13:29 ]
Rob: So did you get to enjoy Jay Mohr and the contests on Friday night, or the artist formerly known as Level 80 Elite Tauren Chieftan, and the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne?
Karune: Yeah, I definitely enjoyed all three of those events, for sure. People were holding seats for hours beforehand for each of these shows. Especially being able to see Ozzy behind stage, everybody at Blizzard was so excited to see Ozzy, it was nice to geek out together and really see everybody give it their all for the weekend.

Nethaera: I have a great time watching the costume contests, I am always amazed at the amount of work that goes into those, it is just astounding.

Karune: Especially the winner this year.

Bashiok: The Mistress of Pain, that was a Diablo III winner. I was right smack-dab in the middle of the pit for Ozzy, he was spraying people with foam, water, it was pretty crazy.

Nethaera: Being that I had been to an Ozzy concert before, I stayed further back because I would like to hear later, but the show was amazing.

Bashiok: It was very loud. Gettin’ too old!

Karune: It was hard to tell who was more excited, the Blizzard employees or the Blizzard fans because it was crazy this year!

Nethaera: Yeah it was very loud, the cheering was loud, the music was loud, it was great.

[ 15:23 ]
Karune: So what about you Rob? I know you were really busy on the stage, managing a lot of the eSports stuff that was going on, doing a lot of the play-by-play for arenas. Could you tell us a little about that experience? I think it was a little different than the experiences that each of us went through at BlizzCon.
Rob: I had a really great time casting World of Warcraft matches in front of thousands of people that were just excited to be there. We saw the North American team TSG take the gold over Korea’s team, Shipit. The top three places were all from different places, we saw first place TSG from the United States, second place was Shipit from Korea, and third place was the European team x6tence. I didn’t get a chance to catch very many of the RTS matches, but Lyn did repeat as champion for Warcraft III, effort took the gold for StarCraft. We also saw the world’s first live-broadcasted 2v2 StarCraft II exhibition match, did you get a chance to check that out?
Karune: Yeah I thought it was really nice seeing 2v2 games up on the stage shoutcasted, having a lot of people very enthusiastic about the 2v2 scene as opposed to the 1v1 scene typically. Again, it did end up with David Kim winning still, but we got some really good replays that are on the web right now that people can watch in VoD format.
Rob: So that’s about all the time we have for Blizzcast Episode 11. I’d like to thank you, Bashiok, Karune, and Nethaera for sitting down to have a conversation with me about the BlizzCon 2009 experience.
Bashiok: No problem!

Nethaera: Thank you!

Karune: Thanks a lot everyone!
Rob: See you next time!
[ 16:57 ]