Above: The new Crusader class drew a sizable crowd at the Diablo III panel.
Image Credit: Giancarlo Valdes/GamesBeat
The 12th man
“[BlizzCon] is pretty magical,” said Diablo III senior designer Jonny Ebbert. “Because when you’re making games, it’s really easy to just get caught up in all the flaws of what you’re doing and [where] you are with the current state of the game. And then when you come out and see the fans — what a great time they’re having — you realize that’s the end effect of everything you’re working for. It’s really reinvigorating and it kind of reminds you why you do what you do and put in the long hours.”
We don’t normally think of game development teams of having a “12th man,” a term for diehard football fans who cheer so loud they can affect the outcome of a game (and might as well be the 12th player on the field). But with the way Ebbert describes them, BlizzCon attendees are Blizzard’s “12th man.” For two days a year, Blizzard gets to see in person just how much of an impact its games have on their players. And the fans show their love and support every chance they get by treating the developers like rock stars.
Above: Brode (left) managed to make Hearthstone’s patch notes sound exciting.
Image Credit: Heartpwn
The crowd cheered the loudest for people I didn’t know, like senior vice president of story and franchise development Chris Metzen, whose enthusiastic stage presence made him a fan-favorite. As I later learned, Metzen is one of the gatekeepers of the Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo mythologies, and he was instrumental in getting the those franchises off the ground. I also became aware of Hearthstone technical designer Ben Brode, whose booming voice pulled double-duty as both panel speaker and official BlizzCon announcer.
Some fans even lined up at signing areas to collect developers’ autographs. That alone was a fascinating sight, if only because you don’t see something like that very often. It was such a stark departure from the negative and sometimes vitriolic exchanges we usually read about online.
Fans at BlizzCon love the source material so much, and express that love so deeply and so beautifully, that I started to wonder if I was doing myself a disservice by not playing more of Blizzard’s games.
Above: sOs defeats Jaedong in the StarCraft II WCS Global Finals.
Image Credit: Etgeekera
Positivity is contagious
On Saturday afternoon, I wandered into Hall C, where the StarCraft II World Championship Series were taking place. Only two professional players remained from the original pool of 16: Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin and Lee “Jaedong” Jae Dong. Ensconced in sound-resistant booths on the main stage, the athletes played with such an astonishing speed that, to the casual observer, the game might’ve looked broken or full of bugs. I couldn’t keep up at all, so I relied on the audience’s reactions to clue me into what was happening.
When Yoo Jin overpowered the veteran Jae Dong to win the tournament, the cheers grew to a deafening roar. People quickly crowded around him as he marched through a narrow catwalk to claim his gigantic trophy. It was in that fleeting, confetti-filled moment — when I stood on a chair trying to take a decent picture of Yoo Jin — that BlizzCon finally clicked for me. You don’t need to know the history of Azeroth or the strengths and weaknesses of the Protoss to feel like you’re a part of this swirling mass of positivity. The electricity was contagious. Sooner or later, I was bound to catch it.
I’m not the biggest Blizzard fan, nor the most competent one, but that didn’t stop me from having a good time. Maybe next year I’ll show up in my own badass Tier 3 warrior costume.