A couple of weeks ago, the @Blizzard_ANZ Twitter account posted something about a Pre-Launch Celebration event being held in Sydney, featuring WoW designer Ion Hazzikostas. I replied to the Tweet in a joking way, not even necessarily sure I wanted to go since I am Officially Freaking Out about all the things I still have to do before I leave for BlizzCon (10 days. Oh my gosh. 10. Days.). But then I got a DM saying that if I wanted to go, they’d set aside tickets for me so I didn’t have to try my luck with the Eventbrite process, and well, that kind of cemented it for me – if they were going to be that considerate to me, I pretty much had to go! So I made it happen. 🙂
And I’m glad I did, because it was a great evening! So here’s a recap of all that happened, with plenty of blurry pictures because I swear there is something wrong with my phone camera (or maybe I am just perpetually nervous):
The doors to the event would open at 6:30 and we were advised to get there a little early to ensure we would have good seats, so in typical Dayani fashion I turned up at a nearby Starbucks at 5:30. I’m always early to everything! My boyfriend and I killed as much time as we could by slowly sipping our iced chai lattes, then headed in to the Timezone in the cinema complex to waste the remaining time playing a game of air hockey (I won, yay!) before joining the giant queue.
I was on the lookout for a couple of awesome bloggers who’ve been doing this way longer than I have, who’d told me over Twitter that they’d be here, but since I didn’t know what they looked like it was a little rough. Fortunately I’d already tweeted a pic of what I was wearing to the event, so they could find me more easily. Pretty sure Neri of Mama Needs Mana and I walked past each other about six times before the event started, and neither of us were brave enough to say hi!
While I was waiting in the queue, Marie Peters, the Blizzard ANZ marketing manager and a long-time fan of my blog (which is so very humbling for me, I cannot even begin to explain how strange and wonderful it is to me that people actually describe themselves as fans of my writing here!), spotted me in the crowd and came over to explain how the evening would unfold. She was so friendly and made me feel pretty comfortable being there, which is a hugely challenging task given my incredible shyness.
When we finally reached the top of the stairs and got checked off the list of guest attendees – and were given our wristbands to get us into the VIP after-party – we got to go through that awesome Dark Portal and into a theatre lined with pictures of the Warlords of Draenor themselves. There were a couple of surprises on our seats, too – some snacks, and everyone got their own Blizzard Murloc figurine! I scored this Fishy, and my boyfriend got a Murky (he is in a top hat you guys it is so cute). I hear there were also Murkimuses floating around, but I never saw one myself.
The presentation started out with a cinematic full of Vanilla WoW nostalgia, and then Chris Davey came out and hyped up the crowd with a talk about the 10-year WoW anniversary, the #wowmomentsanz hashtag phenomenon on Twitter, and the Warcraft movie, before introducing Ion.
Ion gave a great presentation on the way that WoW game design has evolved over the past 10 years, and spent a fair bit of time talking about the principles behind the Warlords changes. “Accessibility is not the enemy of depth,” he told us, noting that it is fine to put all of the challenge of a game into executing the rotation when that rotation is being used on a stationary training dummy or on simple fights like Patchwerk, but in WoW as encounter design gets more refined and inventive, more of the depth and complexity of the game is shifted into reacting and adapting to the situations these encounters put us in. A more accessible game has a streamlined rotation, one that’s intuitive and easy to learn, but then throws us into difficult situations of our choosing as we progress into raids, and that’s where we find more depth.
He also talked about additional avenues of depth coming from tier bonuses, which are only available through raids. By making the set bonuses powerful and transformative, the design team can introduce more complexity to the people who want it the most – the people who are exploring the hardest content the game has to offer.
After the presentation, PJ – the ANZ Community Manager – came out and did a little one-on-one fireside interview kind of chat with Ion. Ion talked about the challenges of his role as a game designer and how his background in law helped him (it’s all about problem-solving), and talked about ways he evaluates the success or failure of a raid encounter, which I found interesting as someone who spends most of her time thinking about raid encounters! Then Chris came back out to make the announcement that would forever eclipse anything else that happened that night:
The Oceanic servers will finally be truly Oceanic! The crowd went insane. It was the biggest craziest cheering I’ve ever heard!
Of course, everyone had zillions of questions about what this would mean. So when Ion came back out for the crowd Q&A, he had to field a fair few questions about this server announcement and didn’t get a whole lot of questions about his area of expertise, game design. Marie passed me the mic and I asked a question — well, squeaked it out, really, I was so nervous Ion could barely hear me! — about keeping the awesome and beautiful WoD dungeons relevant – both in difficulty and in reward – and he talked a little about the reward system added to CMs, and the idea of possibly having Mythic difficulty dungeons later on in the expansion.
After the Q&A session, we watched two more cinematics, and then we were invited to head out into the lobby to get pictures of all the cool art props they’d brought in to help promote Warlords. Here I helped some people get a guild photo in front of the Dark Portal construction pic – although I think I broke the dude’s camera somehow, haha, sorry whoever you were! – and got a picture myself. There was also some dude wandering around with a fluffy mic and a cameraman in tow, and he stopped to ask Marie if there was anyone else he should talk to, right when I was next to Marie, so she was like, “Yes! Talk to Dayani!” And that is the story of how I got interviewed for a Blizzard promotional video. I was nervous as hell and I hope I managed to sound at least somewhat intelligent 😛
After a bit of lingering in the lobby, the Gold Class lounge opened up for the after-party, and Marie escorted us into the super extra secret room the party would be held in. It was like, at least two layers of VIPness. Eeee! It was there that Neri and Navimie, of The Daily Frostwolf blog, found me hiding in the corner and came over to introduce themselves. They were later joined by Cymre of Bubbles of Mischief, who I didn’t realise at the time has an actual WoW NPC named after her in Warlords, so now I’m like oh my gosh that person is totally famous and I am mortified that I didn’t know her work very well! We all chatted about our various projects and how excited we all were to be there, and then a photographer came ’round to take our picture – I’ll add that in here when we get a copy, which should be next week.
Eventually Ion made his way in, after stopping to lend his Blizzard forum account info to the ANZ team so they could post the Oceanic Servers FAQ thread, and everything became about getting a chance to chat to Ion. I was terribly shy and afraid to approach him, haha, so I just hung back and drank water. Marie saved the day again by introducing us, and we had a lovely little conversation wherein he picked on me a bit for being so afraid of PGs, given how much I love them now, and we talked about the new aim of Warlords CMs and how he hoped to promote completion rather than a focus on the Gold medal. He also expressed some disappointment that I hadn’t brought cheesecake, but hey, frickin’ logistics! (I’ll get you at BlizzCon, I promise – which would you prefer, lemon or triple-chocolate? 🙂 )
Can you guys believe, I held a real conversation with one of my heroes and I did not die? I think I’m starting to get a little better at this whole being-a-real-person thing. 😛
Afterwards I chatted more with Neri and Cymre, and by this time it was 11 pm and I was dying from wearing heels and still had such a long walk to get back to the hotel and it was so ridiculously warm and blargh. So we started to say our goodbyes to Marie, when Battlepanda from OpenRaid introduced himself to us – well, primarily to Neri, who lives in the same part of the country as he does and they had talked before. I didn’t know him at all, but he was really gregarious and fun and he asked me for help with Mistweaving and I brightened his day by telling him that now he can Detonate Chi to create dozens of tiny green explosions all over his screen. “Destructive healing … that sounds great!”
So yeah. I had a great time, and this event really helped the Australian WoW community feel more connected to the WoW community as a whole. And personally, it was humbling and amazing to be invited to something like this. I didn’t start this blog for anything other than a way to force myself to understand this game better, and to help people realise and express their love for healing the way I love it, and I can’t believe that in just a little over two years of writing here I’ve come this far!
Thanks so much, PJ and Marie, for a lovely evening. Thanks Ion for being gracious in absolutely making my day – week! – by stopping by and chatting. Thanks Neri and Navi and Cymre for rescuing me from my shyness. And thank you all for all of your support 🙂