Alan, My Avatar
I didn't get to go to BlizzCon.
For that matter, I missed the Iraq War, still wonder when Jack is going to invite me courtside for a Lakers game, and have never had a chance to test my liver against a New Orleans Mardi Gras throw-down.
That doesn't mean that I don't have dreams. And like any gamer, I figure that next best thing to being there is to pretend.
So, I sent Alan to BlizzCon on my behalf.
My avatar, Alan.
For those just tuning in, with more players than the American Libertarian party has card-carrying members, World of Warcraft remains the biggest, most profitable and surely most inscrutable property in all of videogamedom. And like most game critics who can't find the time to immerse themselves in the wonders of playing a water elf to level 8,000 in some online game by eschewing television, sex and physical health for the opportunity to grind to the top, I've fallen out of touch with the single biggest property in games.
Maybe it was shame that drew me, or maybe just good old-fashioned curiosity. But when I found out that I knew someone who was going to BlizzCon, I couldn't resist the temptation to recruit him as my correspondent to this foreign land. All the way from San Jose to Anaheim without a ticket to the event, Alan agreed to be my avatar, my eyes and ears into the World that is Warcraft.
David Thomas: So, tell me a little bit about your background as a WoW player.
Alan: I've been playing WoW since Nov. 23, 2004 (release date); I have a 70 warrior, a 70 warlock, and a 70 shaman; I wanted to go to BlizzCon to hang out with my friends in my guild who were going and see all the cool new things Blizzard had lined up. Never been to BlizzCon before.
David: Wow. 70? The last time I played the game, I think I was a level 2 dwarf. They have dwarves, right? Or maybe I was an Ewok in Star Wars Galaxies. It was a long time ago. I don't remember. Anyway, onto more pressing matters, like, do WoW players, uh you know, get all dressed up in costumes and fool around?
Alan: Yes, not even just for the contest, although I'm sure that's part of it.
David: No, uh er, you know, I mean, uh, like,
Alan: To my knowledge I am not aware of any players having sex with each other in costume. But I wouldn't rule it out. In fact, I bet some do, but the prevalence of such things is either under my radar or just not advertised enough to get my attention.
David: Right, of course. So, anyway, I hear they were really pushing Diablo III.
Alan: Diablo III gameplay featured an example dungeon run, basically going through the new features such as the new dynamic terrain where almost everything you see is touchable, walls can crumble, chandeliers fall, etc. This game looks a lot like Diablo II except better in every single quantifiable field. The D3 playable demo featured the wizard, a barbarian and a witch-doctor. The wizard definitely had the most polish and resembled the sorcerer from Diablo II.
Gee, you look less terrifying in person.
David: Tell me about the goody-bag.
Alan: The goody-bag contained a lot of stuff most players are probably gonna throw away, flimsy masks?
David: Masks? Masks what?
Alan: A heavy-duty paper mask of a male orc.
David: For those that forgot their costumes I guess. What else?
Alan: Some collectable card game booster packs, a gooey goo-thing containing a Zergling with the words "choking hazard" emblazoned all over it, some tissues?
David: Emblazoned as well?
Alan: The tissue packet was called "QQ NOOB TISSUES," you know, so people who cry ("QQ" 'cuz it looks like crying eyes) can wipe away their tears.
David: And what else?
Alan: Of course a key to next year's StarCraft II beta, as well as an in-game polar bear mount exclusively available to BlizzCon attendees and DirecTV pay-per-view subscribers.
David: A polar bear?
Alan: People will pay $200 to $300 for one on eBay. Not really sure what the appeal is, but people go apeshit over stuff like this.
David: I guess people like bears. So, what about StarCraft II?
Alan: While it will have a lot of the old real-time strategy elements as the original StarCraft, they plan to release excessive amounts of pre-rendered cinematics as well as three campaigns with 26 to 30+ missions in each, wherein you play out roles as leading characters of the Terran, Protoss and Zerg factions. This game is going to make ass-tons of money, especially in Korea.
David: Wow. Ass-tons is a lot. I bet the Blizzard people are in a good mood about that. Anyway, back to costumes, tell me about the costume contest.
Alan: The contest was hosted by Jay Mohr: It's always nice to see this guy get work, but his act had more cursing in it than I expected.
When Turtles Attack: Costume Contest Winner. (Photo: arycogre / Aryc Ogre: Flickr)
Notable entries included The Eredar Twins (two girls dressed up as the bosses all sexy-like), Lady Sylvanas, Thrall, a protection-speced paladin in Sunwell gear (the Sunwell is the highest-tier raiding instance currently in game), Tyreal, and the winning entry was a Dranei shaman on a turtle mount.
The Dranei shaman costume itself was on par with all the other costumes, and she probably won because she rode onto the stage on a gigantic robotic turtle, complete with moving legs and mouth and it got around on wheels on the bottom. Jay Mohr actually got onto it and rode around a little.
David: Jay Mohr rode a robot turtle?
Sending shivers of terror and boding ill across the land, comedian Jay Mohr. (Photo: arycogre / Aryc Ogre: Flickr)
Alan: He climbed up on this turtle (it was like the size of a car) and he spun it around and went back and forth, he looked like he was having a lot of fun.
David: Was TMZ there to capture this moment?
Alan: I don't know what TMZ you're referring to.
David: Never mind. What about the joke contest?
Alan: There were some really good ones and some really bad ones. I can't remember the first-place joke, but I do remember it was not as good as the second-place one: Most desired class in WoW is the Natural Male Enhancement Shaman (pun based on one talent tree of shamen called "Enhancement").
David: I don't get it.
Alan: Yeah, some of the jokes were hilarious, and others were so awful the crowd booed them off the stage. It was like a night at the Apollo; you've never seen white, nerdy, basement-dwelling people act so rowdy.
David: What else was memorable?
Alan: The WoW Q&A.
David: What was it like?
Alan: Mutants line up to ask dumb questions like, "Give female druids a female bear form."
Repeat after me, World of Warcraft is not a sexist environment inhabited by lonely game nerds. (Photo: arycogre / Aryc Ogre: Flickr)
David: That is dumb. That's not even a question! (But people do like bears!)
Alan: And "Can I make a Death Knight before Wrath of the Lich King is released" (the question is dumb because the Death Knight class ships with WotLK).
David: By the way, what's a "mutant"?
Alan: "Mutant" is a slur my guild used to describe players who are sub-par or bad. You know, like, they're walking around dressed in half Black Temple gear and the other half is dungeon, blue-quality gear.
David: Boy, do I know how that feels. Anyway? How would you wrap up the show?
Alan: I liked how BlizzCon turned out, the closing ceremony was pretty good and I'm certain everyone had fun at this two-day event. Personally my trip got better the next few days when I partied with my guildies. As much I enjoyed the convention, I went without a ticket because I just wanted to spend time with people I've played this game with for the past three years.