All of the meat and cheese of BlizzCon’s content is traditionally crammed into Friday. They open with a bang, throw all of the big news at you all at once, and then spend Saturday giving you some time to soak it in. Lots of Q&A panels are the norm, along with a growing collection of e-sports grand finals and a big rock concert to send you off in style. 2014 was no different, and there is certainly no major news to bring to the table, but it was nevertheless a day full of entertaining events, and I would like to share with you my two favorites.
The first is a documentary called “Looking for Group”. In celebration of the ten year anniversary of World of Warcraft, Blizzard created a one hour documentary about how the game came to be. The film leaves a lot to be desired from the players’ perspective. Blizzard took up a great deal of the time archiving fan experiences in the game–a married couple talks about first meeting in Stormwind, a teen reflects on growing up playing the game with his father, a handicapped woman remembers playing WoW to help mentally recover from her accident. It is probably incredible for a game developer to think that they made that much of an impact on peoples’ lives, but anyone who has played the game long enough has run into situations like this before. It’s nothing particularly novel or exciting for the fans. But the film also incorporates plenty of behind-the-scenes looks into how the company has operated over the years and the personalities leading the charge. I found the details on the early developmental years of the game especially interesting. If you have ever enjoyed World of Warcraft, it’s worth taking an hour to watch this:
The second video I want to share with you might take some persuasion. When your two favorite professional sports are golf and Starcraft, it is really hard to make friends. But such is my fate. Despite all of the columns I was pumping out Friday, I actually did manage to watch live all 30 matches of the Starcraft II World Championship Series Global Finals that took place at BlizzCon. MMA knocking off Bomber 3-1 might have been the biggest upset, but Classic’s rocky 3-2 finish over herO made MMA’s path to the final round feel easy. Life ultimately outclassed him 4-1 in a way that was certainly impressive but not exceptionally fun to watch. The real excitement came in the bottom bracket semi-finals. Life and TaeJa breezed their ways past San and INnoVation 3-0 and 3-1 respectively, and both players looked to be at the peak of their game rolling into the semi-finals. Life ultimately progressed to the finals 3-2 in what was surely the most intense series of the event. The video below was my favorite match of that series. It starts off with both players taking extremely aggressive and risky stances–in Life’s case one you would almost never see at this level. I’m not going to spoil who wins, but the 24 minute length of the video should tell you that both players move beyond the opening chaos. Neither player is willing to put on the breaks all game, forcing some really unconventional gameplay. With practically perfect micro on both fronts, we get to see what a top tier SC2 match ought to look like–two masterminds who can’t hope to surpass the other’s technical precision and have to bluff, gamble, and predict moves ahead of time to pull off a win.
I suppose that a lot of e-sports boil down to mind games as a sort of maximum skill level is reached. The glory of Starcraft II is that reaching that threshold is so difficult even many of the pros in the global finals succumb to error in basic techniques and strategy. That was not the case this weekend with TaeJa and Life, and that is what made this series my favorite at BlizzCon 2014.
And lastly, for those of you who were actually watching yesterday, what did you think of Metallica? I had a lot of fun on IRC during the closing ceremonies trash talking Lars, predicting what song would come next, and blabbering about metal in general. How did this band selection rank for you in the annals of BlizzCon closing ceremonies? Blizzard have offered a lot of variety in their selections over the years. From the somewhat genre-appropriate (Metallica), to the big ticket, high-budget rock sensation (Foo Fighters), to the bottom-barrel (Blind-182), to the in-house absurd (Lvl 80 Tauren Chieftain), we’ve seen a lot. Is it enough? Blizzard is all about nerd aggro. It is the heart and soul of their ethos. I’ve long thought a fantasy-oriented power metal band would be the best choice to reflect that. Even if most of the spectators had never heard of Blind Guardian before, you know they would bring the house down. Amon Amarth, Dethklok, Iced Earth, Iron Maiden, and Rhapsody of Fire were some of the other names that got dropped. Of course the most popular choice for a future BlizzCon was GWAR.
This will be my last post on BlizzCon 2014. Thanks for reading! Here are links to my previous entries: