So you’ve decided to go to Blizzcon? Cool!
You’ll be among a large, growing group of nerds, geeks, and gamers – in the best way. Over two (or 3) days, you’ll get to hang out, attend panels, play demos of all of Blizzard’s newest stuff, and experience an awesome closing concert.
But, when you first arrive, there’s a lot of cool stuff. How do I figure out where to even start?
The Convention Center
Blizzcon has, to date, always taken place at the Anaheim Convention Center. This massive facility houses 4 main expo halls, one basement hall, several upper floors with smaller conference rooms, and as of 2017, a new expansion wing with two large floors, each of which is comparable to the size of the main halls. There is also an arena! Blizzard uses ALL OF THAT SPACE. Compared to year 1, where they used 1.5 halls and two upstairs room, it has grown substantially.
While we don’t know what the map is going to look like for this year, and likely won’t until closer to October, right before the event takes place – there are some relatively safe assumptions.
Firstly, here’s a handy map of the empty center – we’re going to use that a lot:
So the halls are all handily alphabetized – A-D for the main halls, E for the basement, Arena for…arena, and the new halls are TBD. There are some general rules about how the halls have been used in the past several years (with an image to start!):
Hall D is the Main Stage – this is where the Big Panels(tm) take place, along with the concert, the opening ceremony, and the talent contents on Friday night. If you want a seat here…prepare to rush here before a panel. There are a lot of seats, and video reinforcement throughout the hall, so if you don’t care about being close, you can usually find a seat near the back of the hall, which does also place you closer to the bathrooms, and some food vendors at the back!
Halls A, B, and C are game halls. Usually, one game per hall, and the demo area for said game is the largest piece of the hall. Overwatch and Hearthstone get unique, special stage configurations in their halls for their eSports shows, and there is also a WoW/Heroes of the Storm shared stage in whatever hall is left. In addition to these features, usually, whatever game gets lesser emphasis for the year usually shares a hall and gets a small space. For halls with only one game, there are large vendor areas, filled with demo booths from companies like nVidia, NewEgg, Razer, Jinx, and more. Hall A also, usually hosts a separate panel stage, which is for smaller panels where they don’t expect a huge turnout. The last few years, this has been where nearly all the Diablo panels have been, sadly! Somewhere, an additional small stage is the voice actor stage. This is for panels that are not broadcast on Virtual Ticket, so if you want to hear about voice acting, make sure to go!
The Arena is accessible through Hall A, and usually hosts the Starcraft II eSports stage, which is huge, and is worth looking at even if you don’t like Starcraft!
The new expanded halls are supposed to be accessed through a skybridge around Hall A, which you can get to by taking stairs, escalators, or elevators from the lobby area in the main halls. These are new, so we have no idea what’s going to be there, but we do know that Blizzard will be using them!
Hall E is accessible from stairs around Hall D, but Blizzard will usually open outside doors to head here, as it is used as badge pickup and the Blizzcon store. You may only ever make one trip here for your badge, depending on if you buy any swag. The store has added a feature starting in 2016 called Blink shopping – this lets you order online through the Blizzard Gear site, and then pickup the order at the store on-site. It is an awesome feature, but there are caveats – it may have the longer line, which removes a lot of the time-saving, and they do not pull your order until you show up, so limited release items can sell out!
Lastly, the upstairs rooms are usually split into a Press floor, which you can’t get to, and the Darkmoon Faire, which is a very cool little side area with minigames, a mini-panel stage for artists, and a community theater for smaller, Q&A panels. Lots of vending machines and opportunities to spend money here too! There are also some cool little things like face painting, temporary tattoos, and fun carnival-style things.
To expand, here is a lovely MS Paint job by yours truly (and wow, Paint3D is sure new)
-Black Squares are stages
-Purple Squares are typical demo areas
-Yellow squares are exhibitors
-Red square is the badge pickup area
-Green square is the Blizzard Store (because money gets dropped here!)
-The big orangish question mark is the expansion wing and who knows?
So that is the what and where of Blizzcon. What does your average day setup look like?
Thursday: badge pickup, maybe some shopping, and that’s it!
Friday: Opening Ceremony, choice panels, demos and browsing, community contests.
Saturday: Panels, demos, browsing, and the closing concert!
Blizzcon opens up at 10AM, usually. If you get here past 6 AM, there will be a line, trust me, I wake up at 5:30 AM on con days! There is a cool little plaza by the convention center, and you will be sent here to line up, right around the front of the convention center. In the past, there have been two ways they let the crowd in:
-Checking bags outside the building, and then letting you in
-Letting you in, and then checking bags at the entrance to any hall
There are pros and cons to each, but generally, I prefer if they inspect outside the building. Why? Here’s what happens when bag checking is inside:
-Doors open at 9:15ish, everyone packs into the convention center lobby until it’s overfull
-You stand there flesh-touching all the other attendees for around 43 minutes, then get shoved with the crowd into a hall
The one caveat with the outdoor entry is if you go to the store in Hall E, they will make you exit and re-enter via the front bag check. They could change this, but who knows?
If you don’t want to line up, and don’t have a strong inclination to go to the opening ceremony, you can just stroll up around 10:20 or so. Be warned – the main stage hall can capacity cap, so if you want to go to that, you do have to be ready to get in quickly. The other stages will usually show the opening ceremony in the other halls as well, so you may opt to just play demos and hang out in the other halls. However, if they are announcing a new thing, they may just leave the demo station off until after the ceremony, so the end result of this is that you might get stuck just watching the opening ceremony as though it were the virtual ticket, with minimal other stuff to do. This is not a bad thing, but it may bother you. Just a thing to keep in mind!
Panels usually start around 11 AM, 1 hour after doors open. This gives you a few options. You can run to the store, run to a vendor, check out a demo, just wander around, etc!
The Blizzcon app on mobile gives you a schedule option to put in panels you want to see, and tells you what hall to go to and gives you an alert about 15 minutes before the panel. Get it as soon as it’s up!
Events run until 10 PM, at which point the doors close.
Here are my TL;DR recommendations for managing your schedule:
-Pick the panels you want to see first. Top priority for any Q&A panel you want to ask a question in, any big name panel (What’s Next for [Insert Game Here]), and I’d especially emphasize voice actor or art panels you want to attend (which are not usually on Virtual Ticket!).
-Pick a demo area or two you’d like to play – plan to set aside 90 minutes for these, as the line can take up to an hour, and gameplay time can be nearly 30 minutes.
-Store time is best held for Thursday, but there will be stuff that only becomes available on Friday after the opening ceremony (because it belongs to a newly announced title). Use Blink shopping to ease that process, but if an item is at risk of selling out, make sure to go get it ASAP!
-Go to panels for the games you care about, but if you have too many panels, drop a few to go check out other stuff. The con is huge and the panels are online!
And here’s a gratuitous selfie of yours truly at the con last year to close!
Next time – we’ll talk about parties, afterparties, and community events!