We wrapped up Conspiracy Craft around midnight eastern time. I had packing to finish up since my work duties tend to extend late–the time zone difference. But I was too keyed up to properly go to bed. Unfortunately, my flight required me to be at the airport around 5am eastern.
I managed to get about two hours of sleep before the alarm went off and it was time to get to Indianapolis International Airport.
That’s when the flight changes started happening. As soon as I stood in line for US Airways, I was approached and nformed that the plane I was going to be taking from Indianapolis to Arizona was in for repairs and would be delayed to where I would not be boarding my connecting flight. Oh boy. She had to reroute me through a completely different airline: United.
Going through my local TSA line was a breeze, but Indy has always been amazing with that. Figuring I have time to kill, with the repair delays, I take as much of a power nap as possible. Wasn’t really all that powerful, more like a cat doze before the plane was boarding–much sooner than I had been told at the ticket line.
I find my seat near the central exits and that’s when a weird sound starts to be heard under our feet. It was similar to a dog barking as we started to be moved onto the tarmac and prepare for take off. Generally, I love flying, but I’ve never heard a sound like that before and try my best to ignore it. Even though I was in the aisle seat, I did manage to catch as much sleep as I could on the three hour flight.
The pilot informs s that we will be landing soon, and the barking sound starts again. One woman behind me was concerned by the noise and got a stewart’s attention. “It’s just the hydraulics.” Oh boy. Just the hydraulics barking like a deep-chested dog?
Somehow, the pilot managed to make the sound stop before we landed, but the whole time I was praying that we land safely and I can get to California in one piece.
Since we weren’t terribly delayed, I could have headed over to where my original flight was to be and arrived earlier in California, but I didn’t want to go through that hassle again. So I decided it was a good idea to go around the block of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport before thinking, “my flight isn’t in this terminal.”
Turns out, I was right. On my way out, I asked a TSA where the shuttle is and which one will take me to terminal 1, which meant I had to go through TSA all over again. Oh boy. And I was right to be concerned. Never fails. What one airport is okay with another doesn’t like. My bag was searched and I almost lost my hair product to scrutiny, even though the container was half-empty. Yes, I am aware that some places are pickier, but there aren’t many travel containers for my hair products.
Thankfully, I got to keep my stuff, but then it was time to wait for the grueling three hour wait in Arizona. Oh boy. You would think I would be able to take a nice two hour nap, but I was still too hyped about the trip and had to take care of some work while charging my phone. Sleep was not about to happen with that on my mind.
Finally, we board my last flight. Only a 45 minute job over the Rocky Mountains. The self-entitled passenger sitting next to me claimed both air vents which made me feel very stifled. By this time, I had no desire to start a confrontation. Quick nap and we landed in LA–the farthest west I’ve ever been (first time too).
That’s when the transportation troubles started. The company was originally suppose to pick me up after my changed flight. Well, I didn’t think about calling them to inform them about the flight change. It didn’t say I would need to in any of the fine print on the itinerary. And then because I didn’t have any luggage to claim–it was all carry-on–I had absolutely no idea where to stand for pick-up.
Thankfully, they got everything sorted (I hope they refunded Blizzard Entertainment) and I cat napped as we went pass the Anaheim Convention Center, what looked like Disneyland, and then finally arriving at the hotel in Irvine. Sadly, because I got in so late, I wasn’t able to make plans to meet up with Jasmine or Hanel for lunch. So I crashed for four hours.
It was actually Jonathan (Zarhym)’s text that woke me up from my sound slumber for the dinner meet-up the day before. Probably the only minor snag in the entire planned events was the discovery that the hotels were not within walking distance of Dave & Busters. I know that this was the one thing that Jonathan was upset over, but it really wasn’t terrible to take a taxi ride (first time too).
After a quick trip over to the outdoor mall looking area, naturally, I gravitated towards the one familiar face and took up a chair with Josh (Lore), Micah (Bashiok), Jonathan (Zarhym), Chad (Crithto), and Erin (EU Warcraft & Hearthstone Community Manager).I even had Nic (Daxxarri) come over and introduce himself from another table. We chit-chatted about things in-general and Warcraft.
You have no idea how liberating it feels to actually be able to discuss Warcraft like it is just part of your life, to have that minute connection. Normally, I’m the odd one out–and I was still to a small extent with the mixer–but I didn’t feel like it. But I digress.
The dinner was an excellent opportunity to meet familiar faces and a few “fans”. Fashionably late, because they had to record Legendary, was Mike Schaffnit, Pat (Zhug), and Koltrane. We chilled out in the game area of Dave & Busters. I happily watched the boys play a few games and gave some pointers–though that zombie game’s aim was atrocious! And then around 11pm PDT, it was time to head back to the hotels.
I didn’t think I would sleep, but after chatting with family I went to sleep so soundly. It was probably the most restful I had even after turning the AC off for the night. I did wake up a few times in the morning (5am, 6am). It might have had something to do with the excitement.
Finally get up, get ready to greet the day. I make sure to have everything that I brought with me and head for the breakfast and Check-Out with the provided hotel. It was relatively painless and we (Schaffnit, Pat, and myself) were on our way to Blizzard Entertainment campus.
Security was friendly and informative. Registration and NDA signing was as streamlined as possible. And then shuffled off to one of the meeting rooms for breakfast.
Which was late. There’s a slight entertaining story about this. Liam (Bornakk) is top dog of the Community Managers. He’s pretty on-the-spot with getting things done and making sure everyone else is on task. And he was the one in charge of the breakfast catering. The rest of the Community Managers thought that was pretty hilarious.
And then in walked Dave Kosak. I was good. I didn’t geek out or anything. Publicly. But it was decently timed since we were still waiting on catering. As we waited on food, we did a round-table of introductions. Alex (Perculia), Fox, Pat, Kolt, Mike, and a few mods from MMO-Champion (I’m terrible with names).
We migrated from one meeting room to the proper meeting room with food in-hand (seriously huge props to the catering guys) to get ready for the round table as Cory (Mumper) Stockton arrives. Only one we were waiting on was Ion (Watcher) Hazzikostas to show up. So it was story time with Kosak!
He talked about how he donned the “Lorewalker” robes and told the story of the Wandering Isle conception. That’s what sparked the idea of a story-teller in Pandaria. But what most didn’t know is that Lorewalker Cho went through many, many different model designs.
They had a rough idea about the tabard colorings, so at one point, Lorewalker Cho had the Keepers of Time tabard. Well, it seemed that the Horde quest, Family Tree, Lorewalker Cho’s ancestors are actually all of his character models throughout his development. So no, Lorewalker Cho’s family are not part of the Bronze Flight, but it’s a fun Easter egg!
Finally, Ion arrives and we do another round of introductions before diving into the developer roundtable. Alex from Wowhead did an excellent summary on the site of just what was discussed. It primarily focused on 5.4 PTR, but Tome (Kalgan) Chilton did pop in to provide some added bits.
I definitely enjoyed the open discussion feel to the roundtable more than some of the interviews I’ve listened into in the past. It allowed a large variety of players from the fansites to express their likes or dislikes on a personal level as well as encompassing the emotions their fanbase would share openly on the forums. If there was anything I would have enjoyed more of was a chance to pick at Warcraft lore, but I was pretty much one of the loners since I am so dedicated to the story in-game.
After a hour open discussion, it was time to let the developers return to their work and our chance to take a tour of the Blizzard Entertainment campus. Since the Warcraft developers were working on Patch 5.4 and the next expansion, we could not venture into that area of the campus. I think with our large party, it would be hard to keep us in-check, but we were moderately well behaved it seemed.
We took a few pictures of the orc statue out front, got some pictures with some Warcraft Community Managers if we so wished, then headed to explore some minor areas.
We got the rare chance to see inside the “Blizzard Mission Control” where there was a “no pictures” sign outside. Literally, it looked like mission control. These guys know when the games aren’t working before players.
Next, we ventured into the Web and Mobile area to check out their swanky decor for their area. It was dark, low key,k and very apocalyptic. Again, we were asked to take no pictures, but I particularly liked one sticker that said “if there is a fire, don’t stand in it”. There was even an entire office that was tinfoiled over.
Then we took the trail around campus to head over to Lil’Ragnaros BBQ on the Warcraft side of campus. Now, I wasn’t really paying attention/present when the warning was given off, but Micah’s margarita was very strong in the tequila. Someone instructed, I think it was Nic, to fill the cup with ice and then pour the margarita. And it was Mike in charge of the pitcher. Regardless, that was one strong margarita.
It was a nice break from the overstimulating day. I positioned myself in the California sun to soak up a little bit of Vitamin D with Danielle (Nethaera). The food was excellent and I think I actually tried some guacamole with my taco.
I even had the chance to talk with Kosak off the cuff (and record) about how Garrosh has developed and progression has been marked well in-game compared to other villains of Warcraft. And I did express Dom (Xizta) and my theory on how he could not die and instead escape to Outlands if they were still going the revamp Burning Legion route. Can’t help but say I was a little pleased when he did say it was an excellent build up if they go that way–damn pesky NDA.
Next, it was time to return indoors and I was really feeling the effect of that margarita-mostly-tequila drink. Oh boy. Thanks goes to Josh and Mike for letting me attach myself to them so I wouldn’t fall over or wander into anyone. I really do have amazing people in my life that can understand when someone needs a little aid. And because of the drink, I opted out of not playing Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft.
But that didn’t stop me from asking obvious questions as I watched/recorded (probably the shakiest video ever) Mike playing four live games. The last game was absolutely the best and I wish we had that on file. It went on for about 10 minutes or so. The cards were falling inot our hands to counter while I kept asking about them. Hell, Shawn (Phenteo), who was watching us play, ended up gravitating towards and watching the end of it, which Mike won against a Blizzard employee!
We were gathered back in the meeting room for the final parts of our time with Blizzard. We were introduced to upcoming products of the franchises, introducing the San Diego Comic-Con lanyard and some of the new figures. We also played a round of the new Warcraft trivial pursuit. And I was drunkenly trying my best to keep my shut during it (I knew all the answers).
That was when Jonathan snuck up to the front (yes, I sat alone in the front) an handed me the gem of my visit; Vol’jin: Shadows of the Horde, five days in advance. I literally burst into tears as I thanked Liam and Jonathan for giving me a copy. It really moved me.
But the main reason all the fansites were gathered was because Blizzard wants to work closer to the community. Micah had a slideshow/powerpoint prepared to introduce the Community Managers and what their focus was with Blizzard Entertainment’s Warcraft. That was enlightening.
The idea was that we, the fansites, would work a bit more closely with the Warcraft community. We know the reactions of our fanbase. We are also another source to help share Warcraft‘s news and promote them as well. They want to work with the fansites not only to get news out, but to “calm” the masses.
The Community Managers of Blizzard cannot be present in every single fansite forums, articles, socials, etc. so it is up to the staff of those fansites to talk for them. Blizzard is in no way plugging in words for us to post. We just have to be as understanding as we’ve ever been. And if we have questions, the team will attempt to be there more to help us as we go.
This will be excellent once major announcements start cycling through for the next expansion, game changing news, and so on. Now we can have our part done as well as give feedback to just how it will be taken. At least, that’s the plan.
Overall, it was a great time in Irvine. I seriously did not want to leave! Something about being on Blizzard campus just felt like “home”. And the entire thing, I felt was well organized and planned out. Sure, the dining choice on Thursday was too far for walking and the issue with airport transportation, but overall, I had a great time.
I ended up taking the shuttle back to LAX with Alex. Not much chit chat since I had much to absorb and she was already inputting the information for Wowhead. But that also meant taking a late flight back and arriving early morning at IND.
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