We are a month away from one of the biggest events for Blizzard fans – BlizzCon 2015. And since esports are an integral part of it, you can’t miss the part of preparations for the clash of the titans. This is why Blizzard gave us Road to BlizzCon.
This year Blizzard treated us with a looooot of goodies. The whole “<insert zone> Road to BlizzCon” format proved to be really entertaining. And before I focus on that, quick word about the website dedicated to European RtB. Have you ever seen a cleaner, nicer, more neat website dedicated to esports? Seriously, just go to www.eurtb2015.com/ and look at this beauty! That side menu, that clean design – everything is easy to be found. And if you look at it, the attention given to details is just stunning – look at those tiny logos of each game – same size, same color… And the map? Please, can we have ALL esports websites looking like this? Pretty please with a cherry on top? Cheers to Blizzard for restoring my faith in webdesigners.
Ok, enough about website! This year’s European leg of Road to BlizzCon took us to Prague, the beautiful capitol of Czech Republic. October 3-4 was all about gaming! At least this is what we hoped for aaaand it might not have worked out entirely.
I got to Prague on Friday, 2.10. Quick trip to the hotel to leave the bags and to meet other fans of egaming and we decided to take a walk to the venue, O2 Arena, for a glance at the preparations. Disappointment #1 – if we didn’t know about the event already, we would defo not know it from getting to the arena – there was literally no info about it anywhere! Luckily on the next day it was a bit better, but seriously – maybe I am spoiled by Polish system where you hear about such events wherever you go. You have ads, tv stations blabbing about it… In Prague it was just a poster outside the main gate and that’s it.
A bit.. confused, we got to the venue to experience RtB 2015. Disappointment #2 was the entrance. Checking our bags – that is ok, that’s normal at such events. The metal detectors? Maybe it’s just me but I am defo NOT used to that. Especially since I can’t get a bottle of water through even with my guest pass but it is perfectly fine to send me through the detector with my sunglasses on. Weird. Also, it seems that the bottle of water is more dangerous than an electronic device full of cords. Unless they recognized it’s a powerbank without even seeing it. The local crew of O2 was inspired by Illidan – they were not prepared for those weird gamer people for sure. After all, if they were, they’d speak English and they wouldn’t react to gamers with fear. Seriously, I swear they were afraid of people. And Cthulhu forbid you ask them a question! Panic mode activated!
Anyway, we got in and at this point I knew it is going to be an awesome weekend nevertheless. There ain’t no party like a Blizzard party, trust me on that. Huge entrance zone with an info spot, occupied by Blizz people, so you knew who to ask if needed. Blizz store – STORE! – just next to the entrance with a loooot of goodies. I so did not spend a lot of money there… *cough* Shout out to a lovely lady from the Blizz store crew for bringing me luck. You’re my rabbit foot, can you give me lottery numbers?
You could just feel that this is THE Blizzard event. Mini Blizzcon!
Main – center – part of the venue was dedicated to egaming. We had a separate Warcraft, Heroes and Hearthstone stages. The outside ring was dedicated to other activities I will describe soon.
Our first main stop was Overwatch booth. Two, actually – Blizzard delivered! The lines made of people who wanted to play seemed to be endless. This is when I was really grateful for the guest pass – we got our own line. I was a bit hesitant when it came to the game itself, this is defo not my genre and – as it was expected, I blew the first game. But then I chose to play Mercy…
The whole game is exactly what I expected from Blizzard – great characters, good and dynamic gameplay… lots of action too. Can’t wait for tutorial tho, it is hard to use all the abilities of your character without any introduction.
You play two rounds – attack and defend. Damn I sucked in first round! This time I decided to NOT repeat my mistake from Heroes of The Storm where everything is a tank for me, even non tanks (stop laughing, everyone went through being a noob!) and I actually chose a tanking character. Didn’t help, I died more than often. At this point I was pretty much like “damn, good game but I won’t play.” But then we went for defense and in a rare moment of my brilliance I decided to go for healer. I chose Mercy and this is where the magic happened. This is a character for me! I am defo gonna play Overwatch the second I can – it’s so much fun! And I wasn’t last on the scoreboard 😉
I know it is a common practice to blame everything and everyone but yourself for failures, but it was really hard for me to play on the keyboard that was available there. It’s again an issue of male vs female gear – just like I don’t like the usual “male” headsets, I’m used to bigger shift keys. In Prague my hand looked like paralyzed and its position plus my lack of skills didn’t help my overal performance.
I can’t wait for this game to be released! It is a lot of fun. I have to admit I was a bit like “WTF” when I saw the trailer last year at BlizzCon but the game is really great. GG, Blizz!
After getting hyped on Overwatch, we got our OW bracelets and moved to the outer part of the venue to check out what else Blizzard prepared for us.
First we found a place that seemed to be under siege. Seriously, There were dozens and dozens of people around, took us few minutes to realize that this is Community Corner. And damn, Blizzard delivered in this aspect as well. After certain tasks introduced on social media, you got a chance to win a prize. Not just any prize, it looked like Blizz got trucks of goodies for the people! Games, mugs (I WANT THAT WHITE MURLOC MUG!!!1one), books, tshirts, keychains, plushies, figurines… everything was within the reach of people at the venue. All you needed to do was to respond to a quest – a task – introduced on social media.
Here’s one “but” – this was “European RtB,” guests were from all over Europe. And unless you wanted to risk being charged for the transmission, you were left in the dark about those opportunities – there was no WiFi available. Yes, i understand it is hard and yes, I know it may be expensive, but many people didn’t get a chance to fully participate in the social media – to – real life aspect of this event. Even if the network itself was a problem, why not f.ex. put a screen somewhere with a display of Facebook feeds? Or just displaying the posts. This would help a lot.
At the other places within the venue you had a chance to take a picture with a hearthstone card and if you were patient enough – get an autograph of pro players. Here’s my Disappointment #3 – dear Blizzard crew. If the schedule says “autographs – heroes pros”, changing it to “heroes pros and casters” two minutes before the meeting is not cool. Not cool at all! I can’t believe I missed my Kaelaris autograph! It’s all your fault! Grrr!
Anyway, having checked the social section of the event, we moved on to the esports area. I was looking forward to Warcraft arenas and I have to say I had mixed feelings. Don’t get me wrong, it was pure action vs skills, but are those teams really the only ones in Europe? Nobody else can play arenas? No wonder the audience was pretty much non existent. Casters were doing great job (after all, it was the same caster team as during BlizzCon) but it was Solari Gaming Blue vs Solari Gaming Red. Really? Boring!
Hearthstone area was boring for me personally as well. Yes, I know it is a different type of game, not as fast and energetic as SC2 or Heroes, but casting was just boring. I am sorry but at WoW or Heroes stages casters were emotional, they were part of the event. A solid part of the event. Ok, WoW games weren’t maybe as passionate as usually but casters tried to fix it. And don’t get me started on casters during Heroes. I never knew they actually stand up during the games, but watching them was as entertaining as watching the games. And Hearthstone? “Well, this player still has 20 cards in his deck…it would be nice if he got Swipe in this turn… If he had Swipe he would be in a good place because he would be able to deal 8 points of damage…nope, he got an acolyte… But if he had a Swipe, he would be in a better position. And if he had two Swipes, it would be game over… but he got something else so we are still playing.”
Problem, in my opinion, with casters in HS is the fact they are pro players as well. Yes, you need to play the game to be a good caster, but if you are a proplayer at the same time as caster, you overthink and you overanalyze. Look at Heroes and Kaelaris – he was part of the show, an important part, but it wasn’t about him, it was ALL about what is going on between the players. In HS you have “but I would play this and this, however player played this and that.” Who cares about what you would play, it’s not about you, it is about those two guys sitting in front of each other, trying to win. HS casters are too… present for me, they dominate the event too much for me to enjoy it. I really don’t care what kind of deck *you* would have built, dear caster, sorry to rain on your parade. It’s probably just my opinion, but casters in HS put me to sleep. There is too much of their personality in the game. It’s not about you, dude, it’s about the players. Don’t try to steal the spotlight!
Congratulations to ThijsNL for winning HS tournament. I’m sure he showed awesome skills, but I decided to go for a coffee and hranolky, else I would fall asleep. Thanks, casters…
This is how I ended up watching Heroes of the Storm finals. Don’t get me wrong, I like to watch that game, but I never expected it to be so entertaining. Because let’s face it, what happened in Prague was absolutely amazing.
Let’s for a minute forget that the whole Heroes event was great. Let’s talk about the final game. That match between NaVi and Dignitas? That was some serious world class stuff. A serious WTF moment. And the third match between those two teams? Wow, just wow. I don’t even know how to describe it, apart from stating, that it was clear that they are playing to entertain the audience. And damn, they did entertain everyone!
Well deserved victory for NaVi and one of the best games I have seen.
Overall only Heroes didn’t disappoint. Heroes of the Storm actually stood out and it was pretty much the first time audience woke up.
Ah, the audience. Dear Blizzard, please make EU RtB 2016 in Poland so that we can show you how to properly participate in such events. Dear Prague, do you esport? Because those dead silent people in the audience defo didn’t. How on earth can you be silent when you’re watching top EU players perform?? Can someone explain this to me?? So you have Blizzard – BLIZZARD – coming to you and creating such event for you. You have top players perform in front of you. What do you do? You sit in the audience, nomming on a hamburger and that’s it. Stay at home next time. Please bring this event to Poland, Blizzard. Poles will make it a next gen experience for you. Just look at this and think how Prague event would have looked like if it was in Poland:
And compare it to this:
Yes, those are empty spaces in the audience.
Overall EU RtB 2015 was a great event, minus the cold audience. I don’t want to sound like a fangirl, but it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t mention Blizzard’s crew – what a bunch of amazing, friendly people they are! Yes, it’s their job and yes, they were supposed to be nice, but there is a difference between a fake smile and a true joy, even if you work hard and are dead tired. Blizzard really delivered and the whole crew was absolutely amazing.
Thank you for that!
After seeing all the games I could see and gathering all “badges” I realized it is time to go home. I managed to still get ReDeYe’s autograph (with a little help from my friends….) and a loot crate size of my backpack (thank you, RNG gods!) and poof, event was over. Sad panda!
The whole Blizz aspect was amazing and luckily the little flaws didn’t spoil the whole event. I can’t wait for EU RtB 2016, this time hopefully somewhere more egame-y.