Spot On: Blizzcon 2005

Almost 8,000 Blizzard fanatics come to Orange County to play WOW expansion and Starcraft: Ghost, watch live Warcraft III and Starcraft tournaments.

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ANAHEIM, Calif.--Today, the first annual Blizzcon is now in full swing at the Anaheim Convention Center, and GameSpot editors were on hand to take in the early events. Blizzard founder Mike Morhaime delivered the keynote address this morning, officially introducing the new Burning Crusade expansion pack for World of Warcraft. The pack will open up the Outlands areas along with several new instanced dungeons, flying mounts, an increased level cap, and a new socketed item system for customization of weapons and armor.

Contributing to the socket system will be a new player profession called jewel crafting. We asked designer Rob Pardo for further details on how the socket system and jewel crafting would work, but he replied that the design of that system has not yet been completed and that they would be undergoing a number of different approaches. Among these would be testing whether existing, nonsocketed items could be modified to include sockets, or if only weapons and armor with existing sockets would be able to be modified through jewel crafting. It has also not yet been determined what sorts of buffs the jewels would impart on items and whether such jewels would be removable.

As for the scene, Morhaime announced that slightly fewer than 8,000 attendees would be at Blizzcon, and there seemed to be about that many people crowding in Hall A of the Anaheim Convention Center. The line for showgoers to pick up their free goody bags seemed to snake as long as a line for a ride at nearby Disneyland, looking to be easily more than an hour's wait. Though there were dozens of computer stations, lines for Blizzcon attendees looking to play the new expansion pack were also quite long. Two GameSpot editors stood in line for about an hour to get 30 minutes of play time with the content. The stations used for checking out the new Blood Elf content could also be used to play in the upcoming Ahn Qi'raj instanced dungeon, which will be released in an upcoming patch prior to the expansion pack. Come back for GameSpot's impressions of both new areas.

Today and the rest of the weekend will see quite a few different activities going on simultaneously at Blizzcon. Panel discussions about World of Warcraft issues, such as profession design, art design, and character class design, are going on in various meeting rooms and other halls. Warcraft III and Starcraft tournaments are happening on a stage in the main hall, with a large viewscreen and a play-by-play announcer conveying the action to showgoers. Just below are long lines for people waiting to play in WOW Battlegrounds tournaments, as well as people waiting to play the Burning Crusade expansion pack, which at least provides them with some entertainment as they wait. There is also a play area for 16-player Starcraft Ghost tournaments. New information was released about that game as well--Morhaime noted during his speech that playable Zerg would be available in the game. You will be able to play as zerglings, hydralisks, mutalisks, or infested terrans. Rounding out the activities are an area showing off the new World of Warcraft table-top board game, a climbing wall, and American Gladiators-style jousting tournaments.

Quite a variety of people have made their way to the show, including parents and children who must have decided that a day at Blizzcon was more critical than spending it at school. And, of course, there were more than a few cosplayers in attendance. The costumes so far have been mostly World of Warcraft-related, with the predictable array of women dressing up as night elves. Some of the more adventurous outfits included a woman dressed up as a succubus, wearing a dark corset, thigh-high boots, wings, and horns, and another lady dressed up as a gnome astride a tinfoil-trimmed mechanostrider.

Even at this time of the afternoon, people were still streaming into the convention center to get inside the show. Come back to GameSpot later today and throughout the show for hands-on impressions of the games on display at Blizzcon.

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