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    Flux joined about 500 of Blizzard’s closest friends at the Reaper of Souls Launch Party last night in Los Angeles, and a good time was had by all. There was great food and drink, hundreds of excited fans, and drunken Blizzard devs close enough to spill drinks on. Read on to read it all…

     

    The People

    The best part about the event was meeting all the fans and the devs. I think I preferred the fans, not because there was anything wrong with the devs, but just because I’d met most of them before at Blizzcon during visits to Blizzard’s offices. Fans are harder to meet, since Blizzcon is so spread out and everyone is so busy trying to get to panels or play demos, and I’m doing those things plus dashing back to the press room to type up some news item.

    At the Launch Party though, there were no games to play or panels to attend. People were waiting in line for the photos and caricatures and tattoos, but that wasn’t bad since the lines were right in the main hall where you could hear the music, see the people, sip your drink, and ninja loot from the appetizer trays that waitstaff were constantly circulating. Plus everything was supplemented by a jovial, friendly vibe, and perhaps lubricated by the multiple open bars, most attendees had no hesitation striking up conversations with complete or almost-complete strangers. “Where did you travel from?” was the universal ice-breaker.

    Serious Josh and Vodka Flux

    Serious Josh and Vodka Flux

    Well, that or, “Are you Flux?” I heard that a surprising amount of times, to where I started to wonder if other people were being mis-approached as me. No one ever came up to ask me if I was anyone else, though. Not even Jay Wilson! (I mean no one thought I was him. Though it would have been pretty funny if he’d come up to ask if I was me. Jay was there, too. I didn’t see him, but several fans reported sightings and conversations. No word on Jay’s state of mind.)

    But back to me, though. Because me me me.

    While circulating or standing in line I was repeatedly approached with, “Hey, are you Flux?” and then handshakes and happy conversation would ensue. The weirdest thing was early on, before the crowd noise and music got so loud, was when several different people heard me talking to my step-sis, or to other fans, and recognized me just from the audio, from knowing my voice from the podcast. I don’t think of my vocals as exactly Axl Rose-distinctive, but apparently my voice is recognizable, at least to people who have heard dozens of hours of it via the Podcast.

    (And Wyatt, to answer your question I was too buzzed to articulate last night… I have no idea why The Diablo Podcast is so often broken on Itunes. We set it up propertly, and then half the time when we check back a month later Itunes is no longer properly pulling the mp3s from our news posts. IMHO, Itunes is a horrible, evil, non-functional piece of software and the world will be immeasurably improved when it has been uninstalled from every device with more processing power than a toaster.)

    Aside from all sorts of random fans, and quite a few people who won their tickets via our Launch Party contests, I saw a few site regulars, some of whom I’d met before. I’m sure I’ll forget some names as it was a long and busy night, but shout out to Pig and Elvira who used to work on our IncGamers WoW site, plus podcast regulars Neinball, Katniss, and Wolfpaq (with pretty wife). I meant to meet up with our former news guy Nizaris but we failed to connect. Our newest columnist Waterfiend was there as well, flown in all the way from Texas. (Neinball traveled from Florida and Katniss from Boston.)

    Cool lighting inside the venue.

    Cool lighting inside the venue.

    Their travel tales were not unusual; many other people I talked to had come from distant portions of the US or even International, all on their own dime, purely for love of the game. And, of course, to stare enraptured at Lylirra’s newly red hair.

    I met a lot of devs also. The place was crawling with Blizzard peeps, naturally. I didn’t do a head count, but there must have been at least 150 or 200 Blizzard employees there, out of the 800~ total guests. They were not in uniform or wearing name tags or anything, and aside from the few who are best known to the community; Mike Morhaime, Josh Mosquera, Wyatt Cheng, etc, they went largely unrecognized. It was weird to walk around the party and see a few guys standing and sipping drinks in a circle and think, “Oh that’s the tech programmer guy, and that background artist… what was his name?”

    I went up and asked a few times, and I talked to other devs I’ve interviewed or known in the past, and I got a selfie with Josh, but mostly I interacted with the devs at the signing at the end of the party.

     

    The Prize Challenge

    Flux gets branded.

    Flux gets branded.

    Blizzard hadn’t released much info about what sort of activities and events would be going on at the party, so it was interesting to reach the check in table and receive a lanyard, plus a map/card for the event. The map was a rectangular thing corresponding to the layout of the large hall, and there were marked stations in all the corners; Tattoos, Caricatures, Art Gallery, Photos, etc.

    Each location had a circle or two on the map and the legend said to collect stickers for each activity. At the end of the night you could redeem your card; three stickers won you a Crusader poster, five won you a Reaper of Souls t-shirt, and 7 got you a Diablo III backpack.

    Getting all 7 was tough, unless you started early, since the lines for Caricatures, Tattoos, and Photos quickly grew to frightening lengths. Just like Blizzcon! The was an exploit, of course, and one that Blizzard did not nerf. The trick was to walk into the Art Gallery, where there was no line and a curator with the sticker pack who was the most beautiful of the many very pretty models Blizzard had hired to staff the event. You’d get a sticker from her, get shot down when you tried to flirt, walk away to soothe your pain with a free beverage, peel that sticker off and stick it on another slot, and then return for another round through the Art Gallery and a sticker from the curator. (Minus the attempted flirting, unless your free beverage was an alcoholic one.)

    I didn’t attempt that exploit myself (except for the flirting part), and got my 5 stickers honestly, but it wouldn’t have been a Blizzard event without someone figuring a way to hack it for extra goodies.

     

    The Events and Entertainment

    Honestly, I have no idea if this happened. The first confirmation I got was the next morning, when I logged onto Diablo.IncGamers.com and saw Rush’s helpful summary of the interview, which was apparently conducted through a broken mic. Bad sound or not, you guys watching online saw 100% more of it than anyone at the event.

    What was going on within? There was constant music from a DJ, a din of conversation from hundreds of guests, events and activities in every far corner of the venue, infinite free drinks and food, and tons of people in a very good mood who were fun to talk to. I did notice that they had some big monitors and desks set up on the raised platform at one end of the room, but only because the Art Gallery was on one side of it and the Graffiti wall was on the other.

    Supposedly some streamers were there doing some live RoS up on stage, but again I can’t say for sure. They had some monitors at the bottom of the stage and I noticed some Act Five gameplay footage at one point while making the rounds and chatting with people, but it could have been taped or recycled from the Beta, for all I could tell.

     

    The Signing

    Towards the end of the event a great many of the devs and others who worked on Diablo III seated themselves at tables out in the open air patio adjoining the main hall. (Benefit of holding such an event in SoCal; it was shirt-sleeve weather without a hint of rain sitting outside, at night, under the open sky, in late March.) The long tables were arranged kind of like a capital letter “E”, with Reaper of Souls devs and support people and Q&A and artists and tech programmers and writers and voice actors and many others along the tables. Fans picked up their complimentary copy of the Reaper of Souls Collector’s Edition and proceeded along the tables, getting the boxes signed by each Blizzard person, while making a bit of chit chat as we went. (Shouting it mostly, since even outside it was quite loud with so many hundreds of people. My voice is hoarse and croaky today as a result.)

    The swag, safely back home.

    The swag, safely back home.

    That was fun to put faces to names, as I kept asking the developer guys and girls who they were and what they worked on. When I got my copy of the game there was a huge backup to start at the first tables, where the more senior Blizzard people were. I therefore skipped that part and went to the second section of tables. The RoS:CE boxes looked glossy black at night, but daylight reveals that they are a deep smoky green. In either event, black pen wouldn’t show on them at all, and all of the Bliz signers had several silver markers at hand. They’d done some doodling on the black plastic tarps that covered the tables, and of course the artist sections were the best for impromptu on-table fan pro art. (I grabbed a couple of pens they left out at the end, so now I can add all the signatures I want to the remaining clear space on my box. Well look at that… who knew Barack Obama was there?)

    As I said, I skipped to the second half of the signing area to start collecting my autographs. This proved an unexpected delight to the artists there, since everyone else was showing up to their table with like 50 signatures already covering their boxes, which forced the artists to write small and just use initials and such. With such a canvas provided by my new box… they mostly wrote small and used initials and such. To save room for others. Everyone at Blizzard is just too nice sometimes.

    During the whole signing there was fun (shouted) conversation, and as I’d imbibed several several adult beverages by that point, I was not shy about introducing myself as Flux, from Diablo.IncGamers, formerly Diabloii.net, host of the Diablo Podcast, etc.

    All of the devs at least feigned recognition/approval, and quite a few were obviously familiar with the site, or the podcast, or said they knew my voice, and were very glad to finally meet me, etc. Which was fun, since like most humans I’m an essentially shallow and ego-driven shell of a man, given to basking in even semi-sincere adulation like a gecko in the morning sun.

    So cheers and shout outs to all the devs and programmers, artists, tech people, etc, who endured my drunken conversation and bone-crushing handshakes.

    Also thanks to all the fans who went and had a good time. I don’t often enjoy myself, especially when other non-naked humans are involved, but it was cool meeting all the fans and devs and having a nice night out. Pity they can’t release an expansion every year, since it would be nice to look forward to another such event in the semi-approachable future.

    Expect some more Launch Party conversation on the next podcast, though we’ll talk about Reaper of Souls itself as well… assuming those of us who were at the party and have to fly across the country to get back home ever make it and get to install what lies within our shiny new black green boxes.

     

    Image Gallery

    Selection of pics from the event. I took close ups of all the pieces in the art gallery, a few of which had not previously been shown to the public. I’ll post those photos later this week, once I get back home and have time to clean up the images in Photoshop.

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