Reaper of Souls Launch Party: A Hell of a Time


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.

Comments

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  1. Outstanding write-up, wish I could have been there!!

  2. One of these days I’ll be able to afford to travel again and I’ll finally get to meet you guys at a Blizzcon or something. =P Glad you had a good time!

  3. Nicely written report, sounds like it was good fun!

    Maybe you would’ve had better luck hitting on the Skeleton Queen?

  4. Man this is awesome. I would love to have been there 🙂

  5. And this is in a nutshell why the gaming media/review industry has no credibility anymore.

    You go to the their parties, you eat their food, drink with them, laugh, take their gifts, perks, and then you’re supposed to objectively discuss the pros/cons of the game and the company? I think not.

    They hold events like this to basically “buy off” the gaming media.

    • Yes, Zaqwert, three drinks totally cancels out the decades of critique towards the saga.

      Flux has always been very balanced and outspoken. He called bullshit on Hellgate:London early on and has gotten into trouble with Blizzard from time to time because of not being a good fanboy they expect.

      To Flux, the praise you received is earned. I have followed this site mainly because of your news from the 90s.

    • Yes it’s called wining and dining. It’s always been the same in most industries and I don’t see that ever stopping.

      But as you say, I think not, and there’s the rub.

  6. Great writeup Flux, wish I was there too.

    Please post more pics of the cosplayers, especially a certain female Crusader 😉

  7. What, no showbags? Looks like you guys had a ball 😀

  8. Sounds like it was fun, being at the event.

    So Lylirras hair is newly wed, uh, red. I would prefere older witch red, though, especially when found in the facial hair of a muscular-meets-bulky specimen.

    On a more serious note: Why don’t you start a set of short interviews, introducing lesser known members of the developement team to us, that else would stay just a name in the credits, forgotten soon after? Just don’t forget to include some pics of the chummer and any selfdescription he/she may offer describing his/her duties at Blizzard, especially if deviating from the official job description. This could turn into quite an intersting column, that I sure would like to read in every once in a while…

    • […] selfdescription, he/she may offer ON his/her duties […]

    • I’d love to conduct more interviews with the devs, large or small, but Blizzard doles those out very judiciously and they mostly try for outreach. It’s why you see them doing interviews on Twitch channels that aren’t even devoted to Diablo 3, and most of their big interviews are with PC Gamer or Wired or the like. They try to aim their publicity for the general interest gamers, figuring (probably correctly) that fansite people will cover all that stuff anyway.

      • Naturally, the PR departement has its aim on obtaining the greatest impact possible to maximize sales, which means to limit the spread of information to opportune moments and circumstances. And as interviews are normally made to get new details on ongoing or planned projects out of the interviewed, these are obviously included.

        But fishing for information ain’t the intent of me asking for interviews here. On the contrary I’d like them to refrain from any information on projects or other Blizzard activites at all. It’s all about getting to know the people, where working for Blizzard on D3 developement is just being one, although the connecting one, small attribute in making them up. Thus Blizztalk should be limited to situations of character defining impact on the interviewed.

        “Who are they? What do they like? How do they tick?” That’s what interests me. “Are they in relations, happy singles or promiscuously gay? What qualities are they looking for in friends and what would it take to make them hate someone? What types of games do they prefere, if at all? Are there hobbys beside gaming, impacting who they are? How do they look upon society?” or whatever you can come up with that can show them as who they are as a person, are the only details aimed for. Thus I honestly see no reasons for Blizz to put a lid on these interviews.

        I’m aware that PR would undoubtedly question the purity of intentions behind them, though, as it’s normally not the type of thing looked for, when asking for an interview. So some convincing will naturally have to be done. But as there is little room for sales or image impacting information here, apart from bonding with core fans, even their authority to step in is a question in dispute and could be reasoned away. (From the idealistic point of view, only the individual himself could possibly decide, if they want to partake or not, anyhow…) And if they would have come up with the idea themselves, they would have also come to the conclusion that only the contained environment of a fan site is providing the ideal place to realize this kind of thing.

        Well… It’s not my workload convincing them (, am just expressing a want), so don’t feel in any way obliged to follow what I’m saying here. Although I do hope not being the only one interested in this kind of nonproductive information.

        ’til then

  9. QUOTE

    And this is in a nutshell why the gaming media/review industry has no credibility anymore.
    
    You go to the their parties, you eat their food, drink with them, laugh, take their gifts, perks, and then you're supposed to objectively discuss the pros/cons of the game and the company? I think not.
    
    They hold events like this to basically "buy off" the gaming media.

    I’d do it. I’m also globally known as an *******, so take that as you will.

  10. I had a blast at the event, and it was great meeting you, Flux. Really cool event, with a great vibe and many happy people.

  11. I take you home and I get no shout out, flux?

    Also, I talked to Jay Wilson for a minute or so.

    • Did he double it ;)?

      • He was very nice. Pretty somber, but nice. I thanked him for his work (I know, controversial), and he flatly told me that he had almost nothing to do with RoS. I explained to him that regardless of whether or not he had anything to do with RoS he should be thanked for the hours he put into vanilla. He seemed receptive to that and smiled. He was also wearing very non-blizzard clothes, he blended in much more with guests. (despite there was no blizz dress code and he also didn’t wear a re-entry wristband iirc).

  12. Anyone else think that the Female Crusader cosplayer looks a bit like Gabby Logan?

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