Thursday, April 14, 2016

Feckless Leader's Blizzcon Noob Guide [2016 Update]

The #3WImigos at Blizzcon 2013.

Blizzcon 2016 is happening, so I've gone ahead and added to this guide, originally published in October 2013. I've had the privilege of attending the last four Blizzcons and this guide is meant to give first-time attendees a jump on what to expect at the convention.


Acquiring tickets to Blizzcon can be a feat in itself. As you can imagine, there are many more people interested in attending than there are tickets available. As a result, the event tends to sell out within minutes. Tickets this year go on sale at 7pm Pacific on Wednesday, April 20th, and will be handled by Universe. A second batch will go on sale at 10am Pacific on Saturday, April 23rd for those who missed out on the first sale. There have been some...issues with Blizzard's chosen ticketing vendor in years prior, but knowing that Universe is owned by Ticketmaster gives me some confidence that this year might go more smoothly. 

Group Effort
The fact that our group was able to secure tickets for each of the last four Blizzcons is part strategy and part luck. Obviously, you'll want to be on the ticket page prior to the start of the sale, hammering the hell out of your F5 key until tickets become available. Each year we had at least two people in our group doing this; what generally happened is once you selected the number of tickets you wanted, you were placed into a queue. If you didn't make it to the front of the line before tickets sold out---tough luck. 

From Blizzard's ticketing info page, it sounds like this year's sales will be handled a bit differently. In years prior, all one had to do is select the number of tickets they desired before being placed into a queue. It made it so that you could use multiple browsers to request tickets, increasing your odds. We also had several members of our group trying for tickets, with the first who got through being responsible for purchase, and the rest of us reimbursing them. However, that might be trickier this year, given that it appears Universe will require additional info---including credit card details and attendee names---to be entered before you will be placed into a queue. 

To prepare for technical problems, i.e. server crashes and/or getting kicked from the queue, it might be handy to have all of your info (name, address, credit card info) in an open .txt document for quick copy+paste action. If you're buying multiple tickets, just enter your own name in each attendee field---it'll save time and you have the ability to change this info until July 15th.

If you miss the Wednesday sale, make sure you're poised to try again on Saturday, April 23rd at 10am Pacific. 

Benefit Dinner
There's another option for some folks who aren't lucky enough to land a ticket before they sell out completely: the Children's Hospital of Orange County benefit dinner held the night before the convention. There's an extremely limited amount of tickets available to this event, but their price of $750 can be a bit off-putting. Still, if you have the cash, you may be in the minority when it comes to the amount of money you have to budget for Blizzcon, meaning your shot at scoring one of these might be greater. I actually have no idea, but it is an option if you missed out on the general sales. Plus, it goes towards a great cause. And you get to talk and dine with the Blizzard brass and stuff, in addition to attending the convention. 

Tickets for the benefit dinner go on sale Wednesday, April 27th.

Open Market
Lastly, if you're not able to get tickets through the official avenues, there will always be a number of people who have tickets to resell. These can be a bit more difficult to come by, as there's a high likelihood someone with a Blizzcon ticket is already connected to people who'd be interested in attending. But if you keep your eyes open, or are connected to the right people, you might come across some tickets between now and then.

Purchasing Plane Tickets

A recent-ish study makes the claim that the best time to buy a plane ticket with the goal of the cheapest fare is 54 days before your trip. And if you don't hit that head-on, the best fares can generally be found between 104 to 29 days before the trip. While you can secure your ticket now, historically prices should decrease as we head into the summer months. Another study suggests that Tuesdays tend to feature lower average rates, while rates tend to climb as it gets later into the week. Nothing here is guaranteed, of course, but these may be good things to keep in mind.


I flew into LAX the first year, and SNA (John Wayne) the rest. LAX, as you probably know, is a rather large airport and a bit of a hike from Anaheim. I'd only recommend cabbing to the con from there if money isn't an issue. Otherwise, SuperShuttle or a similar service is the way to go. Sure, you're sharing a ride, but you can secure a round-trip for roughly $40.

SNA is a smaller airport, but quite nice and my preferred route of travel. It's about a 15-minute cab ride from the convention center, barring traffic. Depending on when you purchase tickets, flying into SNA may even be the cheaper option. I prefer SNA just because it's less of a hassle getting in and out of it, and also because the extra sleep you'll be afforded on your day of departure will have much value. Trust me.

Finding a Room

Blizzcon's own Travel Information post has a lot of really great stuff regarding lodging options in the immediate area surrounding the convention center. If money's not a concern, I highly recommend staying at the Hilton, but a stone's throw from the convention center doors. As an added bonus for those staying at the Hilton, the lobby is a social hot spot each night. For a more affordable option with equal proximity to the convention center, check out the Marriott. Word on the street is some hotels have jacked their prices for the weekend. Plan accordingly.

For the past few years, our group did something different and went in on a house rental through a service like HomeAway. With the cost split multiple ways, we each paid the equivalent of the cost of a room for 1-night at the Hilton, but got an entire freakin' house for four nights. Three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a spacious living room, full kitchen (COFFEE MAKER), patio...your own space. Granted, we didn't spend much time there outside of sleeping hours, but we won't do it any other way---we've already got our house booked for this year. If you don't mind a short walk or sharing a cab ride to the convention center, this option should not be overlooked.

Getting Your Badge

One of the things I've noticed major improvements to over the years is the logistics of badge acquisition. You now have a twelve-hour window to grab your badge on the Thursday before the convention from 9am to 9pm---this is when you want to do it, especially to avoid standing in a badge line on Friday morning when you should really be lining up to get inside the convention center. If you miss Thursday's opportunity, badges can be picked up from 8am on convention days until 10pm, when the convention closes.

Getting Prime Seating

Seating is first-come, first-served. If you want a seat near the main stage for any of the larger events (opening ceremony, reveals, developer panels), it is best to arrive early. Really, there's not a bad seat in the house on account of the video screens strategically placed throughout the halls. The only event where sitting in the back had a disadvantage (significant sound delay) was the closing concert.

It seems pretty typical for one person from a group to arrive at the convention early and save seats for their party. This might draw sideways glances from some folks, but I can assure you this was a very common practice.

Visit the Booths Early if Swag's Your Thing

There are loads of vendor booths at the con (Razer, Nvidia, Sony etc.). At many of these booths, there are contests, prizes, and trinkets to give away. However, it was clear that these companies did not bring enough giveaways for every single con attendee. So if you're looking to maximize your swag, try to hit the booths earlier on Friday.

The drawback to visiting the booths where there's a prize at stake is the fact you'll be spending a decent amount of time standing in line. Not that you'd regret burning an hour in line, but time flies at the con, for better or worse. Use it wisely.

Mind the Schedule

There's a lot to do and see. Lore panels, live PvP matches, game testing, the booths, the people---you may not have time for it all---and that's just the stuff going on during the day. There will also be a slew of events put on by fansites during the evening hours. There is never a shortage of things to do; in fact, you'll often have to choose one thing over the other as event times often conflict. That's why it's important to mind the schedule.

Bring a Backpack

My fellow attendee and I were a bit worried about the size of our backpacks in 2011 (traditional Jansport double-strap bags). In fact, I'd brought a smaller sack for the first day that wasn't very useful until I saw they were allowing normal-sized backpacks. Of course, this is where you'll be stuffing all that free swag or items you've purchased, but it's also wise to bring along some water, a snack, and any other items you might need while away from your base. I've never gotten any guff for a plastic water bottle and a box of granola bars.

Autographable Paraphernalia

Bring a Sharpie and something for Blizzard folk to deface with said Sharpie. I recommend the art book from one of the Warcraft Collector's Editions, or perhaps the newly released Warcraft Chronicles book. A t-shirt works, too. There is a designated area of the con where Blizz folk will be on-hand for autographs throughout the weekend.

Good Shoes

There will be lots and lots and lots of walking---even if you're staying adjacent to the convention center. While comfortable doesn't always translate into the most stylin', comfort trumps style here. Bring a trusty pair of shoes you know you'll be comfortable in while walking many miles and standing around on hard concrete for hours at a time, and save your fancy shoes for the evenings.

Take Advantage of the Food Trucks

This is another aspect of the convention that has only continued to improve over the years. During the convention, approximately two-dozen food trucks from the surrounding area will be parked outside in the courtyard from mid-morning until late-night. There's incredible variety to be had, and most importantly, a lot of stuff you simply won't find at home. Well, if you're me anyway. While you do have some options inside the convention center, the food trucks seem to be the most popular option by far, and for good reason.

The Viking Truck is one of our favorites. Check it out.

Talk to the Blizzard People 

They will be out and about; if they were trying to avoid talking to fans, it'd be real easy for them to do so. One of my favorite memories from 2011 was looking Mike Morhaime in the eyes while shaking his hand, thanking him for the awesome experiences he and his team have created. 2014 was even more memorable. Once again I was able to catch Morhaime's ear for a few minutes, but I also was able to speak one-on-one with Rob Pardo, Greg Street, Corey Stockton, Russel Brower and Johnathan Brown (Zarhym). The highlight was probably a sit-down conversation a fellow #3WImigo and I had with Jason Hayes, Senior Composer at Blizzard. He talked our ears off.

Pace Yourself to Stay Up Late

I'm a late-to-bed, early-to-rise type of guy when it comes to the con. Note that this might be your only chance at attending the con, at connecting with so many like-minded gamers---don't waste it. I can tell you that a friend who came with me to Blizzcon 2011 regrets going to bed so early. Especially when I texted him a picture of Morhaime and I at 11:45pm on Saturday night. Fortunately for him, he changed his habits and got his photo-op the next year.

6-2-1 Rule

Bim (@ShieldSpec) on Twitter suggested this nifty tip, one that I hadn't heard of before, but may be familiar to those who are regular con-goers. Simply put: 6 hours of sleep, 2 meals, 1 shower---daily. Easy enough, and helps to ensure you aren't tired, hungry or stinky, which will make for an better con experience overall for you and those around you.

Full disclosure: I don't normally follow the 6-2-1 rule. In practice mine tends to look like 5-2-1 rule. Seriously though, don't skip out on the shower. Your fellow Blizzcon attendees send their thanks in advance.

Note: while practicing this rule, it's also not a bad idea to pack a travel-size container of hand sanitizer to have with you at the con.

Get Charged

Portable phone chargers will make your life at the con much better. In 2011, I had a really difficult time finding a good signal, which caused my phone to be on overdrive at all times when I was inside the convention center. So it was either airplane mode or a battery that lasted two hours. Couple that with the copious amounts of pictures you should be taking, your battery will be drained by noon. Don't be like I was the first year, running back to the hotel room in the middle of the day just to plug in the phone. Be prepared. Following my first Blizzcon experience, I picked up a model like this for less than $10.

There was a secure charging station (Verizon I believe) last year, but these tended to be full. Con smarter, bring a charger.

Don't Be a Dick

It's all about respect. 

Respect the space you're in. Respect the cosplayers. Respect the event staff. Respect the people standing/seated next to you. Respect the people staying in the room next you. Respect the place where you're staying. Respect the fact you're privileged enough to attend Blizzcon.

Four years of conventions, and four years of witnessing some pretty dismal behavior by some attendees, from intoxication leading to arrest, to sexual harassment. People disrespecting the environment around then, showing the self-control of an impulsive child free of the supervision of their parents for the first time in their lives.

Don't be a dick.


  1. If you depend on your phone for connecting to friends at the con and especially if you plan to take lots of pictures, get one of those portable charger things -- the kind that are a little block you can slip into your bag, but that you can plug your phone into and charge it. Even if you think your smartphone can handle your con activities, you've probably never used it near as much and it'll sit there blowing out its battery searching for a signal lots inside the center. Those portable usb battery pack thingies are a godsend and you can pick one up for like $20.

    1. This is extremely good advice---can't believe I overlooked it as on several occasions I had to return to the hotel to charge my phone. I'm going to add this to the list above, if you don't mind.

  2. Hey Ross,
    I'd like to invite you to be a guest on my podcast, BlizzCon Countdown. I really like your tips; you've got some ideas I've not seen before.
    You can reach me @Hawgeye_ctr or battletag: Jimicus#1815.

  3. I recommend bringing a light hoodie and some aspirin and throwing them in your backpack. They keep it super-duper cold and dark in the convention center (for good reason), which ended up giving me a really horrible pounding headache (combined with the noise, and probably not having enough water... so definitely second the water bottle idea). I actually also went back outside pretty often just to soak up some sunshine.

    Definitely leave the convention center to buy food if you can spare the time. There's some great places to eat within walking distance (including downtown disney which is full of restaurants) and it's a nice breather. :)

    I think the portable phone charger is a great idea; I might have to buy one before Blizzcon this year!

    1. That's great advice, too---come to think of it, I hadn't expected it to be so dark in there, but luckily I got used to it without any adverse side effects. Longsleeve shirt is a good idea, as well.

  4. And if you can't snag a portable phone charger by then, perhaps bring a spare battery for the phone and put it on airplane mode whilst inside?