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Blizzcon Ticket Purchasing Window – AKA the Internet Lottery from Hell

I have been stewing upon this topic for a while and whether it was worth posting and bringing it up or not.  While I look for the next thing to talk/complain/suggest/contemplate I might as well.

Before I get to my thoughts on how to improve the experience lets take a step back and actually look at the problem by asking a few questions.

  1. How many players of Blizzard Games would want to attend Blizzcon?
  2. What is the maximum capacity of the current venue?
  3. What percentage of the answer to question #1 is the answer to question #2?
  4. If ticket price was raised slightly to rent more and therefore increase the answer to #2 does the answer to #1 end up less than #2, if not then it may be time to rent even more space and raise the ticket price slightly.
  5. What time is it?
  6. No seriously what time is it and by which clock are you using?
  7. When do tickets go on sale?
  8. No seriously when to tickets go on sale and defined by which clock?
  9. What is your current internet latency to the server?
  10. What is the official world clock time?
  11. What is the difference between official world time and the time on the server?
  12. What is the difference between your local clock and the official world time?
  13. Are you using your computer for time and do you set its time automatically from a time server?
  14. Does Blizzard’s server actually use the official world clock time server?
  15. So do you know when you need to click refresh to be able to by tickets given all of these variable some of which are unknown?

The end result is that no one really knows when you will be able to attempt to buy tickets and actually stand a chance to acquire them.  If many of these are actually based on the official world time then you have a good approximate guess.

I believe the figure tossed around was somewhere within the first 30-45 seconds, if not less, all people who were able to obtain tickets were already in queue.  That is really an unacceptable system.  If it is going to be a lottery then well lets make it an actual lottery.

New System – Based on Beta.

So what I would imagine would be where there is a time period for Beta tickets to be sold, say over a 2 week period.  Every 48 hours a new lot of “winners” would be sent notifications that they could log into Battle.net and purchase tickets.  If they don’t buy them by the next interval they forfeit the chance.  Now they could also call in and purchase them by phone and what ever other methods are currently in place.  Some sort of verification code would be needed and the ticket limit would also be in place.  This should be done via Battle.net accounts and not the individual game accounts, especially after Diablo is released.

For example say 30K tickets are available and lots of 1000 battle.net accounts are chosen randomly.   So Monday 1000 notifications are sent and say 90% actually want to go so from the first lot you have 900-3600 tickets sold since people can buy up to 4 tickets with actual purchase data a better model could be built to determine how many lots on average you would need.  Then at the end you just do smaller lots until you sell out.

This would be much more orderly and would put the randomness on Blizzards RNG rather than variations in time and space.  In the end I may not end up being able to go to Blizzcon again under this system but at least I know it was not because I could not refresh fast enough or did not guess the time differential correctly.

Posted in Blizzcon


Glossed over Comment from Cataclysm Review. Launch when?

So I am re-listening to the Cataclysm panel from WoW Radio, and I heard something that I remember being mentioned when I was watching the live stream during Blizzcon and missed it.  I have actually listened to this panel a few times to review if anything was missed, and 24:03 minutes into the replay they talk about the Goblin Rogue.

The phrase that I missed and I don’t remember seeing people mention from their coverage was the following comment.

“Here we have a goblin rogue, certain to be the enemy of many alliance players in battlegrounds.  By next Blizzcon we will probly hear a lot about how people hate them.”

So I am sure they are most likely referring to Beta, at least I hope they are referring to it.  Otherwise that would imply a release date of the next expansion earlier than I think most are currently estimating.  It would be a safe bet that from the time we start to hear about an expansion Alpha launching that it will be at least 6-8 months from that point before release.  So we at least have a good idea at that point.

So the next question is when will we start to hear rumors and leaks about an Alpha?  Given that there is still patch 3.3 to come and 3.2.2 is still on the PTR that would make it at least 2 months before I would expect them to even be able to think of any other releases.  I am not expecting 3.3 (Icecrown) before January.  I we are surprised by an earlier release cool but I don’t expect it.

Now this could also mean that there will not be a Blizzcon next year but I doubt that as well.

Posted in Blizzcon


Blizzcon 2008 and Conventions in General

Let me start out by saying that in the end I know Blizzard cares about it’s fan/player base. The issues I bring up here are just some oversights that if considered could help to make Blizzcon better in the future.

Problems:

  1. Too damn secretive about information pertaining to Blizzcon.
  2. Need larger exhibition space.
  3. Need to consider traffic/herd flow.
  4. Need to have more things happening at the same time.
  5. Less Lines or faster throughput.
  6. Better Use of Blizzard Staff

Let me start by saying that when I look at a convention I compare any of them to one of the 3 times I went to Otakon – 2000, 2001 and 2004. Otakon for those that do not know is an Anime convention on the East Coast usually in Baltimore, it may have moved as I have not gone in a few years.

Now the first time to Otakon there were several SNAFUs with lines into the dealers room and delays with general organization. Some things did not start anywhere near on time and that would screw up the schedule for that room for the rest of the day. I had some fun saw Gundam Wing Endless waltz on a 40’+ screen as a pre-release showing.

It is a funny thing that I go to conventions. By in large I don’t like crowds, or just masses of people in one place at one time. That may be why I am overly critical about traffic issues in an area. I like being able to get from Point A to Point B in as little time as possible and having to dodge/dance around a bunch of milling people just gets annoying after a while. This is made worse when you have 1000+ people lines just causing traffic problems.

Ok back to the problems.

Too damn secretive about information pertaining to Blizzcon.

What I mean by too damn secretive is that it was not until the day before tickets were being sold that we were told a time ticket sales were going to start. If the start is dependent on when a group of people are going to be in for work then say so and give an actual time. If the supervisor can’t give a time then at least say we will know when we hear from “insert job title here”. The second part of this equation is we don’t know how many tickets were for sale on the 15th. We know that several thousand people made it through the queue. If we average 3.5 tickets per person that puts us at about 7-9000 tickets sold. Is lets say 8000 tickets, .4, .5, .6 of the total amount of tickets being sold.

This type of information helps the player base evaluate whether it is worth even trying to get tickets on the 30th. This same issue is a problem with the in game auction house. If you give the players perfect information you allow us to make risk versus reward versus time evaluations. I am almost of the opinion that it is not worth it going to Blizzcon, with air fare + stress of getting the bloody tickets + travel time + standing in line for untold hours, just to get to see a few things in person. The networking and social events almost make it worth it but we shall see. I would not expect .5 of the tickets being sold since the 15th was a test of the queuing system.

Need larger exhibition space.
Need to consider traffic/herd flow.
Need to have more things happening at the same time.
Less Lines or faster throughput.

These issues are all interconnected and rather than try to isolate each I will just lump them all together.

From the Anaheim convention center website floor plan section found here you can see the layout of the Convention Center.

Now for the most part 99% of Blizzcon was in Halls A,B and C. Yes that is right that is almost all of the spaced used for the event. If Hall D would have been used that would have opened up about 40% more floor space. Now this might get a few flames but for the most part Hall A was used mostly for the Arena Tournament and other competitions. This was a huge amount of floor space wasted for a small number of attendees to use. I hope in the future they rent the stadium seating Arena adjacent and part of the convention center for these events. There is 28k square feet for floor space in the arena which should be plenty of room to house the competitions. And for the spectators there is the stadium seating available. If the Arena is a definite no go then Hall E should be used to house the competitions. Most of the people who are interested in the competitions usually are less interested in other events. Putting all of the E-Sport stuff in one place is away from everything else will keep it focused and allow those that have not interest in it from having to interact with it while trying to get to some other location. The spectator to participant ratio is very high there.

With as large of a fan base Blizzard has there is no reason that they do not rent out the entire convention hall. Even if most of the small rooms are used just by Blizzard staff as a place to escape the madness every now and then. The Ballroom on the top floor should be used for other non-Blizzard panels, like The Guild panel and some of the animation or scripting panels.

Main events was in hall C last year which given the layout was actually a decent location. Hall D is larger but has a strange Geometry. However Hall D is perfect for 1 of 2 different uses. Hall D should either become the “Dealers” room where all of the various Booths including the Blizzcon store should go. The other type of event that this is good for would be the “Demo” room put all of the large network clusters for Trials of new games in this section, rather than in the middle of everything like it was when in hall B. So yes you have in the front of Hall B the demos and the back half the dealers room last year. This was a traffic nightmare.

Hall B would be better set up as the school room or banquet configuration as described from the convention center website. This would have several hundred tables in it as a server meeting place. This would allow at least 1 table per server, with some room left over for just random tables were people can sit at just to take a load off or sit and eat as most of the eateries were located in the area. Since conventions are a social gather as much as anything else a large area dedicated to people being able to relax an not be in theater seating would be nice. Hey since this is a computer based game people may even be able to set up their own laptops here if done right.

So what to do with Hall A if the E-Sport has been moved to either E or the Arena. Well this then opens up the ability to have to large panels running at the same time. Or additionally have 2 stages to split opening and closing ceremonies between. Since they are different ends of the center this even spreads out your convention goers a bit.

So Where does this leave us.

Room/Hall 2008 Suggestion
A E-Sport, Competition Large Panel 2
B Dealers/Demos/Food Meeting Space + Food + Some Booths
C Main Events Large Panel 1
D Not used Demos + Some Booths
E Not used E-Sport Option 2
Ballroom Not used Aux Panels
2nd Floor Non Blizz or small panels Extra
Arena Not used E-Sport Option 1

Better Use of Blizzard Staff

What do I mean by better use of Blizzard staff, well everyone involved with the running of the convention at every level were all Blizzard employees. Don’t get me wrong it is great that so many were willing to help out but it would be better for Blizzard in the long run to off load some of the non-critical duties to well Gofers or con goers. In exchange for either a discount on blizzard store items, help with hotel space as in Blizzard reserves some hotel space for gofers, or hell some other special perk available only to Gofers at the end of the convention. Like a tour of Blizzard HQ on Sunday. From Otakon’s website I copied their list of what Gofers do.

What Do Gofers Do?
There are tons of things to do as a gofer. Listing them all would just be silly but I will list a few:
Hand out badges at Registration
Work at the T-shirt table
Assist Staff in everything from Workshops and Panels to Cosplay and Video Gaming
Run projectors, VCRs, DVD players in Video Rooms

A few things you WILL NOT do as a Gofer:

Handle money
Act as Security
Deal with Otakon VIPs, guests, or BCC security

Over all the convention was a convention, I think very soon Blizzard needs to start having a dedicated event staff if it does not already. But there should be several full time people whose sole job is to design these types of events. If they do have a few dedicated people already then they should hire more so that there can be more conventions around the US and around the world. At least 4 preferably 6. As I mentioned on Lissanna’s blog .25% to .35% of the player base being able to attend the one and only Convention in the US is well pathetic. Either a site needs to be picked that can handle at least 100-125K people or there needs to be several conventions totaling at least 150K total attendance to hit the 1.5% mark. If it could hit the 3-5% mark world wide then I would say they are successful in hosting conventions. Now this is only using the entire WoW player-base and does not count the Starcraft, Diablo and other Warcraft products whose player-base do not overlap WoW.

Well enough ranting and rambling for now.

Posted in Blizzcon, World of Warcraft


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