Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Blizzcon vs. EVE Vegas

As I sometimes do, I was reading my own blog at lunch and reminded myself that I had meant to do a follow-up to the travel we've done.  I got home tonight and had the EVE Vegas Survey to complete, and it was another poke in the ribs that I needed to get some writing time in.

So here I am.

This isn't a "X is better than Y post," but I can't help compare the two events because they were so different.

And given the relative scale of the events (At 25,000 players, Blizzcon was roughly 35x larger than EVE Vegas at 700ish), the events were a much different experience.

EVE Vegas came first.  It was at a hotel conference center, and didn't quite use the entire area.  The event was well organized, but friendly, almost casual.  There were few lines.  Staying in the hotel a few floors above the venue was super convenient.  Food was expensive, but available (we ate at Earl of Sandwich all 3 days for lunch, hah) with an easy walk, as long as you didn't get lost in the casino.

Vegas as a venue is fantastic.  You can walk straight from Nerd Kingdom, descend an escalator, and be in a different world.  Everything you could want - from 5-star cuisine to chilidogs and beer feel like they're in arm's reach.  If you're wanting to step out to a show or do some non-EVE things in the evening, all kinds of shenanigans (from family friendly to very ... not family friendly) are there, all within easy walking distance.  Taxicabs are plentiful and will get you anywhere you're not willing to walk.  And the Strip itself is its own experience -- the beauty of the Bellagio fountain, to the shuffling masses of tourists, and the ever-present locals.  Vegas itself is a worthy destination, and the EVE content is just bonus.

Anaheim is a fine venue too, of course, but the Anaheim Convention Center (ACC) is a little more remote.  I mean, it's in the center of the LA metro area, so it's not like a ghost town, but  it's surrounded by a fairly bland mix of hotels and chain restaurants.  Our hotel was a 3/4 mile walk, and the route between was forgettable.  I couldn't get a room close to the ACC, and the time coming and going was a tax on everything we did.  The food at the ACC was okay (only marginally less expensive than Vegas) and the presence of the trendy food trucks was a real bonus.

Disney, of course, is just north of the ACC, and we certainly had fun there.  But again, it feels so spread out, even with our rental car (we didn't rent a car at Vegas), the logistics felt daunting.  Disney itself was great, but not superb.  I could visit Vegas once a year and still be finding new things to do.  Last time we were at Disney was in 2008 and it hadn't changed much, and I was bored by 1pm or so.
There were lines everywhere at Blizzcon.  Lines at Disney, lines for the store, lines for badges, lines for the men's room, lines for food, lines to get into the venue, lines to demo games.  With so many people, it's to be expected, and as I mentioned in another post Blizzard had their schiznit together with handling the crowd, but I still spent a LONG time standing in a queue.

Data point:  Tickets for the two events were roughly the same, as was airfare.  But we spent more at Blizzcon due to a) needing a car and b) more expensive hotel room.  And that's AFTER we paid for a super-cool balcony room at the Cosmo the first night in Vegas; Anaheim was still more $$.

The basic idea of both events are the same.  Open ceremonies, Keynotes, Closing Ceremonies.  Panels and pitches and briefings sandwiched in between.  After that the similarities kind of end.

EVE Vegas felt like a few of the professional conferences my old office team used to host once a year.  Timing was punctual and the A/V team did a good job with microphones and projectors, but it still felt a little home baked.  There were donuts and coffee in the morning, and cookies in the afternoon, just like a professional conference.  I'm not complaining (the cinnamon twists were to die for!) but it struck me as a little odd.

Blizzcon is a spectacle that's beginning to compete with Comic-con or GenCon.  There are multiple stages with content all at the same time.  Multiple simultaneous game tournaments.  Vendor booths and booth babes.  A live TV show being broadcast (DirecTV feed).  Life size statues of your favorite characters sprinkled throughout.  Tons of fans in costume.  The Blizzcon store had something like 144 cash registers (my rough estimate based on counting banks of 12), and the line for the store nearly filled an entire convention hall.

I'll go out on a limb here and say that the EVE briefs were a little more technical and a little more detailed than the corresponding Blizzard briefs.  The Blizzcon gang is attempting to sell a "philosophy" to millions of people, as in "this is the direction we're going next."  CCP is trying to talk hard numbers and detailed/complicated mechanics with a very savvy audience.

The Script and Message:
Blizzard employees walked out on stage confidently; the content was well rehearsed and it was apparent that the corporate goons had run the script through the corporate marketing machine.  Certain phrases and language kept reappearing in the Blizzard content; it was very apparent to me that it was part of an overall strategy for a "consistent message."

Contrasting this, CCP devs, especially early in the weekend, seemed apprehensive that they'd be boo'd off the stage, and seemed happy and a little surprised that nobody trolled them.

I found myself laughing and clapping at some of the EVE content while I didn't get very excited about the Blizzard briefings.  I don't know if that's a reflection of the briefing content, or the state of both games, or just how the stuff was presented.  Maybe all of the above.

A subtle thing, but my feeling is that CCP gives the vibe that they're using the event for feedback, as in "Ok, here's what we're thinking..."  With Blizzard, everything has been decided and set in stone.  Communication was one way only.

Schedule Stress:
EVE Vegas is 3 days.  The days are fairly short - late morning start and done in time for people to get ready for a night out.  You can plan your day around the things you want to see; since there's not as many simultaneous things you can easily pick a time to step out to the demo game line, or just go hang out at a table with some friends and chat.

Blizzcon was 2 exhausting days.  In line by 8, stay until the venue closes at 9pm, and active the whole time.  At any given point, there's at least 2 things you wanted to watch, and no matter what you pick you're missing out on something cool.  As a consolation, there are flat panel screens EVERYWHERE at Blizzcon, some of them showing things going on elsewhere at the venue so you can watch from afar instead of having to recap it on youtube when you get home.

Storytelling and meeting other players (and Devs) is VERY much a part of the EVE Vegas experience.  At Anaheim we were anonymous and had short conversations with guys around us, but no lasting friendships.  There's SO MUCH going on and it's so loud that it's hard to just relax and chat (and as luck would have it, the ONE group that I tried to chat up during lunch were from Korea and that was a language/accent barrier to overcome).

Bottom Line:
We enjoyed both events, and if I had it to do over I'd still attend both.  I came home with a greater respect for, and I think a greater insight into, both game companies.

The EVE event was more personal, and I came away with friends I hope to keep in game for some time, which is far more valuable than the trinkets we got at Blizzcon.  So, if I had to pick ONLY one for next year - it's Vegas, baby.


  1. "Then it's settled" comments DireNecessity bringing up her calendar, "Eve Vegas, 2016."

    1. Dire - Adult milkshakes at Holsteins, ill buy. ;)

      According to the survey, they are thinking about moving it back a week to Halloween. Can't imagine life on the strip that weekend, sounds like fun. ;)


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