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Long read: The beauty and drama of video games and their clouds

"It's a little bit hard to work out without knowing the altitude of that dragon..."

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The Blizzcon Report

Our cosplay outfit is "Journalist". We're such fakers.




There really aren't words. In this case, quite literally.

Blizzcon is Blizzard's first attempt to gather their fanbase under one roof to say - in their own words - thank you. Events and entertainments of all kind are planned. These vary from the large-scale events like the unveiling of their Burning Crusade Expansion pack to public play of Starcraft Ghost which we've already cast our eyes over previously, to serious panel discussions to...

Well, we find ourselves in an enormous hall. At one end is a stage. On it are paraded just shy of fifty people, who are doing impressions of sound effects from Blizzard games. The best will take home a serious prize. And - by far - the most common one people attempt is the common-or-garden Murloc. It's amazing the number of interpretations this burbling array of consonants can allow, and watching a dozen of them in such a short time passes from mild amusement into intense embarrassment into an oddly euphoric area where the world's ludicrous nature is embraced. From a smile to a blink to a maniacal grin.

The server queues get worse every day.

It's a good metaphor for Blizzcon. You come to an event like this, expecting to wade in the worst excesses of a fanbase and play spot the freak, and it undercuts you. Your cynicism melts away under the blowtorch of thousands of people just really enjoying themselves, brought together under the banner of something you love.

It was only in vestigial flashes where the dirtier side of the internet message-board melee came across. For example, in the questions asked at the end of the generally informative seminars. No matter what group you were in, certain inappropriate questions would always arise. Go again, and you can expect to see someone grill the art and design team over their problems with Troll Racials. Dude: they're the artists. They just don't know. You pictured some people grabbing the Model dressed up as the Ghost from Starcraft and demanding they should explain the Troll Racial situation to them.

(There was a "Troll Facial" gag we were considering putting in here, but... well, we're a family website. Use your imagination, you mucky pups.)

What do you mean "What am I then?"

Generally, however, it managed to overcome any problems with charm. Take the fan-orientated events of the first night. The sound-effects impression competition worked exactly as described above, passing through bemusement into something generally fun. The array of Murlocs were interspersed with some actual impressive ones. The Battlecruiser was a personal favourite, though the Forsaken girl proved memorable too. We interviewed the next day while being mildly terrified of her. Not brave, us. Oh yes - and the girl who absolutely nailed a Night Elf's come-hither voice, which should guarantee a profitable career in a premium-rate phone-service if she so desires. And, yes, someone did a Leroy Jenkins. Now that's called playing to the audience.

Low point of the evening was the Machinima films which illustrated very clearly why non-comedy Machinima is an idea of equal merit to parachuting sans-parachute. But let's not linger there - instead turn our eyes towards the costume and dance rounds, which were both hilarious and charming. Gnomish dancing. Impressive, dervish-like Trollish Capoeira. Girls in skimpy costumes doing the sort of take on the Night Elves which has the majority of the male crowd baying for the camera to move back to her.

And while we're on that matter, a word on the gender mix. Agreeably so, showing the cross-sex geek-appeal of World of Warcraft. I recall a friend of mine referring to San Diego Comic Con as "Nerd Prom", and if Blizzcon becomes more regular, the same could be said of that. In a games-geek way, of course.

Terrorist or Freedom Fighter? You decide.

Returning to the costume contest, it was, in a genuinely OC-way, awesome. Particular favourites include the girl who lay on the floor and had a spiral series of Zs on a stick which she could turn to create the impression of the sleeping animation. Succubus costumes proved popular, both in numbers and in audience reaction to arse-slapping. The Murloc costume which disguised the sight of the wearer so much he had to be guided in the right direction was agreeably amphibious. The heavy-metal space-marine was a phenomenal piece of engineering, which made us suspect he may have actually just fallen through some reality-portal and now was wandering around bemusedly. Also notable were the girl in the GTA-esque pink top and the girl in the PVC nurse outfit. Notable, as they clearly weren't anything from any Blizzard game. Presumably they were some kind of user-added content. What will the mod community think up next?

However, in terms of those who'll live forever in our memory of Blizzcon, there's only the man - whom we liked to think of as the Malcom X of Murlocs. With banners, tiny Murloc children, soft skin and a constant array of shouted chants, he protested for the rights of his fishy-brethren as he wandered the floors spewing a series of creeds about the butchery of his kind. They aren't worth a six-slot bag in the eyes of most adventures.

Frankly, he scares us. And frankly, he has us convinced.

Forget about Nerfing the Shaman, Blizzard.

From now on we only care about one thing: FREE THE MURLOCS!

[Photos taken from Blizzard's photogallery of the event.]