Hey everyone! Last month I was invited by Blizzard to attend a Warcraft Summit in Irvine, California. It’s an incredibly exciting year for the Warcraft franchise, and being part of the small group of people who were chosen, I felt incredibly honored to be there.
Not only is it the 15 year anniversary of World of Warcraft, but also the 25th anniversary of the Warcraft franchise as a who-le. In this video, I’m going to share with you my experience at the Warcraft Summit, but also briefly take a look back at the history of Warcraft, too, and why it is such a monumental year for the franchise.
It was the year 1994, 25 years ago. Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, a real time strategy game, or RTS, published by Blizzard Entertainment, was released. Although it wasn’t the first multiplayer RTS of its time, it featured elements to its gameplay that were new and innovative at the time. The main objective was to essentially build your own home base through collecting various resources, build up an army, and destroy your enemy.
The game was so successful that it won several awards, and opened up the door for it’s sequel, Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness in 1995 for DOS and 1996 for Mac OS, and with its success, an expansion pack – Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal. In Warcraft II, players were able to craft more advanced units within their home base, compared to that of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans.
And, as with the repeated success of Warcraft II, Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos was released in 2002, with its expansion pack: The Frozen Throne, released in 2003. It was the first 3D rendering from the Warcraft franchise. In it, players were able to choose from 4 factions: Humans, Orcs, Night Elves and Undead, as well as the addition of heroes as playable units.
A great majority of the storyline, characters, locations and more from Warcraft III were a huge part of World of Warcraft, released in 2004, 15 years ago. WoW went on to become the world’s most popular MMORPG by 2009 and has since become one of the highest-grossing video game franchises of all time.
Flash forward to Tuesday, May 7th. The location is Irvine, California. The event is a Warcraft Summit to discuss future plans for the franchise, as well as reflect a bit on the past 25 years.
I was invited by Global Community Engagement Manager at Blizzard Entertainment, Josh Allen to attend the summit. I had previously met Josh a few weeks back at PAX East in Boston, Massachusetts and shared my enthusiasm and excitement for Classic WoW with him. Although we didn’t meet for very long, I got the impression that he was a very chill guy who was making a conscious effort to meet more WoW Content Creators.
Being that this Summit was going to reveal a lot of upcoming information about Classic, I was thrilled when Josh asked if I’d be interested in attending. Back in November, I joined a Classic focused stream team, entitled ClassiCrew, which was created by the guys who run ClassiCast: Esfand, Staysafe and Tipsout. Wanting to cultivate a small, but diverse group of Classic streamers, they formed ClassiCrew to set up collaborations, promote community building, spread Classic hype, and more. I was really excited when asked to be apart of it and can’t thank them enough for the doors that have opened as a result. Through the ClassiCrew, I began writing Classic guides on classic.wowhead.com, which is something that I’m happily a part of, working on content on an almost daily basis. I’ve also met so many members of the Classic community. I was never apart of the private server hype, having never played on Nostalrius or any others. I was a pure Vanilla player, who continued playing WoW through all of it’s expansions. So going back to the start, almost 15 years later, has been a dream come true for me.
I asked Josh if it was okay if Daria, aka PastaFace joined me on the trip. I knew that at the event, I’d have an opportunity to interview developers and I figured, since her professional background is in film, video and directing and her objective could be to film the event for me. All of the footage you see in this video was filmed by her.
We sorted out all of our travel plans and itineraries. We took a connecting flight from JFK airport in New York, to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, then from there, a quick flight to SNA, John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California. The hotel we stayed at was in Irvine, and we soon discovered that almost all of the press and content creators that were invited to this event stayed in the same hotel.
After getting settled and resting up a bit, we decided to hit the bar downstairs. That’s where we met up with Josh and Towelliee. It was my first time meeting Towellie and I have to say, he’s a really cool, down to earth dude. He’s from the East Coast like we are and we bonded over our mutual love for the NY Yankees. Soon thereafter Esfand showed up. Then Staysafe, and finally Tips. We all chatted for a while and then decided we were hungry. Esfand, Staysafe, Tips, Pasta and I went to grab some Korean BBQ. There, we discussed the questions that we wanted to ask in our respective interviews with the devs. We wanted to try to cover as much content as possible and not ask overlapping questions.
After dinner, we head back to the hotel and that’s where I got to meet Perculia, Site Director of Wowhead.com. I’d been in touch with Perculia, over the past month or so on Discord, as she was giving me advice and guidance on my Classic guides, since writing them was still pretty new to me. I was really excited to get to meet her. You can tell she’s really passionate and dedicated to her work and she always has something super unique and stylish. I also enjoy her tweets, detailing the adventures of her cat Brightpaw, or her outside adventures to gardens.
Meeting others who are just as passionate and excited about WoW, to me, is incredibly fulfilling. Not many of my IRL friends play WoW, let alone know what it is. So being able to connect with people who share common interests in WoW is truly a great feeling. We head to bed soon after, because we knew we were in for a busy day in the morning.
We got up the next morning pretty early. Maybe around 7am or so. Which was funny, because due to the time zone differences, it was 10am in NY, so we weren’t particularly tired when we woke up.
So, the event was planned to go from 9am to 9pm. There was a shuttle bus outside the hotel that bussed all of us to the event. Getting on the bus was pretty funny. It felt like all of us were headed on a class trip. We arrived to the event location close to 9, and proceeded to check in to pick up our media credentials. We were given itineraries for the day, and some swag, too.
Demo stations were set to be open from 11:00am to 6:00pm, and each PC featured World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth 8.2 PTR, World of Warcraft Classic and Warcraft 1 through 3, all with the capability to capture gameplay.
Developer interviews were set to take place from 11:30am to 12:30pm and 1:30pm to 6:30pm. There were eight interview rooms scattered across two floors. My interview time was from 1:40pm to 2:00pm, Room #3, with Ion Hazzikostas and Calia Schie.
There was a gallery experience, or as we called it a pop-up museum on the first floor, that highlighted the 25th Anniversary of Warcraft and 15th Anniversary of World of Warcraft. Various pieces of artwork, memorabilia, relics and collectables were on display. This was the first place we visited. We spent a lot of time in this room, going through each piece featured. Among the pieces that really stood out to me were hand-drawn pieces of art by Chris Metzen of a dwarf and orc. I was fascinated by those 2 pieces in particular. Another cool thing to see were the old World of Warcraft credit cards on display. I’d totally sign up for one of those, by the way.
Breakfast was served shortly after, and we mingled more outside. There, I met Chinglish, Rudeism, and Tyrodin, who are all incredibly funny and incredibly happy to meet. I also met up with my pal Marie, Business Operations Manager for World of Warcraft and reconnected with a bunch of other familiar faces we met at BlizzCon last year.
At 10:00am was the keynote presentation. In it, they first recapped what was going on in BfA Patch 8.2: Rise of Azshara. That whole presentation took about 35 minutes. Then, finally, the moment we were waiting for. They moved on to the Classic portion of the keynote. I knew this was going to be big news. The presentation itself wasn’t very long. They basically revealed the release date of Classic WoW to us, August 27th, 2019, and the start of the Closed Beta, May 15th, 2019. After that information was given, the keynote presentation ended with the World of Warcraft 15th Anniversary Collector’s Edition, and all of its features.
Finally, as the keynote ended, they invited everyone to head on over to the Demo computers, and begin playing the game of their choosing. Naturally, all of the Classic people headed to the same area and booted up the game immediately. We were given access to the Classic Alpha.
On the Alpha realm, when we created a character, it started at level 40 for testing. The test characters came with gear, some gold, a mount, and more. As Pasta and I were getting ourselves situated, Pasta needed to find an outlet to charge one of her camera batteries. She saw a Blizzard employee standing off to the side, watching us fire up the Classic alpha, and asked him if there were any outlets she could use. She soon realized that the person she was speaking to was Omar Gonzalez, Senior Software Engineer at Blizzard Entertainment, and the man hugely responsible for making Classic WoW happen. Omar joined Blizzard in January of 2003, and has been working on World of Warcraft quality assurance, gameplay engineering, server engineering and more, over the past 16 years.
Omar had told Pasta that he’s a fan of the stream and tunes in often. He soon walked over and introduced himself to me. I was floored that he was a fan of my stream! He had to go head into interviews but we said we’d chat more later. What an incredibly humble, and awesome person he is.
Soon thereafter, I created my first character on the Alpha. Naturally, I made a paladin. But, after inspecting the armor, I realized I didn’t have any intellect gear. All of the gear was strength, agility and stamina. But, we didn’t have a 2h sword. You could imagine how Esfand must’ve felt. I decided to roll a priest. We got a group together and head to Scarlet Monastery: Library. Esfand, Staysafe, Pasta and myself made our way there. Esfand ended up tanking as a prot pally and I healed on my priest. It was a really fun, smooth run. We experimented with a few more things but before too long, it was lunch time!
There were beautiful displays of food outside and we mingled with everyone. We ate lunch with Perculia and Liam Knapp and got to learn a little bit more about their backgrounds. We couldn’t stay for long, as we had to soon prepare for our interviews after.
Pasta and I got to our interview room to meet with Ion and Calia. Not only were they very professional, but really personable too. They were happy to answer all of my questions. I wanted to ask a few questions that were a little bit different to start off, kind of like an ice breaker, then moved on to a few more technical questions. I linked my interview with them in the description below for those of you who would like to see it.
After our interview, we saw Omar outside again and I had another chance to chat with him for a while. We exchanged WoW memories and stories. It was a great conversation. Pasta and I head back to the demo area and continued to gather footage and explore the Classic Alpha. Not before too long, it was time to wrap up. It was already 6pm and the dinner and mixer was about to begin.
We transferred all of our recorded footage to the flash drives given to us. As we were wrapping up, we got a chance to meet Brian Birmingham, Lead Software Engineer at Blizzard Entertainment who serves as the technical lead for the engineers building World of Warcraft Classic. His team’s objectives are to help ensure Blizzard’s recreation of Vanilla WoW looks and feels as authentic as possible, while at the same time delivering a high-quality experience that lives up to modern day’s players expectations for service and stability. Brian’s been working at Blizzard since 2006, and was an absolute pleasure to speak to. All smiles. All enthusiasm. We even told him the origin story of how Daria got her nickname “Pastaface”.
After a lovely conversation with Brian, we head on outside for dinner. It was a gorgeous night and they had a beautiful setup of food catered. Sliders, a taco stand, vegetables, pretzels. Open bar. We sat back down to eat with Esfand, Staysafe, Tips, Perculia and soon, Josh Allen, Omar and Ion all sat down and joined us. We proceeded to chat about World of Warcraft for what seemed to be close to 2 hours. It was really awesome that Ion, Omar and Josh took the time to sit with us and answer questions. They didn’t have to. They could’ve gone home. But they didn’t. And that is something I’ll never forget.
We soon headed back to our hotel, and prepared to pack our things to leave early back to NY the next morning. As per our NDA – non-disclosure agreement, we were unable to speak of the events that occurred until the following week: Tuesday, May 14th at 11am EDT / 8am PDT.
We spent that week organizing footage. Putting together videos. Organizing our thoughts. We were so overwhelmed and excited. We knew it was crunch time. That week was incredibly busy, but at the same time, exciting too. I couldn’t wait to share this story with everyone.
We live streamed the night of May 14th to share our story. And the following day, when the Classic beta launched, we’ve been live streaming almost every night. I’ve made several videos related to the Beta, but I’ve just met so many people over the past few months. I am so humbled and grateful to be apart of this movement. I started playing World of Warcraft the day it was launched, on November 23rd, 2004. I never imagined that I would be invited by Blizzard to attend a Warcraft Summit, to learn information about the recreation of the game that started it all for me, and get the opportunity to test it out.
I am thankful for everyone who has helped pave the path for me to be where I am today. I continue to work hard every single day. I spend most of my mornings and afternoons working on content for Wowhead guides, then spend anywhere from 4-6 hours live streaming almost every night. In between that, I write scripts and videos for YouTube. I’ve been on the grind, nonstop, for almost 2 years. And to see that progress has been made, and that things are happening, validate my own hard work and inspire me to keep pushing harder each day.
Thank you for taking the time to watch this video. I look forward to sharing more of my WoW experiences with you in the future.