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Blizzcon vs. Quakecon

Feature: Fans get close to the makers of their fave games

BLIZZCON

Jay Mohr seems to know something is up. That cloak - it's not fitted quite right. The American stand-up comedian is on stage hosting Blizzcon's incredible costume, dance, and sound-alike contests.

Nearly 100 attendees have lined up backstage for their moment of glory. Now, it's the elf girl. Cloak wrapped around her, pointed ears poking toward the spotlight. "I'm going to do the Blood Elf dance."

The cloak drops. She's not really wearing much. Britney Spears' Toxic begins. She starts gyrating. And the crowd go utterly wild.

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Blizzcon's contests and shows are a riot. It's a change for the World of Warcraft (and it is mostly World of Warcraft even if the Blizzard judges slipped Diablo and Starcraft entries into the winners) community to gather and celebrate. It should be embarrasing.

But it's not - it's genuinely endearing; even the most rythmically challenged Troll female getting a standing ovation. Remember the scene when Napoleon Dynamite heads out on stage? It's like that, repeated 50 times over the course of an hour.

And Jay seems to get it. He clearly doesn't play WoW, or Starcraft, or Diablo. But he seems to thrive off the atmosphere. When a beautiful centaur comes to the front of the stage he doesn't notice the extra pair of legs until the last minute.

He does a double take, and falls about laughing. "I have a rotweiller with the same back legs."

Elsewhere, attendees can play the first zone of the new World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, and Starcraft 2. The latter seems to be the highlight - with many RTS players heading straight back out of the LAN pit immediately back into the queue.

When the gaming stops, the information overload begins. Every hour, panels allow attendees the chance to grill Blizzard designers and artists and programmers about their games.

Why doesn't Engineering have any good recipes? What's to be done about rogue effectiveness in raids? And when's Starcraft 2 coming out? And Legendary Pictures, the studio behind 300 and Superman, appear on stage to announce that a Warcraft movie is definitely happening, and that they're "not going to mess it up."

A day later, during the closing ceremony, a tired but happy crowd is treated to a reference-laden performance by Level 70 Elite Tauren Chieftans - a heavy metal band comprised entirely of Blizzard staff and executives.

The titles and performance are pure in-joke: 'I am Murloc' (sample lyric: "I am more than a fish, I am more than a man. Death will rise, hear my cry, Bwlaglglglg"). The crowd adore it, singing along, raising their flippers in salute.

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Jay seems to get the joke. As the ceremony comes to a close he comes on stage with a camera, to take a photo of the rapturous crowd. "You guys are awesome."

THE STATS

Number of attendees: 10,000
Where? Anaheim, California
Games announced: World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
Films announced: Warcraft: The Movie
Games playable before release: Starcraft 2, Wrath of the Lich King
Celebs spotted: Brandon Routh (Superman), MacCauley Culkin (Home Alone), Jay Mohr (Jerry Maguire)
Freebies: WoW T-shirt, WoW trading card game, in-game Murloc suit


QUAKECON
Quake! Quaaaaaaaaaaake! It's safe to say this free annual celebration of all things id Software is an altogether more male gathering than Blizzcon. This is about men killing each other with big guns in Texas. And about John Carmack making brains melt with hours of incomprehensible talk about how graphics work.
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