By Lesley Smith
So the first day of Blizzard's Worldwide Invitational is over: Diablo III is official and fans stream out into the streets of Paris to rejoice. Of course the Opening Ceremony wasn't the end of the event; merely the beginning.
The ceremony itself took place on the main stage which was jam-packed with over 3,500 people and many more standing. Attended by press from all around the world as well as several special guests such as the VPs of Global Finance and Human Resources (yep, we were all humbled too). Hosted by pop star China and stand up comedian and film star Anthony Kavangh, the event saw Blizzard co-founder Mike Morhaime take to the stage and congratulate the gamers of Europe as well as reminding all those present that this is the first time an invitational has been held outside of Korea. He took us on a trip back in time to last year's event in Seoul – a movie which includes a classic sound bite in the making from a teenaged Korean fan: "It's fun because Blizzard made it." Morhaime also commented on the Activision-Blizzard merger, provoking laughter when he said they'd ‘leveled up'.
The ceremony concluded in a musical fashion, in keeping with last year's Korean pop idols. A troupe of Fire Dancers who performed to composer Russell Brower's latest composition from the soundtrack of Diablo III. With the conclusion of the ceremony, the attendees scattered with the journos heading to a press event with leader designer Jay Wilson and VP/co-founder Frank Pearce.
Because of the top-secret-but-everyone-knows-about-it announcement about Diablo III, the panels weren't announced until after the ceremony had concluded and suddenly the convention floor was flooded with plans detailing the numerous talks, several of which focus on, yes you guessed it, Diablo. There were also some dev panels focusing on the present and future classes of World of Warcraft and several StarCraft panels.
Interspersed between was the chance to watch ace European guild Nihilum raiding in Sunwell Plateau trying to down Kil'Jaeden or watching a huge selection of pro-gamers battling it out for top spot. Esports is a big part of any invitational so they are running nearly none stop over the two day event and each team of professional gamers was paraded on the main stage as part of the Opening Ceremony.
Split across two floors, there are also numerous booths such as the Blizzard Museum and the famous Darkmoon Faire, complete with life-sized scantily-clad Night Elf, a mail box, meeting stone and a turtle mount. The event sponsors – who include Intel and amBX – also had their own booths but it was the Starcraft II and Wrath of the Lich King areas which seemed to attract attention, with an even longer line than the one for the food vendors, although not quite as long as the one at the main entrance. Unfortunately the Wrath computers were suffering technical hitches meaning they kept freezing, very handy if you're trying to explore Howling Fjord but what's an event without a technical hitch or three? Check back tomorrow for hands on preview of both games.
Other fun activities were available such as an Armourer and the chance to get made up as a World of Warcraft character and have a photo taken against a suitably Azerothian background. But for many the biggest photo opportunity was the life-sized Frozen Throne, complete with Arthas's creepy crown. Very in keeping, despite the lack of Wrath-related announcements.
Check back tomorrow when we'll be bringing you more coverage from the WWI, including coverage of the epic closing ceremony and WoW and StarCraft Q and A.