Midnight Madness - Cataclysm Global Launch Event Coverage
Over the years, World of Warcraft has become nothing less than a global gaming phenomenon. Just like the previous two expansions, The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, the hype factor surrounding the launch of Cataclysm has been cranked up to 11 ever since it was first announced.
After what seemed like an eternity of waiting for the midnight bells to toll on December 7th, Cataclysm was finally unleashed on the masses, much to the delight of fans throughout the world who had the opportunity to attend one of the midnight launch events. The World of Warcraft team at Ten Ton Hammer hit a number of these events both in the US and the UK and returned with full details on the ensuing mayhem which can be found below.
Unlike past releases, Cataclysm is also available as a digital download directly from Blizzard. How did the game servers fare once the expansion went live? We've got full details on the Cataclysm chaos as well, so sit back, grab a beverage, and enjoy Ten Ton Hammer's Cataclysm global launch event coverage!
Saia Takes on the London Launch Event
London was freezing, as befitting a December launch night, and people had been queuing in Leicester Square. Indeed by the time the public were allowed into Sound - the nightclub where the launch took place, the end of the queue managed to meet the beginning after going all around the square. Periodically employees would dole out bags of swag including posters and worgen foam paws to help the patient adventurers brave the cold, especially when they realised media and VIPs were entering the club an hour earlier than they were and this fact was brought home by the large countdown clock projected onto the outside wall of the club. Many people turned up in cosplay and various Gilnean doomsayers would be seen patrolling with sandwich boards proclaiming the end was finally nigh.
The line wrapped around Leicester Square
That's a lot of swag!
Inside, the main source of entertainment was a large green screen set up to photograph folks with Deathwing and a large screen on the ground floor looped footage of the cinematic and the Cataclysm trailer first released at BlizzCon as well as the countdown clock. Lights pulsed, blinding half of the VIPs, and Blizzard employees were easily spottable in their Gilnean get up, complete with top hats! The music of a lute mixed in with the Cataclysm soundtrack with regular competitions through out the night. Various members of the mainstream and specialist press went hunting for Ghostcrawler - secluded in the ultra VIP section - and spent the rest of the night dodging Blizzard employees in order to take some pictures or conduct unofficial, improptu interviews wherever possible.
The Cataclysm countdown clock
Ghostcrawler signing Cataclysm posters
As 11pm drew close, the cinematic was played at full volume. It was ear-splittingly loud and the floor seemed to shake with Deathwing's fury and the assembled masses counted down in unison. The entire lower floor was dominated by sales and, after purchasing the game, excited fans could wind their way up to the VIP area where Ghostcrawler and Dave Kosak were signing everything from posters and game boxes to photographs and artbooks. I'm pretty sure they were the last ones to leave as well, given the insanely long queues, and were still signing stuff long after we left. London is always an epic place to have a launch but this marked one of the highlights of the year for all British WoW fans.
Sardu's Deadliest Catch in Small Town America
For the midnight launch of Cataclysm, I initially considered hitting up one of the Raleigh, NC event locations. For better or worse, however, I instead opted to scamper over to the local GameStop to see what was shaking here in small town America. I'm just far enough outside of Raleigh that the town is only just beginning to see minor effects of urban sprawl, but by and large it's about as generic as a small Southeastern US town can get.
In fact, had I stumbled into GameStop blindly, not knowing what game the launch event was for, I would have just as easily assumed it was for Deadliest Catch: Sea of Chaos. Most of the 30 people milling around the store interior waiting for midnight to arrive looked like they'd just stepped straight off of a fishing boat, or had just returned from a hunting trip of some sort. In fact, topics of conversation kept teetering back and forth between WoW raiding and real world gun collections, as if the two were somehow interrelated.
The whole affair was somewhat of a Twilight Zone moment for me, but reminded me of just how popular World of Warcraft has become. The common stereotype of your average WoW player - the pasty skinned basement dweller - certainly didn't apply here. I wasn't quite sure whether I should be comforted by that fact, or whether I should be slightly creeped out realizing that for every basement dweller, there's also someone polishing their gun between Arena matches. And in this case, that's not intended to be an innuendo referring to the Goldshire crowd.
My only regret is that I wasn't able to take any images at the event as per GameStop's corporate policy against any form of photography in their stores. Either way, as soon as midnight hit I snagged my copy of the game and hightailed it out of there to begin the next phase of the waiting game, the wait until 12am Pacific time for the game servers to come on line.
Believe it or not there's an NPC in there somewhere
Welcome to Vashj'ir - also known as the Sea of Corpses
After about an hour of failed connection attempts I finally began my journey into Cataclysm. To give you an idea of the utter chaos that ensued, take a gander at the two images above. On the left you'll see the very first thing on my screen upon logging in on my hunter. Orgrimmar was a sea of characters all stacked on top of the initial quest NPCs for Cataclysm, making it a mini-game of sorts just to find a means of clicking on them. Speaking of seas, by the time I finally made it to Vashj'ir, the zone had become nothing less than a veritable sea of corpses, as seen on the right. All I can say is that I made the right call to log in with my skinner / leatherworker!
Mem and the Digital Continuum
3:01am PST. The hour of truth, the moment we have all been waiting for. Sure I wasn't thrilled I had to wait till this ridiculously late hour to log on, but with minimal QQing I put on my big boy underwear and prepared to wait. TV, books, and lots of checking the clock filled the slow hours, but finally it was almost time.
Since I had purchased the digital copy of the game days before, I simply opened my launcher, pushed play, typed in my information, and waited until it was finally time to hit that Login button. Finally it was time. I eagerly hit that big red button with a big grin of triumph on my face. But soon my grin faltered as "Connecting" remained on my screen. My mind raced, this was totally normal, the login servers were probably packed and it would just take a bit longer to connect but soon I would get logged in right... right?!? Sadly though, it was not to be, as shortly after I got those final words that spelled certain doom "Disconnected from server".
"Welcome to Cataclysm... well, almost..."
I raced to Facebook to compare notes with my gamer friends only to be faced with harsh reality; it appeared Blizzard login servers were down. Unexpected? Hardly. In fact I knew the servers would probably crash, but not till after I had had at least 10 or 15 minutes to indulge myself in the brand new expansion. Still I held out hope and over and over again I tried to log in, until finally, it happened, I was in.
No queue, no lag, and no other problems greeted me as I took my first baby steps into the post expansion world. It was almost dream like in its perfection, but soon I came to realize that it couldn't last. It wouldn't be server crashes, crazy glitches, or other such things that ultimately defeated me, it would be my own human weakness and my need for sleep. My adrenaline rush had faded in the initial login fiasco and so as I caught myself head lulling to the side with probable drool running down my cheek I knew it was time to throw in the towel.
I silently cursed Blizzard for their insistence on a unified launch time as I prepared to log out. After such an uneventful launch, who knew what I would find tomorrow after my much needed sleep. Visions of crashing servers, two hour long queues, and mobs of players rushing for quests filled my head. For a small measure of comfort I thought to myself, "oh well, there's always next week!"
Xerin and the Big Bang in the Midwest
The cold winds of the north are not enough to stop the intrepid adventurer from claiming their just reward from their long and perilous campaign in Northrend. The slick cardboard box containing a large numerical chain that determines if you can or cannot save the world from a mad dragon rests in the hands of tired cashiers bracing for a zerg of unknown proportions. Call me a traditionalist, but it's the bonding experience of standing in a strange and foreign land, in freezing cold weather you are in no way used to, with people who talk about strange things such as how much they can't wait to take on the role of a Goblin and fight some weird looking dragon fella. In this land of crazy fools you will find those who are a bit strange and those who are like-minded to your goals.
In the game store the wait was rather short. They allowed those waiting to stay within the store away from the harsh cold to chat and mingle about their favorite game. At midnight, even without any kind of certificate of "I can purchase this" the line lasted a low five minutes after which the product was dispensed post haste, even though supplies were running low. The people inside were friendly and discussion was long on the various topics of guilds, character scores, and exactly what's up with Garrosh Hellscream. At midnight you could see a parade of cars rushing out of the store and toward the horizon with their beloved product*.
For those who sat within the comforts of their castle, I bequeath you to perhaps one day to consider venturing out in the vast and open world to experience meeting players just like yourself at your local game store. Who knows, perhaps you'll find a friendly face from the server you call home sitting within the store waiting.
*Editor's Note: As Xerin later informed me, the mad rush of gamers attempting to leave the store included at least one car crash. Nothing quite like starting your Cataclysm experience with a bang!
We'd love to hear your Cataclysm launch tales as well, so be sure to run, swim, or fly on over to our World of Warcraft community forums and join the discussion!