My tour of the Blizzard Arena in Burbank

This past weekend, Blizzard and their Heroes of the Storm team invited me out to do press/media coverage for Heroes of the Dorm, an annual collegiate tournament where teams from colleges and universities across the United States and Canada compete to crown a champion who will receive tuition for their college careers.

Last year, Heroes of the Dorm was at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, but since then, Blizzard set up the Blizzard Arena, their own studio in Burbank, CA near Hollywood. The Blizzard Arena is a full-blown production studio and stadium, and part of the media day leading into Heroes of the Dorm was an Arena tour.

The Arena was actually pretty amazing, and people who actually know me well know that I don’t really give out compliments too often, and even when I do, the word “amazing” usually doesn’t get thrown around too often. The media group got to see all the behind-the-scenes production rooms and equipment, as well as the different stages used for different games. Luckily, I had clearance to take photographs of everything.

Blizzard Arena

Blizzard Arena

Blizzard Arena

Blizzard Arena

Blizzard Arena

Blizzard Arena - Skybox

(Full 2018 Heroes of the Dorm album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/adamparkzer/sets/72157691099653260)

 

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I’m still probably the world’s unluckiest traveler

I have notoriously bad travel experiences that you’ve probably heard about if you’ve read my blog before. Pretty much every time I leave my home and go to the airport to go to an event, something ridiculous happens after a culmination of misfortune.

This past weekend, I went to Burbank, CA for Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm collegiate tournament, Heroes of the Dorm. Blizzard flew me out to do press and media coverage, and they offered travel and lodging, so I still accepted and attended the event, even though I’m not a huge fan of traveling.

When I received a link to book my flight, the travel overlords noticed that I was about to travel again, and began their wrath.

 
It started out pretty simple – the travel agency’s website stopped working and gave me an error message that I couldn’t get around. So, instead of booking my flight normally, I had to speak with a customer service representative at the agency to get my flight booked. That was fine, though – I’m pretty experienced with travel, and I was able to find a good Southwest Airlines flight non-stop from Las Vegas to Hollywood Burbank that our travel agent was able to book for me.

Surprisingly, the flight to Burbank was pretty decent. This was my first time on Southwest Airlines, and although the cabin of their planes wasn’t really that great, I was pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness and efficiency of their open seating policy. Instead of picking a seat prior to my flight, I had to stand in line to get on the plane, then seating was done on a first-come first-served basis. Apparently nobody wanted the exit row seat, so I literally got a seat where there was no seat in front of me. It was literally the most leg room I’ve ever had on a flight.

Once I arrived in Burbank, I discovered that my shuttle wasn’t there. Apparently, the travel agency only had shuttles available at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) (because that’s the airport to which everyone else was flying), and not at Burbank (which is a smaller airport that doesn’t service as many other airlines). So, instead of making a huge deal out of it, I just called my own Uber to the hotel, as I didn’t want to add extra work to the travel coordinator who was already running all over LAX to organize rides.

In the process of figuring this out, the travel agency found out that my shuttle had not been booked properly, and they ensured me that I would have a ride provided to me from my hotel to Hollywood Burbank Airport on my way back home. I told them it wasn’t a big deal at all, as I’m very familiar with travel logistics (seeing as I usually tend to book my own travel due to my preference of customization), but told them I appreciate the ride they will organize. Not long later, I received an email letting me know that a shuttle will arrive at 10:30 AM at the hotel to take me to the airport.

 
After the conclusion of the event, Sunday came around and it was time to go home. I had everything packed up and ready to go at 10:20 AM and I was outside the hotel where the shuttle had picked us up the two prior days to take us to the Arena – I figured that was just the designated pick-up spot, and thought it would be the best place to wait. Unfortunately, the shuttle never showed up.

About 15 minutes after the expected arrival time of the shuttle, I went into the group Discord server for Heroes of the Dorm travel logistics and asked what was going on. A different member of the press let me know that the 10:30 AM shuttle was actually at the Hilton hotel, which was several hundred feet away from the Marriott where I was saying. I thanked him for the information and started walking over when I realized I should probably check the shuttle’s destination – I asked again where that particular 10:30 AM shuttle was headed… and he said it was going to LAX. So, that wasn’t actually my shuttle.

I walked back to the Marriott and checked in with the travel agency one more time before just calling my own Uber, when a representative told me to stay waiting at the Marriott because she was calling me an Uber. I stood and waited for another 10-15 minutes when the agent let me know that a Honda was at the front door waiting to get me.

I roamed around the hotel for a while looking for this Honda, but couldn’t find it; I messaged back in the group chat that unless this particular Honda had a Kia badge (which was the only other car at the front of this hotel), the Uber was not in fact ready to pick me up. I checked in with her to make sure she had sent the Uber to the correct hotel, and… you guessed it, she sent the Uber to the Hilton instead of the Marriott.

I quickly messaged back letting her know that it was no problem, the Hilton was close by in walking distance, and I would jog over there to catch the Uber. However, the agent told me that she would contact the driver to head to the correct hotel, and before I could stop her, she had already let the driver know of the new pick-up address. I planted my feet and waited some more.

The Hilton is literally a block or so away from the Marriott – literally joggable in about a minute. The Uber must’ve gotten catastrophically lost, because he didn’t show up for 8 minutes. But, he ended up making it – after 8 minutes, the Honda showed up at the front of the Marriott.

I got in and let him know that I was headed to Bob Hope Hollywood Burbank Airport… upon which he informed me that he had to cancel the ride because he doesn’t have his permit to conduct rides to and from the airport. If you’re not familiar with Uber, rides to and from the airport are regulated more strictly and require the driver to pass a quiz to earn a permit, and they’re also more expensive due to extra airport fees and taxes. Apparently this guy had already passed his quiz, which is why Uber put him into the pool of airport-eligible drivers, but he hadn’t actually received his airport permit sticker in the mail yet, so he couldn’t conduct airport rides yet.

I exploded and told him not to cancel the ride, because I had a flight to catch and I had already gone through the absurd trouble of even getting a ride at all. Because I travel to Burbank a lot for Blizzard and ESL events, I’m actually quite familiar with the area. I told him that we’re going to change the destination – we are no longer going to Bob Hope Hollywood Burbank Airport, but to Panda Express.

At first he looked a little confused, but after I explained that Panda Express is nearby the airport and I can just walk the remaining third of a mile or so to my terminal, he caught on. He successfully drove me to Panda Express, I walked into the airport, and I successfully caught and boarded my flight. No exit row seat this time though, unfortunately.

 
The plane departed Burbank and made it to Las Vegas. As we were approaching McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, I looked out the window and spotted my apartment complex. We were a little too high for comfort, though – my apartment is only about 10 miles away from the airport, but our altitude didn’t really seem like we were about to land in 10 miles. Moments later, we flew right past McCarran International Airport and continued southeast.

We kept flying quite literally to the edge of Henderson, nearly to Boulder City. I clearly wasn’t the only person who was this confused, as other passengers were staring out the windows with puzzled looks on their faces. Once we were nearly 30 miles out… the pilot decided to do a 180-degree turn straight back to the airport.

Yes, I understand that landing order and directional runways are a thing – we sometimes have to wait for different planes to land first, and sometimes runways are shut down for one reason or another and we need to land from a certain approach angle. What I’m particularly curious about is why we ended up flying an extra 30 miles off into the corner of the city, only to turn around sharply as if we only had 1 mile of turning space.

I get motion sickness pretty easily on planes and cars, but I managed to avoid motion sickness on that flight.

Until that point.

My head felt like it was about to explode, and I nearly vomited.

 
I’m alive, safe, and back home now. The tournament was great, the Blizzard Arena was awesome, and the event itself was excellent. It’s pretty rare that I actually give out generous compliments like this, but I actually really think that the Blizzard Arena is one of the best studios I’ve been in. I watched some games from the stands, and although I think the lighting and immersion could use a bit of extra work, it felt like a real stadium experience. The behind-the-scenes of the Arena is intense, and the tour I got of the production rooms was intriguing and insightful.

I just can’t wait for esports to eventually move to Las Vegas as a main hub so I don’t have to get on another unlucky plane ride.

 

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Room tour video that I filmed with Jun

Do you remember the cooking video that I produced with one of Tempo Storm’s Heroes of the Storm players, Jun?

After a month, I finally found some spare time to edit together the other video we filmed that day – a tour of his room:

And seeing as people tend to like behind-the-scenes looks, here’s a screenshot of my editing software so you can see exactly what goes into making one of these videos:

Room Tour with Jun

 

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I produced a cooking video for one of our HotS players

Remember a little while back when I went rock climbing with Tempo Storm’s Heroes of the Storm team? After we were done, I went back to one of the players’ apartment to film some more stuff while I was in the area.

One of the segments we filmed was of Jun, the support player, cooking some Korean-style beef sirloin.

IMG_0617

IMG_0618

I finished editing the clips together last night, and the video went live on the Tempo Storm Heroes of the Storm YouTube channel earlier today.

#sirloin

 

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Heroes of the Dorm 2017

After our filling dinner from last night at the Cleo in SLS Las Vegas, we woke up nice and early to head to the Cox Pavilion for Heroes of the Dorm 2017. Heroes of the Dorm is a collegiate Heroes of the Storm tournament where the top university and college teams across America compete to get their tuition covered by Blizzard. The four best teams came to Las Vegas to compete in person for the championship.

Heroes of the Dorm 2017

Because I was part of the press/media team, I arrived earlier before the regular spectators. I was able to get a shot up from the media balcony looking down at the empty stadium that was about to be filled with a sold out crowd, plus stand at the front entrance of the Cox Pavilion and get a shot of the line of attendees waiting to get into the venue.

Heroes of the Dorm 2017

Heroes of the Dorm 2017

For a few hours before doors opened to the public, we were able to get ourselves set up in preparation for covering the event. We also got to interview the four teams competing; I attended the interview and transcribed everything for content to go out on TempoStorm.com later.

Ever since Blizzard changed the format of professional Heroes of the Storm from a tournament-based format to an online league format, there haven’t really been many live Heroes of the Storm events, so the turnout for Heroes of the Dorm was pretty huge. When doors opened to the public, people started flowing into the stadium after checking out the other stuff Blizzard had set up (mainly a merch area and a photo spot).

Heroes of the Dorm 2017

All the series were one-sided – LSU defeated Kentucky 2-0 in the semifinals, UT Arlington defeated UC Irvine 2-0 in the second semifinal series, and UT Arlington defeated LSU 3-0 in the finals. That resulted in a much shorter day of games than anticipated.

Heroes of the Dorm 2017

 

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New infographic on HotS Global Championship, Fall 2016, NA Regional

 

As part of my work with Tempo Storm, I grouped up once again with our statistician and graphic designer for another infographic, this time covering the Heroes of the Storm Global Championship’s Fall 2016 NA Regional.

Although I’ve been going to quite a few Heroes of the Storm events lately due to Tempo Storm’s pro team, now that we’ve signed a Korean team, I had no reason to be on site for this one. I was able to cover this event from the luxury of my home instead.

My tweet above from earlier today gives a brief overview of the infographic.

We did two special features this time, one on the winning team, and one on the hero Zagara. This victory was pretty unexpected, as a new team essentially came out of nowhere, defeating the reigning North American champions, so I did a spotlight on each of the players and where they came from.

If you need the link, in case the embedded tweet above is not displaying properly:

https://tempostorm.com/articles/infographic-esl-hots-global-championship-fall-2016-na-regional

 

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