My thoughts on MapleStory after playing for one month

My childhood best friend Ed Lam, who you might remember from my old League of Legends days as “Grainyrice,” grew up playing MapleStory (similar to how I grew up playing Neopets and RuneScape). I’ve always wanted to at least try it out, but I never really had a good opportunity to get pulled into it.

Lately, MapleStory has been running some marketing campaigns about their new content patch and the Hyper Burning promotion, where your leveling process is vastly expedited in earlier levels so you can get into the game quickly and join your friends who might be veteran players and are far ahead of you. On top of that, I had a holiday recess coming up from my work at Tempo, during which I would have some extra time to binge a video game. Thus, I figured this would probably be one of the better times to get started, so I decided to make a MapleStory character exactly one month ago.

I ended up picking Angelic Buster, I’ve been having a great time playing. During my holiday recess, I live streamed a lot of my MapleStory gameplay on Twitch, and I had a nice time in­ter­act­ing with viewers and learning about optimal ways to advance my progression. While streaming, a decent number of people asked me whether I would recommend that they play MapleStory too.

Everyone’s situation is different, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what MapleStory has to offer, so I don’t feel like I’m particularly qual­i­fied to answer that question. With that being said, I can still give some of my thoughts and first impressions of the game so that you are better able to make an informed decision for yourself.

 

  • MapleStory is often called a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG), but I think it is also as much of a hack-and-slash (also known as a “beat ’em up”) as it is an MMORPG. I really like games like Path of Exile and Diablo III, and I feel like MapleStory, to some extent, is a more light-hearted version of the aforementioned two games.

    Combat is an important part of MapleStory, and the way you engage in combat is very satisfying. The skill animations are bright and flashy. The sound effects are striking and aggressive. The damage numbers make it feel like you are having a huge impact on the screen. Every time you use a skill, hear the corresponding sound, and see the corresponding damage numbers, you get a tiny little hit of dopamine that continues hundreds and thousands of times throughout a combat session.

  • The Hyper Burning event (where you gain two bonus levels for every single level-up you achieve) makes a huge difference in getting through the earlier levels. I especially recognized the difference because I had originally accidentally created a character without Hyper Burning, and then when I created a new one with Hyper Burning active, it felt far more refreshing.

    MapleStory is known for its grindy nature, similar to many other Korean MMORPGs. With Hyper Burning, you’re able to avoid pretty much all grinding and go from storyline to storyline, sometimes even skipping some because you are leveling so quickly. If you are playing MapleStory for the story and want to complete all the storylines in chronological order, you are still able to do that—nothing is explicitly stopping you from taking the gameplay slowly (though you obviously wouldn’t get meaningful experience from quests if you’re overleveled for the requirements). If you are playing MapleStory to reach level 260 as quickly as possible to join friends who have been playing for a while, this makes it so you’re not stuck in-game for months before reaching your goal.

  • The quest system can get a little confusing. The map and quest log system is far from the worst I’ve seen, but once in a while, I’ll end up with a quest where I can’t use the navigation system to show me where to go and I can’t find the provided destination anywhere on the map. Luckily, because of Hyper Burning, if I ever run into a situation like this, I can just skip the entire quest chain and do another quest line in a different zone and still have plenty of experience to continue leveling up, but if I didn’t have Hyper Burning, I would imagine this would get extremely frus­trat­ing.

    I have had some issues like this in MMORPGs like World of Warcraft before, but at least World of Warcraft has some extremely thorough fan sites that explain how to do certain difficult quests in excruciating detail; I’ve noticed that MapleStory does not have many resources like this, which makes things harder.

  • One side effect of Hyper Burning is that you get in the habit of skipping things. I was having so much fun leveling up and unlocking new zones that I missed some of the critical teaching quests that would explain core game mechanics. Because of this, I was doing fine up to a certain point, upon which my power level fell fairly sharply because I wasn’t taking advantage of all the power-boosting features I had available to me, because I didn’t know they existed. At that certain point, it was taking a very long time for me to kill enemies, which prompted me to start looking into what was going on.

    Yes, it is my own fault for not seeing these important quests, but I would appreciate it if MapleStory had these quests marked differently, similar to how Final Fantasy XIV has the “blue/purple plus-sign quests.”

  • I’m torn about the interface. A lot of it is clunky and has very strange interactions and limitations, but I also like the “classic” style of interfaces. A lot of the newer games (as well as apps, websites, and pretty much everything nowadays) make the interface way too “idiot friendly” by using big round buttons and hiding a lot of important information, so I appreciate the fact that MapleStory doesn’t assume their players are stupid and will instead just show you everything you need to know.

  • I nearly quit the game at level 200 because it was so overwhelming. There are a ton of new things dumped on you at the same time, and as I just mentioned, if you did not know they exist and do not start integrating the new unlocks into your gameplay, you reach a point where you literally cannot kill anything and cannot gain more experience.

    To be clear, I am almost certain that this is my own fault, because, again, I was way too excited with the progression and skipped too much quest text that probably explained to me how to use everything. Luckily, I was live streaming during that time, so my Twitch chat was able to guide me through everything. There were two particular members in chat who literally saved the game for me, as they walked me through literally eve­ry­thing step-by-step until it clicked enough for me to be able to deduce how to optimize that aspect of the game.

  • Even now, the way I’m supposed to get better gear is confusing and unclear to me. I was under the impression that gear would progressively go up little by little, like about 10 levels at a time, but I am hearing from some sources that it jumps from 150 to 200? The entire gearing process is very unintuitive, I haven’t really be able to find a comprehensive and reliable guide for gearing, and it doesn’t seem like there are any in-game resources on the topic.

 
Now that I’ve typed this all out, this seems a bit more disorganized and scatterbrained than I anticipated… but I guess that might be a good thing, as these are my unfiltered thoughts that are probably more comparable to asking a friend for their input, rather than looking like a polished review.

I’m level 245 now, and the leveling process has slowed substantially—but this time, it’s not because I’m doing anything wrong. Once you get to these levels, progressing to the next storyline quest is limited to once every five levels, and the only way to level up otherwise is to do daily/weekly quests, spe­cial events, and other day-limited tasks… or just grind killing mobs for long periods of time.

The reason I know I’m not doing anything wrong is because I am extremely powerful—one single spell cast is enough to clear out multiple enemies. I’ve managed to reach this point because Hyper Burning also gives you a lot of gear- and stat-enhancing items, so I used those to min-max and optimize my character. With all that done, now it’s just a matter of putting in a lot of time investment to level up, otherwise I just need to wait for daily and weekly tasks to reset.

Since the end of holiday recess, I’ve just been signing into MapleStory once a day for about half an hour at a time to finish all my daily reset tasks. With work picking back up, I now no longer have the time or motivation to play as obsessively as I did between Christmas and New Year’s, but playing and watching the animations and damage effects for a little bit per day is still satisfying and rewarding enough that I’ll stick to it until at least level 260.

 

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Re: “If you were in the Pokémon games, what would you pick as your team?”

I’ve had somewhat limited exposure to video games as a kid—there were a few games that I played a ton of, but I didn’t play a wide variety of different games. Out of the games I did play, Pokémon is one of the games that I played a lot—my first Pokémon game was Yellow Version, I’ve played the games fairly seriously up until Generation IV, and I’ve at least had some degree of gameplay exposure up until Generation VI.

After people find out that I like Pokémon and even collect Absol cards of every type, variant, and language I can find, a lot of people ask what team I would have if I was a gym leader or another NPC in the Pokémon games.

I don’t think I would be the type of person to run a Pokémon Gym. I’m not really the type of person to look up to someone like people look up to gym leaders, or otherwise place people on a pedestal and respect them more than any other human being simply because of their status. Naturally, that means that I don’t want other people to do that to me either—I firmly believe that I am just a regular person who doesn’t need special treatment.

In alignment with that philosophy, I wouldn’t necessarily want to be a gym leader. However, I do like the idea of being in a Pokémon game as somewhat of a random encounter, similar to how you hunt Suicune, Raikou, and Entei in Pokémon Gold, Silver, and Crystal—I am simply out exploring the lands like any other trainer, but with some luck, you can run into me and battle me out in the wild.

Scizor

Moves: U-Turn, Bullet Punch, Swords Dance, False Swipe
Ability: Technician
Nature: Adamant

I think Scizor would be a good lead for my party. It has a priority same-type attack bonus (STAB) move in Bullet Punch to quick­ly clear out wild encounters, Swords Dance to buff attack for longer battles, and U-Turn if he’s in trouble and needs to switch out.

I also like the idea of having False Swipe in the moveset, a move that otherwise would make no sense except for lore purposes. When I was younger and played Pokémon Gold on the Game Boy Color, Scizor was literally the Pokémon I used to catch wild Pokémon by bringing them down to 1 HP using False Swipe, and I think leaving that in acts as a nod to the practicality of my team and an indication that I am just a regular Pokémon trainer out catching and training Pokémon like everyone else.

Togekiss

Moves: Air Slash, Tri Attack, Flamethrower, Fly
Ability: Serene Grace
Nature: Timid

Back when I used to play Pokémon Showdown, I ended up picking Togekiss as my special attack sweeper (and I don’t quite re­mem­ber why). The Togepi evolution line isn’t particularly my favorite or anything, but I guess Togekiss has grown on me up to the point that I’d want to include it in my team.

Similar to False Swipe being on Scizor above, I like the idea of just randomly having Fly on Togekiss, as that would make sense lore-wise that I am a random encounter because I’m out adventuring. However, if I were to be implemented in a static location any­where, I would probably replace Fly with something like Ominous Wind to fully commit to the Serene Grace gimmick.

Espeon

Moves: Psychic, Hidden Power (Ice), Grass Knot, Substitute
Ability: Synchronize
Nature: Modest
Gender: Female

My second favorite Pokémon is Eevee. I like the fact that Eevee just looks like a normal pet that you could have in real life. I also like potential, i.e., the capacity and power of being able to do many things and/or whatever you want is very appealing to me. Eevee obviously has a lot of potential, considering that it can evolve into several different Pokémon of different types and stat dis­tri­bu­tions.

I like the idea of having a “pair” in my party, and Eevee evolutions seem like the best way to do that. Espeon and Umbreon also represent balance—light and dark, offensive and defensive—another one of my core values.

Espeon is strong but fragile. Umbreon is “there to protect her,” but I also like the idea of Espeon being able to stand up for her­self when needed, so I have her built as a special attacker with Substitute for a bit more durability.

Umbreon

Moves: Curse, Payback, Protect, Wish
Ability: Synchronize
Nature: Careful
Gender: Male
Item: Leftovers

I wouldn’t really consider myself an avid shiny hunter, but after I finish the storyline and have beaten the Elite Four a countless number of times, I do end up looking for some new things to do in-game. Umbreon would be a shiny on my team, not nec­es­sar­i­ly be­cause I’m enthralled to shiny hunt an Eevee, but mainly simply because I like the visuals of the blue in the sprite.

As you’d expect, Umbreon is on the team to break up the opponent’s momentum and try to put a stop to any sweepers that may have had an opportunity to set up. In theory, Umbreon could also support his partner Espeon by casting Wish for her to help her recover from the health penalty of using Substitute.

Empoleon

Moves: Aqua Jet, Swords Dance, Metal Claw, Earthquake
Ability: Torrent
Nature: Adamant

I like having a bit of chaos and unpredictability in my life. I know it’s become a meme now to “never let anyone know your next move,” but I do think there is real value in doing things in an unconventional way.

Empoleon is generally used as a special attacker (and sometimes a bulky one), so being a Swords Dance attack sweeper with a priority STAB water-type move that also gets boosted by its ability, a STAB steel-type move that can even further increase attack, and an all-around solid move in Earthquake is very powerful.

Absol

Moves: Night Slash, Psycho Cut, Stone Edge, Superpower
Ability: Super Luck
Nature: Adamant
Item: Scope Lens

My team wouldn’t be complete with my favorite Pokémon, Absol. Considering it is my favorite, if I were to spend time shiny hunting anything, Absol would be first in line, so I decided to put a shiny variant on my team.

In addition to its looks, another aspect of Absol I really like is its lore. It is often referred to as the Disaster Pokémon because it comes down from the mountains to warn people of upcoming disasters, but because of the timing, many people think it is Absol it­self that is bringing the doom. Because of this, I’ve specifically built my Absol around the theme of luck—both its ability and item increase its critical hit ratio, and three out of its four attacks inherently have higher critical hit rate.

Absol would be my signature Pokémon, and if the game allows me to have an overworld sprite, Absol would be the one standing by my side.

If you’d like to make a fan game or write fan fiction themed around Pokémon that includes me, keep in mind that you do not have to ask public figures for permission prior to including them in works of parody or transformative content, as long as you are not infringing on their right of publicity or com­mitting com­mer­cial appropriation.

With that being said, I actually enjoy seeing creative fan-made content, as long as it is not intended to falsely discredit my reputation, spread false in­for­ma­tion construed as statement of facts, imply any commercial endorsement or agreement, or otherwise be made in bad faith. If you plan on in­clud­ing me in your personal projects, you may use my team and lore from above, but also feel free to modify it in any way you’d like to fit the format of your work.

 

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The Adam Parkzer and Doug Wreden World of Warcraft: Classic hardcore saga

Starting in mid-April, I joined my friend Doug Wreden in playing World of Warcraft: Classic hardcore.

For those who are unfamiliar, hardcore mode, also known as “perma-death,” is a modified way of playing a game that enforces various additional re­stric­tions, the most iconic of which prohibits you from ever dying, consequenced by being forced to delete your character. WoW Classic doesn’t have an official hardcore mode, but there is a fan-made add-on that implements the functionality, which Doug and I used.

Here is our saga.

 
I joined World of Warcraft during Mists of Pandaria and never played Classic. I’m not really a fan of classic games in general—I appreciate the quality-of-life improvements that game developers add to modern-day games, so I usually don’t go out of my way to play older games unless they are particularly nostalgic. With that being said, Doug somehow convinced me to join him on a duo adventure of WoW Classic hardcore.

Doug really wanted to play Druid, which limited us to the Night Elf race. My first character was a Hunter named Parkzerect, a combination of “Parkzer” and “erect,” because this is hardcore.

We got to level 2, at which point, Doug got bored of the Night Elf leveling zone and proposed bum-rushing our way to the Human leveling area. I didn’t know what that meant, but I agreed; we set off on our journey and promptly died to a level 20+ Young Wetlands Crocolisk.

For our second attempt, I made a Hunter named Parkzerecter, a combination of “Parkzer” and “erecter,” because we were just getting started and I was even more ready than before. After six levels, I discovered that clearly was not the case, because I sort of just randomly forgot to keep track of my health bar and died to a Vicious Grell, ending our run.

I’m not great at World of Warcraft: Classic, but I play a ton of MMORPGs. I was pretty tilted at my method of death, which I found to be inexcusable due to how basic and easily-preventable it was. To express my frustration, I named my next character Parkzerblind.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. We were both insane. We tried the bum-rush strategy a second time and promptly died to another Young Wetlands Crocolisk.

… Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. We tried the bum-rush strategy a third time on my fourth character, a Hunter named Pogzer because of how Pog it was to die over and over again.

As you’d expect… we were NOT insane, because this time, we died to some sort of strange swamp beast and not a Crocolisk. Very Pog.

In the spirit of actually not being insane, Doug came up with a different strategy to make it to an alternative leveling zone on our fifth characters—we swam. I put Doug on follow and he piloted himself and my Rogue Dogpit for literally 50 minutes through the ocean.

Miraculously, this was a successful journey. I’m generally a Shadow Priest one-trick pony and I know basically nothing about any other class, so the Rouge leveling experience was novel. One of my favorite parts about Rogue was its instant-cast ability, which was very convenient for tagging quest mobs.

There was one situation where a lot of other players were standing in an orderly line waiting for a spawn, and when Doug and I arrived, we joined the line. The line soon degenerated into chaos after some inconsiderate people showed up and tried to cut in line. Hilariously, after I realized there was no point in being respectful anymore, I said aloud, “I guess there’s no line anymore” … and then promptly proceeded to catch, tag, and steal the next spawn of the quest monster, effectively saving us potentially upwards of 20 minutes of waiting, had everyone else decided to continue using the line system.

We successfully made it to level 10, upon which I did the Rogue class quest. While doing the class quest, I had to find a treasure map, so I walked up to the target holding the loot and started attacking it. Suddenly, four Defias Bodyguards spawned out of nowhere and started attacking me.

I shrieked out to Doug for assistance, and he healed me… rerouting monster enmity to himself. Tanking four level 10 monsters as a level 10 is never great news, and unsurprisingly, he died. After their successful assassination, the guards went back to targeting me, and I died as well, ending our run.

So what happened? Apparently, I wasn’t supposed to attack the monster that had the treasure map. Instead, I was supposed to use my Stealth to enter his house undetected and use my Pickpocket ability to steal the treasure map. My lack of game mechanic knowledge caused our deaths, which was dis­ap­point­ing.

As a side note, remember how, in our second attempt, I died because I wasn’t paying attention to my health? I fixed that by installing an add-on that lets me create custom alerts. Now, when I descend below 40% health, an airhorn blares and the words “YOU ARE LITERALLY TROLLING” and “RUN AWAY” appear and start bouncing on my screen (which you will see in the next screenshot). It has been incredibly useful.

Doug and I were both pretty bummed that we lost our run just because I didn’t know a particular game mechanic and the quest text wasn’t explicitly clear about what I was supposed to do, so we booted up our sixth attempt with Dogspit the Rogue.

We made it to level 11, one level higher than before… but we died when Doug jumped into a pit to attack a melee quest mob and ended up taking too much damage from two additional rangers. I didn’t see them hiding behind terrain, but Doug said he did notice them, though it didn’t occur to him that they would deal so much damage.

I further compounded the problem by not properly focus-firing the lowest-health target—I thought I had killed the melee enemy and started sprinting towards the ranged ones, but apparently, I either missed my attack or canceled my attack animation and the melee enemy survived with a sliver of health, giving it enough time to make Doug flinch during his heal cast time and die by a margin of milliseconds.

At this point, we wanted to give up and refused to give up at the same time.

Attempt seven was Drooid the Hunter, which we managed to bring to level 12 (yet again, another one level higher than before), but failed our run when Doug… uh… drowned to death.

Attempt eight was Driud the Hunter, and at this point, both of us were pretty frustrated and mildly tilted. This death was very similar to our second attempt when I randomly died to a Vicious Grell; Doug ended up getting greedy and pulled a quest mob with a slow respawn timer while he was already under attack by a monster, and through a combination of unlucky respawns of regular mobs and falling under attack by even more enemies, we died.

Out of sheer stubbornness, we kept trying. It was infuriating that we kept on dying right after finishing the introductory zone, and we really wanted to get to level 20 and clear at least one dungeon. I created Dogmilk the Hunter to adventure together with Doug’s Druid Dogcheese for our ninth attempt.

At this point, as you’d expect, the Night Elf leveling zone was very, very boring. Luckily, there was apparently a Peggle add-on for World of Warcraft: Classic, which I eagerly installed. Doug has played a lot of Peggle, but this was my first time trying it. I got instantly hooked and proceeded to clear (all the orange pegs) and full clear (all the orange and blue pegs) every single one of the 13 levels in two days.

Peggle made leveling from 1 to 10 much more bearable, but it also came with its own risks… I got so invested into Peggle that I almost got our run dis­qual­i­fied three times. The first was when I was too busy playing Peggle to notice that I had to pick up the Stormwind flight path, and a few hours lat­er, Doug flew back to Stormwind while I was still stranded in the questing area (which is a problem, because both duo characters have to remain in the same zone and only have a 10-minute grace period). The second was when I was too busy playing Peggle to notice that Doug had logged out already to take a break for dinner (which is a problem, because both duo characters must be online together at all times in order for the duo run to be valid). The third was when I was too busy playing Peggle to notice that my ship had arrived back in town after Doug had finished his Druid-specific class quest, and I nearly kept riding the ship to the next destination.

I started actually having a lot of fun after we got past level 13 and realized we weren’t going to continue the “die after one more level” curse.

Doug and I also got much better at coordination, and we managed to survive multiple seemingly impossible situations, one of which involved being un­der attack by six enemies at the same time due to a combination of miscommunication, poor timing, bad respawn luck, and unexpectedly high aggro ranges.

After we got to the mid- to late teens in level, it felt like we actually had agency over our own lives, and if we played with good skill and synergy, we could survive sticky situations without feeling utterly helpless. I had a pet with Growl that I could use to juggle tanking aggro, we had multiple healing and buffing items to use at our disposal, and we had crowd control spells to slow or disable the enemies while we kited away.

 
So… we did it. We made it to level 20 and cleared both Deadmines and Wailing Cavern. I screen recorded our first dungeon to preserve the memory, and I live streamed our second dungeon on Twitch as my first stream in over 8 months.

Our Deadmines run went extremely smoothly because we had a highly competent and overqualified team, but our Wailing Cavern run was a lot more dicey, which made it far more interesting. I also enjoyed streaming again, and it was nice seeing and recognizing some old usernames from several years ago back when I used to stream more regularly, as well as a lot of new usernames from Doug’s community who joined in to watch.

Now that we finally achieved our goal, we’re both going to take a short break from obsessively grinding WoW Classic, but it’s definitely something we’re going to keep alive little-by-little over time to see just how far we can manage to take our characters.


Edit (May 28, 2023):

It hasn’t been too long since we cleared the dungeon, but unfortunately, our run has come to an end. We made it up to level 24, and while we were clear­ing some mobs in a(n apparently) dangerous area of Redridge Mountains, neither Doug nor I saw a patrolling group of enemies nearby. We were al­read­y en­gaged in combat with a few enemies, and by the time the patrolling group came into our field of vision, they had already aggroed onto Doug and beat him down pretty quickly, upon which I also fell shortly afterwards.

And with that, our World of Warcraft: Classic adventure comes to an end. We don’t want to try from scratch again anytime soon, but there are some ru­mors that an official version of hardcore mode may be coming to World of Warcraft: Classic, so if that happens, then we may make our return for at­tempt #10.

 

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H1Z1 Pro League, Week 5

This post is over 6 years old and may contain information that is incorrect, outdated, or no longer relevant.
My views and opinions can change, and those that are expressed in this post may not necessarily reflect the ones I hold today.
 

Although I’m local to the H1Z1 Pro League in Las Vegas, I haven’t regularly been attending the live event because I’m not actually able to watch the games without getting motion sickness. This is also the reason I can’t play or watch first-person shooter games either – the rapidly-shaking player point-of-view makes me dizzy. Although I haven’t been officially diagnosed, it’s very similar to sopite syndrome, where I feel unwell when exposed to excess horizontal motion – both literally (in cars and planes) and virtually (in FPS games).

But, with that being said, the last time I went to the Arena to see the team was back in late April during the premier of the league (though I have seen the players on multiple occasions since then, just not in the Arena). I wanted to snap some new photos of them, seeing as the only photos we had was when there was partial construction going on in the background, so I headed over to Caesar’s Entertainment Studios for Week 5 of the games during rehearsal (I left before the actual games started).

Since then, the stadium has been improved a substantial amount (though that opinion may or may not be biased because Twin Galaxies messed up VIP access for the premier and a lot of people were denied access to the VIP area because some random actress who I had never heard of was in the VIP section and her escorts were apparently being uncooperative – the stadium might have just looked better this time because I was actually able to enter the VIP area with the couches).

H1PL at Twin Galaxies Sports Arena in Caesar's Entertainment Studios

H1PL at Twin Galaxies Sports Arena in Caesar's Entertainment Studios

H1PL at Twin Galaxies Sports Arena in Caesar's Entertainment Studios

Tempo Storm H1Z1 team

(Full photo album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/adamparkzer/sets/72157669060686858)

 

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My tour of the Blizzard Arena in Burbank

This post is over 6 years old and may contain information that is incorrect, outdated, or no longer relevant.
My views and opinions can change, and those that are expressed in this post may not necessarily reflect the ones I hold today.
 

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

This post is over 6 years old and may contain information that is incorrect, outdated, or no longer relevant.
My views and opinions can change, and those that are expressed in this post may not necessarily reflect the ones I hold today.
 

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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