The horde assembles in Anaheim

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The Spectrum

ANAHEIM, CALIF. – Nine times out of 10, yelling "For the Horde" as loud as possible is looked at as socially unacceptable. That 10th time, however, it will be met with a resounding "For the Alliance." That's when you know you're in the nerd's Mecca – BlizzCon.

Screaming matches such as these were common last Saturday and Sunday evening as the Blizzard team, the game developers behind the Diablo, World of Warcraft and Starcraft franchises, held its annual get together in Anaheim, Calif.

Between Diablo 3 announcements, StarCraft II user-made minigames and the highly sought after World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion pack beta, there was much joy for all nerds in the southern California region.

The real party began last Thursday evening as the developers from Blizzard hosted the Children's Hospital of Orange County charity dinner, where fans met the faces behind the electronic masterpieces.

At the dinner, familiar faces included president and co-founder Michael Morheime, vice president of Creative Design Chris Metzen, and game producer Lee Sparks, all of whom wined and dined with the Blizzard community.

All three stayed tight-lipped about upcoming events in the WoW universe, but Metzen did hint that Horde faction leaders would experience a massive plot twist in the next expansion.

These minor hints were nothing compared to the massive news Morheime shared at BlizzCon's opening ceremony Friday morning. Diablo 3's last playable character class, the demon hunter, was unveiled along with the announcement that the game will feature intense action in the player versus player arena. Also, he announced that lucky attendees would be given the opportunity to play both during the convention.

Morheime also announced that Cataclysm, the upcoming massive multiplayer online expansion, would be released through Blizzard's website and will be available for download before the release of the game. As soon as the servers are up, players will get the chance to dive into the new content.

StarCraft II players will be getting special custom maps from the people at Blizzard in the upcoming months. Minigames like "Blizzard Defense of the Ancients," "Starjeweled" and "Aiur Chef" will provide alternate gameplay from the standard real-time strategy hit.

Over the course of Friday and Saturday, a multitude of game panels were held to spell out the fate of Blizzard's long-standing franchises over the coming year.

For WoW players, this was huge, since some of the lesser-played character classes, such as Paladins, Hunters, Druids and Death Knights, will be entirely different after the release of the expansion. This means changing the resource system, changing major abilities or even revamping the character class as a whole.

In a brief interview, Sparks had high hopes for the updated character classes.

"The whole leveling system has been changed. It will be a lot of fun from start to finish, making players want to reroll [a character] time and time again," Sparks said.

At the "Dungeons and Raids" panel, Metzen hyped the new and improved dungeons for Cataclysm, claiming that the dungeons will be "less confusing, less time consuming, and overall more enjoyable than their 5-year-old predecessors."

All 50 states and more than 27 countries were represented at one of the largest BlizzCons ever. The event saw more than 27,000 attendees ranging diversely in age, time spent in game, and time spent traveling to California.

For some, however, like Raymond Beckner, a 29-year-old San Mateo, Calif. native, the commute was considerably shorter.

Known to many as his online alias Shaihulud, the level 80 Priest, Beckner has spent many hours keeping Azeroth safe. In his three-and-a-half years playing, Shaihulud has logged close to one year in game time, although it is not uncommon for hardcore players to accumulate this kind of experience.

BlizzCon provides players with an annual place to meet up and converse away from the keyboard (AFK), cementing friendships that begin in the game. Members of the guild "Affliction" find it the perfect place to meet up. Marlo Ramirez, a 28-year-old Anaheim resident, plays the senior Warrior class in all the guild's raiding.

While Ramirez enjoyed catching up with his comrades, he, among many others, was not impressed with this year's event.

"[BlizzCon] wasn't as exciting this year as it was the past two years. They had nothing to announce on the games I care about," Ramirez said.

The event concluded Saturday evening with a performance by Tenacious D. Providing an excellent ending to the event, the band followed last year's Ozzy Osbourne show exceptionally well.

Overall, the majority of attendees enjoyed the event, even if long lines hindered many from getting the full experience.

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