Donnerstag, 10. Februar 2011

Dead images. Dead images everywhere.

So as you eventually noticed, some images are broken. It's because TeamLiquid decided to be a bunch of not-so-nice people that don't want their images to be used.

I'll work out something when I get the time for it.

Really long and good explaination of how the macro changed (+balancing)


This was originally going to be a part of the “Oh Micro, Where Art Thou?”-thread, but as the aforementioned thread grew too big I decided to chop the material into two separate threads. As time passed and with the game fast approaching launch, I got discouraged with the non-existent prospect of anything I was going to propose ever being considered or implemented. Thus I totally gave up on writing anything.

The thread was initially going to address macro mechanics and the need for a possible revision of their early game role. When I picked the idea up again in November, it would eventually develop into a monster 23 page word document detailing how macro mechanics were speeding up the game and deflating the worth of scouting information. That document is still sitting on my desktop, but it will likely never see the light of day. When trying out the ideas in practice, I realized I was largely wrong in where I was placing the blame and at the same time sort of stumbled upon a different approach to the subject. Macro mechanics in the end turned out to be one small part of a broader combination of factors pushing SC2’s gameplay in a certain direction.

Whether the issues about to be presented are even real or merely figments of my imagination I’ll leave to the 3,1k master leaguers and true scholars of TL to decide in the engaging and civilized discourse that will be sure to follow this post.

The article will make a bold, probably all too outrageous, attempt at explaining how SC2’s economy impacts and affects gameplay through the merging of SCIENCE™ and ESPORTS™.

Chapter I: Macro Analysis

The inspiration for the experiments conducted in this post come from a thread dating back to 2008. It didn’t receive very much attention back when it was posted but was nonetheless very informative: CDRdude's Worker Saturation thread. The experiment measured the mining speed of X workers over 5 minutes and graphed the results. What I did was basically just replicate his experiment in an attempt to make a comparison between Broodwar and SC2.

+ Show Spoiler [Method detail] +

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Measuring how many minerals were mined over 5 minutes per number of workers.

Before conducting these experiments, I had always gotten the feeling that SC2 had a surplus of minerals in its early game compared to Broodwar. This experiment, while providing some interesting results, didn’t really confirm those suspicions. What’s most interesting about SC2’s graph, is its purely linear growth from 9 to 16 workers, and how little effect there is from making more than 22 workers on one base. The mining speed is pretty much constant from ~24 workers and upwards. The graph is linear at start, moves onto an exponential decline for a short while, and finally becomes constant.

This is of course to be expected as worker AI has become smarter in SC2 in combination with Blizzard lowering the time that each worker spends mining at each mineral. They simply don’t disturb each other very much when mining anymore and they wait more patiently in line for their turn to mine – minimizing the wandering phenomenon that would inevitably occur in Broodwar.

To be fair, we should point out that purely linear growth would have been found in Broodwar as well if only the experiment would have measured the mining rate of the 4th worker to the 8th worker. In SC2 the same thing can instead be observed from worker nr 6 to worker 16. The truly interesting result is discussing what effect reaching max saturation at around 3x workers per patch, instead of 4x workers per patch as in broodwar, has on gameplay.

As we all know, TL scholars like to engage in highly metaphysical debates surrounding the true nature of cheeses and all-ins in SC2 – and whether they even exist at all. Perhaps the graph can shed some light on this hotly debated subject. It seems like we can make the claim that build orders in SC2 will reach their final and most developed one base state quicker than in Broodwar. We can probably also say that after ~22 workers mining minerals in an 1base vs 1base situation, there is no differentiating between a cheese and a “normal” build until an expansion is up and operational. Does this imply that expanding is more dangerous in SC2 as opposed to Broodwar?

I don’t really know, that might be stretching it a bit too far; though there is certainly less of an effect of expanding before you are beginning to supersaturate your first base. Also: supersaturating your first base against someone who cuts worker production will provide you with no other real benefit than having workers to maynard. Using this logic one could claim that expanding is in fact more dangerous. If the races reach their fully saturated states quicker in SC2 as opposed to Broodwar, and if a cut in worker production after a certain point doesn’t reflect on your income at all, then a continued worker production will only really mean you are cutting your army size by the amount you invest in workers and in an expansion.

The data can probably be interpreted in a variety of ways. But as I’m the author of this thread I get to showcase mine: Due to the lower max saturation cap SC2 builds will tend to conform into one standard or one mould much quicker than Broodwar builds. They will also tend to be less punished when cutting workers in favor of “cheesing”. Merely defending a cheese won’t win games, but rather getting the superior unit composition and securing the expansion without dying will win you the game. Of course this interpretation is somewhat exaggerated and SC2 is a lot more dynamic than I will have it sound, but I still think it is somewhat evident that Broodwar builds develop and evolve forth in more distinct stages where scouting information has a chance to play a bigger role in the game. A Broodwar build will simply take longer to reach its final and most developed one base state (which pretty much will look identical to and support as many production buildings as their SC2 counterparts), and go through more intermediary stages before getting there. On top of these facts, there is a slight mineral surplus in the cheesy stages of a game in SC2 compared to Broodwar.

Alright. Enough chattering, I’m starting to tread on dangerous grounds here. Let’s get on with this thread. After the initial test, I had a feeling that distance mining from your expansion might prove to be cost effective after reaching a certain point of saturation. So that’s what I examined next.

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Tests were conducted on the 12 o’clock position of Lost Temple. Initial travel distance was included in the measured time period (i.e. I started measuring as the probes were sent out from the main base, not when they started mining

Woah! Surprising results. Perhaps these results will have some application in PvP and in certain cases maybe even in PvT. Hell, why discriminate against terrans? Might have an application to any race that’s forced to stay on one base and is supersaturated on said base. After 22 workers mining minerals there is actually a gain from sending your workers distance mining. At least if the expansion is at a similar distance to that of LT’s 12 o’clock position.

Moving on to the effectiveness of each worker.

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I don’t think there were any real surprises here. The results could pretty much be deduced from looking at the previous graphs.

I had yet to take into account the effects of macro mechanics on income though, so naturally that’s the direction I headed next. First was the MULE, which was a fairly easy macro mechanic to measure and graph. The only reservation I want to add, is that the graph might be a bit misrepresenting because building an Orbital Command puts you 2 workers behind. To simulate that, I would have to change the x-axis from number of workers to a time axis, which initially presented some problems to me but which I nonetheless attempted in the graph following this one.

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Although the graph is technically correct, imagine it lowered about 400 minerals in the mid ranges.

At first, upon seeing this, I thought my sentiments and suspicions of SC2 being a game overflowing with minerals in its early and midgame confirmed. The starcraft community have often expressed their need and want for better scouting capabilities in SC2. They have also long thought there to exist magical fixes such as simply increasing overlord base speed.

What if the explanation of the deflation in the worth of scouting information simply lay in the fact that SC2 strategies were made so extreme in their strength and timings through the respective races all having bursts of mineral surplus at varying stages of one and the same match? I believe this to be an important observation, because much of the recent balancing of the game appears to have gotten stuck in fighting mineral surplus disguised as imbalance.

I followed Blizzard’s balance panel from Blizzcon with great interest, and I want to start this paragraph off by clarifying that I think they’re doing as good a job as they could possibly do in balancing the game without making fundamental game changing alterations (which would make absolutely no sense to implement in normal patches). They seem to be more aware than I ever thought they’d be (compliment, not diss) of the issues plaguing the game. This thread is not meant to school them on balance, but rather provide an alternative interpretation to some of the issues they’ve expressed concern about – through the perspective of a fresh pair of eyes.

One of the things discussed in the balance panel was the community’s whine about “stim being overpowered”. The people at Blizzard expressed some concerns as well, but were sensibly reluctant towards meddling with something as fundamental as stim. They thought there might be some unnamed and difficult to define combination of factors accounting for the problem. Concerns were also expressed about matchups possibly being undynamic, with races rolling each other over at specific timings and different varying stages of one and the same matchup.

I believe that analyzing the economic system of Starcraft 2 might provide a better explanation model to these phenomena than would searching for the answer in unit and build/research time tweaks. Protoss’ most weak timing in PvT is undoubtedly in the early mid game, when trying to expand while dealing with Terran’s stim timing. Coincidentally this is also the exact timing in the game when Terran experience a mineral surplus surge compared to a fully saturated and capped Protoss player. Meddling with unit balance due to perceived imbalances because of mineral surplus fluctuations in the earlier stages of a game might have unwanted effects in the potency of certain unit combinations in the later stages of the same matchup.

This is starting to get long-winded; I’d better hit you with the next graph or I’ll likely lose your interest. In the next graph I tried to change number of workers to a time axis. In SC2, building 5 workers takes about 61,2 seconds. In Broodwar it takes only slightly longer. For the sake of practicality, I’ve rounded them both down to 60 seconds. The x-axis now depicts number of minutes elapsed after starting off with 9 workers. There might be a more elegant way to simulate the effect of the chrono boost, but this is what I in the end was able to come up with.

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Probably needs some explanation: I tried to take into account that the build time of the Orbital Command is 34 in game seconds, while the build time of an SCV is 17. I simulated 3 chrono boosts for Protoss, the first at 10 workers, second at 14, third at 16 workers.

We would probably like to believe Blizzard are stupid and never foresaw any of these issues, but more likely is that they did in fact foresee some problems. By adding a second gas geyser to each base, they were able to delay the advent of max saturation, evening out mining speed and partly curbing the extreme effects of macro mechanics in the early game.

Since the last graph was in no way indicative of a real game, my next project was trying to simulate how the graph would look like in a real game, with people using real build orders. I watched white-ra play a game on scrap station against some terran, and took note of all the chrono boost and gas timings. In that particular game, white-ra was super greedy and used up 5 quick chrono boosts on his nexus. His terran opponent opted for a 2 refinery tech build, so that’s what I simulated: a special case not necessarily indicative of all games.

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Chrono boosts at 10, 14, 16, 20 and 26 workers. First gas finishes at 15 workers for Protoss. Second gas finishes at 23 workers. Those are the “dips” in the graph – workers being pulled off mining minerals. For Terran, I assumed they have 1 worker off of mining at all times for the construction of buildings. Orbital was started at 15 workers, after which refinery would soon finish. Second refinery finished at 20 workers. Possible scouting timings weren’t taken into account for.

I don’t know if it would be presumptuously assigning too much meaning to the graph in claiming that it helps explain some of the ebbs and flows of the PvT matchup. So I won’t even try.

I tried to include zerg into this, but since they’re on 2 bases and a highly irrational race to boot, I was left with nothing but a headache. Sorry.

Chapter II: The bottleneck and the ceiling

Does an inherent 2 base bottleneck exist in SC2? When is the optimal timing to take a third base? Are nexus/cc first builds viable?

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Data was extrapolated and calculated from previous existing values.

The above graph is probably unnecessary and overkill. It’s just a stretched out copy of the first graph posted in the thread. In a way though it’s still important to post – if only to illustrate how the effectiveness of additional bases will scale with the amount of workers you’ve got.

If nothing else, the graph helps show why nexus first or CC first were such powerful builds in BW while a slightly more dubious opening in SC2.

The really interesting implications though, are when you start brainstorming about how the graph would look like on 3, 4, 5 and 6 bases and compare that to how many workers and bases you could possibly support with a 200 supply cap in each of the respective games.

It is safe to say that players in SC2 are not as likely to venture out into taking third bases before starting to supersaturate their two already existing bases. If you assume 12 workers harvesting gas on 2 bases, and linear growth up until 32 workers mining minerals on 2 bases, you’d have to reach 44 workers total before even experiencing any positive effects whatsoever of taking a third base. Assuming you go up to 22 workers mining minerals at each base, you’d be up at 56 workers before taking a third base – and the additional gain from spreading workers out evenly on those 3 bases would be a mere ~1100 minerals over 5 minutes.

In this light, it seems slightly foolish of the community to expect the metagame of SC2 to eventually evolve into something resembling that of Broodwar. You will likely never see players opt for as early of a third base as used to be the norm in Broodwar. Rather players will tend to be bottlenecked on 2 bases for longer (especially on Blizzard-sized maps).

The 3 base ceiling

How many bases can you really support in SC2? If you assume 3bases with 16 workers mining minerals at each of them, and with 18 workers assigned to harvesting gas you’re already up to 66 workers total. The common consensus seems to be that the “optimal” number of workers is somewhere around 70-75.

Let’s do a comparison between Broodwar and SC2:

Assume we have 54 workers mining minerals equally divided on 6 bases. How many minerals will those workers mine in 5 minutes? And how many minerals would those workers mine if instead confined to 3 bases?

Protoss, BW, with 54 workers equally distributed on 6 bases: 18120 minerals over 5 minutes.
Terran, BW, with 54 workers confined to 3 bases: 13200 minerals over 5 minutes.

Zerg, SC2, with 54 workers equally distributed on 4, 5 or 6 bases: ~15384 minerals over 5 minutes.
Protoss, SC2, with 54 workers confined to 3 bases: 14586 minerals over 5 minutes.

I cannot help but find a major contradiction in Blizzard’s conceptual outline of how the zerg race is supposed to be played in SC2 with what the game’s economical system actually allows for. Zerg are supposed to keep outexpanding, outmacroing and outproducing their opponents.

Based on these data, the only way to secure a macro lead in SC2 seems to be by rushing to 3 fully saturated bases as quickly as humanly possible. The entire objective for zerg in SC2 seems to have been reduced to recklessly rushing to a macro lead as quickly, stupidly and foolishly as possible before the game caps the chance for any macro lead to develop.

Will larger maps save Starcraft 2?

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This is an interesting question to pose with the new and giantly oversized maps GSL have introduced. I believe these large maps are an anti reaction to the volatile and unpredictable play that plagued “Blizzard-sized maps”. The unmanageable strategic extremes (due to unnamed factors that may or may not have been attempted to be explained in this article) on small and medium sized maps simply created the need for a party to step in and introduce a buffer zone for rushes and timing attacks.

With that said: what will larger maps achieve apart from increasing rush distances?

I would say absolutely nothing. What need do players have for 14 expansions in a game like Starcraft 2? Absolutely none. Zerg’s play will be centered around saturating 3 bases as quickly as possible and launching suicide attacks at the opponents’ thirds. Protoss’ play will be centered around camping and delaying until they’ve reached their invincible end game composition on 3+ bases. Terran’s play will… no idea.

Large maps will simply and frankly favor the race that currently has the pleasure of being dominant when maxed out in a 3base vs. 3base late game situation. That race, as you’ll see, will be Protoss. And please don’t mistake this for whine; it’s merely stating what should be obvious. On the other end, the same maps will likely disfavor the previous most stable performing tournament race on blizzard-sized maps: Terran.

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The colossi and immortal are units that absolutely and critically need to be
as strong as they are for Protoss to survive terran stim timings and zerg onslaughts
in the mid game. But in the lategame, used in combination with templars/voidrays/phoenixes,
they become a headache for Blizzard to balance.

The game is balanced around small maps – not large maps. Units are primarily balanced to withstand the effects of mineral surplus on said maps, not to remain balanced throughout all stages of a game. Blizzard’s first priority is to prevent shit from dying instantly to other shit. Second comes worrying about whether these changes prove to provide dynamic mid- and lategames (and it’s here-in that the real challenge lies).

300 supply cap?

If I’ve learned anything from observing Blizzard the past year, it’s that it is largely pointless to suggest anything that would require alterations to the game engine itself. Whether it be about moving shot or built-in delay for firing projectiles (tank AI). If it can’t be achieved through the map editor, it likely won’t be “fixed” in the way you imagined. Thus I’m not even going to attempt to discuss changing worker AI.

If the future of SC2 is to be played out on GSL-sized maps, one proposition would be increasing the supply cap of the game so you can support ~110 workers and about 5 bases. One of the greatest proponents of an increased supply has long been day[9] himself. My main argument for an increased cap is that the strategies in the game likely will become streamlined and predictable very quickly if kept back by a 3 base ceiling. The main counterargument? It wouldn’t be balanced at all in the game’s current state, and would likely require a lot of rebalancing.

I think Blizzard have to make a decision soon about whether they want to balance the game for GSL-sized maps or for their own tiny sized maps.

Chapter III for this thread was supposed to go more in depth about specific strategies and rant about a conceptual flaw in the design of the zerg race, but I decided including it would likely detract from the whole of the article. I’m already steering far off topic as it is. Plus, merely listing a bunch of problems as opposed to sticking one’s neck out and proposing solutions makes this thread look that more impressive and impervious to the critique of TL scholars.

Thanks to Pholon for helping me host the pictures. I hope my 1000th post was an enjoyable read to you all. The economic system and the macro mechanisc of Starcraft 2 are in sense its fourth race. As much detail and attention should be spent on understanding and balancing their effects on the game as goes into balancing the races.

Perhaps I’ll post the rant after Assembly.

Player "qxc" going to Korea?

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@qxc0000, 7 hrs ago:
Sent an application in to gomtv for the Code A Foreigner House for this summer. The cogs are turning.

Kevin "qxc" Riley, the American Terran from Root Gaming who placed second at the IEM American Championships in New York among other notable results, has written an application for the GSL foreigner house in Seoul, Korea.

Several hours ago on Twitter, QXC wrote that he had submitted the application and that 'the cogs are turning'. Although Riley is temporarily living in Spain, it seems that the American's plan is to play StarCraft full-time in Korea once his education at Harvey Mudd is complete. At the very least, he is attempting to expand his horizons this upcoming summer. I am currently reaching out to qxc for comment and clarification on his intent.

qxc will not be able to compete in the upcoming season and it is unclear when exactly he hopes to participate in the GSL.

This was posted already in the qxc fan club but very few people noticed it and honestly, this deserves a bit more recognition. Yeah yeah, it's another Terran but get over it! It'd be awesome if qxc showed up in Korea. Just like with Sjow, I have absolutely no idea how his play will translate to results in Korea but right now I'm just excited to see the foreigner house start to shape up and fill up..

Mittwoch, 9. Februar 2011

GLS new maps sneak peek!

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banner by KOPF

New Maps!

First, a note: Jungle Basin, Steppes of War, and Delta Quadrant have been removed from the map pool. Lost Temple, Xel'Naga Caverns, and Metalopolis have been modified to prevent blocking off the ramp with 3 pylons or two bunkers. GOM statisticians have done the math and determined that this change will increase the average lifespan of Zerg players by about five years due to decreased stress.

The most intriguing changes to the map pool, however, are the new maps. Let's take a look at the battlefields we'll be seeing next season!


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click on the picture for a larger version

The first thing on Crevasse that jumps out is the number of expansions. Look at all those beautiful minerals -- none of which have destructible rocks blocking them! Already I am getting excited at the prospect of a long, drawn out TvT on this map, with the battle being all about who can gain an advantageous position in the center. I think this map will really reward players who plan their play out, not just in TvT, but in any matchup where taking and holding space is possible (read: mainly TvX).

Note that the 4 middle expansions have a single gas and only 6 mineral patches, making them less desirable.

This map is large, but the center looks cramped due to the various cliffs, ramps, destructible rock walls, and impassible terrain. It really would not take very many tanks for a Terran to secure 3 1/2 expansions against a Zerg ground army (although I might be underestimating the size of the center… It's sort of difficult to get a sense of scale just from looking at pictures). On that note, Zergs really shouldn't be going heavy ground against Terran or Protoss on this map. Just thinking about battles between tanks or Colossi against roach/hydra in the middle of this map is making me cringe. A harass-oriented playstyle is the way to go here. Delaying the ability of the Terran or Protoss to control the middle will be important.

A final note that I think will become a theme on these new maps: Protoss players can easily take three bases here and turtle until they have a powerful Colossus-based death ball. We'll have to see how Zerg players deal with that. Initial reports from Korea seem to be that they're not currently handling it well, but that might change.

Crossfire SE

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click on the picture for a larger version

A map loosely based on the SC:BW map Peaks of Baekdu, Crossfire SE looks like a map where armies would get lost trying to find the enemy. With enough bridges and ramps to make Euler's head spin, this map seems like a place where it's important to know the location of the enemy's main force at all times, and to also know where that force can go and what it can easily attack. This map is so long that base trading situations might arise due to armies not being able to return to defend their main before it gets entirely leveled.

The two Xel'Naga towers here are more critical than they are on any other map in the pool, since they can see any route that a scout tries to take to the area past the tower. The space around the towers seems well-suited for tanks for this same reason. A single siege line can defend four expansions at once.

Muta and void ray harass on the mineral lines at the third base, the main, and the gold seems like it would be difficult; it looks like the sides of the map guard those two locations much like the baseline helps guard the hoop in basketball. Muta play in general seems strong here, though, because of the distance between expansions.

Much like Crevasse, thinking about Zerg engaging Protoss death balls in the slightly cramped center is making me cry. We'll have to see how Zergs play the map without being able to attack the Protoss army head on.

It occurs to me that Colossi will be very susceptible to VIking harass when they are in the middle of the map on those three bridges. We see a lot of that sort of harass on Xel'Naga Caverns around that large central pit and I think we'll be seeing it a lot more on this map from smart Terrans.

Terminus Re

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click on the picture for a larger version

So many expos! So many free expos! Here, players have 2 1/2 expansions available to them, all defendable by a single choke. The center is more open than the first two maps we looked at, and sort of reminds me of Delta Quadrant, if Delta Quadrant had 4 Xel'Naga watchtowers.

There's not much to say about this map; it looks much more "Blizzard-y" than the other new maps, which is to be expected since it is in fact a modified Blizzard map. I don't expect to see much different play on this map than what we've seen in previous GSL seasons, except that bad one-dimensional players will do 2 1/2 base timing attacks every game instead of 2 base timing attacks.

Tal'Darim Altar

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click on the picture for a larger version

This map is outrageously large. I mean, look at it. I think Steppes of War could fit into that boxed area in the middle. This map is large to the point of being confusing, but let's try to make sense of it.

Again, we have three bases that are easy to take and hold. We also have a pretty large, open center that will force players to be careful of flanks. Controlling the four Xel'Naga towers will be useful in late-game situations for this reason.

I would imagine that someone like MarineKing would never ever lose a game on his map, since his style seems to fit it perfectly. An endless supply of minerals, and an enormous map on which he can exploit his mobility to its fullest.

Other than this map's largeness, there don't seem to be that many distinguishing features to it.

Dienstag, 8. Februar 2011

Talk about crazy chinese people....

I've just read an article on a french video game's news website about a chinese amusement park with starcraft and world of warcraft as the theme.

The park is suposed to open in march 2011 and will be called Joyland. (creative Iknow)
It would be pretty awesome to run into a roach between two rollercoaster don't you think ?

Here is the (french only sorry) original article where I've seen this news :

Here are some visual :
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And here is the official website (it very laggy with my connection )

More pictures and finsies here:


I did it!

Hello everyone!

I finally got myself to alter the design of my blog. Now it doesn't look like default poo anymore. I hope you like it.

Interrestingly enough the Hugo Boss ads fit into the layout and design perfectly x)

Blizzcon 2011 Announced!

Blizzard Entertainment has announced the date of their 6th BlizzCon Gaming Convention yesterday.

It will take place October 21, and October 22, 2011 (Friday and Saturday) in the Anaheim Convention Center in California. "We look forward to holding another exciting BlizzCon this year, filled with some great entertainment and competition, as well as the latest news about Blizzard games," said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. "BlizzCon is built from the ground up with our community in mind - we're pleased to be able to host an event where players can come together to have fun and celebrate their passion for gaming." You'll be able to play the new Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm, as well as Diablo 3 and talk to Blizzard and ask your questions, and play against professional gamer. A special bonus is a gift you'll get, an example could be an ingame WoW pet. Tickets for last year's BlizzCon were sold out in a few minutes, and the highlight were the demon hunter class announcement for Diablo 3 and a concert of Tenacious D.
So if you want to go there, BE FAST.