BlizzCon 2017: Fan Dreams & Quality Streams

Blizzard Entertainment partnered with iStreamPlanet to stream BlizzCon 2017 live from Anaheim, CA. The iStreamPlanet solution included signal acquisition, encoding, and publishing for both the Opening Week and BlizzCon 2017. We delivered the free livestream and the paid Virtual Ticket. Our team consisted of an onsite operations duo and experts from the iStreamPlanet Broadcast Operations Center (BOC) at our Las Vegas headquarters.

 

iStreamPlanet encoded nearly 60,602 minutes (over 1,000 hours) of video in two days for BlizzCon 2017. The scale of the 2017 event required months of extensive planning and testing. We maintained 13 video feeds on fiber and 13 satellite feeds for redundancy. We pushed the feeds to 8 platforms including Twitch, Facebook, YouTube, and the BlizzCon Virtual Ticket.

 

From Opening Week to the seat-clenching moments of the BlizzCon championship matches, fans enjoyed high quality video streams, instant Live2VOD content, and streaming access to every single match. In this post, our Las Vegas team tells the story of how we powered this massive event, while one of our Software Engineers recounts his BlizzCon 2017 fan experience.

 

 

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FAN DREAMS

Eric Juteau, Software Engineer

 

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BlizzCon 2017 was the first BlizzCon I’ve experienced in person. I expected a little bit of sensory overload, but I was completely overwhelmed by multitude of matches, competitions, events, panels, and demos happening simultaneously during the two-day convention.

 

Even though I followed only two of my favorite Blizzard Entertainment games – StarCraft 2 and Overwatch – I still frequently had to make difficult decisions to give up this match for that panel and vice versa. This was especially true for the extremely popular Overwatch events. In between games, I fired up the BlizzCon app on my tablet to check scores and watch clips of games that I missed.

 

The Overwatch quarter-final between USA and South Korea was the most amazing event of the convention. The arena was packed with over 4,500 fans! Everyone was on the edge of their seats the entire match. On every score, the entire crowd cheered at a level I’ve only heard during major sport finals in much larger stadiums.

 

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Lines were long for the convention center, arenas, food vendors, and even the bathrooms. Fortunately, each time I found myself waiting in line, I could take out my phone and stream the game I was missing. One time when I was waiting in line for lunch, I realized that there were at the least a dozen other people doing the same thing as me. No one wanted to miss a second of the nerve-wrecking matches!

 

This year, Blizzard Entertainment made every BlizzCon event accessible via live streaming, a huge improvement from last year. The events were available as VOD a lot quicker, too. The best improvement from last year was that all the streaming layers were perfectly aligned on playback. In fact, I spent most of my two days at BlizzCon streaming on-and-off and watched a lot of the content I missed when I got back home, and I could not find one macro-block, stutter, or playback glitch in the output – even to my trained eyes. I also enjoyed that attendees could watch people working at the command center delivering the media streams. Kudos to Blizzard Entertainment and our iStreamPlanet team for an amazing experience – both virtual and on site!

 


 

QUALITY STREAMS

 

Ken Wilson, Client Engagement Engineer
Josh Edillon, Onsite Project Manager
Andrew Tyler, BOC Manager
Paul Gibson, Producer
Carl Brich, Producer

 

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Our work for BlizzCon 2017 began many months ago. We knew that the stakes were higher this year, with BlizzCon’s popularity increasing and more fans expected to live stream via the Blizzard app. This was our third year to stream the event, and we made our solution more robust to handle the increase in number of events, sources, and fans.

 

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Prior to the event, we created dozens of Aventus channels and populated them with the appropriate publishing specs. We built redundancy across all layers including transmission encoders, transmission paths, receivers, publishing, and playback. Despite months of planning and testing for this event, we still dealt with last minute changes that required agility and responsiveness. Our team was prepared, and we made the changes while still maintaining an excellent fan experience.

 

Both our Las Vegas production facility and our onsite team in Anaheim were critical to the success of BlizzCon 2017. During the event, our onsite service engineers – Josh Edillon and Ken Wilson – worked with the live streaming and mobile teams to ensure all streams worked as expected. Josh and Ken were available at all times to answer any customer questions and address any concerns. Back in Las Vegas, BOC Manager Andrew Tyler and his team including Producers Paul Gibson and Carl Brich monitored all incoming feeds and Aventus channels, maintained customer communication, and ensured failover processes worked as expected. Using a combination of our satellite and fiber to acquire video signals, our Las Vegas team monitored and managed the high-quality delivery of the event streams.

 

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With hundreds of thousands of fans watching from all over the globe, every minute of encoding was heavily scrutinized. Fortunately, with iStreamPlanet employees onsite as well as at our HQ in Las Vegas, we had visibility and control over every aspect of the production. Streaming issues were minimal and quickly corrected. We delivered over 60,000 encoded minutes for BlizzCon 2017 and a fan experience of the highest quality.  

 

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Thank you, Blizzard Entertainment, for giving us the opportunity to work with you on this epic event.