Buffing Blizzard Arena

When we last left our intrepid crew at Blizzard Arena Los Angeles, they were working tirelessly to convert the Studio 1 set from Overwatch League to Hearthstone and then right back again.

What’s been happening at Blizzard Arena since the end of the Overwatch League’s inaugural regular season? Not much really, just everything—including hosting the Overwatch League Playoffs and All-Star Weekend, the US stage of the Overwatch World Cup, and BlizzCon Opening Week featuring Heroes of the Storm, World of Warcraft, and StarCraft II events. And just for kicks, throw in five weekends of Overwatch Contenders coverage and the Hearthstone Championship Tour Winter Playoffs.

Other than supporting many Blizzard events, we’ve made a plethora of changes in Burbank since the last time you were here. Please allow us to catch you up.

Quality on Display

Remember all those LED monitors that make up the giant display that wraps around the stage? Each was one taken down and inspected pixel by pixel. If even one single black dot was found to be less shiny than the others, the entire monitor was replaced. Every display has now been put back in place and configured to make one giant 180-degree screen.

The Overwatch League set lights, rigs, scenic components, and majestic halo are all back in their original positions. Even the carpets, walls, floors, and seats all have been cleaned. There’s not a drop of stray nacho cheese anywhere.

Trying to find those fine-looking men and women who make up the Overwatch League broadcast talent team? Turn around and look behind you. The analysts will be doing play-by-play while sitting amongst fans from Blizzard Arena seats this season. Green screen? We don’t need no stinking green screen!

What else is new?

  • You can now order food directly to Blizzard Arena using the ChowNow application.
  • Looking for merchandise for your favorite teams? Fanatics is now the exclusive provider of Overwatch League gear at the Blizzard Arena store and online
  • Hoping to snag prime seats close to the stage? We’ve taken out some of the cameras to add more floor seating.

Behind the Scenes

Want to know more about what Blizzard Arena employees do behind the scenes? The Blizzard broadcast team has been busy tweaking, testing, cabling, and configuring, and is prepared to record and transmit nearly 700 hours of live content this season. Every match day generates approximately 15 terabytes of video files.

Where do we keep all that data? Blizzard has two petabytes of storage dedicated to Blizzard Arena. For some context, 2 PB is more storage than the combined space used by every World of Warcraft server in the entire world! Or to put it another way: you could fit 400,000,000 digital songs on our storage array. That’s one mighty big playlist.

Wondering about the computers and monitors used by the players at Blizzard Arena? Blizzard has partnered with HP to provide the Overwatch League with 622 brand-new Omen 880 PCs. Each one is fully stocked with an Intel i7 processor, NVIDIA GeForce 1080 GPs, and M.2 NVMe solid-state hard drives. And since we asked nicely, they threw in an additional 600 monitors, a veritable bonanza of 24-inch HP G-Syncs with 240Hz refresh rates.

Additionally, one set of 12 computers and monitors has been delivered to each of the 20 Overwatch League teams for use in their practice facilities. Others have been configured for use in the Blizzard Arena player practice areas, the observer room, and dugouts, and are in place for the hero-panel PCs that allow fans to see the 12 giant hero portraits that float over each player during a match. There’s nothing better than watching a giant Winston calmly removing and cleaning his glasses before going off on a Primal Rage.

Tech Check

To make our Overwatch League hardware easier to support and troubleshoot, Blizzard did something super cool with the PCs the players used on the stage last year. We removed them completely from the stage. Then, using fiber-optic cables, Blizzard IT was able to take all the game PCs—that previously sat in four smaller racks onstage—and put them into two full-sized racks that now reside backstage.

When players arrive to setup their keyboards and mice, they now will be plugging them into a bidirectional USB receiver on their desks that sends the signals back to a second receiver connected to the Omen PCs behind the stage.

Speaking of player peripherals, the Overwatch League requires each competitor to have at least two mice and two keyboards on hand—one primary and one backup. These must be delivered brand new and directly to Blizzard Arena from the vendor and can only be used by the players while in competition.

Between matches, they remain in locked road cases and can only be accessed by Blizzard IT. With nearly 200 players in the Overwatch League this season, Blizzard personnel received more than 800 mice and keyboards, each one inspected, inventoried, tagged, and stored by team and player. During the 2019 season, our fans will see players using at least 55 different models of mice and 60 different types of keyboards.

Ready Player Ones

Finally, what would the Overwatch League be without our players? Players, coaches, and team managers convened at Blizzard Arena in late January for the 2019 Player Summit. Everyone at the summit was welcomed to Blizzard Arena with an introductory message from Overwatch lead designer Jeff Kaplan, followed by a Q&A panel featuring Overwatch League veterans, and culminating with a closing speech from league commissioner Nate Nanzer.

All our teams returned the following week for three days of player onboarding and scrimmages. For many of our players—consisting of an even mix of veterans and rookies—this was their opportunity to get comfortable on the big stage. After configuring their peripherals, fine-tuning Windows options, and adjusting in-game settings, each team was allotted time to compete in our tournament client against a team in the other division. Three days of play saw some interesting new team compositions, a lot of trash-talking, and not a single hint as to what meta the teams intend to play when the matches actually count in the standings.

We can’t wait to see you here at Blizzard Arena, so get your tickets, order up some nachos, and find your seat. We’re excited for you to experience everything the 2019 Overwatch League season has to offer.