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Inaugural Call of Duty XP convention deploys in LA

Activision gathers thousands of fans on the west side of Los Angeles for a weekend celebration of Call of Duty that includes an unveiling of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

Call of Duty fans enjoy a Zip-line ride above the hangars hosting a convention devoted to the massively popular video game. Beau Ryan/CNET

LOS ANGELES--Thousands of devoted Call of Duty fans gathered here this weekend for the first Call of Duty XP, a convention devoted to the game's past, present, and future.

Activision secured the huge airplane hangars of Playa Del Rey in the shadow of Loyola Marymount University and a sniper's shot from Electronic Arts' Los Angeles headquarters. Howard Hughes used those hangars to build his concept aircraft, but they became multiplayer gaming centers and conference halls for Call of Duty XP 2011.

Activision used the event to unveil the upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 to a hangar absolutely packed with fans eager for the game's November 8 launch.

Players could enjoy the multiplayer levels in preview play while David Vonderhaar, design director; Phil Tasker, senior level designer; Alex Conserva, lead programmer; and Dan Bunting, online director filled in on Q&A before unveiling special rollout trailers to foreshadow the missions to come.

The centerpiece of the event was the international Call of Duty 3: Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer tournament. The four-man team Optic Gaming (William "BigTymer" Johnson, Blake "Vengeance2T" Campbell, Joseph "Merc SD" DeLuca and Matthew "NaDeSHoT" Haag) will split the $400,000 grand prize.

"This is awesome," Johnson told the assembled press. "We've competed before, but this is definitely the most that we've ever won."

While a look at Call of Duty 3: Modern Warfare 3 turned one entire hangar into a huge multiplayer center, fans in attendance could enjoy a series of other events celebrating the best-selling military shooter series.

Tickets cost $150, with proceeds going to the nonprofit Call of Duty Endowment for war veterans.

A Zip-line, for example, connected one of the transformed airfield buildings to a re-created fictional "Burger Town" restaurant from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 where attendees could refuel. Jeep sponsored a driving obstacle course to promote its 2012 line, and players could get their physical aggression out in an inflatable-suit sumo battle.

But the most popular attraction away from the video screens was the team paintball course built to resemble the scrapyard level of Modern Warfare 2. The competition was serious, with training sessions prepping team members for a full tactical situation. Once they were in their uniforms and armed, the paintball combat would allow a respawn once hit. But when the respawn count was exhausted, players had to stay down until a final winner emerged.

Aside from the gaming and pseudo-combat, Activision brought top-shelf evening entertainment with both the Dropkick Murphys and Kanye West closing out the two-day event.

Tickets to the Call of Duty blowout went for $150 each, with all proceeds going to benefit the Call of Duty Endowment, a nonprofit founded by Activision to help soldiers transition to civilian life with job placement and training programs.