What do you do for WoW Insider?
Oh, dear. As far as writing goes, I currently write WoW Archivist, Two Bosses Enter, and The Queue (Mondays and Wednesdays), and I handle MMO Roundup to bring you stories from the larger MMO universe that you may be interested in from our sister site Massively. In the past, I've contributed to Hybrid Theory (long deceased, good riddance), Know Your Lore, Ask a Lore Nerd (since folded back into Know Your Lore and The Queue), and Spiritual Guidance. I've also played temporary fill-in for The Light and How to Swing It (retribution), Lichborne, and ... you know what, I'll stop now, because that list is way too long.
Behind the scenes, my role is largely the same as the other senior editors -- we make sure WoW Insider keeps chugging on as it should. We make sure assignments are being turned in, we make sure stories are being written up and posted in a timely fashion, we handle our social media outlets, and a whole load of other backend administrative stuff that, if we're doing our jobs well, you guys will never even need to think about. I like to think that one of my best talents is my ability to find the talent in other people and pull it to the surface, by force if necessary. Being a senior editor, I get to utilize that every day.
Essentially, we're the guys who let Fox Van Allen be the beautiful shining star that he is. You really don't want the fine details on all of that.
What's your main?
My main is Arnesca, retribution paladin on Cenarion Circle (US). I also heal as holy whenever my raid needs it, and while I would love to be able to tank 5-mans as well, there is no freaking way I'm respeccing every time I switch between a dungeon and a raid. Too tedious for me. Blizzard, if you give me tri-spec, I will tank PUGs for you all day. Until then, my raid needs the healing off spec quite a bit more.
What's the best 5-man instance in the game?
Blackrock Depths holds a very special place in my heart. It had its flaws, no doubt about that; going in there with an inexperienced group was a special level of hell unto itself. There was a lot about it that was really neat, though.
I've been playing the game with people like mod author and rogue extraordinaire Adrine/Antiarc and other rogues who really pushed the class to its limits over the years. They would collaborate on a lot of silly little rogue challenges like finding what instances they could solo in vanilla WoW, how fast they could do it, what drops they could farm with stealth runs, things like that. They turned Blackrock Depths into a rogue playground. It was a vast city full of hidden riches, all waiting for a good rogue to sneak through and steal it. I leveled a rogue alt just to try and do the things that they did. It was so much fun farming up Barman Shankers, Black Diamonds, Burning Essences, and Black Bloods. You could spend hours in Blackrock, just picking pockets and stealing treasure. It made you feel like a rogue should feel.
You don't really know Blackrock Depths until you've seen it from the shadows.
What's the best raid?
My favorite raid was actually two raids -- tier 5 content. The split between Tempest Keep and Serpentshrine Cavern was awesome, plus Vashj and Kael'Thas were, for me, two of the most memorable raid end bosses in the game. Kael was just freaking epic. There's no way to describe it, and this many years after it, no way to reproduce it, either. It was also nice having two different aesthetics in one raid tier. Serpentshrine was wet, mossy, a bit dark, and very blue. Tempest Keep was bright, colorful, and avoided blues completely. The two very different color palettes meant that you didn't get sick of looking at the same thing every single week. You were in two very different places.
Blizzard tried to replicate the success of tier 5 with Blackwing Descent and Bastion of Twilight, but it totally missed what made those instances work. It wasn't just that you had two nonlinear zones to visit. The two zones were different. They were distinct; they mixed up the content and kept you engaged. BWD and BoT are the exact same place, hidden behind two different instance portals. Dark halls and dark bosses. They aren't even themed differently. Blackwing Descent is Dragonsville. Bastion of Twilight has five raid encounters, three of which ... involve dragons. The point was missed completely. Sure, you get a little break from the bleak in Throne of Four Winds, but how much time do you spend there? Not much.
What's been your favorite expansion?
The Burning Crusade. I've never had as much fun with the game as I did in The Burning Crusade. Outland content just felt so alive. Everything was reactive to your presence, right down to the rocks you mined and the flowers you herbalized -- things like random buffs or debuffs when you picked a flower added a little bit of excitement to an otherwise grindy experience. The little touches made BC wonderful. Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm feel so structured and mechanical in comparison.
Horde or Alliance?
Alliance, only because that's where my friends are and where they've always been. I'm one of those people who is absolutely convinced that the Alliance are the good guys and the Horde are the bad guys, but that is most certainly not why I play Alliance. I'm fine with playing the bad guys. I just don't know anybody there. My friends are Alliance, my raid team is Alliance, and now the characters I've grown so attached to are Alliance, so I'm Alliance.
What's your favorite thing to do in Azeroth?
I do quite a bit of raiding and dungeons, but what I actually enjoy most is soloing at my own pace while yammering away in guild chat. Leveling alts, exploring new quests hubs -- I love doing all of that sort of thing. When the game goes large stretches of time without any solo content additions, that means I end up going large stretches of time without logging in. Patch 4.2 was super-exciting for me because of the Regrowth/Molten Front daily hubs.
One of the reasons I grew tired of Cataclysm so quickly is it doesn't seem like there's much high-end solo content. Vashj'ir, Deepholm, Uldum and Twilight Highlands got me to level 85. Then there was just Hyjal left. Lame! There's an absolute crapload of solo content for low-level characters, but leveling alts just a month or two into the expansion felt wrong. I wanted to play my main and advance that character, not roll a new one within weeks of the expansion! I've gotten over that and have really dug into my alts, and I'm having fun again.
What's your favorite piece of loot?
Benediction. It was beautiful, and it felt like I earned it. I didn't just win a roll and then equip it. I won a roll, then went out and worked my butt off to complete it. The Benediction/Anathema transformation was sweet, too.
Alternatively, the Lionheart Executioner. I've always associated my paladin with the lion motif in my head, so that sword was absolutely perfect. The fact that you could upgrade it and use it throughout the expansion really added to my enjoyment of the character in a way no other piece of loot has done before or since.
What's the number one thing Blizzard has done great?
While I don't agree with all of Blizzard's class changes (I think retribution is mindnumbingly boring in Cataclysm compared to the chaotic grace of ret in Wrath of the Lich King), the sweeping talent changes in Cataclysm are probably one of the best things it's done to the game. There is no reason to keep immense, bloated talent trees around. Games with huge talent trees and endless customization options have their place, but even in those situations, nobody wants to sink 5+ talent points into one ability, one at a time, to see any sort of gain -- and that gain isn't super-fun, anyway, when it's 1% haste, 2% haste, 3% haste, etc. Being able to drop one or two points into a talent and have it immediately change your playstyle is awesome. Being able to feel like your chosen specialization right at level 10 is also awesome.
There are some oddities in there, though. I've been leveling a frost mage, and I had the option of putting talent points into Frostfire Orb in my early 60s. You can't even learn Flame Orb until level 81. What a waste! Not being able to utilize your talent points for 20 levels is even less fun than spending a talent point on 1% haste! Still, overall the streamlining of talents is one of the best things Blizzard has done to the game.
Blizzard's method of handling microtransactions is a pretty good one, too. As long as Blizzard keepts for-pay content purely in the realm of pets, mounts, or other cosmetic items, I'm perfectly okay with it. It doesn't harm the people who can't buy it, and items like that bring a lot of joy to people who only play World of Warcraft. Having the option to put a little extra money into buying a prestige vanity items for your character is pretty cool. I won't pay $25 for a mount, personally, but if someone wants to do that, why not? Let them. More power to them.
Calling someone names because they're willing to spend a little extra money to get their character a cool thing that doesn't hurt you just makes you look bad, not them.
Lastly: Vanessa VanCleef. Eee. Eee. I don't think I've ever adored a boss in WoW as much as I adore Vanessa.
What's the number one thing Blizzard could do better?
The story and lore of World of Warcraft. I used to love it, and if you're a longtime reader of WoW Insider, you know that. Know Your Lore was my absolute favorite feature to write from week to week, and before I made the rank of editor, I convinced the site leads at the time to let me do Ask a Lore Nerd (which has since been retired) just so I could geek out over the game's story a little more every week.
At some point mid-Wrath of the Lich King, I realized that I really didn't care anymore. I could not possibly give a damn about any of the central characters in that expansion, except for Bolvar Fordragon. Not even my love for Bolvar Fordragon could overcome how awful a character Tirion Fordring was and how poorly the Ashbringer arc was handled, among other issues I had. Warcraft had many cool characters, but it doesn't feel like any of them have any sense of internal logic or personal motivation anymore. There's only so many times you can use the "greater good" excuse for why they're working with people that have ruined them. Or if they go evil, just blame the Old Gods! Meh.
I simply don't care anymore and I rarely have any expectation of being fulfilled by an expansion's story arc anymore -- Cataclysm is reinforcing that. Thrall's arc is eyeroll-inducing, and his personal crisis is overshadowing the actual crisis of the world being shattered. Malfurion Stormrage's revival was relegated to a novel and has had no game impact at all. It feels as if Deathwing has been benched. Though even if he hadn't been benched ... Old Gods. Deathwing doesn't feel intimidating anymore, since he's yet another pawn to the Old Gods.
I don't want to hear about the Old Gods for a few years. I don't think it's a coincidence that my favorite expansion had no Old God hooks in the overall story arc (though yes, they did appear in quests.) They're just not good villains. "Corruption" is the least interesting reason for going evil ever. Again, whatever happened to giving characters motivations? I want to see Maiev Shadowsong again -- she was my favorite Warcraft character of all time -- but I also fear it. WoW has not been kind to my other favorites.
I'm not a big fan of Blizzard's dedicating entire zones to pop culture jokes, either. See: Uldum. I'm not against pop culture jokes in general. Not at all! They were some of the most entertaining things to find in the early years of WoW. They always brought a big grin to my face. But when we get to the point that a whole zone is one big Indiana Jones joke ... when it comes time to go to Uldum again on an alt, I find something else to do -- that "something else" is usually a different game completely. I've added more games to my Steam library over the course of Cataclysm than any other expansion. The devs don't have to stop the pop culture jokes, but this expansion is so thick with them that I've just gotten tired of it.
That's just my take, of course. I know that plenty of people still enjoy the lore of the game. That's why I stopped writing Know Your Lore and passed the torch to Matt Rossi and brought people like Anne Stickney on board to do it. They still have a real passion for it, and that's why I'm a senior editor -- to find the people who love what they do, are good at what they do, and giving them the means to do it.
What accomplishments are you most proud of in game?
Being in the same guild since December of 2004 and being its guildmaster since 2005. I don't guild hop. I've never been in a different guild on my main, and I can't imagine a World of Warcraft where I'm not in that guild. We're not as active as we used to be, as is expected with such an old-school guild, but I still won't leave it. People come, people go, they find new games, or they get bored. It happens. But I've known some of these people for over six years now.
Friends who I once only knew as characters in a game are now my best friends in the entire world. Some of them are people who welcomed me into their home when I needed a place to stay, and thanks to their help, I'm in a place where I can return the favor or extend the kindness to others that need it. I've traveled to different parts of the United States to celebrate birthdays and graduations with them. I have their numbers, their addresses, and we know each other better than we would have ever expected.. It doesn't matter that they're internet friends. They're family -- and I've added some of the folks from WoW Insider to that list over the last three years, too.
Should the day come that I'm the only one left in my guild, I won't go looking for a new one. I'll leave WoW first.
When I'm not playing WoW, I'm ...
Reading, writing or playing other video games. I'm not one of those people who only plays World of Warcraft. I enjoy trying other MMOs, and I enjoy playing other games. Name a major MMO release in the last four years; I've probably played it, if not after the game's launch, then in beta. I'm big into solo RPGs and third-person shooters (Mass Effect!), as well. Since I can't channel most of that gaming through WoW Insider, I do it via Nitpixels -- a general gaming podcast I do with Mike Sacco, Matt Rossi, and Mat McCurley that also does blog posts from other folks.
When I want to get away from gaming completely, I work on a fantasy setting I've been brewing for a few years. I'm deep into writing my first novel in the setting, temporarily titled Oaths. (If anybody knows a good artist looking for work, I'm looking to commission some character art for that.) I've only put the prologue online so far (and clever eyes will notice my WoW character is named for the focal character there). Check it out if you want. If you don't, no problem! You're here for WoW Insider, not my other inanity.
If I don't want to pour out creatives juices and want to absorb them instead, I read. My Kindle is one of the best purchases I've ever made. Having all of those books right at my fingertips no matter what I go is so very satisfying. I've read more books since I bought my Kindle than I had read in years prior.
If you have other questions for me, I'd be happy to answer them! I'll be watching the comments like a hawk, so please feel free to ask away. Questions about WoW, questions about me, whatever you want. Thanks for reading!
Have you ever wanted to write for WoW Insider? Your chance may be right around the corner. Watch for our next call for submissions, and be sure to sign up for Seed, the Aol guest writer program that brings your words to WoW Insider. The next byline you see here may be yours!
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