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Five World of Warcraft machinimas you need to know about

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It's true that nearly every day we feature a machinima on WoW Moviewatch, but we here at WoW Insider occasionally feel compelled to pick favorites, or at least memorable ones. Today, I want to focus on some older gems that haven't had any time in the spotlight for a while and deserve some love. If you're new to the game these videos might provide you a glimpse into an inaccessible time now gone, and if you're new to machinima it might spark a desire to seek out more. Regardless, I've chosen a variety of films that hopefully showcase the enormous potential in using WoW's game engine to produce cinematic content, as well as the boundless creativity and talent within the WoW community. Read and watch on below the cut.

1. Ulduar: Defiance by Atraira

Atraira made a number of videos during The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King eras, and in my opinion, Ulduar: Defiance (Part one, two, and three) is the crowning achievement. The embedded video above is actually the teaser for the series, and a worthy machinima in its own right. When Yogg-Saron's voice says, "It was your fault..." I still shiver a little, even though I've watched this video dozens of times. The complete Ulduar: Defiance series tells the story of the Ulduar raid through the eyes of the paladin Invisusira. Haunted by Arthas' destruction of Lordaeron and plagued by visions of a fate that awaits her at the hands of the Lich King, Invisusira leads her comrades into battle at Ulduar to face the god of death, Yogg-Saron.

Many aspects of Ulduar: Defiance make it stand out - the cinematography and lighting, the musical soundtrack, the editing - but what I find most impressive is how little fan-dubbed voice acting there is. There is only one line of added voice acting in the entire film. Otherwise all the voices are from in-game character dialogue and sound files, and it is amazing how effectively the story is told, even with a nearly mute point-of-view character.

If you never saw the Ulduar raid, this series of videos is about as good a proxy as you can hope for, and if you're a Wrath of the Lich King veteran, they're good for some old-fashioned nostalgia. Considering I've heard many a player refer to the Throne of Thunder as "Zul'duar," I figured it was time to take a look back at one of WoW's most immersive raid experiences.

2. Shake That! by Baron Soosdon
Let's shift gears entirely. This is one of my all-time favorite WoW machinimas. Baron Soosdon is a bit of a legendary figure among WoW machinima creators, though as far as I can tell this is one of his least known projects. It's easy to see why, I mean, at the end of the day it's just NPCs dancing to a "Shake Your Booty" remix. Nonetheless, I stand by it as a "must see" machinima, if only for the sheer fun factor. Don't let the goofiness fool you, though. The video's editing is phenomenal, and it's that excellent editing which makes it worth watching through to the end. Let's face it, the WoW dances are incredibly limited, and yet somehow Soosdon manages to keep them interesting for the duration of the song. Also, when else are you going to have the chance to see all the cultists in Naxxramas getting down? Never, that's when.

3. Tanked a Boss by William Skot
No, this machinima doesn't have the greatest video or audio quality, but I still love it. The parody lyrics are clever, easy to understand, and the singing is okay. Most of all, it's obvious that these folks are a good-humored group of friends having fun together, and I'll take that kind of machinima atmosphere over all the blood elf rap on YouTube. As an added bonus, this machinima is a great time capsule for specific WoW game mechanics that have been long since been laid to rest. Back in The Burning Crusade, two bosses - Leotheras the Blind and Illidan Stormrage - required warlocks to tank them for part of the fight. Another boss, High King Maulgar, required a mage tank. Clothie tanks! The world's gone mad! This is a video celebrating the guild's warlock successfully tanking Leotheras. It doesn't really get any sweeter than that.

4. What Would Warchief Garrosh Do? by Irdeen, Matt Greenberg, and Sean Beeson
Unlike the previous three videos, this one makes copious use of voice acting, and it is really well done. This South Park parody video was done for the 2010 Blizzcon Machinima contest and references both the film and the fact that in the original South Park WoW episode the boys played Alliance (here they have rerolled Horde for Cataclysm). Oh, did I also mention the great writing, music, effects, lighting, and editing? Yeah, those too.

Irdeen and Matt Greenberg also brought us the WoW Boom-de-Yada machinima, which I almost considered including instead of this one, but decided in favor of the South Park parody. Still, it gets an honorable mention here for being so dang fun. And for Garrosh punching Thrall in the face, that never gets old.

5. The Ballad of the Noob by Waste of Aces
This was one of the first machinima I ever found, and it remains one of my all-time favorites. It's a Johnny Cash-styled folk music ballad about a bold level one human player who, thanks to a combination of luck and plucky perseverance posessed by only the widest-eyed of innocents, manages to sock it to a max-level undead player. What I love about the storytelling in this video is the way it seamlessly integrates both in-game and out-of-game aspects to create a hybrid of both. It's framed as a legend of Azeroth but the noob's triumph owes more to real-world interference than gameplay. The use of that kind of storytelling device illustrates the way we players see ourselves both within and without of the game and how the narratives of both ourselves and our avatars entwine in Azeroth's virtual space.

All right, faithful readers of WoW Insider - your turn. What are your "need to know" machinimas, if you have any? There are many, many WoW videos worth watching; my list here is hardly definitive. Oh and yes, before you ask, I am well-versed with The Craft of War: BLIND. That's why it's not on the list. Well that, and I think Michael Gray might hunt me down if I mention it one more time.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Machinima

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