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Filed under: Interviews

Ready Check interviews Brian Holinka and Ion Hazzikostas

Eye of C'Thun
This past week the hosts of EU-based podcast Ready Check were lucky enough to go visit Blizzard's offices in Versailles, where they met up with Brian Holinka and Ion Hazzikostas for a lively round of Q&A. The podcast--with attendant full transcript, don't you worry, folks who can't play the podcast--covers a very broad range of topics, and PvPers should be particularly interested in the broad discussion about arenas. Gothiques and Athene bring up some wonderful points about arena queuing, and matching, and the little ways in which the system often results in unexpectedly wasted time, as well as the ways in which not-entirely-honest players can manipulate that system in their favor. Both Holinka and Hazzikostas have insights to offer on these problems, and there's some good back-and-forth about potential solutions and improvements to the existing arena systems.

In addition to the excellent PvP discussions, the interview features some talk of Warlords of Draenor and the future--some of which we've already heard about, but I am so excited for garrisons and a toys tab that I could listen to this stuff all day long. Do you know how many bag spaces I'm going to get back once that toys tab goes live? In the words of the Diablo Templar companion, it will be glorious! There's also some really fun discussion on the philosophy and practice of encounter and mechanics design, and how the WoW team goes about building raids and bosses. This was perhaps my favorite part of the interview, because I am a hopeless PvPer and am much more at home among WoW's raid bosses. In any case, no matter what part of the game you enjoy, there's something in this interview for you. You can check out the full transcript and podcast episode at Ready Check's own website, so make sure to click on over to the whole thing!

Filed under: Podcasting, Interviews, Warlords of Draenor

Blizzard employee Rene Koiter chats about Khal Drogo cosplay

Blizzard's annual Halloween costume contest is well-known among those who follow the company, and in 2013 it got even more attention thanks to artist Rene Koiter's incredible Khal Drogo cosplay, which went viral back in the fall. The website Geekpron recently sat down with Mr. Koiter for a five-question interview, going in-depth about why he chose the character for his outfit and how he made his vision a reality.

One aspect I hadn't fully appreciated prior to this interview was how many people it took to realize Mr. Koiter's vision of a Khal Drogo cosplay. It took no fewer than five other people to help him achieve the look--one costumer, two hair and makeup artists, a coworker who sculpted the medallion belt, and one who played the translator in the contest. It was clearly an enormous effort that payed wonderful dividends. Head on over to Geekpron for the full interview, and once again we tip our hat to Rene Koiter for his amazing performance!

Filed under: Blizzard, News items, Humor, Interviews

15 Minutes of Fame: TEDx speaker on overcoming anorexia with WoW

Continuing our look at young people successfully folding World of Warcraft into their successfully unfolding lives, this week we interview another student for whom WoW has made a big impression. "I saw your Breakfast Topic post How has WoW made your life better?, and well, a few weeks back I had the opportunity to give a TEDx talk about how playing World of Warcraft helped my fight anorexia and a crappy education system," wrote Erik Martin, aka Klaes of Emerald Dream (US).

Talk about All The Things ... Also a game designer who has even worked on projects for the federal government, Erik has rallied from anorexia to go on to advocate for student agency and motivation in education. With a confidence bolstered in Azeroth, he's assembling his own experiences and aspirations into a big-picture view large enough not only to fill his own sails but to help others push off from safe harbor.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

Growing Up in WoW: One-third of a lifetime shared with Azeroth

A few months ago, I received an email from the kind of player who sets off all sorts of bells and whistles for a feature writer like me -- a WoW fan who's integrated the game into a balanced, engaged, lively lifestyle. If you've ever found yourself shaking your fist and snarling at teenaged players as a group -- Get off my lawn! -- then you've probably never met a young player who's got his stuff together quite so well as Zukkai of Area 52 (US).

I'm 18, I'm a raid leader for one of the 10man teams in our guild, and I've been playing since I was 12. In December, I can claim that I've played WoW for a third of my life. Along the way I've been in school full time, and will be attending university in the fall. When I first started playing, my parents regulated my play time. Once I started controlling my play time, I had to learn about my own time management and how to balance WoW with RL priorities. I've also learned how to deal with the social stigmas of playing WoW through high school, including how to explain to your friends that you might not be able to go somewhere because you have to raid.

I've managed to grow up right along side the game, and I think playing it for so long has taught me a couple of valuable lessons along the way. I've had stretches where I'd be playing 4-5 hours a day and I've had stretches where I've toyed with quitting, but I've kept going for 6 years. I've never had massive amounts of time to play, but I've managed to put together my Insane title and collect a large sum of pets and mounts, as well as raid at the heroic level.


Fixated on gaming? Hiding away from life? Not in the least. Our conversation with Zukkai reveals a player for whom World of Warcraft is just another pastime -- albeit one that's filled a full one-third of his lifetime. Moving in and out of WoW with the rest of life's rhythms is as natural as breathing, as Zukkai demonstrates in this look at life for one of the many players today who are growing up in Azeroth.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

The fascinating personalities of World of Warcraft

The annual "Where are they now?" roundups for 15 Minutes of Fame are a high point of my year as a feature writer. It's rare to get a built-in opportunity to re-open the conversation with someone I've interviewed, and it's always intriguing to learn where these passionate, involved players and people are headed today. Not everyone's answers make print, of course; the pool of past subjects after six years is much larger than we could reasonably follow, and not everyone is still doing something related to WoW. So far, limiting coverage to those who reply to an email inquiry seems to keep things to a manageable roar.

The downside of compiling a yearly update is all the time I lose wandering down the side streets of Memory Lane. This year, I finally realized that if revisiting all those articles was so interesting to me, it probably would be to you too. So today, I'm curating some of my favorite 15 Minutes of Fame interviews for your perusal. There are many more I couldn't include due to space constraints, but you'll discover a little something for everyone here. As we push off from the shore of a new year, I think you'll find the creativity and passion with which they weave the World of Warcraft into their lives to be positively energizing and inspiring.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

15 Minutes of Fame: Where are they now? 2013 edition

Five or six years is a long time, even among MMO players. Many of the people we spend every night with raiding, laughing, squabbling, and goofing off inevitably move on, diving into the next passion in their lives with as much gusto as they once held for Azeroth. Of course, many more are still right here after all this time, like the WoW personalities we've interviewed here at 15 Minutes of Fame over the past six years.

What about the people we met during 2013? We touched base with everyone we hadn't caught up with since before BlizzCon to see what's going on in their worlds -- and, of course, in Azeroth.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

A legendary chat with Wrathion VA Aaron Phillips

One of the more intriguing new characters to come out of Cataclysm was Wrathion, who took a curious journey through the Badlands as an egg and emerged with dubious intentions during the rogue legendary quest chain. Since then, Wrathion has led many a player of every class on a merry chase across the wilds of Pandaria in a legendary quest meant not just for rogues, but for all. Wrathion's motives have always been a little unclear, and whether he's working on the side of good, or with slightly more evil intentions, has been up for debate since his first appearance.

But Wrathion simply wouldn't be Wrathion without the voice that brought him to life as a sometimes petulant, sometimes angry, and sometimes touchingly desperate whelp with an apparent plan to save the world. Whether casually ordering Fahrad to break a pair of legs, pleading with Chi-Ji, or throwing the temper tantrum to end all temper tantrums in his temporary home, the voice of Wrathion has been just as distinctive as the character itself. So how does one bring life to such a strange character? We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask Wrathion's voice actor himself. Aaron Phillips may be immediately recognizable for Wrathion, but his works far exceed the vocal stylings of one angsty dragon -- and you may be surprised to note that you've likely heard him in a variety of places.

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Filed under: Interviews, Mists of Pandaria

15 Minutes of Fame: Where are they now? WoW personalities, 2008-2012

It's somewhat ironic that the very earliest group profiled on 15 Minutes of Fame to have responded to this year's for "Where are they now?" updates remains one of the most vibrant guilds making a name for itself in today's game. Spectacular Death from Llane (US-Alliance) just keeps running "the stuff you wish your guild did," tempting players in search of an active, engaged, relaxed and somewhat silly group of gaming friends. (Full disclosure: They tempted me into the fold, too.)

The spectacular attraction of Spectacular Death "As we head into our seventh year of existence, I guess that sort of makes us an 'elder' guild, in terms of longevity," muses GM Gimmlette. "(You kids get off our lawn and leave the flamingos and the garden gnomes alone.) Our core mission is still the same as it was when we started, to see all and do all but in a casual fashion.

"It's not a race, it's a journey, and that journey is generally filled with hilarity and looking at the game from a slight skewed perspective. We're the guild who revels in trying to skewer ourselves on the steeple of the church in Stormwind as well as working through SoO in flex mode. Elephant parades in Ironforge, naked runs of Molten Core, raft races in Krasarang, jumping off of Dalaran -- yeah, we've done all of that, and more.

"We're still going strong and I don't foresee us closing up shop any time soon," she continued. "I asked tonight why people stay in the guild and was told: 'The dental plan means I keep all my teeth in raids,' 'the 401(k),' 'I was promised a pony,' 'Oompaloompas,' 'tasty cookies,' 'beer,' and 'earworm night' ... um, yeah."

What are the other 15 Minutes of Fame's WoW personalities of 2008 through 2012 doing today?

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

Voiceover actor Matt Mercer on working in games and comics, plus the "Vezax voice"

Cartoon Voices I- Room 6BCF - 1:00-2:00 at San Diego Comic Con 2012
Halion the Twilight Destroyer. General Vezax. Ka'roz the Locust. You know Matt Mercer already -- he's the voice booming in your head in Ulduar, during the Siege Orgrimmar, in the nooks and crannies of Azeroth. The phenomenally popular video game and anime voiceover actor is known for -- well, let me just slide you a link to his Wikipedia page and let you delight in discovering his stamp on one of your own favorite comics, anime or video games from Sinbad to Resident Evil 6.

Behind that panoply of voices is a WoW player and fan whose GM, actress Michele Morrow, describes as a wonderfully down-to-earth and nice guy. "Every now and then, we'll have his boss [that he voiced in game] come along, and so we yell at him ... to do the voices," she recounted last week here at WoW Insider. "He's fantastic; you'll love him."

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

WoW-Playing Actress Michele Morrow: Less Sylvanas, more chaotically awesome

When we first met actress Michele Morrow in 2010, she was inching her way across the shallow field comprising the Hollywood crowd that plays World of Warcraft. It appeared to be a successful combination for Michele; in fact, for a while it seemed the horror flick star might actually be becoming best known as "that actress who wants to play Lady Sylvanas in a WoW movie," courtesy of a vocal Facebook page created by an enthusiastic fan.

While Sylvanas doesn't now appear to be spawning in the upcoming WoW movie, Michele's been popping up not only in Azeroth itself (with a commemorative NPC on Wandering Isle) but on gamer and nerd websites across the internet and in gaming-related film projects slated to begin hitting in 2014. Reconnecting with Michele at BlizzCon 2013 unspooled a reel of geekery worth investigating anew, as well as relatable tales of the sort of down-to-earth, casual raiding and in-game friendships that so many players enjoy as the WoW experience today.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

How the Sha of Happiness conquered BlizzCon 2013

It stands to reason that if someone known as Angryorc turns out to be Mr. Nice Guy in person, someone named the Sha of Happiness could turn out to be a real stinker. Fortunately for all of us, the Sha of Happiness took BlizzCon 2013 by storm in the sunniest of ways. Her relentless positivity illuminated the dark convention hall in Anaheim, and players discovered to their delight that the character they've embraced on Twitter is as welcoming and personable in the flesh. Whenever the Sha was about, BlizzCon's Meeting Stone and Community Corner positively glowed as welcoming destinations that other players found themselves returning to again and again.

Inspired by Angryorc and other WoW-themed roleplay characters such as @Arakkoa on Twitter, Shappi (as she's popularly known) created the Sha of Happiness character to shine a little light into the WoW community at large. "I've been posting on the EU/NA Warcraft/D3 general forums and more for about five years now, and I've been disheartened at the farewell posts and them stating that it didn't feel like a home for them anymore," she explains. "Whether it be Sanctuary or Azeroth, everyone should have a safe space. I strive to provide something like that for people on Twitter."

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

BlizzPro interviews Helen Cheng and Marco Koegler

BlizzPro has posted their BlizzCon interview with World of Warcraft Quest Designer Helen Cheng and Technical Director Marco Koegler about Warlords of Draenor and the future of WoW. The interview covers a variety of topics about the coming expansion, including why the team decided to return to a ten level expansion curve instead of sticking to the five it has been more recently (it makes for smoother leveling progression, plus level 100 is cool!), how (or if!) the time-travel aspect of Warlords will affect Azeroth itself (it shouldn't, provide we heroes rise to the occassion), and why there aren't any new playable classes or races for this expansion (new character models are resource-intensive).

But those are far from the only topics discussed during the interview. Cheng and Koegler also go into whether or not Garrisons will be character-based or account-wide, and what the different challenges are within either approach. Cheng also talks in depth about daily quests and their history in the game, the shortcomings of that particular design, and how Blizzard hopes to create a more balanced questing experience going forward so as to avoid some of the problems with quests in Mists of Pandaria.

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Filed under: Interviews, Warlords of Draenor

AusGamer interviews Chris Metzen

Chris Metzen
Interviews provide an often-fascinating insight into the behind-the-scenes workings of some of our favorite hobbies--like World of Warcraft. Recently the Australian gaming site AusGamer posted a transcript of their interview with Blizzard's Senior Vice President of Story and Franchise Development, Chris Metzen. They chat about everything from Metzen's long history at Blizzard Entertainment, to the evolution of his current position in the company, to the realities of trying to juggle multiple franchises, story formats, and ideas among Blizzard's many intellectual properties. There's also a discussion about the role of fans in Blizzard's story development and how the push-and-pull of ideas and fan reaction shapes the direction that development may take.

If you're interested in how the creative process at Blizzard works, and to hear about the differences between large-scale and small-scale story development at Blizzard, this is an interview you don't want to miss. They even discuss how Blizzard's new developments -- like Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm -- can potentially help feed into the franchise of World of Warcraft, with their use of iconic WoW characters and personalities. Check it out at AusGamers, it's a great view into the thought process of one of Blizzard's most iconic developers.

Filed under: News items, Interviews

15 Minutes of Fame: BlizzCon meetup balloons into mega-podcast event

It was early spring when a few BlizzCon-bound WoW players who were looking to connect and make friends in Anaheim started gathering forces on Twitter.


"I will say as the list has grown, more and more folks have asked me if there was going to be something beyond just the Twitter list," mused Ceraphus, co-host of The Sundering and Azeroth Pirate Radio podcasts and sparkplug for the growing list, back in April. "So right now I am really just in a brainstorming phase and seeing who may be interested in assisting on any potential event."

That must have been some pretty good brainstorming. What started out as a Twitter list of enthusiastic BlizzCon-goers turned into a full-bore pre-BlizzCon mega-podcast event called World of Podcasts. With representation from 23 podcasts across six panels, the event attracted so many fans that the venue location had to be expanded at the last moment. Ceraphus explains how the fan event unfolded across Twitter to explode onto the BlizzCon scene and teases us with a glimpse of what may be in store for future World of Podcasts events.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

15 Minutes of Fame: The friendliest cosplayer at BlizzCon 2013

It's only a very few cosplayers who make it to the top of the pyramid at Blizzard's official BlizzCon costume contests. Officially, pandaren monk cosplayer Amanda Wisley may not have among those finalists this year -- but unofficially, the bubbly redhead earned a reputation for her bright, engaging cosplay with attendees delighted to find themselves in animated conversation with a fully suited pandaren.

Amanda's experience as a professional children's entertainer specializing in mascots laid the foundation for some truly magical moments. Stop to observe for a moment, and you can literally watch her audience melt. A companionable wave, a welcome with arms flung wide, or a little jig of excitement demonstrate that this is one friendly pandaren who's eager to make an in-character connection. It's a reminder that Disneyland lies just across the street, and the effect is downright irresistible.

After first meeting Amanda cosplaying a paladin at BlizzCon 2010, we decided to follow her cosplay journey to BlizzCon 2013. We explored her preliminary plans, then caught up with her again just before the con. When we last left Amanda, she was agonizing over her position on the contest registration wait list, wondering if after committing to the expense, hotel and air reservations, ticket money, and preparations, she would even gain a chance to participate in the official contest. Did Amanda get her chance to walk across the stage at BlizzCon 2013?

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

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