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Filed under: Interviews

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

Warlords of Draenor interview with Senior Game Producer Ray Cobo

Warlords of Draenor interview with Ray Cobo
Over the hectic BlizzCon weekend, I had the pleasure of sitting down with World of Warcraft Senior Game Producer Ray Cobo. Ray oversees various aspects of game design, with a specific focus on the art and design elements of WoW.

WoW Insider: So, the character models we've seen so far look amazing, the dwarves, gnomes, the orcs and draenei, what else are we expecting to see at the launch of the expansion?

Ray Cobo: Well, we're also going to have gnomes, we're also going to have undead, I think we're working on everything we can up to launch. Our hope is to be able to get them all out at the same time, and that includes trolls, that includes draenei. But it comes down to, you know, we only have so many hands in the fire, so we will just have to see what we can do.

So are you able to say anything about the ones that are furthest from completion? The ones that we're least likely to see at launch?

Well, of course the ones that we've seen at the con are the ones that are furthest along, we feel they're kind of representative of the kind of direction we want to go there, and we feel really good about them as a set.

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Filed under: Interviews, BlizzCon

Blizzcon 2013: Iconic Characters of Warcraft

Voice Actor Stage
The Voice Actor Stage is a new addition this year at BlizzCon, and I certainly hope it becomes a staple. I sat down for the 3:00 - 4:00 panel "Iconic Characters of Warcraft" which, as the name implies, featured the voice actors for several of the most influential WoW characters in the Mists of Pandaria expansion. Our esteemed guests were:
  • Keone Young, voice of Chen Stormstout
  • James Sie, voice of Taran Zhu
  • Patrick Seitz, voice of Garrosh Hellscream
  • Aaron Phillips, voice of Wrathion
  • Josh Keaton, voice of Anduin Wrynn
  • Laura Bailey, voice of Jaina Proudmoore
In addition, the panel was hosted by Andrea Toyias, Casting and Voice Over Director at Blizzard, and two writers whose names were announced but unfortunately not written on the projector.

Andrea hosted the panel by asking each of the actors, one by one, a series of questions about the characters they voiced -- how they saw that character, how they got into the appropriate headspace to play that character, and so on. Each answer was unique and very interesting. Keone Young spoke about how his experience growing up on Hawai'i, before and during its annexation by the United States, influenced the way he perceived the struggles of the pandaren people, and also how his knowledge of the Hawai'ian patois informed his development of Chen's unique accent.

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Filed under: Blizzard, Interviews, BlizzCon

15 Minutes of Fame: Road to BlizzCon cosplay -- the grind to perfection

There's simply something about Amanda. When we first spied her making the rounds with her stunning green-eyed paladin at BlizzCon 2010, we found ourselves captivated. Yet Amanda wasn't a finalist in 2010. She didn't draw crowds by displaying huge swaths of bare skin, parading up and down the promenade in front of the convention center. Not a seamstress, she doesn't even craft all of her costumes' parts and pieces personally by hand.

What Amanda Wisley does is cosplay with heart. The die-hard fan outsources her imagination to create costumes that exemplify the spirit she sees in the game she loves. This WoW lover loves to bring her visions to life, sharing them over long hours walking the convention floor and grounds to visit with other fans. But while this year's BlizzCon will see her buried inside a full fur suit as a pandaren monk, will her hopes of participating in Blizzard's official costume contest get buried as well?

In an upsetting discovery made long after tickets had been purchased and her costume was in progress, Amanda learned early last month that she'd not been lucky enough to snag one of the coveted sign-ups for the costume contest. She's been assured that she's high on the waiting list -- but after months of preparation, a successful race for BlizzCon tickets, booking air travel and accommodations, and of course all the expenses of creating her costume itself, will she get her shot at walking across the BlizzCon stage?

Take a look at the emotional highs and lows of this determined cosplayer's road to BlizzCon 2013 as her costume and itinerary laboriously come together.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

15 Minutes of Fame: The rainbow world of TradeChat's Panser

Panser
The trademark pink hair of video blogger Panser of TradeChat and WoW Insider's weekly news recap should be declared a valid form of crowd control. Less enlightened viewers seem to find themselves sheeped in her v-log comments on a regular basis, bleating about her eye-popping pink coif, the peaches-and-cream looks that propelled her to the finals in the Maxim Gamer Girl competition, and (oh dear, guys, don't get out much, eh?) her gender.

But it's Panser's bona fides as a gamer, not her pink hair, that make her updates one of the liveliest, most informed sources of WoW, League of Legends and gaming news on the web. A lifelong gamer with five active level 90 WoW characters and what she refers to as a "small problem with alts," Panser crunches through the weekly WoW news like a bag of Skittles, full of fun and flavor. Ready for a peek over the TradeChat rainbow?

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

Fantasy character artist explodes onto WoW community scene

15 Minutes of Fame Fantasy character artist explodes onto WoW community art scene
If you're headed to BlizzCon next month, will you be lucky enough to be wearing a coveted custom name badge by Noxychu? Her whimsical character portraits have become all the rage this year, and Noxychu has even turned out badges for the entire Blizzard community manager staff. As staff artist for Wowhead and well-known WoW "Twitterati," the unassuming Brit has long since had to pause taking on new commissions, and her newfound popularity promises great things post-BlizzCon.

WoW Insider: Everyone wants a Noxychu! I'm betting most readers will recognize your name from the artwork you do for Wowhead. Tell us what you do there and how you got started.

Noxychu: I'm not sure I have a proper title; I guess just "artist" covers it. I make logos for the various ZAM websites, and I illustrate the occasional contest and guide. I got started with Wowhead by volunteering, I made some badge art for them in 2008, and then after that the occasional Warcraft-themed web comic. And they were bloody awful. I really loved making them, and they were weekly for a while. Unfortunately I'm a terrible at writing scripts, and I have been unable to find a consistently funny writer that is willing to put up with me to try and get the Wowhead web comic back to regular updates.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

15 Minutes of Fame: Shooting Azeroth in all its HD glory

15 Minutes of Fame Screenshot photographer shoots Azeroth in all its HD glory
WoW wallpaper sites come, and WoW wallpaper sites go. You can always download a fresh look for your screen directly from Blizzard. But as satisfying as it is to set a novel desktop wallpaper that truly delights, I enjoy the process of poking around to find wallpapers from people who are passionate about WoW -- like WoWScapes, the passion project of a former raider and amateur photographer who's become fascinated with taking and sharing high-quality screenshots that showcase the striking beauty of Azeroth.

WoWScapes creator Jeremy (aka Rotted of Sen'jin-US) specializes in bringing eye-popping images to players who don't have the hardware or haven't slowed down enough to savor Azeroth's splendor. "In a way, I feel sorry for people who use low-end hardware and cannot thoroughly enjoy the beauty this game displays," he notes. "So with that being said, I have turned many heads and had many people say, 'Is that really what WoW looks like on max settings? All this time, I have been playing and have never seen blades of grass on the ground or bark on the trees.' It's responses like this that make me happy about sharing my 'photos.'"

Jeremy is currently adding two screenshots per week to WoWScapes. "I never had intentions to make money off of the website," he says. "It is strictly something I enjoy doing in my free time -- usually while my wife is raiding. Every wallpaper is free to download."

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

15 Minutes of Fame: Road to BlizzCon cosplay -- prologue

15 Minutes of Fame Road to BlizzCon cosplay, part 1
We first met Amanda Wisley at BlizzCon 2010 as a perky, green-eyed blood elf paladin in full Judgement. Who could forget those eyes? Though she wasn't selected as a finalist in the Blizzard costume contest, her popular paladin attracted crowds of gawkers and fans anxious to be photographed with her off the main convention floor. We chatted with her several times over the course of the weekend, and I encouraged her to get in touch with me if she ever found herself preparing for another run at major BlizzCon cosplay.

Amanda didn't attend BlizzCon in 2011, but she contacted me this summer as her preparations for an trip to Anaheim and an attempt at the 2013 BlizzCon costume contest got into full swing. What has transpired in the weeks since then is an astonishing patchwork of dastardly deadlines, agonizing anticipation, bitter disappointments, and unwavering persistence and hope.

Will Amanda's custom-made pandaran monk be ready in time for November? Will she nab a coveted spot among the first 100 registrants for the BlizzCon costume contest? In the face of purchased tickets and completed travel plans, how will she adapt to roadblocks and disappointments along the way? We'll meet the intrepid cosplayer this week, share the ups and downs of her preparations as we get closer to the convention, and finally join her behind the scenes at BlizzCon itself in November.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

How do we define 'melee friendly'?

How do we define 'melee friendly' nowadays
This week, we got a special treat - Blizzard released a video with Encounter Developer Ion Hazzikostas (who is seriously my secret crush over at Blizz - my trapper keeper is full of little hearts drawn around his name), Production Director J. Allen Brack and Game Director Tom Chilton (they're dreamy too, but Ion's my fave) and it's got a cornucopia of interesting information in it for you all. However, one line of the interview, summed up by our Adam Koebel, caught my eye immediately.

They realize raids need to be more melee friendly in the future and they are working on it, but they feel that Siege of Orgrimmar is one of the most melee friendly raids in recent memory.

When I first saw this line, I chuckled bitterly to myself. Siege is melee friendly? This got me to wondering how we define melee friendly. Is it just the ability for melee players to contribute solid DPS? Because by that standard, Siege has some good fights for melee - the Fallen Protectors, Sha of Pride, Galakras and even Spoils of Pandaria are certainly fights where melee DPS can contribute a good deal of positive damage to an encounter. Phase 1 Garrosh is a place where melee with good cleave potential absolutely shines. So by that standard, a case could absolutely be made that Siege is melee friendly.

Now, in terms of melee staying alive without making the healers hate every single one of them that the raid brings to the party? Siege of Orgrimmar continues in a grand tradition of blowing up the melee. By that standard, SoO is absolutely not melee friendly.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Raiding, Interviews, Mists of Pandaria

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