Thursday, August 26, 2010

Blizzard’s Maestro Speaks Up

If you ran a podcast and were offered the opportunity to get an interview with someone in the Blizzard staff – completely at your own choice, who would you pick?

I bet many of you would answer “Greg Street, a.k.a. Ghostcrawler”, without thinking twice. Thanks to his active presence in the community forums during the last few years and his rather open attitude – not always as polished you might expect – he has reached a top-of-mind position in the community. Speaking for myself I can immediately picture him if you mention his name – but if you ask me about how Michael Morhaime looks, I honestly don’t know.

As a podcast producer, you would know that Ghostcrawler would be a safe card to play to get a huge audience for your show. There’s no one out there who doesn’t care about what that guy has to say.

The choice of The Instance
Recently the grand old WoW podcast The Instance, still going strong after several years in the business, was given this choice, as they were preparing for their 200th episode and wanted to celebrate it in style.

I don’t know of any other WoW blog or podcast that would get such a thing, but The Instance has a special position. They’ve got an official approval, as a member of Blizzard’s fansite program, and it appears as if they also have a lot of personal connections to people on the inside. And apart from that, I think they’re doing this at least on a half-pro basis, but I might be wrong there.

Anyway. The Instance is huge, respected, popular and loved by Blizzard, so they could pick whoever they wanted. But to my surprise, they didn’t ask for Ghostcrawler (or at least that’s not what they say.) They asked for someone who isn’t as high profiled as many of the others, but who never the less has a huge impact on how we perceive the game, even if we don’t think about it.

Instead of going for one of the highest profiled developers, The Instance went for an interview with Russell Brower, who is ultimately responsible for all music in WoW and some other Blizzard games as well. It was a bit unexpected, but also a very good choice.

Getting the player perspective
There are no revolutionary news released in the interview, and Russell dodges elegantly any question about the “secret MMO project”, which was to be expected. But nevertheless, the guy is just nice to listen to, and I found it especially interesting to hear about the creative process going on in the sound team, which consists of no less than 16 people.

There’s more thought put into this than you might imagine and Russell stresses how important it is to see the game from the perspective of players of all kinds as you’re composing the music. It shouldn’t just enhance the experience of a new raid instance or a questing zone, it should also work for someone who mainly plays the AH.

What I found especially cool was to hear that Russell Brower has been listening to The Instance ever since he started his job at Blizzard. He hadn’t played World of Warcraft before, and he wanted to quickly get into the feeling of how the players think and what they experience in the game, see the game through their eyes. Listening to the podcast helped him to get a better understanding. And who knows, maybe there are more ears in the Blizzard HQs that are listening to and reading our stuff than we imagine?

Russell concluded the interview, saying that this appearance in The Instance was a “dream come true” to him. Maybe he was just polite. However, he really sounded as if he meant it, and I actually believed Scott when he described him as “The Nicest Guy at Blizzard”.

By the way – now I know how he looks, thanks to listening to The Instance. He’s a look-a-like copy of King Theodren in the Lord of the Rings movie (after the curse has been cured, I should add.) It’s true! Pictures on the webs confirm it.

My congratulations
So. I think it’s about time that I come to the actual point of this post, namely to tell you to go and download and listen to the 200th episode of The Instance.

If you haven’t heard the show before, I can tell you that it’s always a nice listening, since the hosts Scott and Randy have a special chemistry between them that sets a nice and cosy atmosphere. There are so many blogs and podcasts out there that spend most of their energy on complaining about things. (Yeah, I too do that sometimes, getting a little jaded, grumpy and whiny.) The Instance is different. Their lighthearted and relaxed attitude towards the game and the community is contagious and I often find myself smiling as I listen to their banter.

Episode 200 is extra long, about 2.5 hours, and has several special appearances for the occasion. Apart from Russell Brower, there is for instance an interview with no one less than Felicia Day, the woman behind the wonderful series The Guild. Go listen to it. You won’t get disappointed.

And finally I’d like to grab the opportunity and congratulate The Instance on their Big Day. Doing 200 shows is awesome, especially since they hold such a high quality (at least the later ones; I can’t speak for the first 100 episodes, which I haven’t listened to). As if this wasn’t enough, they’ve also managed to create and maintain an iconic, flourishing guild consisting of 3 000 people. Don’t ask me how. It sounds like a nightmare to me, but it seems to work.

You guys are imba. Here’s to you and to the next 200 episodes (you promised!):



Klepsacovic said...

I couldn't interview Russel. The entire interview would just be me gushing about how amazing and undervalued the music is in WoW. Players are missing out on a lot if they don't have the music on. I still remember how when I'd make an alt and run through Elwynn or the Barrens, how the music somehow always played at just the perfect time and added so much to the experience.

Pangoria Fallstar said...

Umm, they've interview Ghostcrawler before actually. Check their back catalog of podcasts.

Larísa said...

: I used to have it turned of a lot on my old pc because I suffered a lot from lag and did all I could to reduce it. But nowdays I enjoy it a lot although I have to keep it at a very low level in instances so I still can hear the vent channel.

Fallstar: Oh, you're a way better researcher than I am. That explains why they didn't pick him!

spinksville said...

Who has time to listen to 2.5 hour podcasts? *boggle* I never did get why most podcasts are so very long.

Syl said...

lol - 2.5hours indeed isn't shabby haha! I will vow to do my best! I've been slacking on the podcast front until now, its like twitter for me, THERE BE DRAGONS!

Pangoria Fallstar said...

@spinks: I listen to it on my zune (an mp3 player that is an alternative to ipods, I know, shocking), while working in the office, or doing house work or laundry. Or over the speakers while writing or browsing blogs. I actually end up listening to over 12 different podcasts per week. Most at least an hour long.

Dwism said...

I wasn't going to listen to it, due to featuring a certain redhead that - to me- examplifies everything wrong with mmo's.

Glad I did though.

Larísa said...

& Syl: but you don't listen to it in real time! Most of the podcasts that are streamed are broaccasted at so ridiculous hours that I can't make it anyway.

What I do is that I download them to my mp3. And then I listen to them on my way to work, if I'm driving my kids somewhere, while I'm at the gym or if I'm playing WoW without being on vent.
Not to speak of if I'm doing cleaning/washing/cooking and such at home. There's always time to listen to podcasts if you do it in small portions. And don't forget you can use fast-forward if there's a section of the podcast that doesn't interest you.

I think it's most of all a habit. and of course you need to pick the cherries. There are too many WoW/MMO podcasts to follow them all.

@Dwism: Yeah, it was one of their better shows. I liked the part towards the end also where they talked in a slightly more serios and personal manner about the show and what it meant to them. It was... touching.

Bristal said...

I'll definitely check it out. I recently discovered that I had disabled music some time ago, can't even remember why.

I re-enabled it and have been blown away by how the music improves farming and just traveling around.

Music is one of those "immersion" elements that can either draw you in if it's great or jab you in the brain right behind your left eye if it's not.

And unfortunately I've also discovered that running heroics at current breakneck speeds puts the music in the latter category.