(Update: Since our 15 Minutes of Fame interview, the bright light of internet scrutiny has uncovered some cracks in Ferarro's online persona. Whatever the truth may be, it's a shame to see a once positive, entertaining resource for the Paladin community sink into the mire.)
"'Paladin, Schmaladin' ... No way a blog with a dumb name like that could be a decent web resour -- Oh, wait, what was that about MP5? Let me just crunch -- oh never mind, she's already ... Ahh, hang on, lemme just finish this how-to; seems pretty spot-on to me ... But first, I need to click on this blonde over here, because this cannot possibly be a real photo of the person who wrote all this stuff ..."
Before you get your Purifier's Pantaloons in a twist, we checked out frequent WoW.com reader/commenter Ferarro and her blog, Paladin Schmaladin -- and we'd say they both pass the sniff test quite swimmingly. You want the Real Thing? You've got it. Besides her own blog, Ferarro writes at RetPaladin.com and is a full-time WoW game tester. That's right: the lady raids for a living. More to the point, Ferarro serves up the inside line on playing a better Paladin with a quick wit, impeccable theorycrafting and a willingness to lend a good-humored, personal touch to the whole endeavor. We've got the inside scoop on the lady with the inside scoop, after the break.
Main character Ferraro
Gaming background Growing up around all boys, I've always been into video games, as evidenced by my old-school gaming posts. They were always playing Gemstone and Ultima and Everquest, but it wasn't until I started watching my friends play Diablo 2 nine years ago that I really began getting into online community games. Eventually they pulled me away from Goldeneye and Starfox 64 long enough to get me to join their little team of a Barbarian, Necromancer and an Amazon (Lightning Fury was OP). I chose a Paladin because a) no one had one yet and b) they were "shiny." Swear to God, that was my reasoning at 16. *chuckles* So when WoW came out and we all made the big jump into 3D, the first time I went Alliance, I went with a Paladin.
15 Minutes of Fame: Ferarro, it looks as if WoW is pretty completely entwined with your life: blogging, podcasting, testing, working, playing ... Where's the line between work and play? What do you actually do for a living?
Ferarro: To put it simply, I do internal testing with Blizz (not "for" -- there's a big difference). I think I'm treading on thin ice saying this, but I essentially raid with a team in one room. We pull up numbers, discuss things and make hefty reports and send them to ... ah, "important" people. I think that's all I can say without heat coming down on me. My NDA won't let me talk about specifics until two years after I leave. But yeah, I basically play WoW for a paycheck.
Sounds like a dream job for most of our readers. What's a typical work-week like?
Monday starts off at 9 a.m. and is really just an excuse to pop in at work and chat things over, about changes and rumors and ideas we have. It's not required to clock in and show up, but I always do. It's fun. On a big day, like a patch day for example, it's 30 people gossiping and laughing and drawing pictures on whiteboards about WoW while eating Panda Express.
Tuesdays through Thursdays are the serious raiding days. We have to clear Ulduar-25 and -10 (and hard modes) while using as many non-optimal set-ups as possible. Meaning some weeks, we try to do things without Replenishment or something, and another week, we won't use Heroisms. It can be tough, and to be honest, we're allowed to "cheat" using tools when an encounter's hard mode is overtuned. I won't lie: this is pretty much how we got to Algalon a while ago. We run other computers to record the information we need (think of it like a massive WWS report but with four to five times the information), and each person has a second monitor to see the updates.
Friday is all about compiling reports and theorycrafting with data. This is usually the day argumen -- I mean, debates occur. *chuckle* As unbiased as we'd all like to be, everyone -- yes, even developers -- can slightly skewed towards a class or two, if you dig deep enough. But you don't let it affect the truth. I'll always defend Paladins, for instance, but not to a game-breaking degree. Our Hunter and Warlock team members, though ... Yikes. Luckily, most Fridays end early, and we all go lazer tagging or something to let off steam.
Saturday and Sunday? I do my best to catch up on shows like Lost, 24, Dexter, The Office, etc. And maybe a quick road trip up Pacific Coast Highway during spring and summer. =)
So the question that's burning itself into every monitor pointed to this article right now: how did you get a job like yours, testing WoW content?
To be completely honest: connections and luck. I didn't send a resume to superawesomedreamjob.org or anything. Just had good friends in high places. =)
You also write at Retpaladin.com. What's the scoop on that gig?
Writing at Retpaladin.com has been a tremendously rewarding experience. Slayton and Mega are wonderful guys, and I learn a lot from Hofferland. Of all the three specs, I've played Holy the longest -- harking back to the vanilla WoW days, when something like 93% of Paladins worldwide were Holy because it was our only viable spec. I tried Ret a couple times (even scored an Ashkandi in the process) but didn't see how it was efficient at all.
With each new change to the tree, I tried Ret again and finally rolled a second Paladin in BC to go strictly Ret. I ended up topping meters even before Divine Storm and the 3.0 overhaul (thanks, Enhancement Shamans!). So with this experience in both the game and playing and raiding as Ret, I saw that Retpaladin.com was looking for a new writer and approached Slayton and Megaphone about it. I sent them my in-game and real-life resume, talked to them in Vent a few times, and viola! I'm still a writer for them, seven months later.
As for the focus and audience, it is much different than, say, Paladin Schmaladin. Most Retpaladin.com readers and visitors are very PvP-oriented and Arena-centric, which makes sense, considering Slayton, Mega and Hoff are some of the best in the world at Ret PvP. I was brought on board for my PvE angle and expertise, since I have a longer and stronger history of it than they do, so I focus on that. Anything I chime in on about PvP has probably already been said by those three. Not that I'm too shabby at Arena (2.1k+ every season except S3, which I didn't play), but those guys are world class. So I kind of help out and post about questing, heroics, raiding and techniques on the PvE aspect of being a Ret Paladin, since they have the PvP side of the coin covered. I got your back, raiders!
You've spent a lot of time and energy on the how-to guides on your site. What distinguishes your guides from those on other sites?
How are they different? I dunno. I'd say personality. Virtually every guide I've read posts numbers and values and dryly list abilities and what do to; but they rarely explain why or what to do if something goes wrong. I can't speak for others, but when I went to high school and college, I couldn't stand sitting and reading and taking notes from that monotone, Ben Stein professor; it was worse when you couldn't understand what they were saying. I never remembered anything from those classes. But when I had that one teacher who was animated and tried to fire us up and made us laugh, I actually cared about the subject and absorbed everything he or she said.
So I guess try to be that teacher who tries to make you smile and laugh and see more in this game and its players than just numbers and parses and equations. That's why I add a Philosophy section to each How To guide, because I think understanding your own capabilities and your role is just as important as knowing everything about the big dragon in front of you. The stronger the connection between the teacher and the student, the more likely you're going to get a higher performance out of both of them. Even I learn a new thing or two every now and then!
What type of player do you have in mind when you're writing your guides and posts?
My guides aren't for people in Ensidia, so to speak. I'm not trying to re-invent the wheel on how to take down a boss. There aren't any illegal exploits in my guides (even though I know of a few major ones that are still live). But chances are, if you're reading a guide on how to kill a boss or how to play a Paladin, then you can benefit from my guides.
I do a little spoon-feeding sometimes, which tends to annoy the higher class of players. But I don't mind it. Everyone was a noob at some point in their WoW "career," so I don't really believe in chastising someone who doesn't know how to play. I'd rather hold their hand and show them the ropes and then gradually train them to be pros -- which is why I have several guides for each spec, each one a step up in complexity. I do my best to have my guides appeal to everyone: helping the lesser skilled players, improving the average player, and fine-tuning for the experts, all while giving everyone a place to point to when another new player pops up and asks questions.
As for my other posts, I dunno. I never thought about the demographic it should be aimed at. I guess people who are sipping coffee, bored at work like me! *laughs*