Horde or Alliance?
For the Alliance! And I'm surprised at how much my identification with the faction has grown over time. I've always played a bit of both--my second-highest level toon is Horde--but I find it harder and harder to get into the Horde story line these days. Stories have always been my main ties to video games (or anything, really), so that stumbling block is, unfortunately, a big one for me.
What's been your favorite expansion?
For nostalgia reasons, The Burning Crusade. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of stuff I'm glad has changed since then, but that was the expansion where I really started playing WoW and that incredible feeling of awe at the expansiveness of the game is something I will always cherish. I also loved the lore from that era. Black Temple remains my favorite raid--the fights, the ambiance, the music--all magnificent. I still think that Vashj, Kael'thas, and Illidan are all masterpieces of encounter design.
What's the best 5-man instance in the game? What's the best raid?
Hmm, best or my favorite? Heh. For 5-man content, I've always loved Blackrock Spire (both Upper and Lower). Maybe it doesn't technically count, since it wasn't always a 5-man, but it's got my vote. It really feels like a city in there, and I've always gotten a kick out of the added peril of getting knocked off a platform to a lower-level of the dungeon. Blackrock Spire just has a fantastic feel to it.
For best raid, well, I don't want to say Black Temple again, so I'm going to say Ulduar. Talk about ambiance--Ulduar has it in spades. There are lots of great encounters, lots of great visuals, beautiful music, and some really neat storytelling. Algalon's dialogue is alternately heartbreaking and exhilarating at the same time.
What's your favorite thing to do in Azeroth?
I love raiding with my guild. They're a good group of folks, and I have a lot of fun beating up on bosses with them every Friday night (and getting turned into pot roast--thanks Thok!). I also really enjoy playing low-level toons. That may be a strange thing to say but I enjoy the simplicity of the game at lower levels. I've got a couple of mages, a couple of warriors, a paladin, a priest, and a warlock or two that I hit up periodically when I want to relax.
Incidentally, I swear to you, this is how I prep for Thok, every week.
What's the #1 thing Blizzard has done well?
The #1 thing that Blizzard does well, in my opinion, is WoW
's graphics, because they are enduring, forgiving, and evocative. The cartoonish vibe to WoW
's visuals has given them a charm and longevity that bleeding-edge hyper-realistic renderings simply don't have. In addition, it also helps make the game far easier on older systems than pretty much any other MMO out there. This is Blizzard's most potent secret business weapon, I think. I've passed up so many other games because I don't want to have to spend hundreds of dollars on new computer components on top of the cost of the game itself. In 7 years of playing, I've only ever had to upgrade my computer once for WoW,
and that coincided with several of my computer parts dying on their own, so I would have needed new ones regardless.
What's the #1 thing Blizzard could do better?
I find that Blizzard has a tendency to swing on a pendulum of certain extremes. For example, I remember how, in Burning Crusade
, there were complaints from players about how they didn't feel connected to Illidan, the expansion's Big Bad. So, in response, in Wrath of the Lich King
, Arthas was all over the place, to the point where it kind of devalued his menace. Similarly, the use of cut scenes in questing was lauded in Wrath
, and may folks wanted more of that, so in Cataclysm
we got the cut scene overload in Uldum--a zone I will personally never complete again, having done it once. I think things like this are a result of honest enthusiasm--after all, the developers want to put in more of the stuff we like and less of the stuff we don't--but I also think Blizzard could benefit from a more cautious approach on that front.
When I'm not playing WoW, I'm...
Probably reading a book (right now it's Tales From Earthsea
, by Ursula LeGuin), writing fiction or fanfiction of my own (you should see my Google docs!), or testing perfume. In the last couple of years I've become completely enchanted by the world of perfumery. I own hundreds of perfume samples, and am getting to know all about the chypres, soliflores, fougères, and many other types of fragrance out there. I keep an incredibly detailed spreadsheet on them all, including brands, collections, dates worn, and thoughts on the scent.
In addition, I take ballroom dancing lessons with my husband and study martial arts, though the latter is going pretty slowly while I recover from the surgery I had in March.
What accomplishments are you most proud of in game?
I also used to study paleontology. This is me in front of a single vertebra from Sauroposeidon,
in the collections of the University of Oklahoma.
Assembling the Scepter of the Shifting Sands, and getting my Champion of the Naaru title back in Burning Crusade
. I never managed to get Hand of A'dal, alas, but I like Champion of the Naaru better as a title, anyway. (That's what I tell myself.)
Other than WoW, what's your favorite video game?
The answer is most assuredly Final Fantasy VI
(released in the US originally as Final Fantasy III
). I think this game has just phenomenal storytelling. Great characters, great music, a great world... my not-so-secret dream project would be to turn it into a multi-season television adaptation. Could you just imagine Terra's theme playing in those opening credits?
I'm an old(er)-school Squaresoft fangirl in many ways--Secret of Mana
, Chrono Trigger
, Final Fantasy IV
, and Final Fantasy Tactics
are all pretty high on my "favorite games" list. But so is Maxim's ancient classic SimAnt
, because seriously, whose idea was it to make an ant simulator? And to make it SO MUCH FUN? Whoever it was, I salute you.
Recommend a book to our readers!
Just one? Oh goodness. I could list many, but I will go with this: In the Shadow of the Banyan
, by Vaddey Ratner. It is not only a beautifully written book, it is an important book. In the Shadow of the Banyan
is a fictionalized account of the author's real experiences as a child during the Cambodian genocide in the 1970s. Her father was a prince of the Cambodian royal family, and as a result her family was one of the Khmer Rouge's prime targets. Her father did not survive, and Ratner and her mother disguised themselves as peasants to escape the same fate. Eventually they managed to flee to Thailand, and subsequently the United States, where they have lived ever since.
Though the main character is a fictional version of herself, and though she changed some of the details for the sake of the novelization, Ratner has stated in interviews that there is not a single thing the main character experiences that she, herself, did not go through. It's a hard book to read at times, but you won't be sorry you read it, I promise. It's gorgeous, it's gut-wrenching, and it's one of the best books I've read in a long, long time.
Tell us something about you that we might not know.
My first job was in a Michelin-rated French restaurant just outside Paris (in Orsay, to be specific) called Le Boudin Sauvage. The name translates to "The Wild Sausage," or, perhaps more accurately, "The Wild Wiener," and the double-entendre exists in French as equally as in English.
When I was 15, about to enter 10th grade, my dad
, a physicist, took the opportunity to spend a year's sabbatical working in Paris at the École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles
(The School of Industrial Physics and Chemistry). He counted among his colleagues there the 1991 Nobel laureate in physics, Pierre-Gilles de Gennes
. While there, my brother and I attended an international school, the École Active Bilingue Jeannine Manuel
, where we both learned French the hard way. The school ran on a mostly-French curriculum, and as it turns out, in France, in 10th grade, every student is (or was at the time) required to complete a two week-long internship in some sort of professional environment. I was no exception.
Thanks to my dad's connections, I was able to land a spot at Le Boudin Sauvage, which was founded, owned, and operated by Anne-Marie de Gennes, Pierre-Gilles' wife. (How would you like to be their children? Your father is a Nobel laureate, your mother is a Michelin-rated chef.) If you've ever wondered whether the yelling, flailing, stress-saturated kitchens displayed on haute-cuisine reality television are real or dramatized for the camera, let me assure you: they're real. Pretty much every day some sort of crisis and shouting match erupted between various members of the staff at this place. I did a lot of melon-balling and dish-washing and just tried to stay out of everybody's way. In thanks for my work, Mme de Gennes gave my dad and I a free dinner at the restaurant when I finished my internship (my brother and mother had already gone back to the US by this point). Dad still cites it as one of the outstanding meals of his life.
Where can we find you outside of WoW Insider?
I'm pretty active on Twitter! You can find me @ilaniel