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15 Minutes of Fame: Tamzin's strat videos for the masses


15 Minutes of Fame is our look at World of Warcraft players of all shapes and sizes – from the renowned to the relatively anonymous, the remarkable to the player next door. Tip us off to players you'd like to hear more about at 15minutesoffame (at) wowinsider (dot) com.

Take a deep breath, everybody – that stale smell is just the whiff of a lame duck era. We'll be back in fresh air again soon. If you've been wondering what's left for you to accomplish between now and Wrath of the Lich King, we've got good news. As guilds begin taking down the infamous Kil'jaeden (the last boss of the Sunwell Plateau and final raid content available before the Wrath of the Lich King comes out) and a druid solos the hapless Onyxia, Tamzin is on your side. The creator of the madly popular tactical videos that have helped so many guilds master end-game raiding content, Tamzin wants to see as many players as possible experience juicy raid boss goodness. Her clean, classy and accurate videos have helped steer countless groups to success in content that might have blocked them in the absence of clear direction.

15 Minutes of Fame recently conducted a week-long correspondence with Tamzin about her strategy guides, her own WoW habits and experience and her work in the movie and music industries. She had so much to say that we decided to give her not just 15 minutes but a whole half an hour – two installments -- of fame. Read the first part of our exclusive visit with Tamzin after the break, and be sure to click the screenshot here to link over to her most recent video, a guide to taking down Illidan.

Tamzin knows how to bring it: her tactical guide movie to Lady Vashj on holds the number one slot, at 360,000 downloads. Hop over to the Tempest Keep section and you'll find the same thing -- Tamzin's Kael'thas Sunstrider strat leads the way. We chatted with her to find out what goes into making her videos so wildly popular.

15 Minutes of Fame: You're a lady of many interests – and characters. Who did you play in your tactical guides?
Tamzin: Let me think so I get this right ... Ok, I made the Lady Vashj and Kael'thas on my Warlock alt, which was called Melindar, on Stormreaver EU in a guild called Dark Ritual. And the Illidan movie was made on my Warlock on Frostmane EU, a character called Tamzin (also my real [English] name), in a guild called Essence. Back then I was playing a lot of alts in a lot of guilds (WoW addict FTW), hence why it all sounds really complex, hehe.

Oh, are you a Euro player? Asian? American?
I play on both Asian and EU realms. I tend to PvE on EU mostly, and PvP on Asian -- although right now I don't do either. I'm just waiting on Season 4. And even when S4 is out, I'm not sure if I will even bother with it, because new MMOGs are coming out now so we no longer are stuck with what I guess you could call "the lesser of all the evils," i.e. WoW -- which is basically what it is and has been for a long time now!

But Season 3 has been fun, fun and frustrating. I mostly PvP on a destro Warlock with a resto Druid, 2.4k rated in 2v2. It's a fun combo to play if you want a challenge but not the best combo to play if you just want to try and get first in your battlegroup. I never managed to get first with that build. Spent a lot of time floating around the top five and was third for like a week, but there is just too much pure class mechanics against you to get top. At least that's my excuse, anyways. :-P

Can you tell us about your raiding background?
Pretty much all of TBC, I have played a Warlock in "serious" PvE. I would call myself casual-pro; by that, I mean I don't play WoW that much or come to many raids, really, but I give it my best when I do raid. WoW isn't really a very friendly game for anyone other than the no-lifers if you want to PvE seriously. So I think there must be a lot of people like me out there who can play well but can't get into (or if they do, can't stay in for very long) a serious "hardcore" PvEing guild, because if you don't raid every day, there are 100 other people waiting to join the guild who will raid every day, so it's hard to stay in a hardcore guild if WoW is a casual fun "game" for you. :-/ Obviously, that is why they made Arena, but I'm talking about PvE here. I think it's a shame there aren't more casual-pro type guilds out there.

Regarding my responsibilities, I don't want the time commitments of being an officer or whatever. Especially because I'm a musician, I just can't commit to that role, as I miss mosts raid if I have a gig or something. So I have shied away from that. I tend to be someone who helps come up with tactical ideas in raids, for new bosses or faster, more efficient ways of doing older bosses. I've always had a nose for tactics, for some reason.

Did you start playing in the early Molten Core days, or did you start later?
Yeah, in WoW I'm pretty old skool. I've killed everything in WoW up to Twins. I joined WoW on U.S. realms before it was even in EU yet. Then when EU realms went live, I switched over to EU realms. Other MMOGs I've played a bunch. The one I played most though before WoW was Eve Online. I'm considering going back to it; if Age of Conan or Warhammer aren't what I hope, then I will go back to Eve, maybe.

What's your guild working on now?
I am guildless right now, but when I left my guild we were on M'uru. By the time this interview is out he'll be dead, I should think.

What guilds deserve the credit for the kills in your strat videos, then?
The first bunch was made with a guild called Dark Ritual, which I left a long, long time ago, back when Black Temple was new. Then the Illidan one was made with a guild called Essence, which I left last week, sadly. :(

Take us back to your first tactical video. Did you create it for your own guild, or was the very first one intended for a broader audience?
I first started making them to illustrate radical tactical ideas to my guild, and also to show guildies who maybe were not in the training raids the tactic we'd developed for whatever boss. As far as the public tactic movies go, that is a little different. With the Lady Vashj and Kael'thas Sunstrider movies, I noticed an incredible amount of guilds were self-destructing on those bosses. And I was lucky to be in a guild which killed them very quickly, so I was in a unique position to put out a movie to help out those guilds which in greater and greater numbers were becoming stuck on those bosses. WoW was slow to react and eventually nerfed them, but before that happened I like to think I helped alleviate the problem a bit by publishing tactic movie guides for those two tricky bosses. There was certainly a huge progress boost globally after the guides were released. But I didn't want to publish them too early, so I think I waited another month or so before I put them out, if I remember rightly.

However, with the Illidan movie, I used a completely different strategy. I first killed Illidan in early July 2007 or so -- on an alt, ironically -- and I did actually start editing a tactic movie of him, but I never finished it. It was only when the attunements were removed from the game that I thought "Ok, maybe now is a good time to release an Illidan movie," so I did. :)

How many tactical videos have you made at this point?
Publicly published three: Lady Vashj, Kael'thas Sunstrider and Illidan Stormrage. I never bothered releasing publicly an Archimonde movie because he's so easy. I didn't think it was needed.

What are the tools you use to create your videos?
Fraps to record it, Sony Vegas to edit it. A tiny bit of ultra-amateur after-FX for the intro logos and stuff sometimes, and for when I need to animate arrows and stuff, I use Paint Shop Pro and PowerPoint. And of course a mike to record my voice narration. I mix the music a lot, too, to make it fit to the moving images, and also, I put a bit of my own music into the movies too sometimes. I'm very amateur in my movie editing; I use the "What does this botton do?" method.

Something I get asked a lot is how do I film those shots in my movies -- my long and panning shots and making the camera fly around, etc. -- because they're not set-up, hax'ed shots on a private homemade server, so I get asked a lot, especially by other machinima makers how do I do that jazz. And interestingly, Blizzard hates that stuff. They don't like the "pro" movie makers editing the game and making their camera fly around the place. The patch the other day has patched and nerfed the ability for me to control my camera. I used to do it by injecting code into the WoW console, to free up and edit my camera movements. I find it ironic and also very misguided of Blizzard to be nerfing that ability, because the machinima makers bring huge attention, "cool" factor and kudos to WoW and often make movies which inspire WoW players. Why they constantly seek to nerf the tools of the WoW moviemakers, I have no idea. But I just tried to use it, because I am using it for certain shots in my Sunwell movie series, and it's not working. They've patched it! :-(

Is this code something you developed yourself?
Some of it, yes. I'm known, I guess, in the machinima community, IRC and circles and stuff for my special camera shots and angles and movement of the camera, which a few others can do but only on private realms, usually. For example, Baron Soosdon (we're good friends now) is the most known for this. He achieves the effect by using his own homemade private WoW server, so he can have complete freedom to "exploit" his camera(s) as he wishes to achieve special shots for his movies.

But the difference with me is I figured out ways to do this on live realms, so I do it while I'm raiding. I do it by injecting code into WoW's command line via macros I make, so I can switch camera effects on and off, turning the camera to my will. It's really handy when you're making a tactical guide, because you want to be able to show the battle from angles that show what is happening better, and this is rarely going to be from your usual character PoV (point of view). That's basically how I fly my camera around the action sometimes.

I get asked "How do u do that?" a lot in the comments to my movies, and mostly by other film makers who often PM me on WCM/forums to ask me to teach them how to do it. Unfortunately, this is why it has been nerfed now, I guess, because as more moviemakers tell other moviemakers and the tricks get more known, it starts getting to the attention of Blizzard and they patch it :( And I'm sure it's not just me who's figured out how to do all this jazz. There must be many out there in the nogg-aholic community who also do it; (it's) just (that) they don't make public movies, so much goes unseen.

But currently, all the machinima moviemakers' tools and tricks in WoW have been patched. Does Blizzard realize how important the machinima makers are to their bottom line? I think not, because if they did, they would support them. Look at games like the new Halo game and more and more others are also following suit now, where tools are actually put into the game itself designed to help and assist machinima makers! Because they want to encourage and help them to make movies using their game engines, because they realize the benefits of this to the games' overall exposure and all-important cool factor.

How long does producing a video typically take?
I film it over one raid, maybe two if I missed a shot I want. Usually the guild/raid has no idea I'm even filming, hehe. And the editing takes about, hmm, a week if I can devote a lot of time to it, otherwise about two weeks. Although my Lady Vashj one only took me one day and night because I stayed up all night and worked on it. But the others, I tend to spend a few hours in the evening on it, because I was busy with other things at the time, so they took longer.

In the old days of MMORPGs, guilds would jealously guard their tactics, raid composition and information. What made you decide to make such detailed videos for the general public?
That's a very good question and a very true statement indeed. But for me this wasn't really an issue because the tactics are already out there if you search good enough -- maybe slightly different or not as refined as mine, but basically it's generally out there and known if you download world-first kill movies or whatever. So it's not like it's me revealing the tactic to the world. All I'm doing is making it more accessible and easier to follow for the vast numbers of not-so-hardcore guilds out there.

Having said that, there was however an issue with this for Sunwell. We were right up there with the fastest guilds in Sunwell, more or less. So I had to decide do I do what I did with Illidan and wait months before I release a movie, or do I release it now and put our own unique, learned and figured-out tactic out there. So I decided I would wait, because I think over time the various guilds doing Sunwell will refine the tactic more and more. If I release a tactic now, it might run the risk of becoming the standard tactic, and perhaps this would mean the evolution of the tactic would not be so good and might stagnate. So I will not release a Sunwell tactic movie right now -- at least not publicly. I sent my Illidan movie to many casual guilds I knew who were at Illidan a long time before I made it public, to help them out, and made them all promise no one would link it outside of their guild's forum. :) So maybe I will do same with Sunwell.

Next Tuesday, join us as 15 Minutes of Fame chats with Tamzin about her professional work in games and movies, being a girl gamer and her thoughts on the future of raiding.

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