Last week, WI reported about Oscar-winning WoW player Steve Preeg, a.k.a. Ramases the Undead Rogue and usual GM of on Stormscale-US. Steve's got some pretty lofty geek cred: a 2009 Oscar for Visual Effects (along with Eric Barba, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron) on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; work on films such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, King Kong and I, Robot -- oh, and a nice, fresh kill on Sartharion-3 Drakes.
With cell phones bleeping and his publicist chuckling in the background over the sheer nerd factor of our conversation, 15 Minutes of Fame visited by phone with Steve in L.A. about his WoW/life balance, what he admires about Blizzard's work, and what keeps him coming back for more.
15 Minutes of Fame: Steve, we visited your character on the Armory, and it looks like you've been ticking right along through the content. Rama – how do you say your name?
Steve Preeg/Ramases: (clearing his throat to speak, then chuckling at his publicist) She's laughing at me already.
Publicist Julie Miller: No, no – umm, only if you want me to.
Ramases: It's RAM-ah-sis. My son actually made the character. He at the time had a pretty short attention span, so he basically would make a character, level it to like level 4, then go make another one. Most of my characters, he made. I don't know where he got the names.
What's doing these days?
We're pretty much waiting on the patch right now. Just last night, for the first time, we did Sarth + 3. We've had Naxx-25 on farm for quite a while now; everybody does, even pugs nowadays. There's still some achievements (left), like the timed Malys, but we've basically done all the different content that's there now. We're all getting on the PTR so we can go play around in Ulduar.
You'll be doing that as a group, as a guild?
We're planning it. We're planning to do it 25-man, but it may very well be that we only have enough people to go play a 10-man.
But you're leading that, right? You're the GM?
Actually, not right now. I just handed it over to another guy not too long ago. I had handed it over during Benjamin Button, part of that, because I was pretty busy. Then when Benjamin Button wrapped, that guy gave it back to me, and then I had that since last October or so. Things have been ramping up a little bit again, so I handed it off to another guy for now. So I'm a figurehead.
So how do you manage to fit in WoW with film schedules? Does your work occur mostly in bursts around projects, or do you have a fairly consistent schedule?
We try to have a pretty consistent play schedule. Obviously, if you're trying to do 25-man content, you need to have some kind of consistency. I'm not necessarily the most consistent of the group at this point. (laughs) Like (during) Benjamin Button, I was pretty tied up for a good couple of years. I tried to go when I could – and I certainly did. We didn't quite finish up things like Sunwell before Wrath of the Lich King came out, but we finished Black Temple and stuff like that. We weren't quite at the end of things. We're not quite as hardcore as some of the other, bigger guilds ... But we're out there somewhere.
How much time would you say you play during a typical week – or is there even such a thing as a typical week?
Our scheduled raids are three times a week for three hours. We've actually been finishing up a bit early. I'll do my cooking dailies and such in the morning or whatever – it just depends on my schedule. So I don't know, any time between 10 and 20 hours a week, maybe.
You sound pretty focused on your main.
I have a level 80 Paladin also, but yes.
Does your family play with you as well?
My son would play, but he's sort of a little bit grounded because of his grades right now. And my brother's in the guild, so I play with my brother quite a bit.
So work, family, WoW ... How does it fit together?
Obviously, things outside (like) work have to come first. For me, I'm fortunate because people in the guild are really good people and it's able to be run by committee a little bit. There's a lot of trust put in by this group of people, and I didn't need to be there all the time. They'll move on anyway.
You've got plenty of time to play, so don't give up on the other stuff. Make sure you do your stuff that you need to do before. It's leisure – it's just like watching TV or going to the movies or something. You don't necessarily skip out on work or school to go see a movie – or maybe you do, but then you're ... (laughs)
How long have you been gaming?
My family bought Pong when it first came out in the '70s. We were the first people on our block to have a Pong machine. We had all the console games back then. I've been on and off gaming my whole life.
Any MMOs before WoW?
I only played one. I play City of Heroes.
Let's talk a little bit about visual effect. Do you find yourself looking at things in World of Warcraft with a critical eye, or maybe picking things apart?
I wouldn't say "picking things apart." It's a bit of a different thing because it's a real-time rendering process in World of Warcraft. I may wonder something like, "I wonder why the shadows behave like that?", but I'm certainly not going to pick it apart, because I don't know that side of things.
I'll certainly watch (Blizzard's) cinematics very closely. I won't say I pick them apart because they're actually really nice! I certainly wouldn't bag on their cinematics. I do look at their cinematics with a different eye than I do the game. I play the game more just as a game than trying to bring my work into it.
Have you ever gotten any inspiration or ideas from WoW?
Well if I said I did that, then I might be able to be sued by Blizzard. (pauses for a long beat, laughs) In my line of work, obviously there's the directors and the art directors; those people are the people that are making a lot of the broader-stroke artistic decisions. World of Warcraft hadn't even come out when I was on Lord of the Rings, so I don't think I've worked on something that's in that genre since it's come out.
Do any of your coworkers play?
Yeah, you know there was even a post [on the previous WoW Insider post from] one of the guys plays an Undead Rogue also, and he works at DD [Digital Domain]. But he didn't say who he was or who he is here [Burninator, that's your cue!]. You walk around the studio and people bring their laptops, and often times at lunch you'll see someone at the Auction House or running around on their free time while they're sitting at their desk.
Have you been getting any special attention in the game for your work or your Oscar?
As far as in the guild, we're all in Vent together and I've been playing with a lot of these guys for four years or something, so they kinda know who I am anyway. I'm just another guy in the guild. I don't really talk about work outside of people inside the guild that ask me what's going on. Outside the guild, I fly a bit under the radar, I guess.
Any celebrations planned?
Well actually, I'm going to have a real party at my house, which is now going to be a combination of Oscar and Sarth-3D party. Anyone that is in the guild is invited. We're going to just have food and drink and hang out. I've met a bunch of the people already, but there are a bunch of people that in the area who've joined since the last time we had a gathering, that it'll be interesting to meet them.
What does your family think about all these gaming folks?
(laughs) I think they're ok with it. My son enjoys gaming too, so he thinks it's neat. My daughter thinks it's kind of geeky, but that's ok. She likes to play the Wii.
What's next for you, in game and out?
Outside the game, my next project here is Tron 2.
Inside the game, I think we'll work on Ulduar a little bit, but I think we'll sort of take it easy before the patch is officially released. Like I said, we're not super-hardcore. Even if we have a three-hour scheduled raid, if we go in and bang our heads against the wall for an hour, we'll probably just call it and go do something fun.
No one's required to raid, no one's required to do anything in our guild. It's a very relaxed ... You can just be in the guild to hang out and chat with people if you want. We have some pretty good PvPers; we've had a number of gladiators last season. Some of those people don't raid at all, some of the people don't PvP at all, some of the people are really only there because their friend is in the guild and they don't do anything other than five-man content. Pretty relaxed and a nice place for people to hang out, and very friendly. We get rid of people that are a little too serious. We like just being a friendly guild, I think.
Sounds like you frown on getting too deep.
It is worrisome sometimes to see how much time some of these people are spending online, even in my guild. I know that some of those guys who are online a lot, they do have jobs and are doing fine. I guess they're balancing it as well. I also know some people in our guild who disappeared for a little while to get their grades back up. So someone's watching some of those people. (WoW can) definitely be a potential threat to people's motivation outside the game. It's a bit scary.
This is your moment at the podium – anything to add?
If you get a chance, just because ... One of our main tanks, he's a super-hyper kid and he's so excited about everything all the time. You just have to mention Joeygold in the article somewhere. You can say whatever you want about him, that he's a geek or that he's a nice guy or just that you're requested to mention his name. Basically, his dog's name is Joey, and it's a Golden Retriever, so he named his character Joeygold. (laughs)
Ok, one for Joeygold, and one for the golden Oscar. Congrats, Steve, and best of luck on your future films and in Ulduar!