World of Warcraft Official Magazine: The Lost Bylines

I got my new issue of World of Warcraft Official Magazine this week — Volume 2, Issue 1. It’s got good content in there; I thought the story about people who play WoW in remote locations (from a trucker’s big rig, on a boat, on an island, etc) was interesting stuff, as were the tales of folks who soloed big raid bosses. There is one notable change in this issue, compared to Volume 1, Issue 1, which was the issue I worked on: The authors got bylines.

To be fair, V1 I4 started putting editorial bylines on articles as well, but the first three issues did not. This was due to a mandate by Blizzard’s licensing department, which made it clear that they did not want individual voices to be associated with WoW — the magazine was for the glory of WoW itself, and while it was never explicitly stated, I got the sense that they were afraid that someone would “get famous” off their game. Of course, this is not an issue in most other magazines; the person who writes the feature about Gears of War does not “get famous” by writing about Gears of War; Gears of War gets famous by having a story written about it. But in this power relationship, WoW was already famous, and I think the concern was that people would unfairly receive reflected glory. While I protested as the editor-in-chief, saying that my writers deserved visible credit for their work — and if anything, by using writers already established in the WoW community, this would look nice and symbiotic, and give the official mag some street cred — I did not win that battle. There is a line for “contributors” on the masthead and you are left to guess who wrote what.

I asked Blizzard at the start, before assigning anything, if there were any writers I should specifically avoid approaching, any names they knew that they would not want on the official project — you know, just in case they had done something that had pissed Blizzard off in the past. Anybody I used would reflect on Blizzard, after all, a tacit endorsement of that writer. I got no answer to that question and after waiting a while, I realized I had to simply start assigning the best writers I could find to the tasks at hand. Sure enough, when I started sending completed articles for approval, I was told that I’d hired some writers whose stories could not run, and I was supposed to approve my writers with Blizzard first. Maybe these writers had been critical of WoW in the past on independent blogs, or perhaps they’d be part of information leaks, but whatever it was, it was clear Blizzard had a blacklist and didn’t share it with me when I asked. After a lot of bargaining, we were allowed to rewrite and keep the content in, but at the price of not listing anybody’s names outside of the columnists, who were allowed to write in first person and therefore needed to be credited.

Two years later, the lack of feature bylines still sticks in my craw — this was one of several reasons I decided to leave the magazine, truth be told — and now that the policy has changed, I think it’s worth retroactively fixing this. So, just going down the Table of Contents as they appear in the magazine, here is who deserves credit for each specific article:

9 Things to Look Forward To In Cataclysm was written by Josh Augustine. I was the editor-in-chief, and Josh was credited as “not-editor-in-chief” simply because he was the only other full-time writer on the project, besides Julian Rignall, who was my boss and the editorial director of the department. The three of us were a good balance in terms of experience — Josh played arena and PvP, Julian was a serious raider in a large guild, and I was the more casual weekend warrior doing PvE with friends and PUGs. Together we had a really good outlook on which kind of player each feature should serve and how. On behalf of PC Gamer, Josh had been invited to see Cataclysm at a media event; for some reason, our magazine was not invited. I think it was because we were so new that they hadn’t started considering us as part of the media pool yet, and those kinds of things do happen. Thankfully, Josh was able to write preview stories for both PC Gamer and WoW so we got the story.

Onyxia: One Bad Mother was written by Cody Bye of Wowhead.com. If you’ve read any of his blogs, you know he’s an expert and I was very glad to have him on board.

The Siege of Icecrown Citadel was also written by Cody Bye.

The Mike Morhaime interview was conducted by Julian Rignall and myself, but Julian wrote the actual feature. Julian is now the editorial director of GamePro and that magazine is now a quarterly, just like WoW.

The WoW 5th Anniversary feature was a group effort, including content from Julian Rignall, Josh Augustine, Cody Bye, and myself.

Battlegrounds: Isle of Conquest was written by Josh Augustine. Josh is now an associate editor at PC Gamer, an MMO expert, and is one of the hardest-working, most pleasant PC gaming writers I know.

A View to A Kill was written by Todd Leveen of Monsters & Critics. This was my first time working with Todd and it went really well. I left for Activision shortly after he turned in his piece, so I wasn’t around for issue 2 to work with him more.

Deep Tactics: Crusader’s Coliseum was a herculean undertaking by Jamie Madison. She conducted several interviews and turned in what would become a 20-page feature. I was sad to see her name not appear at the beginning of it, as it was a very difficult assignment.

Battlegrounds: Arathi Basin was written by Julian Rignall.

Animal Magnetism was written by Teresa Dun, who was a hardcore WoW player even though her day job was at PlayStation: The Official Magazine. She’s at Nexon now, helping make MapleStory the giant success it has become. This was one of the first stories to come in as complete and wound up as a test bed for design — it went through many permutations as the art team defined the style of the magazine.

Crowning Achievements was also written by Teresa Dun.

From Out of Nowhere was written by Casey Lynch, who recently got the gig of EIC at IGN. Casey knows his stuff, and wrote for the second issue as well.

Wanted Posters was written by David Murphy, late of Maximum PC. Murph was up for anything and I said “Here’s something unusual — posters on demand.” And he took what could have been a spectacularly boring topic and made it a fun 4-pager.

In the Cards was written as a last-minute replacement by someone at Upper Deck whose name I forget, but I remember editing the piece. Very late in the production cycle of the magazine, a story we were specifically instructed to create by Blizzard as a cornerstone for the issue was suddenly decommissioned, leaving us with a gaping hole and very little time. We’d met the folks at Upper Deck at Blizzcon, and they were able to mobilize immediately to help us fill those several pages.

Booty Calls was written by Matt Low. I had read his healer and UI blogs and found his natural writing voice to be excellent. I approached him about freelancing and he’d never written for a print magazine before, but he was super responsible and conscientious about the assignments. He hit deadline and made all the edits I asked of him; he was very receptive to constructive feedback and my editorial direction. I could not wait to hire him again. Then I found out that Blizzard did not want his name to appear anywhere in the magazine, not even the contributors on the masthead — one of only two writers with that distinction. I was crushed and embarrassed; he was amazingly polite about the whole thing and still got paid, but I know he was disappointed.

The Crafty Crafter’s Guide to Inscription was written by Lesley Smith, and then heavily rewritten by me and further sculpted by Julian Rignall. It was simply off the mark and I needed to overhaul it so it fit the concept I had in my head — sometimes that happens. I created a new character with Inscription so I could understand what I needed to explain in the rewrite. Lesley was paid and I used a lot of her structure and personal interviews with players, but she was the other writer whose name was not allowed to appear in the magazine. She had written from multiple fansites before that.

Play It Your Way: Healers was written by Matt Low.

The columns are all credited accordingly — Alan Dexter, Josh Augustine, Luis Villazon, Tim Edwards, and one of Blizzard’s community managers, Nathaera. I was happy to see them get bylines but still unhappy about the inconsistency of accreditation within the issue.

The jokey end page, Epic Fails, was me. This is not likely something that would have carried a byline, as it was the humor page anyway.

And finally, the editor’s letter was written by me, but ultimately credited to Julian at my suggestion. I was leaving the magazine before its publication and I felt it would look embarrassing to have the welcome note credited to someone who had already said goodbye.

I was happy to see positive reactions to the issue when it came out — we made big promises in terms of “deluxe presentation” and “a coffee-table magazine,” and I think all the issues have delivered on that — but I did notice that a few people wondered why there were no names on the articles. Well, now you know. Ryan Vulk, the magazine’s art director, can tell you who designed which features, as he also worked with a talented group of designers to create those lush layouts. Unfortunately, they didn’t get on-page credit either.

2010 Resolutions

For years I’ve sworn off of New Year’s resolutions. I always felt it was a way to set myself up to fail. But for some reason, this year, I have a few.

  • Lose some weight. My new job will put me more in the public eye; I’ll be doing more videos than before. I’m in an area of the country where image is more important than, well, anything. I want my clothes to fit better. I will have less problems with gout. I have a lot of reasons to work out more and eat less. (I do not intend to stop eating what I like, but I can make positive change through portion control and diversifying what I put on my plate.)
  • Get to level 80. Kimzey is 76 and has been scraping forward slowly, being “my main” but taking a back seat to both my death knight and my healer, because I have been running with friends where those characters were more appropriate. I would always rather play with friends than power-level alone, but this year, I want to hit 80 before Cataclysm hits (whenever that is).
  • That’s enough. Achievable goals.

    WoW magazine sample — and a slippery slope

    I was very happy to see that the 40-page free sample of the World of Warcraft magazine was posted online at last. It was hard working on that project and not being able to show anybody what was taking so long, but nothing could be displayed until Blizzard had approved it. Now that they have, I figure the files have shipped to the printer and the physical magazine should be winging its way to mailboxes (including mine) by early January. Big props to Ryan Vulk, Josh Augustine, Julian Rignall, and the rest of the Future Plus team for weathering the storm and making it look awesome in the process. I think people who actually pick it up and give it a chance will be very impressed.

    A few sites picked up the story, and as usual, most of the reader comments on those stories were the same tripe I’ve seen over and over again whenever any blog reports on any magazine. In Kotaku’s user comments, Azures said, “The internet makes them pointless on the most basic level. the internet is killing newspapers, im shocked ANY magazine is still around.”

    I was going to post a long response over at Kotaku, but I’ve decided I would rather ramble and look like a crazy person on my own turf.
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    A new job? According to Craigslist…

    I got a new job. Personally, I thought I’d keep it quiet — you know, the first issue of the magazine hasn’t been printed yet, people have paid in advance, and they haven’t seen anything for it. We are going through a really, really long period of approvals, but my job is basically done — I’ve actually been just sort of on-call for the last two weeks and I’ve moved on to assigning stories for issue 2.

    But at the same time, I was also entertaining this other job offer. And it’s something I’m really excited about, but I realized I should not go public with it right away, because I didn’t want to complicate things for the magazine. I figured people who are waiting for their first issue would take my leaving as a lack of confidence, even though, like I said, my work was basically done. I resigned quietly last night, and said I’d be happy to help with the transition and keep my mouth shut for the good of the project.

    This morning, before my staff even found out, Future posted my job on Craigslist. (And people noticed — in addition to Twitter, someone asked me in IM before I even knew the position was posted.) So, um, okay — I will not let the door hit me in the ass on the way out!

    Here’s the truth: I found custom publishing frustrating as hell. I’d done it before, between GamePro and GamesRadar, and I knew this project would be going back to that, but since it was structured like a more traditional magazine (as opposed to the catalogs and booklets that are the staple of custom pub) I thought things would be better. I was wrong; it’s still not a good fit for me. So when something else came up, I took it seriously.

    It was also a really incredible opportunity. When I went to E3 this year, I asked Activision if they needed anybody in community management, thinking maybe I could help out on Guitar Hero from the RedOctane office in nearby Fremont. That didn’t work out, but a few months later, I got a call saying that they were looking for someone to do more than that — start a fresh line of communication to gamers and be a direct line to what’s going on within Activision. You know — blogging, podcasting, video stuff, and several other things that got me really creatively stoked. Ars Technica did a story on this kind of position the same day I handed in my letter of resignation, which felt somehow very right.

    I’ve done this kind of stuff on a volunteer basis on other jobs (like GamePro and OXM) because I was genuinely interested in making that connection with our readers. I really do like having discussions in forums; I volunteered to start our Facebook group; I established our Twitter feed; I love podcasting with Ryan. This new position would let me do all that stuff plus some other really cool creative opportunities. So it’s an even dreamier dream job than the dream jobs I’ve already been fortunate enough to hold.

    I went through the interview gauntlet over the last few months and talked about specifics, and it felt really right. So when they made the offer, I accepted. I am thrilled. We are moving to LA in December so I can start work in January.

    Ironically, as I type this, I’m finishing the last of the bottle of Patron that Paul Curthoys bought me when I left OXM.

    A little bit more about the WoW job

    I’m at BlizzCon (for the first time — was never able to get tickets before but WHO IS LAUGHING NOW) and we’ve just gotten through the first day. At first I thought “How can two days be enough?” Now I’m thinking “Thank god it’s just two days.” It’s crazy, in that nerd-love way — but it’s still exhausting. If you are here, try to find me at the mag booth in pavilion B. Also I’m trying to Twitter from @WoWTheMagazine when the convention center’s AT&T coverage allows it.

    The reaction to the magazine has been much larger and louder than I expected. For one, we got picked up by something like 70 legit news outlets, and then lots of fan blogs and forums beyond that. For two, I thought there would be a lot more haters than we got — I expected an overwhelming amount of “print is dead, why would I want a print version of what’s already online, blah blah blah,” and there was some of that, particularly by blog commenters out there. I think it’s pretty clear, if you read that press release, that this product is not intended for everyone — it’s for the dedicated WoW player — so I expect some of the people we’re not making this magazine for are going to loudly conclude the obvious: This is not for them. (They then take that to its illogical extreme: “This is worthless and should not exist because it is not made for me.”) But about half the people said “Hey, that sounds like something that could be interesting” and many people noted the business model being a good thing. So that gives me hope. I only want to make this magazine for the people who want it anyway, so I’m quite open to their feedback and I want to hear their expectations. But if you’re not going to buy it anyway, save yer breath.

    But the magazine is unlike anything I’ve worked on in the past, and I kind of want to brain dump about that.
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    My new job is…

    Future partners with Blizzard Entertainment for
    World of Warcraft®: The Magazine

    International print launch for subscription-only title devoted to
    the industry-leading MMORPG debuts this fall

    Global editions in English, French, German, and Spanish languages
    to launch simultaneously
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