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.

  • http://www.worldofmatticus.com Matticus

    I had a good time writing for the WoW Magazine. Really opened my eyes up in terms of the style and the pace between digital and print. Although I was disappointed knowing I’d never get that chance to do it again, I’m happy I was able to get in on it the first time ^^. 

  • Liz

    Glad to see this at long last.

  • Chloe

    I’m glad they changed their policy. No matter how you swing it, not crediting is never appropriate unless the author prefers to be anonymous. I highly doubt any of them wanted to be.

  • Cody Bye

    Very cool – thanks for posting this up, Dan!

  • http://twitter.com/jfalconer Joel Falconer

    Sounds like Blizzard’s licensing department really has no place, nor experience, dictating how things should go in the world of journalism. Really, really shoddy approach. Good that you took a stand against it, no matter how successful that stand was.

  • Anonymous

    I kinda wondered why the magazine was mailed to subs in a plastic bag with plain text of the title. For a magazine reproduced so well it made a really poor first impression. Every issue except of the first, the bag was torn in some way making me think someone did it on purpose.

  • Steve Smith

    It seems Wow magazine has been cancelled after only 5 issues.

  • http://oneofswords.com/ Dan (OneOfSwords)

    The bag was for two reasons: One, to protect the magazine in transit (imagine what the tear would look like if there was no bag to take the impact) and two, to cover up the WoW logo so people would not steal it. It was an expensive thing to send through the mail and they didn’t want people to help themselves en route to your mailbox. 

    Consider it this way: A worse first impression would have been getting a seriously damaged magazine, or not getting magazine at all. 

  • http://oneofswords.com/ Dan (OneOfSwords)

    Yep, I got an email that said my subscription was ending because the magazine was ending. C’est la vie. 

  • http://oneofswords.com/ Dan (OneOfSwords)

    I think we simply had different goals. They were protecting their very valuable asset the best way they knew how. I do not blame them for wanting to keep WoW the focus of the magazine. I just felt a magazine was unlike other licensing situations; we were not making t-shirts or collectible steins. This was a much more personal product with an editorial voice. I felt someone should own that editorial voice. 

    By contrast, Blizzard approved several official WoW novels by talented fantasy writers. All those authors are credited for their work; I thought this was an equitable situation. But I guess Blizzard saw this project differently. And hey, that is their right. 

  • Hugh Sterbakov

    I got the third issue in shreds, and it was the one in which my article ran. I had to call and get a replacement copy–which came in good shape, about 10 weeks later.

    The mag was high-quality, and top-notch professional all around. I was thrilled to be a part of it. Sad to see it go–it’s a reflection of changing times, not of the effort.

  • http://twitter.com/DavidLuinge DavidLuinge

    This makes me really sad. Everyone who worked on all Five WoW mags did great work and I was a happy subscriber from day one. Every single one of you deserve all the credit for these Five great issues. I hope all of them go on to do more fantastic work.