*** FYI – I just looked at the feed for this post and the font colors are messed up on Google Reader. All of Rade’s words are blue on my actual blog post, but they do not appear that way through the feed***
I have a lot of WoW blogs that I keep up with through Google Reader and the subject matter is varied. I love all the blogs I read, if I didn’t then I wouldn’t bother reading them. There are several general WoW blogs, there are several that are written by people I know in-game, there are a lot of resto druid blogs, and then there’s www.orcisharmyknife.com. The lore, the stories, the news flashes from Azeroth. It’s genius, it’s pure entertainment, it’s great writing and it actually helps me understand more about the world I spend so much time logged into. Unfortunately, I’ve only been reading Orcish Army Knife for a couple of months so I am still slowly making my way through the archives so I can soak in every post. But just the recent posts I have read were enough to make me a huge fan of the blog and it’s author, Rades.
Now I’m a pretty shy person and I’m not very good at striking up conversations with people I don’t know well, but I have become so enamored with Rades and his writing that I forced myself to reach out to him and ask him if he would be willing to allow me to interview him via email. Of course, he graciously agreed. I am no journalist and I’m still suffering from time management issues, so I’m basically just going to copy and paste the interview here and let you guys enjoy getting to know more about Rades and his love of lore. The only thing I’ve edited is to take his links and code them for html. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
1. For those of us who may be meeting you for the first time, what is your gaming and/or World of Warcraft history? How did you get introduced to the game, any cool stories behind your characters, etc?
My best friend and I decided to try WoW for his birthday back in January 2008. We’d grown tired of our previous MMO (Ragnarok Online), and knew some friends who were playing WoW, so we figured we’d give it a shot! Plus, I was always a big fan of the RTS series and was really interested to see what they’d done with the stories and characters, which I had always loved about the older games.
2. When you first began playing WoW, were you immediately interested in the lore of the game or did that just sort of develop later as you played more?
I honestly wasn’t that interested, other than seeing the continuation of the major storylines that had carried forward from Warcraft III (the Forsaken, Arthas, the Orcs and their past, etc). I just enjoyed playing the game and focusing on the mechanics of my classes, learning about professions, etc. I did really enjoy walking around in areas that I was familiar with and recognized from the older games, though! Actually come to think of it, that’s probably the best definition of my initial lore interests – I was only really curious about the people/landmarks/stories that I already knew. I couldn’t help but pay close attention any time I came across a familiar name that I recognized from the past.
3. What is the first race or NPC background story that caught your interest and you wanted to learn more about?
Well as mentioned, I really love the Forsaken storyline, their origin and eternal crusade for vengeance is probably one of my all-time favorite histories. And I found Thrall’s mission to change the Orcs and lead them away from their terrible, savage past also very endearing. But when I started playing, these were kind of static storylines – nothing had really changed in years, and it wasn’t until Wrath that we actually started seeing these storylines progress.
That being said, there were two main events/characters that really struck me on an emotional level, and forever cemented my love for this world.
The first event that really hooked me was Kael’thas’ betrayal. My first character was a Blood Elf mage, so I’d spent much of my time in Silvermoon, hearing the residents talk about how awesome Kael was, and seeing the giant statues of him everywhere. They talked about how he was off fighting for the Blood Elves and would return in glory one day. He sounded like a cool leader, plus I knew him from Warcraft III. It was great!
Then Patch 2.4 (Fury of the Sunwell) came out, and I learned that Kael’thas had thrown his hat in with DEMONS and BETRAYED THE HORDE. Now granted, high level characters already knew this if they’d killed him in Tempest Keep, but my little level 20 Mage had absolutely no idea this was coming. The fact that Blizzard would make a racial leader completely betray his faction blew my mind. I had just assumed that, like every other game in existence, major NPCs were sacred and would never be involved in such a huge twist. I’d only been playing for 2-3 months at that point, and Kael’s treachery really made me realize that WoW was a different animal; that this truly was a game world where things were constantly changing, and that nothing was safe.
It was bold, it was daring, and it was one of the coolest video game moments I’ve ever experienced. You know the feeling when you move away for a few years, and then when you return home you’re shocked at the new roads, buildings, shoe stores or whatever that have sprung up in your absence? It was just like that. The tangible flow of time makes Azeroth feel truly ALIVE. I was amazed and instantly, irrevocably hooked.
There is one other questline that rocked my world, and it single-handedly inspired me to start seriously contemplating and writing about WoW’s lore and less-known stories. It is the short and sad tale of a Dwarf paladin named Gerk. If you’re not familiar with Gerk and his significance to me, here is the post I wrote about him: here. In many ways, he is my blog muse – Orcish Army Knife didn’t really start focusing on lore until Gerk came around. His story is so simple, just a few quests, with no dramatic conclusion or showdown. And perhaps it’s my journalism background, but I strongly feel that the most valuable stories are the quiet, unknown ones.
4. Do you choose the faction/race/class of your characters based on your favorite lore? Can you give us an example?
I definitely do! Of my 7 characters, four are Forsaken. They were all created partially because I’m enamored with the Forsaken culture, but also for other reasons. I felt the horrible, bitter irony of having a Forsaken Death Knight was a juicy hook – Scourge-ified twice! – and my Forsaken Warrior is actually the SAME CHARACTER, only at an earlier time, before “dying” again and being risen as a DK. My Priest is Forsaken because I really liked the conundrum of wielding the Light as an undead creature. Lastly, I went with Forsaken for my Mage because I made her to experience the new Silverpine Forest / Hillsbrad post-Shattering storylines, and I wanted it to be an authentic experience – I could have brought an Orc or Troll over, but it just wouldn’t have felt the same!
I also made a Tauren Paladin after the Shattering hit, because I was keenly interested to see the new in-game lore about their existence, and also because I really wanted a character who would want to seek justice against the vile Grimtotem for genuine, personal reasons.
5. Since you have such a vast knowledge of, and interest in, the history and background of the Warcraft World, were you excited for the Cataclysm or sad to see things changed so drastically?
I was extremely excited! Like I said, one of the things I love most about WoW is that it is an evolving universe, and even small changes make the world seem genuinely alive. The Shattering was the biggest change EVER, and I was looking forward to everything – the new zones, the new storylines/quests, the new hidden corners and secrets to discover…I was probably more excited for the new lowbie stuff than I was for the 80-85 zones, truthfully! The first thing I did was just ride around the Barrens (this was before Azeroth flight) looking at how the world I was intimately familiar with had changed. (I also fell into the lava chasm and got stuck in there for about half an hour, along with no less than 6-7 other characters of both factions.)
I can understand why some players might have been sad to see certain areas or NPCs disappear, and nostalgia is always a big factor when considering massive change. But to me, there was just too much delicious, undiscovered lore and stories hidden out there in the new world, waiting for me to discover and experience them.
6. I’m assuming, and correct me if I’m wrong, that you probably read the Warcraft novels. If someone wants to begin learning more about the lore surrounding the game, are there certain “must reads” you can recommend?
Hmm, in a perfect world I’d almost suggest Warcraft II & III and their expansions as important lore resources, but that’s not really realistic for most people. The books usually focus on separate races, so you kind of have to read different ones to get a nice picture of what the various WoW cultures are like. For example, “Rise of the Horde” is an essential resource for Draenei and Orc lore, while its sequel, “Leader of the Clans” is all about the Orc and Human cultures some years later. Night Elves, meanwhile, get a lot of nice spotlight time in the War of the Ancients trilogy, and the Dwarves and Tauren feature fairly prominently in the Shattering. Sadly, there’s not a great deal of novel lore love for the other races, but perhaps one day we’ll see the epic Gnomeregan trilogy we’ve all been eagerly waiting for.
Regardless of racial focus, though, one thing the novels always deliver on when it comes to lore is history. Pick up any WoW novel and it’ll recount important historical events – the Sundering, Kil’jaeden’s creation of the Horde, the origin of the enigmatic Medivh, etc. Even the books that don’t describe world-altering events, such as Tirion Fordring’s “fall from grace” in “Of Blood and Honor”, end up being important background information considering what an important character Tirion goes on to become in the game.
For someone just starting on the novels, I would recommend (in chronological order):
• Rise of the Horde / Tides of Darkness / Beyond the Dark Portal (the creation of the Horde and the start of the Horde/Alliance ongoing war)
• Leader of the Clans / Arthas: Rise of the Lich King / Of Blood and Honor (the origins of three of WoW’s most important characters: Thrall, Arthas, Tirion Fordring.)
• The War of the Ancients triology (crucial history about the Dragon Aspects, the Night Elves, especially Malfurion, Tyrande and Illidan, and the Sundering)
• Stormrage / The Shattering (stories that lead up to and explain much about the Cataclysm)
7. You always include some really cool screenshots in your blog posts…. what is your pc desktop currently displaying?
It’s actually not Warcraft-related (surprise!) but rather a fanart piece from one of my favorite video games ever, Shadow of the Colossus! There’s just something about this picture that appeals to me (plus, lots of empty space to arrange desktop icons around). URL: http://v-nom.deviantart.com/art/Shadow-of-the-colossus-02-68331367
8. And finally, your blog (Orcish Army Knife) is very popular and your lore posts get everyone excited. We all love your style of writing and we love reading what you write. Do you do any writing outside of the blog or have plans to do so in the future? Maybe a novel kicking around somewhere?
Thank you for saying so! Most of my writing right now is all on the blog, though I did write a series of Roleplaying/fiction stories back in November for NaNoWriMo, called Letters from Northrend. The idea was to come up with letters or journal entries that various Wrath of the Lich King NPCs would have written, about how they had been affected by the war with the Scourge and other events of the expansion. It was quite a challenge, but I’m glad I tried it and am quite pleased with how they turned out. The Letters are all archived on a separate blog for simplicity and easy browsing: Northrend Letters.
The only other writing I do regularly right now is for my D&D group, planning ridiculously complicated plots and twists and making their lives interesting. Most of my interest in WoW lore actually comes from this, actually! I’m always pondering and developing new story hooks for our D&D game, so I tend to look at WoW storylines the same way, as in “What could I do with this plot hook?” or “What unexpected but completely believable/logical twist could I implement here, to really surprise my players and blow their minds?” The power of “What if?” is an incredible technique to get the creative juices flowing, in my opinion.
As for in the future…I’m not sure! I currently work in advertising/graphic design, but I’m a journalist by trade. To be honest, before I started Orcish Army Knife I hadn’t written regularly or seriously for a few years. The blog has really re-kindled my interest in writing again, which has been a nice surprise, and I’m sort of tossing around the idea of once again pursuing it a bit more seriously.
As far as what I’d like to do? Well, I’d love to get a job writing for Blizzard, working on and dreaming up new awesome stories. It would basically be my dream job, haha. So maybe one day!
Thanks for the interview, Elfi! It was a lot of fun and I was honored to do it.