Raiders Roll out (on the internets)

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So! Blizzcon! Last weekend! That ... happened. It went by so fast I was thrown into this week on my ass and haven't had a chance to catch my breath.

There was some epic Starcraft viewing at the RTS tourney stage, which actually was the major draw for at least half of our group. SlayerSBoxer vs. Fruitdealer (or as I preferred it: "Boxerdealer vs. Fruitslayer") was an enthralling exhibition match, so watching Loner get bludgeoned to death the next day in the tourney proper was just a little painful. Wanna see something more painful?

It's my video contest entry! But before I get ahead of myself, a shout out to the winners of the contest for their skilled work. I coulda been a contendah! So here's the sequence of events that occurred when I thought I'd once again entered the contest this year.

  1. Buy Starcraft II.
  2. Create clever machinima using map editor of said game.
  3. Open map editor only to be horrified by labyrinthine cinematic scripts and zero documentation or support.
  4. Procrastinate 1-2 weeks.
  5. Decide to do something completely different.
  6. Procrastinate 6-7 more days.
  7. Throw last-minute music video together.
  8. Attend Blizzcon knowing under no uncertain terms that you didn't win anything and don't have to feel the pressure of the contest segment.

I'm being honest; the con was a walk in the park this year. I think I'm done with having anything to prove. And this is good, because I made that entry public where everyone can find it, and I can't make enough of a disclaimer about the lackluster, rushed, ill-conceived nature of the aberration. But go see it anyway.

Watch Raiders Roll on YouTube.

Sedrin on October 28, 2010 7:41 PM | Permalink |
filed under: blizzcon, films

The Day Before Blizzcon

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I have just a handful of short hours to prepare myself: pack, throw everything in the car, and figure out exactly how to get to the hotel where our guild will be setting up base. Yesterday I was starting to get really excited, but today there is mechanical calm; I think I'm in the moment. So soon? Yes. I can already tell this weekend is going to fly by like a worgen on rocket boots.

Here's your final super-awesome-collectible wallpaper, featuring everyone! No watermark on these since the trademark name is splattered all over. Watch out Garrosh. We're coming for your war room next.

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With any luck, I'll be able to put up an update or two during the con itself (if one of my wonderful guildies lets me use their computers, eheh). You may see something new here on the site at the end of this countdown, besides reflection and prophecy. Just sayin'.

Also, best of luck to my fellow machinimators that entered the Blizzcon video contest! Or I guess, the winners already know who they are ... so best of luck to them in feeling ... uh ... good about their film!

And now, the #1 impact to WoW machinima in Cataclysm... (drumroll?) ...

#1: The sky is the limit

"Old World flying" will allow your old trusty mount to take off above the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor. Finally, after kludges and TOS-breaking hacks, machinimators will have full control over the camera in nearly all of Azeroth. This change made #1 on our list because the benefits are profound and twofold.

First, in cinematographic terms, we'll have infinitely more options on the table. We won't be restricted to the same view from the ground that, by now, most players are very familiar with seeing. Aerial shots, smooth dolly effects free of terrain, and the full range of angles: just mount up and they're available now. And if you've got a stable of old flying mounts, you can choose the right speed for the shot (or fly backwards, for a nice slow pace).

Secondly, flying everywhere means flying everywhere. We'll be able to get to places we've never had access to before, opening up nooks and crannies the world over. All the new content in the world (literally, ha) won't mean much for a director if he can't actually reach it to use it for a set.

And now, finally, I can film my pièce de résistance: Xeno Troll Squadron Zero, the mutant bombardier aces of the Hinterlands! The voodoo strikes from above!

In all seriousness, I hope you got something out of this series here on Filmcraft. It might be a wallpaper you'll use for two days, or a newfound respect for shaman, but something. And hopefully, I'll be reminded more often to post, eheh.

And if you happen to be going to Blizzcon, keep an eye out for the <slashdance> logo. Don't be afraid to say hi!

Sedrin on October 21, 2010 8:01 AM | Permalink |
filed under: blizzcon

2 Days Until Blizzcon

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Alternate identities are funny. In the machinima community, I'm known as Sedrin, which feels completely natural (i.e. when an Infest hits at the same time as a Necrotic Plague and someone wasn't moving fast enough to the adds, which makes the rest of the raid tick for massive damage, whose name do you think gets crowed over Vent?). And yet, removing myself even the least bit from that context, "Sedrin" feels like another person. It's as if all this machinima was really made by a night elf priest, levitating around a sound stage with a pretentious director's chair.

But we all know that isn't true. He keeps vigil upon the landscape of his revelation, in Nagrand:

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The daunting task of driving all the way from the Bay Area to Anaheim and back is slowly enlarging in my brain, and soon I will be altogether preoccupied with the procedural details. Good thing we're coming toward the end of our list.

#2: New assets

I originally thought of this as several items on the list, but when you take a step back you come to a fairly obvious realization: there is a ton of new stuff to play with in the expansion. And all this new content adds to the variety and thence to the possibilities a potential WoW machinima production may enjoy.

New models. The two new controllable character races--goblin and worgen--are obvious choices to mention, but be warned. After Burning Crusade, the community suffered through what I might only describe as "belf burnout." We're going to be seeing these new models everywhere in the game. I hope their use will be tasteful, not overdone.

For the model-viewers among us, there are also lots of new NPC and item models to play with. The recent builds of WMV have been a little glitchy with the recent patch, so join me in praying that that'll be ironed out.

New zones. Deepholm looks really, really pretty. You might have to write an exotic script to get you there, but even then, we haven't seen this variety of new scenery since Outland. An entire underwater continent? Twilight Highlands? Access to a fully fleshed-out Hyjal? There's plenty of new space for a location scout to explore.

New spells and effects. Some of the new talents are already in the game, but each class is getting three more core spells in the levels to come. The shaman's Healing Rain, the rogue's Smoke Bomb, the druid's ... uh ... Mushroom of Death? All new effects I can easily see coming to creative usage in a film.

Join me tomorrow for the conclusion of our 10 ten list, and beyond for continuing coverage of Blizzcon 2010!

Sedrin on October 20, 2010 7:13 AM | Permalink |
filed under: blizzcon

3 Days Until Blizzcon

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You know those teammates who stay long after soccer practice to help pick up the equipment? That's who Seraea reminds me of: the sort of reliable pillar of support you can count on. It always gives you hope to fight (or heal) alongside a dedicated and intelligent DPSer who tirelessly plays for the progress of the guild.

In fact, just look! She's so awesome she can fire off Pyroblasts while invisible. Those hax be mad.

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We're getting right down to it, now, with only three more days to go. You better believe the top three impacts deserve their spot in the list! Unfortunately, this also means they're all pretty obvious and self-evident.

But I bet you'll never guess what lies beyond the cut! (Dun dun dunnnn!)

#3: The resurgent player base

Bigger WoW audience = bigger WoW machinima audience. I told you it was obvious.

There is a particular reason, however, why this is "only" number three. You would think that reviving the WoW machinima community--its supporters, its directors, its level of activity--couldn't be anything but the most important thing to happen for WoW machinima itself. Not quite, I argue.

I'm not really the one to discuss this, because I've hardly produced any films that can be enjoyed by people outside the WoW community. Way back at number 7 I mentioned how I tend to take Blizzard's lore as inspiration, keeping my films unique to the Warcraft universe. But using the game solely as a medium for telling a more universal tale (or more "generic" if you want to be a little cynical) will naturally lead to not only a larger audience, but a more reliable one. If you have a truly accessible film, you won't need to worry whether its target audience is in a state of between-expansion lethargy.

With many <slashdance> films, I try to straddle the line between WoW-centric fan film and common culture. I use game-specific elements to get at more universal themes. It's no wonder that these types of stories tend to be the most popular.

Sedrin on October 19, 2010 8:14 AM | Permalink |
filed under: blizzcon

4 Days Until Blizzcon

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Tidehollow is also known as Sententious, a warlock who had a cameo in <slashdance> vs. Ulduar. But of course, DPS is easy to find. We'd often be short a healer. "Bring in the shaman!" And obviously you can't go in without Heroism. "Bring in the shaman!" So I gave Tidehollow a break and let his shaman have some fun.

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I'm having a hard time believing this is going to be a short work week for me, as I'll be driving down to Anaheim on Thursday. Do I have everything together that I'll need? Are my passengers ready? Or to say it another way: Am I prepared?

Don't answer that.

On with the countdown!

#4: Amazing phasing quest areas

Wasn't questing in Northrend awesome? There were quest hubs every five feet (totally not an exaggeration), and even within a single zone, you'd find a huge variety of adventure and eye candy. Now just imagine that every zone in Azeroth was like that from level 1. That's what we'll have in Cataclysm.

This is great news, right?

As a machinimator, I'm not so sure; I might judge this as a net loss. One of the toughest parts of shooting on the live realms is finding a nice secluded area to capture footage free from conspicuous quest events and meddlesome players. Now that levels 1-60 have gotten a makeover, it may get a lot harder to avoid that kind of activity--especially soon after the expansion hits, when the huge alt population will be gobbling up this new content.

I might be overreacting. Azeroth is, after all, a huge place. So you might be able to find the perfect locale for your scene, and there are no players around, and you're set, right? Maybe.

Another effect of the new quest design hitting the old world: phasing. You know that technique the designers use to make players, mobs, and now even terrain change as you progress while questing? I have seen firsthand how this can screw up a shoot. I had the backdrop for my shot all picked out: against the exterior of Icecrown Citadel. I waited around for 10 minutes for the extras to arrive, only to realize that they were there, we just couldn't see each other. Quest phasing may add another layer of complication when it comes to getting a group together at the right place for filming purposes.

I have heard rumors, now, that there will be some kind of mechanism in effect to help get players together that are in different phases. I have to wonder, if this is true, how much control we might get. It would be totally awesome if we could phase at will, to get to the right terrain state or maybe to film in the least populated step of the quest. Shh! Don't tell me that would open up all sorts of gameplay exploits. I need to savor this...

Sedrin on October 18, 2010 7:38 AM | Permalink |
filed under: blizzcon

5 Days Until Blizzcon

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If it weren't for the support, both motivational and technical, of Kirlune, there probably wouldn't be as much machinima on this site as you see now. I hope she reads this and gets really, really embarrassed. She deserves it. Oh, and she loves cats. So there you go.

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I can't believe we're already halfway done with this countdown. Let me review, for your convenience, the topics covered thus far, in our top 10 impacts to the world of WoW machinima in Cataclysm:

#10: Improvements to the game engine
#9: The return of patch days
#8: Increasing system requirements
#7: A preponderance of lore
#6: The Old World forever gone

And today, number five...

#5: More in-game machinima

I won't spoil it for you, as I haven't spoiled it for myself. But do you remember those awesome custcenes that were a part of the Wrath experience? There are more coming for Cataclysm, and you can bet they'll continue to raise the bar for the quality of WoW machinima. It can be a little overwhelming for a new director, looking at these and wondering how on earth they'd ever be able to make something as good. I prefer to take inspiration instead, and then let my work stand on its own once it's done.

A few days ago, I wrote that Blizzard is bringing lore to the forefront of playing the game, and seeing proprietary machinima goes hand-in-hand with that goal. It's possible (nay, likely!) that this will motivate a larger population to become interested--both in creating and consuming--machinima as entertainment. But there is also the possibility that, having been whetted with the quality of storytelling in the game, some players would rather just stay there.

Will Blizzard's in-house productions overshadow the efforts of fledgling machinimators, or will it be a boon to activity in the community? Only time will tell.

Sedrin on October 17, 2010 11:57 AM | Permalink |
filed under: blizzcon

6 Days Until Blizzcon

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I slept in today. It was glorious. Though it's also a little sobering to realize that sleeping in isn't something I get to do very often any more. So sorry; that's why the post is up late. I'm sure you were all waiting with bated breath.

My buddy Oobercuddles has a great love for the game, especially PvP. He probably has the largest number of 80s across the largest number of servers, but happily, he always returns to the elly shaman he has in <slashdance>. Don't let the name fool you. He will Lava Burst your unsuspecting ass up and down the battleground.

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The top ten impacts on machinima come Cataclysm continues today with...

#6: The Old World forever gone

WoW has always been a constantly shifting, evolving creature, and that it should have an impact on in-game footage is nothing particularly new. There is one shot in particular during the opening of Redshift: Pursuit where Nimshe travels from Darnassus to Hillsbrad via a human boat that docks at the base of Teldrassil. In the very next content patch, that human boat became a night elf boat, and the shot I took would have been nearly impossible (only nearly--nothing is truly out of reach with After Effects! :D).

Situations like these are obviously going to be rampant in Cataclysm. Want to shoot a little film at, say, Southshore? Or Auberdine? Or Camp Taurajo? Or the park in Stormwind? Sorry, they've all been completely wiped out. Want to get your Alliance film crew safely into Orgrimmar? Easy, just make sure everyone's tuned into the Wrathgate event, and the whole city will be phase--oh darn. That event is going to be gone in Cataclysm. Need I go on?

The good news is that most of these changes become an opportunity. (Setting your story in a massively ruined town is more dramatic anyway!) The in-game environment will be more varied just about everywhere you go, and there will be no lack of new, different set pieces and scenery for a machinimator to take advantage of.

Sedrin on October 16, 2010 10:35 AM | Permalink |
filed under: blizzcon

7 Days Until Blizzcon

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You read it right! Just one week before everyone down in Anaheim will flood into the convention center, and much geekery will be had.

There's a whole epic behind today's wallpaper, but I think it's more fun if you just try to figure it out from the picture. It features the one and only guildmaster of <slashdance> himself: Phine.

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Follow the cut for item number seven on our top ten list!

#7: A preponderance of lore

This effect may be limited to those machinimators whose minds liken to mine. There is a lot of good WoW machinima that does not rely on the background of Azeroth to be produced (a particular producer comes to mind), but could have been made in any engine and still retained its basic idea. That isn't me. I am a huge lore geek, and as you can tell by watching many of my films, I'm essentially a purveyor of audiovisual fan fiction.

The world of Cataclysm promises to provide an abundant effluence of source material. Blizzard has learned something about their narrative from each expansion. In Burning Crusade, it was that Illidan was too far removed from the main player base. This led to the storytelling revolution in Wrath, where you couldn't quest for two minutes without running into Arthas. The developers seem to have made it a focus in Cataclysm, and remember that this effect runs not just through the new content, but from levels 1 to 60 as well. Major NPCs run amok in the new world, playing active parts alongside the player. Azeroth Prime will soon be crawling with new stories, and thus new inspirations for potential machinima films that find their base in lore.

Might this also translate into inspiration for the viewing audience to seek out more WoW-based material from third parties? There may actually be a double-edged sword here. I didn't promise all these impacts would be positive for the machinima community, and I'll be returning to this question as we get to the next few items on the list. Stay tuned!

Sedrin on October 14, 2010 8:05 PM | Permalink |
filed under: blizzcon

8 Days Until Blizzcon

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I've always been interested to learn what motivates any one person to stick with the game for a long amount of time. It seems a large chunk buy into the gameplay rewards: better gear, more achievements, even cosmetic things like mounts and pets -- you know, the things that are designed to motivate the players. Some only care if they're having fun and nothing else, while others proscribe to my thesis that the game is a great way to connect with friends.

And then there are a rare few like my good friend Otylia who have a simple appreciation for the world's beauty. Of course, being a warrior, she also likes to hit things at the same time. It works out, somehow.

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And now let us continue our onward march towards Blizzcon! The next issue for my fellow machinimators to consider...

#8 Increasing system requirements

Plain and simple: your machinima project only looks as good as the resources you have to produce it. I've often commented that this shouldn't stop someone with a crappy computer from acting upon a good idea. One absolutely should. But now is a good time to remind ourselves that each WoW expansion brings with it a bit of technical bloat.

It's interesting to note, though, that the minimum requirements for the game haven't changed much over the years. Granted, the game now takes up 250% more hard drive space than it first did, but HDD space is cheap today. Processor requirements have hopped up a few hundred megahertz. The 512M of RAM is still the minimum for Cataclysm as it was for vanilla, and a video card with 32M of VRAM will still technically be able to run the game.

The big question here is: how fast and how well? Video capture all by itself tends to have a big impact on one's framerates, so the age-old fight between graphics quality versus framerate might come to the forefront if you want to make machinima on an aging computer. You may also want to consider how much of Cataclysm's new material you really want or need to make part of your movie.

Luckily, the WoW fan base has proven to be forgiving to bad audiovisual quality if the heart and soul of your film is in the right place. Otherwise, <slashdance> may have never gotten past its awkward roots.

Sedrin on October 14, 2010 4:10 AM | Permalink |
filed under: blizzcon

9 Days Until Blizzcon

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Hello? Are you there? Where is everybody?

Oh, I know. You're all playing a certain game that just received a major update. It's exciting to realize that some of the Cataclysmic changes I've been discussing are already upon us! (I was just on Sedrin doing nothing but playing with the new water for about 15 minutes.)

Let me digress for one moment to present you with today's wallpaper image, starring none other than my brother and stalwart production stagehand Hynth. I totally remember this happening during one of the opening shots of <slashdance> vs. Ulduar...

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As I was saying, the big 4.0.1 patch has already introduced some of the changes that may affect how the WoW machinima scene develops. It's ironic that the next item on our top ten list is....

#9: The return of patch days

We're about to get pummeled right and left with new stuff in Cataclysm. This means big patches like the one that just hit, and even larger content deliveries that guarantee the little background downloader won't get too bored, sitting alone and unused in his tiny corner of the WoW installation folder (I'm really happy for him, you see). And again, as we just experienced, this means large amounts of server downtime.

Even with the new launcher, and its capability of letting you play before the download finishes, you don't need to go far back to remember the last time you heard the phrase "extended maintainence." Uh ... well, I guess ... again, that was just yesterday. ::cough::

My point here is that when things go wrong with the servers (and oh they will go wrong), a large chunk of an eager player base is left with nothing to do. This is prime time for WoW machinima! I'm not necessarily advocating that machinimators should time their releases to coincide with a patch day, but I hypothesize that a bump in relevant Internet traffic could have noticeable effects on one's view count. Guilds could even continue their all-important bonding time when they get home Tuesday afternoon only to find their server still down: just head over to your favorite machinima site and have a viewing party! Or perhaps we machinimators could petition Blizzard to display streaming video in the launcher while servers are down! Or--I know!--we should just hijack the servers to fail more often so people have no choice but to come and watch our movies! Yes! Yeeesssss!

... ::ahem:: Or perhaps I should stick with "patch days are a modest opportunity for machinima distribution." Indeed, we've got eight more days to go, with far more important changes, but.... What can I say? I'm a dreamer.

Sedrin on October 13, 2010 1:00 AM | Permalink |
filed under: blizzcon

10 Days Until Blizzcon

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It is time we begin our ten-day journey towards Blizzcon! But before I dive into my top-ten list for the Cataclysmic Impacts on the World of WoW Machinima, let's take a look at the first super-rare collectable <slashdance> wallpaper for desktops of all sizes! (I have to keep this exciting because I mean ... who collects wallpaper? Seriously, who?) Today's release features the honorable Exanctus, the eminent paladin of the guild (and the human hero of Warrior's Dream). Enjoy!

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Now who doesn't like a good top-ten list? Alright, they're pretty cheesy, but I'm trying to get into the habit of writing more often. And that can only be a good thing, right?

Follow me after the cut and let's talk machinima in the era of Cataclysm.

#10: Improvements to the game engine

Each expansion has brought with it subtle changes that ultimately affect the quality of the visuals attainable with the engine: slightly clearer textures each time around, greater viewing distance, and better hardware support. In Wrath, we were treated with the development of projected shadows. Remember when the only shadows in the game were dark blobs at the base of each character? (I will say, however, that it's a little easier to post-produce those shadows as opposed to projected ones.) The last expansion brought us a step closer to more realistic lighting.

The big news for graphics in Cataclysm? Water, water, water! Just look at all that beautiful water! With many zones being flooded, along with an entirely underwater continent, you can pretty much bet that there will be plenty of opportunities to set up shots that take advantage of the visual upgrade. To top it off, Blizz is moving toward DirectX 11 support, enabling things like full reflections and more powerful spell effects (check out an interesting demonstration of the differences).

Does this mean more water-bound adventures for potential WoW machinima? Only if it includes at least one pirate, I say.

Sedrin on October 12, 2010 12:16 AM | Permalink |
filed under: blizzcon

Coming up on Filmcraft.org: The (real) countdown to Blizzcon 2010

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Unlike last year where I hastily announced our imminent attendance at Blizzcon, this year I wanted to do something more special and I realized I don't regularly update this site enough. So in celebration of the con and the upcoming expansion, here on Filmcraft I'll be taking a look at the Top 10 Cataclysmic Impacts on the World of WoW Machinima. What will the machinima scene be like in the months after Deathwing (or will it still be there after all those earthquakes)? Join me as I grab a crystal ball, can't figure out how to work it, defenestrate it, and then just tell you what to think as we get closer to Blizzcon. It'll be great!

Additionally, I'll be releasing some exclusive downloadable content during this series: a limited-edition set of <slashdance> wallpapers to adorn your desktop. Exclusive because you'll only find them here, and limited because it makes them sound cooler.

The ten-day countdown starts Tuesday. Stay tuned!

Sedrin on October 10, 2010 12:11 PM | Permalink |
filed under: blizzcon

Stone Falcon does it again (without me)!

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I'm a week or two late on getting this out, but in case you haven't noticed, my comrade-in-arms Jun Falkenstein led another team for the machinima segment of the 48-hour Film Project this year ... and they won! Head over to YouTube and watch their entry: The Lake!

This is the first Warcraft film to have placed in the contest, and I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact this is the first year I was too busy to contribute to Jun's 48-hour project. (I'm only being sarcastic for humorous effect; believe me, I'm really actually certain it has nothing to do with that.) Congratulations to Stone Falcon!

Meanwhile, keep an eye out here on Filmcraft.org for a countdown to BlizzCon 2010. More details soon!

Sedrin on October 2, 2010 11:23 AM | Permalink |
filed under: news