Thursday, March 19, 2009

Interview with WoW Insider's Dan O'Halloran!


Dan O'Halloran runs The Daily Druid, and is the managing editor at WoW Insider. I recently had the opportunity of interviewing him via e-mail.

Nerf this Druid: WoW Insider went live towards the end of 2005. Were you one of the founders? Or did you join the team later on?

Dan O'Halloran: I joined the team about a year and a half later in May 2007. I had just left The Druid's Grove as their Content Manager and saw that WoW Insider, which I read daily, had an open call out for bloggers. I submitted writing samples and was hired to blog along with a few others at the time.

In October 2007, AOL (who owns us) was gearing up to launch Massively, our sister site that covers news on all MMO games. They needed someone to keep an eye on WoW Insider while the WI management team focused on getting Massively up and running. They approached me to do that, I agreed and also became a writer for Massively and, later on, the Features Editor there also.

NtD: Did you ever expect the site to gain the amount of popularity that it has?

DO: We knew we had a great writing staff and offered a unique service among WoW sites, but we were quite surprised at how rapidly the site grew in terms of traffic. That rise in popularity also meant that we could hire more writers and expand the features on the site. AOL has been very hands off and supportive of us.

NtD: So what does a managing editor at WoW Insider do, anyway?

DO: It's a big picture job. I make sure that there are posts lined up to publish every hour from 8am to 8p ET (and every other hour on the weekends.) I plan out coverage (everyone write about faction rewards for your class this week!) I hire new writers when we have an opening, often approaching WoW bloggers whose work I've been enjoying. I also do some promotion for the site, getting the word out around the net about who we are and what we do. Every month I analyze our traffic to see what posts were the most popular and think of ways we can provide more of that kind of content to our readers.

Finally, I answer alot of reader e-mail. We get many questions about the game or where to find certain posts. We try to reply to everyone, though that doesn't always happen. Only so many hours in the day, people! I also get the honor of banning trolls who think they can get away with being idiots in the comment section.

I've been trying to get back to writing more lately with The OverAchiever column and The Daily Quest which highlights excellent work around the net by WoW bloggers.

NtD: How much of your time goes into WoW Insider?

DO: Probably 3-5 hours a day, including weekends. I usually take my laptop with me on vacations as well just to keep an eye on things though I have a boss, Elizabeth Harper, the Editor-In-Chief, who oversees the site as well and can cover while I'm unavailable.

NtD: What's the weirdest story or tip that you've ever received for the site?

DO: We used to get a lot of requests from gold sellers to place banners on the site. They've stopped, though we occasionally have to nuke their comment spamming on the site.

NtD: Tell us about The Daily Druid.

DO: I've had my own personal gaming blog for a few years, OneDruid. I pretty much abandoned it after I started writing for WoW Insider, but at the beginning of this year I wanted to revive it. Since I didn't have a lot of time and WI has first rights to any WoW guides or features I would write I decided to round up all the great Druid informational links around the net that I was constantly finding.

I'm a big resource nut and I'm always looking for information on how my class works and what's the best spell rotation and where can I get good gear upgrades and what enchants should I be saving for, etc. On top of that, I enjoy playing many of the different trees available to Druids so I was finding a lot of great guides on various WoW blogs around the net. I started posting those daily on OneDruid and word spread very quickly. I started getting alot of traffic so I decided to spin off the daily post to its own site. I found a WordPress template that allowed me to tag each entry in a way to make it easy for readers to find later on (i.e. click here for all Feral Cat DPS Guides, click here for all Resto Tree Gem Guides, etc.).

The Daily Druid has taken off even faster than I expected. There is such a hunger for solid information about the class and too much of the good, player written guides are scattered across the blogosphere. I'm happy to be able to provide a directory to all those write ups for Druid players trying to improve their skills.

Ironically, I've ignored OneDruid again. Sigh.

NtD: Do you have any other side projects in the works that we can look forward to?

DO: Last month I launched The Daily Death Knight, but haven't found the time to put into it that I have devoted to The Daily Druid. I'm going to focus on TDDK more this month and launch two more class sites, one for Paladins and one for Hunters. I'm also looking into adding forums.

NtD: When and why did you start playing WoW?

DO: I've been playing MMOs since the summer of 1999 when I got into the Asheron's Call beta. That was followed by 7 years of EverQuest while dabbling in just about every major MMO that came out during that time (Anarchy Online, Star Wars Galaxies, City of Heroes, Dark Age of Camelot, Shadowbane and many, many more.)

Though EQ was my big focus, I was married and had two children in the mean time (plus a day job) and my play time went way down, making it hard to keep up in that game. Then WoW came out and it fit my new limited play time perfectly. I stayed on with EQ for awhile (and it's successor EverQuest II), but with only 2 hours to play 2-3 times a week, WoW was the game that fit my life.

Right now I'm actively playing WoW and Lord of the Rings Online while dreaming of the upcoming Free Realms (something I can play with the kids!)

NtD: As a druid, what's your main spec? And what will your dual spec be?

DO: My main spec was Feral cat for leveling and I bounced between Boomkin and Resto for instances. I dropped a lot of money on respeccing often and was very glad to hear the dual spec feature was coming. Though I'm at the level cap with my Druid I still have a lot of the solo questing content left to do (I like to explore.) So my dual spec will be Feral Cat/Resto Tree.

NtD: What's your favorite druid form?

DO: Nightelf Druid Cat Form. It looks powerful, sleek and deadly. Plus, glowing eyes!

NtD: What's your favorite class to play other than your druid?

DO: I don't play many alts since I can satisfy my need to indulge in a different playstyle by simply respeccing my Druid. But I have dabbled with the Hunter class. I like the idea of the animal companion acting as a DoT with feet.

NtD: So, uh, if you and I dueled in game right now, who would win?

DO: Are you kidding me? My six year old would win me in a duel. I just don't have the instincts for PvP. I would just try to heal myself and run.

NtD: What's your opinion on the achievement system?

DO: I think it's brilliant. And the smartest thing Blizzard ever did was release it about a month before Wrath went live. It gave new life to the existing content without the dev team having to devote the time and energy to actually create new content. On the downside, it's a terrible burden for us obssessive compulsive completists. :)

NtD: What's your opinion on Blizzard "dumbing down" content to make it more available to the casual players?

DO: Again, brilliant. One of the reasons WoW is so popular is how accessible it is to players who have never played MMORPGs before. Why not continue that trend? Sure there is the vocal minority of hardcore players who feel they should get to see content that 99% of the player base will never see (i.e. Black Temple, etc.) but I think everyone should get to experience as much of the content as possible.

This is why all the Wrath raids come in 10-man variations, so more people can see the content, but only the 25-man raiders can get the uber loot. Sounds like a good compromise to me and if the hardcore players want to qq about not getting an exclusive sandbox to play in anymore, they may want to rethink their priorities about what's important in life. Or go play EverQuest, the game for hardest of hardcore raiders.

NtD: What are three other good druid blogs that you read, and why?

DO: Resto4Life for explaining the complexities of the game in terms every day players can understand (the Resto Glyph flowchart was brilliant.) Of Teeth and Claws is one of the few feral Cat blogs out there and it is excellent. Karthis really knows the spec and provides excellent advice on how to get the most out of it. For Moonkin, Gray Matter puts out consitently great guides on Moonkin DPS. His four part guide to Eclipse was brilliant.

NtD: If you and Ghostcrawler were chilling in a bar together having a beer, what would you talk about?

DO: The inability for many players to understand that changes to their class that are for the greater good of the game. We get plenty of qq'ing on WoW Insider about the class nerfs (and the buffs to other classes) that we report on. Blizzard doesn't make any of these changes lightly and often the changes never make it off the Test Server, but that doesn't stop players from publicly wailing about it. At the very least, make a constructive argument about why you think the class changes are a bad idea instead of starting an IM CANCELLING TEH GAME thread on the official forums that doesn't get anything done but a possible forum ban.

That and marine biology. And how the Guiness in America isn't as good as the Guiness in Ireland.

NtD: And last but not least: ninjas or pirates?

DO: Ninjas. I play a cat druid after all. :)


9 remarks:

Pallymar said...

Very nice interview -- thank you Averna!!

4shley said...

Excellent read!!

Pookies said...

Thanks for the exposé. :D

Zan said...

Thanks for the great read, I really enjoyed the interview.

Scatman said...

Great interview! Way to go Averna!

Sylly said...

This is great, Averna! I'm really thankful to get to read a bit more about Dan. He's been so supportive of me since I started my own blog. Thanks so much! RAWR!

Averna said...

Thanks guys! I felt so super important and famous to be able to interview him ^^ I know, I'm silly. I don't care. =D

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