WoW Celebs: An Interview with Oscar Winner Steve Preeg

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World of Warcraft players are everywhere. They’re in your local grocery store, sitting next to you on an airplane, even playing football for your favorite NFL team, but it isn’t very often that we hear about a WoW player winning an Oscar. However, just a few short days ago, Ten Ton Hammer heard about an individual who did just that. His name is Steve Preeg and while he may not be Brad Pitt, he did win an Oscar for visual effects in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. After his star treatment at the Oscars award show, Steve was kind enough to sit down with Ten Ton Hammer and talk about his career along with some World of Warcraft.

Steve Preeg, character supervisor for Benjmain Button and avid WoW player

Ten Ton Hammer: Congratulations on the Oscar! That’s a pretty big achievement. Is that your first?

Steve Preeg: Thanks! Yeah, it’s my first one.

Ten Ton Hammer: Can you tell us a bit more about what you worked on in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button? You were the character designer?

Steve: It was officially called a “character supervisor” on the show. I was essentially responsible for delivering the character to lighting. So I dealt with rigging and animation and overseeing the modeling to make sure all the models were good and proofing all the tracks. Basically it was everything you need to do to get the animated model into the lighting department. That also meant I got to put my two cents in on lighting, even when they didn’t want to hear it.

Ten Ton Hammer: Before Benjamin Button you worked on Lord of the Rings. That’s a pretty big “geek” movie. Was it as thrilling to work on those movies as I imagine?

Steve: I actually didn’t work on the first one, so I got to see the quality of the first film before flying down to New Zealand. I was there for the second and the third movies, and it was definitely a great film project to work on. Unfortunately it was a lot of hours and I didn’t get to see New Zealand that much.

But at the time, World of Warcraft wasn’t out yet, so I had the time to stay and work on the project.

Ten Ton Hammer: Obviously you’re a big MMO gamer. When and how did you start gaming? Did you start with World of Warcraft, or were you involved with different games before that?

Steve's first MMO was City of Heroes.

Steve: I played a decent number of games, but the first MMO I really tried was City of Heroes. That one didn’t last that long for me because the end-game content is pretty limited, but I started playing WoW pretty much right when it came out, and I’m still playing. That’s obviously a credit to the game design. It’s kept my attention for four years.

Ten Ton Hammer: Were you a Warcraft fan before the MMO came out? Is that how you’d learned about the game?

Steve: I had just heard that it was coming out, and I was actually working at Square in Hawaii on the Final Fantasy movie when I heard that they were making a Warcraft MMO. It was years later that it finally came out, but I had played Warcraft and Warcraft II a little bit. That said, one of my favorite games was Dune II, which was pretty much the original RTS game. When I first played Warcraft, I thought it was done by the same developers because it was almost identical.

I’ve also played a lot of Magic: The Gathering, which isn’t really a video game, but that took up a decent amount of my gaming time.

Ten Ton Hammer: So you’re just a true geek at heart, aren’t you?

Steve: If you saw the Oscars and the post interview, I do wear glasses and my haircut is from the early 80s. I definitely fit in.

Ten Ton Hammer: Do you know of any other celebrities that play MMOs? I mean, Peter Jackson looks like the quintessential gamer…

Steve: I honestly have no idea whether he plays or not. There was an interview with him at one point where he says that he enjoys playing Halo, but I don’t know if that was just because he was working on the Halo movie at that time or not.

There are a lot of people that I work with that play, and every once in awhile you see someone with their laptop open, doing some auction house buying while they’re at work.

Ten Ton Hammer: Doing some fishing or something like that…

Steve: I’ve restrained myself from buying a laptop simply because I’d be scared that I’d come to work and not get anything done.

Ten Ton Hammer: How do you manage WoW and your time?

Steve eventually chose an Undead Rogue as his main WoW character for Wrath of the Lich King.

Steve: When Benjamin Button started, I knew I was going to be really really busy. So at that point, I handed over the guild leadership over to somebody else, and I basically said that I wasn’t going to be consistent enough to be raiding or anything like that.

We’re not necessarily one of the top raiding guilds in the world or anything like that, but we do alright and we try to stay competitive. We have Sartharion and the three drakes to finish in the expansion content and that’s it.

Ten Ton Hammer: Tell me a little bit more about your rogue. I hear that you’re more combat-specced, but I want to know a bit more about the character…

Steve: He’s an undead rogue, and it actually wasn’t my main originally. In the beginning, my main was a hunter and I played with him for a long, long time. Then I moved on to a priest, because our guild was in desperate need of priests for Molten Core and I played with a priest up until Burning Crusade. In the end, I really didn’t like the priest because in the pre-BC era, holy priests couldn’t do anything but heal.

They didn’t have good DPS or anything at all. So by the time BC came out, I had around five or six level 60 characters to choose from. And I had six 70s by the time Lich King came out. I really started playing my rogue right before Burning Crusade and I’ve stuck with him thus far.

Ten Ton Hammer: Do you have any particular achievements that you’re proud of on your rogue or any of your classes?

Steve: Y’know, I keep having to work so I they keep getting their achievements without me. I think my favorite is that I was the first on the server with a blood elf mount. I farmed AV for rep before BC came out and the day BC came out I was an undead rogue on a pink chicken.

Ten Ton Hammer: No server firsts? *laughs*

Steve: No server firsts. I do have two silly achievements to get done before I get my red proto-drake, but I just haven’t had time to do ‘em. [Editor's Note: Since this interview, Steve has successfully earned his red proto-drake.] Everyone else in the guild seems to have it. I’ve been fairly consistent since Benjamin Button wrapped, but who knows how much time I’ll have with the new project coming out.

Ten Ton Hammer: And what’s your new project?

Steve: Tron 2.0

Steve probably wouldn't list "guild leader" on his resume.

Ten Ton Hammer: Awesome. Another big movie for geekdom

Since you were a guild leader for some time, do you think there’s any correlation between being a quality guild leader and a good manager or employee? There’s been a lot of talk about whether having “guild leader” on your resume is something to be proud of or not.

Steve: In general, it might be construed as a little bit nerdy, but if I was the one reading it, I would definitely respect the person. In large raiding guilds, there is a lot of crap to deal with. When I handed off the leadership to the guy that currently has it, I talked to him and asked him if he was sure he wanted that sort of pressure. I told him “there’s 150 people that you’re now essentially their babysitter at times.”

It’s a lot more work than some people give it credit for, and it takes a lot of selfless leadership to deal with.

Would I put it on my resume? Probably not.

Ten Ton Hammer: You’ve got the one thing you really need to have on your resume at this point. You can just put a big O-S-C-A-R on the top, bold and highlighted.

Steve: Those people that run the raiding guilds, I can definitely respect them and in some ways I feel sorry for them.

Ten Ton Hammer: So your guild is just basically working on Sarth 3D now?

Steve: Yeah, he’s the only thing we have left content-wise on the old stuff, but we’re all going to jump into the PTR and try our hand at Ulduar when we get a chance. [Editor's Note: As a quick update, Steve informed Ten Ton Hammer that his guild has successfully downed Sarth+3.]

Ten Ton Hammer: What’s your favorite part of the expansion? Did you enjoy the new content or DK stuff?

Steve: Playing a rogue, I pretty much hate the death knights.

Ten Ton Hammer: Because we’re so over-powered? [Editor’s Note: I play a death knight.]

Steve has no fondness for death knights.

Steve: They’re just unstoppable right now. You can't kill ‘em in the arenas. Ret pallys are still really annoying, but I can’t say I have any love whatsoever for the new DKs.

Basically, my favorite part is just having new content to run through with all these people that I really enjoy hanging around with. These are the same people I was with when we downed the bosses in Molten Core. It’s also a great way to stay in touch with my brother, who plays in the guild.

I mean, I met a bunch of them at BlizzCon last year and got to hang out in LA with them all.

Ten Ton Hammer: It’s like going down to your local pub, except you’re doing it online, right?

Steve: Yeah. I mean we run a Ventrillo server, and I’m talking with people in Hong Kong and the Middle East. When you’re not concentrating, we get talk with people all around the world and see what life is like for them.

Some people call us geeks for sitting in front of our computers every day, but I think it’s better than sitting in a bar getting drunk every day.

Ten Ton Hammer: Or you can sit around and watch TV all day. Pick your poison, right?

Steve: To me, it’s really interesting getting to know people all over the world. There are people that I haven’t played with for years, yet I still keep in contact with them.

Ten Ton Hammer: Would you work on a World of Warcraft movie if you had the chance?

Steve: I would imagine that Blizzard would take care of a lot of that stuff themselves. They have great art direction and have super-talented artists. Their cinematics are the best thing out there, especially in video games.

Ten Ton Hammer: So you went to BlizzCon last year?

Steve: Yup, although it was a bit difficult because of the whole ticket and lottery fiasco. If someone from Blizzard reads your website, make sure you have ‘em send me tickets this year so we don’t have to go through that again.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there anything else you’d like to tell Ten Ton Hammer readers?

Steve: My guild’s name is “Incoming” so I have to say “Go Incoming!”

Ten Ton Hammer: Thanks for your time, Steve! 

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