Friday, October 19, 2007

The Voices of Justin Gross

His voice is deep. It resonates lowly. Decisive consonants are articulated from the lips and tongue in a strong, focused way—the kind of focus you expect from someone with an unbreakable will. The British vowels, masculine and noble, demand loyalty of the listener. It is sometimes ruthless. It is a voice undoubtedly familiar with power…

That is the voice of actor Justin Gross, as recorded for the hero-turned-villain Arthas in the video game “Warcraft III.”

In the 2002 video game “Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos,” the character Prince Arthas is faced with protecting his father’s land against impossible odds. In searching for the power to protect his kingdom, he betrays his own people to obtain an evil sword called Frostmourne.

The actor said if he were ever in Arthas’s shoes, he might have taken Frostmourne too.

“Under those circumstances?” he said. “I think everybody has the propensity for evil in them—for doing evil things in certain situations.”

It was that attitude that let Gross get into character for Arthas.

“I guess everyone’s got a little capacity for evil in them,” he said.

The actor recorded all Arthas’s dialogue in Warcraft III line by line. Typically for video game voice work, he said, an actor will not be given a script. Instead, actors are given lines one at a time. A director talks him through the context of each particular line and he has no interaction with the other voice actors in the scene.

For that reason, Gross said he usually prefers to work on TV episodes, where the actor is given a full script and interacts with the other voice actors in the scene.

TV episodes also pay a residual fee each time the episode is aired, so one episode’s recording session has the opportunity to pay off with each episode rerun.

Despite his TV preference, he enjoyed working with Blizzard on Warcraft III, where he got voice direction from World of Warcraft music composer Jason Hayes.

“He was really good to work with,” Gross said in a telephone interview last August. “Everyone at Blizzard was very professional.”

Crives,” a Shadow Council player who played Warcraft III, said he thought Gross’s voice was particularly memorable as Arthas transformed from a good paladin to an evil death knight.

“I really caught his emotions well as he was becoming a death knight,” Crives said in an in-game interview Friday.

The player said he was disappointed Gross would not be continuing to work with Blizzard for the World of Warcraft expansion “Wrath of the Lich King.”

Gross has been doing voice work since 1992, and his verbal styles vary extensively from the dark, commanding Arthas to the more youthful, friendly Captain America in the show “Ultimate Avengers.” He has voiced commercials for Pepsi, Nokia, and Saturn, to name a few brands. He has also narrated documentaries.

Speaking on his cell phone from his home in Houston, Texas, the voice actor sounded like a regular guy. He did not have a languid Texan drawl—because he is actually from northern California. He graduated from Nevada Union High School in 1990, and then decided he wanted to teach.

Gross taught at the now-closed Placer Hills Elementary School in Meadow Vista, Calif. for half a year. He was filling in for a teacher on maternity leave. After a few months there, he knew teaching was not his preferred career.

“It was a dreary experience, and I just realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do,” he said.

He began acting onstage at Sacramento’s B Street Theater. While there, he worked with stage and voice actress Elisabeth Nunziato, who he says was his inspiration for becoming a voice-over actor.

“I really admired her lifestyle. She didn’t have a regular job,” Gross said.

After hearing Nunziato’s voice on the radio, Gross decided voice acting would be something worth trying out. He asked Nunziato to coach him, and she agreed.

They made a demo tape together that landed him several jobs. Gross moved to L.A., where he said he was doing auditions for voice work every day.

Today, Gross lives in Houston, Texas, where he is working on some real estate property he bought in partnership with his brother. He still does some voice work each week, though he is not as busy as he once was in L.A. Moving to Texas, he said, let him take a break.

The actor hopes to move back to L.A. next year to concentrate again on his voice acting.

“Voice acting has been very good for me,” he said. It gives him the freedom to do something a little different each day.

The Strider's Lacey Waymire can be reached at

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Coming Soon: Community Q & A with author Christie Golden

World of Warcraft Author Christie Golden has contacted The Strider and offered to answer questions from the Shadow Council community!

Author Christie Golden has published two major World of Warcraft novels: "Lord of the Clans," about Thrall's childhood, and "Rise of the Horde," about Thrall's father Durotan and the orcs' early dealings with demons. Many of her world creations for "Rise of the Horde" were built in-game for "World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade."

Her book "Firstborn" is the first in the Starcraft trilogy "Dark Templar Saga" and was released last May. The second book in that series, "Shadow Hunters," will come out in late November. Her newest book, "Under Sea's Shadow," is the third book in an original series published this month.

Golden herself has been playing World of Warcraft for more than two years on several different servers, though she says it is on Shadow Council that she learned to role-play.

If you would like to submit a question to Christie Golden, email The Strider at or post a comment here.

Thank you for your participation!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Q and A with Aaron Rosenberg

The Strider teamed up with Shadow Council community members to ask Warcraft author Aaron Rosenberg about his books and games. You can read his introduction here, and read his answers to your questions below!

Thank you to everyone who participated!

Q. Do you play World of Warcraft?

A. I do, yes, though sadly not as often as I'd like. There just aren't enough hours in the day to do everything. :)

Q. Who is your favorite main character in Tides of Darkness?

A. That's a tough call. I really like both Lothar and Turalyon, but I had a great time writing Orgrim because I got to show what was going on inside his head. I have to admit, I also have a fondness for Thoras Trollbane, though--he doesn't get much screen time but he was a blast to write when he was around.

Q. As far as story settings go, what do you find easier to write, Warcraft or Starcraft? Or to be a bit more precise, do you prefer a more science fiction based story or the classic fantasy? --Leiander

A. WarCraft is definitely easier, as is fantasy in general. You simply don't have to explain as much, both in terms of how the setting works and in terms of the races. Everyone understands what an orc is right away, but explaining the protoss and the zerg is a lot harder.

Q. How difficult did you find it to reconcile Warcraft II's black and white depiction of the Horde and Alliance with the more recent gray areas expanded upon in later-published games and lore which pose the Horde as being actually a somewhat good force? --Hectara

A. It wasn't that hard to do, actually. The games, as with any visual medium, are more surface-oriented, so you don't know what the characters are thinking and feeling, what motivated them and drove them to those actions. Books let you examine those elements and understand their perspective. No one ever considers him- or herself to be evil--everyone feels he or she is doing the right thing somehow, and in a novel you can portray that.

Q. How would you describe your experience in working for Blizzard? --Deveran

A. They're great! They've been so friendly throughout the process of each book, and so helpful as far as feedback and support. I'm really glad I've gotten to work with them on so many books already, and I'm definitely hoping to continue the relationship.

Q. Since you write, create video games, and play role-playing games, how much do you find the different storytelling mediums influencing each other? Are the stories in your video games like those in your books, etc? --Malorn

A. Actually, I don't write video games--I write tabletop roleplaying games (though I would love to write video games as well). But yes, the stories and styles and elements certainly influence each other. Creating a game involves a lot of worldbuilding, and as a result when I write novels I want a very detailed world and a full understanding of how it works. I like to think that gives my settings more solidity than they'd have otherwise. I don't tell many stories in my roleplaying games--just short adventures and short fiction snippets to give people ideas of where they can go with their own stories--but certainly every game I've created has given me ideas for novels set in those worlds.

Q. In what systems do you play tabletop RPGs?

A. I play almost anything, actually. I've done a lot of World of Darkness (old and new) over the years, a lot of Dungeons and Dragons, a lot of d20 and OGL, plus I've played things like Ars Magica, Marvel Super-heroes, Amber, Immortal, etc. And of course I've played each game I've written. :)

Q. What do you find more challenging: writing, RPGs, or video games? What is most rewarding? --Malorn

A. They each have their own challenges. Writing an RPG is all about building a world and creating the rules so others can tell stories there. Writing a novel is all about telling a particular story. I suppose the RPG is harder because it requires creating everything from scratch, whereas a novel set in a good existing world (like WarCraft or StarCraft) already has elements in place.

Q. Have you ever turned a book into a game? --Malorn

A. Yes, when I wrote the Deryni Roleplaying Game. That was fun because I had a whole world already and just had to make sense of it and show how others could tell their own stories there as well. I've also turned one of my own stories into a game, though it wasn't a novel--I wrote a short story called "Spookshow" and liked the idea so much I created a game by the same name. Sometimes a story's setting just cries out, "There are more stories here! Share them!"

Q. How does writing compare to roleplaying? Do you ever miss the character control in roleplaying? --Darsha

A. Writing is more all-inclusive than roleplaying--even if you've only got one central character you're writing the secondary characters and creating the plot and describing the setting all by yourself. When you're roleplaying, someone else (the GM) is handling the plot, the setting, and the secondary characters, and others (the other players) are handling all the other principal characters, so it's a lot more collaborative. That also means I've got a lot more control over my one character when roleplaying, but when writing I get to control (or at least narrate) all of them at once.

Q. Do you have an original series in the works?

A. Not right now, no. I have ideas for several, of course, and I'm talking to various editors about those and other projects, but nothing definite right now.

Q. Do you have other non-Warcraft related projects coming up, that we can look forward to? --Deveran

A. The third book of my Warhammer trilogy, Hour of the Daemon, should be out in November. I have another book coming out next year that I can't talk about yet. After that we'll see.

Photo courtesy Aaron Rosenberg/Oct. 2007

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Gold Record

This week’s auction house averages see a dramatic shift from the norm; Horde goods have continued a low trend, while Alliance goods have shot up, on average. Alliance goods are averaging 26 points above their Horde counterparts. This is the farthest Alliance goods have been above Horde goods on record.

The Alliance’s stiffly rising average is largely due to extremely high demand for Linen Cloth. At 286 points, it is at a four-month high (rising 200 points from our last average). Lower-end metals are also all selling high right now – Copper Ore rose 59 points to 132, Tin Ore rose 77 points to 136 and Iron Ore rose 6 points to 132. The rest of the metals are all within the “normal” range, selling between 80 and 120 points.

It’s important to note that Fel Iron has risen 46 points to 99, resuming normal trading values after a five-week slump. Aside from Linen Cloth’s very high mark, almost every other cloth is coming in at normal values. The exception to this is Netherweave Cloth, which is still riding low at 72 points. This is the eighth week in a row that Netherweave Cloth has been below 80 points.

On the Horde side, many of the prior trends have continued. Mithril Ore is still slightly low, although it has come up 39 points from our last recorded average and is now at 79 points. Despite the very high prices of Linen Cloth on the Alliance auction houses, it is selling at 54 points on the Horde side (up 5 points). Horde Tailors have enjoyed these very low Linen prices for nine weeks so far. The demand for Wool Cloth has calmed down as well, dropping 82 points to land at 105. Runecloth is doing well; it rose 43 points to land at 126.

Jason Coleman has recorded auction house values for both Horde and Alliance since April 2007. He has monitored many of the raw trade goods (common ores and cloth) that are constantly on the auction houses, employing them as an indicator of market health. Taking averages from his data, each material has been given a value of 100 points (or percent) and is analyzed based on deviation from this value. Continuing each week, the Shadow Council Strider will post his analyses in this article, the Gold Record.