WINNER'S CIRCLE: Tom Chilton, Chris Robinson and J. Allen Brack
Embrace your inner geek.
It's a motto of all those in the Blizzard Entertainment tribe, and one that Tom Chilton, Chris Robinson and J. Allen Brack take seriously.
At the gamemaker's Irvine home base, a sprawling campus guarded by a bronze statue of a hulking orc riding a wolf, the trio helps to oversee the making of World of Warcraft (WoW), a monster-slashing, treasure-collecting, quest-venturing virtual world inhabited by more than 11 million subscribers across the globe.
Chilton, 38, is WoW's game director or, as he describes, "last defense against bad ideas." Robinson, 32, serves as the art director, making sure every goblin, gnome and gold coin fits the game's visual style. And Brack, 38, works as the production director, coordinating the "many different pieces that go into making [the game] awesome." The core development team of 140 is currently working on new content, including, Brack says, "a huge fight in which players fight a dragon in a way we've never done before. Everyone likes fighting dragons, right?"
Inspiration for the game, Chilton says, comes from all sources: "Books, TV, movies, friends, comic books, deep within ourselves—you name it." It also comes from their Orange County surroundings. Robinson reveals that a backdrop in WoW's third expansion, Cataclysm, was inspired by the coastal drive in Newport Beach.
For each of the jeans-and-T-shirt-wearing masterminds, the goal is to keep finding new ways to captivate players and transform them into heroes on an epic journey. It's "being able to forget about what's going on in your life and just be in this world with your online friends," Robinson says.
It's a world they themselves don't want to leave. Just after the interview, they started plotting a plan to form a five-man team and conquer the denizens inside a dungeon—something they'll do on their lunch break.
"If we're not geeking out and laughing and having a good time, if we get into a place where it's just business as usual," Robinson says, "then we've lost whatever it is that makes us great."
THEIR HIGH SCORES
• Old Vine Café. "Probably my favorite restaurant in Orange County," Brack says. "Get the eggplant buratta with pesto. Tasty. And the macaroni and cheese with porcini mushrooms—the best!" 2937 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 545-1411; www.oldvinecafe.com.
• Wineworks for Everyone. "I like the stuffed mushrooms and live music by Colin," Robinson says. 26342 Oso Pkwy., Mission Viejo, (949) 582-0026; www.wineworksforeveryone.com.
• The Coyote Grill. Robinson advises, "Get the fish tacos." 31621 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 499-4033; www.coyotegrill.tv.
• Location, location, location. "My favorite thing about OC is its proximity to the beaches, the mountains and Las Vegas," Chilton says. "It's situated in a great spot."
• Diversity! According to Brack, "I really like the ability to choose from a diverse selection of communities. Each place has its own flavor and vibe, so there is always something for everyone, no matter their mood."
• Laguna Beach. "It has a really great feel as a town," Brack says. "I enjoy being able to sit outside, have a glass of wine and just relax. Las Brisas has excellent drinks and the best guacamole in the universe. Mozambique has a great vibe and really diverse menu. And the blue cheese French fries at Nirvana Grille are fantastic—get two orders!" Las Brisas, 361 Cliff Dr., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-5434; www.lasbrisaslagunabeach.com. Mozambique, 1740 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 715-7777; www.mozambiqueoc.com. Nirvana Grille, 303 Broadway St., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-0027; www.nirvanagrille.com.
• A Quick Jaunt Around the Neighborhood. "There's this outdoor running path in Irvine that goes around UC Irvine and the Blizzard campus," Brack says. "It's a nice, gentle-grade path that extends for more miles than I can run at the moment. Gives me plenty of space to always go farther."
• Salt Creek Beach. "I have a 2-year-old, and I love to bury him in the sand," Robinson says. "We do that for hours." 33333 S. Pacific Coast Hwy., Dana Point, (949) 923-2283.
• Go, go, go-karts. "K1 Speed is fun. I love cart racing," Chilton says. 17221 Von Karman Ave., Irvine, (949) 250-0242; www.k1speed.com.
• Modified golfing. "When it's nighttime, nobody goes out, so we play Potato Golf—or POLF," Robinson says. "You drive with potato guns and finish with your other clubs."
• If OC were a video game, which one would it be? "What was that plastic surgery game?" Chilton asks. According to Robinson, the answer should be "The Sims." But Brack thinks, "Hot Shots Golf. Or Leisure Suit Larry."
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