Written by Arashi
Narration by Tarashi
Hayate as himself
©2013 Petsofwarcraft video
©2013 Blizzard Entertainment (Game)
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Written by Arashi
Narration by Tarashi
Hayate as himself
©2013 Petsofwarcraft video
©2013 Blizzard Entertainment (Game)
Hi, I’m Chris Robinson, senior art director of World of Warcraft. In this last installment of this four-part Artcraft series, WoW community manager Bashiok sat down with a few of the level designers who created Nagrand to pick their brains a bit more on the process of creating the zone.
Hey everyone—so for all the peoples out there, go ahead and introduce yourselves, and for fun, name a zone you’ve worked on in the past.
Victor: Hi, I’m Victor Chong, senior level designer, and people probably remember Vale of Eternal Blossoms in Pandaria.
Ian: I’m Ian Gerdes, level designer on World of Warcraft, and the zone I was probably most involved with in Mists [of Pandaria] was Isle of Thunder.
Ed: I’m Ed Hanes—I’ve been at Blizzard for 13 years, and the first zone I ever worked on was Ghostlands for The Burning Crusade expansion.
Kevin: I’m Kevin Lee, a four-year vet here at Blizzard, and I worked on the Jade Forest in Pandaria.
Damarcus: Hey there I’m Damarcus Holbrook. I’m the new guy, so all my focus has been on Warlords; specifically for this discussion, the exterior of the Highmaul Raid in Nagrand.
What were some of the specific challenges you had with creating Nagrand?
Ian: I think a lot of it was trying to preserve the original layout as much as we could. Nagrand was kind of the one zone that was never really as wrecked as the other zones were from being shattered. It’s kind of blue skies and green trees, and there’s not fel energy everywhere. So I think trying to preserve some of the landmarks and maintaining the spaces was something we really wanted to make sure remained intact—while still making sure it feels new to the player.
So you obviously had to do some translation of the Outland version. How did you decide how to fill in the areas that were previously destroyed?
Ian: We wanted to preserve some of the silhouette on the world map, so that it still felt familiar. I know Tanaan Jungle was similar in some respects where the edges were broken away, but we still wanted to retain what was Hellfire Peninsula. It was the same for Nagrand. We had a little bit of freedom, however, because there were some parts of the zone that were more obviously destroyed than others, like the southern edge of Oshu’gun and the western border. There were some ogres hanging out there, but nothing substantial in terms of structure, so we decided to add the Raid over there, because it felt like it would be a good extension of the story that fit with the timeline. It ended up getting quite a bit bigger than we had originally planned for. It’s pretty impressive as a zone point of interest (POI) that you can see from a distance, and really breaks up the skyline.
Ed: The biggest challenge was giving a fresh look to something players are familiar with. It’s definitely a zone that players who had that experience in Burning Crusade know; there’s a defined image that comes to mind of what that zone is and what it’s about. A lot of people remember the Nesingwary stuff—the sweeping plains, the angular trees, the floating rock islands, the Throne of Elements. It was one of those zones that was around where a lot of people were hitting their max level, and so it’s got that association with it as well. So that was a huge challenge, figuring out how to keep it fresh while keeping it familiar.
Any stories from Outland people might remember represented in this new old Nagrand?
Ian: On the mountain range north of Nagrand, in the Burning Crusade version, as you were going to Zangarmarsh there was an orphanage that…
Ian: …it was a little…creepy. There’s an NPC there, and I think they’ll be making a return. I actually just put a cage in at the Burning Blade POI today, so I’ll be talking to [the quest team] to see if they want to do anything with that. Corki was certainly one of the more memorable quest lines in Nagrand.
Victor: The Ring of Blood is coming back. It’s a bit more upgraded, but the visual style is very similar.
So you put a cage there, but want to go talk to the quest designers. How does that work as far as who is designing what? How much of it is your team coming up with the story of an area, and how much of it is the quest team bringing it in?
Ian: It’s bi-directional. Sometimes we’ll have a cool idea and they’ll latch onto it, and sometimes they’ll have the cool idea and we’ll latch onto it. It’s definitely a partnership.
Victor: We spend a lot of time with the quest designers, specifically on coming up with really interesting ideas. This expansion specifically is doing a lot of vignette stuff…
Sorry, what’s a vignette?
Victor: It’s an internal term we use for a cool little area or thing you stumble across, something that’s not necessarily part of the main quest line. We’re putting a lot more Easter eggs into the zones this time around, so it doesn’t matter if players find them or not…
Ian: But it’s cool for them if they do.
Victor: We’ve added a lot more vignette stuff, and I was working with Kurt Sparkuhl, a quest designer, on how I could add hidden stuff on the tops of mountains. So we have a lot of vignettes where players have to figure out how to get up there without just being able to walk up. It’s stuff like doing some jumping around to get into an area, and then when you get to the top, you find a goblin with a glider that’ll let you glide to specific areas that aren’t normally accessible. Then if you get through all of that and land on a specific spot, you’re rewarded with whatever the prize is there from a chest or something. We’re doing a lot of that, and Nagrand was a good test bed for those kinds of things.
What’s your favorite area or detail in the zone?
Victor: There are a lot of very cool things we did in Nagrand. For me specifically I did the whole canyon area, so there’s like three big canyons within the zone.
Ian: And that’s kind of a callback to the original zone…
Victor: We originally weren’t even planning to do that stuff.>
Ian: It was kind of an iteration of the process, because we had originally gone super crazy with the rolling hills, which looked fantastic, but we needed something to break it up.
Victor: That’s actually kind of an interesting story. The first thing that comes to mind for Nagrand was the rolling hills, and the big open grass areas where you were just killing animals—that was a lot of fun and really stood out to me. I started doing a very elaborate rolling hill layout, where every hill is perfectly molded and you have these perfect views of the zone from every angle. Most of the level designers thought it looked great, but when the quest designers looked at it they thought, “What are we going to do with all this open space?” and it didn’t work—it was just too big of an open area. And so when you start looking at the elements of the zone there are trees everywhere, and I think [lead quest designer] Craig Amai said that what he remembered wasn’t the rolling hills, but the canyons, which was surprising to me. Turns out, it was actually a zone full of canyons. It got me thinking about why I never really remembered these canyons, and looking back it’s that they were pretty bad; there wasn’t really any good gameplay there. Spawns were far apart, they were very narrow, and if you accidentally fell down into one they were just this annoying trap you couldn’t find your way out of. So I looked at what I could do to make them better—made them wider, added multiple sub-zones within them, and added more pathways in and out of them. They turned out really well and we ended up adding two more of them.
What do you want players to experience when they enter Nagrand for the first time?
Victor: I’d like them to see that it’s familiar, but that this is definitely a different time, and that the Warsong clan is here. This is their place.
Ed: Familiar but new. It’d be awesome for people to feel like it’s familiar, but that there’s a lot of new stuff, that it’s a new experience and not just the old Nagrand that’s just been touched up a little.
Could you tell us more about some of the POI’s, how they developed, and what kinds of inspirations were taken from inside and outside of World of Warcraft?
Let’s start with the Warsong clan camp.
Ian: The idea originally was that the Warsong were nomadic, and seasonally would move from the highlands to the lowlands. The idea being that the flood plains would indeed flood, they wouldn’t want to hang out there, and they’d move up to higher ground.
Victor: We ended up using the canyon to illustrate that while their city is both nestled in the canyons and up above them, it still feels like a cohesive city. There’s a river that goes through the entire center of town, but it’s dried out, and it’s supposed to show that when it’s the rainy season it would fill up, so we still tried to pull off that same feeling. We also have where Garrosh is supposed to be sitting in his throne there.
How about the Highmaul Ogres? How did they influence the zone, and how did you try to create a sense of history?
Ed: They were originally supposed to be in the background of the Warsong. However, as the kit was developed, we had a bigger and stronger art push on the look of those guys, and they became a much bigger presence in the zone. Now most of the max level content is focused around them, with that kit being so robust that we were also able to use it in other zones. Their culture actually expanded, I think, as people got on board and dug the vibe of this kind of elevated status of ogre society and their seat of power, and it spread across the expansion.
Ian: Yeah, I think the idea for them was kind of the twilight of the Roman Empire, where their society used to be very grand, and you kind of see how it’s devolving as you look at Frostfire and the Stonemaul. Kind of how ogre society is getting more brutish and less sophisticated and the Highmaul are this last remnant of what they were, or what the Highmaul still are.
Victor: It’s interesting too, because when we first started it was all Warsong—we had this giant Warsong warpath, this giant road, and then we ran into what we called orc fatigue, where the entire expansion just had too much orc. Which fits thematically and makes logical sense, but from a gameplay standpoint gets boring really quickly. So in that process the ogres got elevated quite a bit.
Ian: You get kind of a layered history too, where the ogre empire used to reach across all of Draenor—but over time it’s deteriorated, other races have moved in, and so Victor did a really nice road treatment where you have the sort of ancient and broken ogre tiles, with the newer Warsong paths crisscrossed on top of it.
Ed: And we knew we were going to have the Highmaul Raid, and so once the art started taking shape for that we were able to pull pieces out of it—like this wall or column looks really cool—and were able to use a lot of that to build out their story in the exterior environment.
Tell us more about the Highmaul Raid.
Damarcus: It’s the stronghold, the final stand for the ogres to hold their ground. The orcs are pushing against them, but they’re holding out. You and your friends roll up through their arena first, and you get some cool options on how you want to progress through the first few bosses before you get into the big keep.
Ian: It’s a little less linear than newer raids have been, so it’s kind of a throwback to that old style of non-linear raids and choosing which way you go and which bosses you want to kill in what order.
So is it as open as, say, Firelands?
Damarcus: Actually, so this was the first thing I really got to work on at Blizzard. I ended up making the exterior areas of the Highmaul raid and working with the team who made Firelands—so I looked at that a lot and worked with them on how exterior design works for raiding. Ed and I jammed on layout a bit and we kind of thought a triangular layout would work best where you hit the first boss, and then have three options before coming back in before you get to the keep itself. The layout itself works really well.
What’s about Oshu’gun?
Ed: Kevin is really the guy who worked on a lot of it, but we knew it was one of those parts of Nagrand that we needed to keep. We also of course wanted to do something different with it, and one of the things we pitched early that stuck was to give it to the orcs. They’re there right now, but before that, there was a nice forest wrapping around it, and there are still some remnants of the impact when it crashed into Draenor.
Kevin: We wanted to draw on the crater vibe, to make it look a bit more raw—like this had happened recently versus how it looked in Outland. We also wanted to still have some of the runes around it kind of for the nostalgia factor because that’s how we all remember it looking. You can also go inside of it as part of a quest chain, and into an orc cave inside. It’s one of the main quest story lines and will have a lot more meaning to people when they play through it.
Finally, tell us about the Throne of Elements.
Ian: We really wanted to try to preserve a lot of it. Originally we had it elevated, where it was halfway between the top of the mountains and the lake surface, and the idea was that with the destruction of Draenor, it crashed into the lake. But it blocked the shot of the iconic waterfalls behind it, and there were some other technical constraints, so it ended up more as how we all remember it. Also up top on the Elemental Plateau where people probably remember farming motes, there were elementals kind of sharing a space, but we wanted to break that out into four distinct areas where each is represented. So for the fire area, the ground is all dried out and scorched, the water elemental section is where the waterfalls are up above the throne, and the earth and air sections are nearby.
Ed: Real estate–wise it commands a bigger presence than it did previously, for sure.
Hey there, Chris again. So this wraps up this exterior level design series, but this is by no means the end of the line. We hope that we’ve been able to provide a bit more insight on what it takes to create a zone in World of Warcraft, and look forward to seeing you make your way into Draenor. We’ve put a lot into trying to create some truly epic environments and experiences for those of you who take up the challenge of fighting back against the Iron Horde. Until next time, thanks for reading!
Hi again, I’m senior art director Chris Robinson. In this third installment, senior level designer Ely Cannon explains a bit more of the level designer’s role in bringing the landscape to life and how this role may be a bit different at Blizzard than what players, and even other level designers in the industry, might expect the role to encompass.
Hi, I’m Ely Cannon, a senior member of the Level Design team for World of Warcraft. I wanted to talk a little about the important role that our level designers play in developing the visual style for the zones. In a traditional level design role, you wouldn’t historically find artists; but we’re not what most people know as traditional level designers on the World of Warcraft team. We go out of our way to hire artists with design experience, or designers with art skills, for our level design team. This is essential to our process since each level designer is ultimately the gate keeper for the visual style and tone of the zone he/she is working on.
This process starts with the preproduction work for a zone. Working with an environment artist, the level designer will help to guide and define the scope of environment assets needed. These assets include terrain textures, trees, bushes, accent plants, rocks, etc. The range of models and textures needed must address not only the main zone look, but the sub environment types needed to break up the zone, all the while bringing the concept to life while remaining within the capabilities of our game engine. It can be a challenge, and often is.
Take for example the new Nagrand. Not only do we have the environment that you know of as the Nagrand from Outland, but new areas, like a wetlands, and a higher elevation arid region. The visual clash of these disparate environmental themes could be quite jarring if not handled with care. There is a constant conversation between the level designer and the environment artist about shape language, color, diversity, scale, mood, model usage, and ultimately the visual tone of the zone as a whole that keeps the zone development moving in the right direction.
While the environment artists make the models and textures, it is the level designer who sculpts and paints the terrain, places the trees, rocks, and bushes, all the while considering gameplay and the art/design direction. We approach the whole process in a very considered and intentional way, balancing visual style and gameplay all the while. A typical day for our level designers will include big decisions about the overall look and feel of a zone as well as small decisions about how one plant looks when placed next to another plant in the scene.
Nagrand in Warlords of Draenor is a good example of the color relationships between textures. The vast sweeping savannahs of verdant green which make up a large portion of Nagrand presented a challenge for our level designers. How can we get color depth into massive green fields while staying true to the concept? At first glance the fields and rolling hills seem to be simply green grass – and lots of it. On closer inspection there is a carefully selected range of green tones used to render the savannahs of Nagrand. Each of the green tones is a unique grass texture which is carefully blended with the others in the set to create the effect seen in-game. Likewise, the subzones in Nagrand diverge from the main zone color scheme in very specific ways that were defined early by level design to ensure that players would experience a diversity of environment types while playing through the zone, and ultimately when they return for max level content.
Having capable and talented artists and designers sitting behind our level editing tool allows for fast iteration, and ensures that we can create huge play areas with a consistent level of visual quality. In the last segment of this Artcraft series you’ll meet five more of these designers: Victor Chong, Ian Gerdes, Ed Hanes, Damarcus Holbrook, and Kevin Lee.
Welcome back to our ongoing Artcraft series that takes a look at the environmental and zone design for World of Warcraft. I’m senior art director Chris Robinson, and today senior level designer Michael McInerney is going to take us through a more high-level design overview, again using Nagrand from Warlords of Draenor to illustrate our level-design philosophies.
Hello, I’m Michael, and I’ll be providing insights on some of the thought processes that go into designing an iconic zone like Nagrand. Our approach to level design begins with asking many questions, and defining the answers. The one big question we always ask ourselves is “what is the story we are trying to tell?” This usually keys off the initial pitch—in the case of Nagrand, we wanted to convey that this was the sweeping pastoral home of the Warsong clan. But we also needed to determine the specifics of how we were going to communicate that visually to the player.
The obvious answer to how we tell their story is to put their homes within the environment. But that’s not the only thing that makes a place a home. The Warsong are fairly aggressive and confident, so when you first enter the zone, you’re not so warmly greeted by their war banners and fortified towers. We also knew the Warsong clan were wolfriders and traveled in large packs. This was something we could show with the large beaten-down roads that their war bands travel along. Their home base is nestled into a wind-carved canyon, and has subtle references to an Orgrimmar long past, with buildings and living spaces shaded by cliff sides. We also knew that the way they care for their wolves says something about their culture, and is noticeably different from the reverence for them within the Frostwolf clan. We illustrated that by using animal pits to get across their relationship with their wolves, instead of integrating them into the villages as the Frostwolf would. All of these elements come together to paint a different picture of the Warsong and give them character.
Nagrand also had some equity we wanted to explore; players have experienced a shattered version of the zone in Outland, and this was a unique opportunity to provide a contrasting look. Giving places a sense of history is high on the list of zone design philosophies. Some of the more obvious ways to tell a zone’s history are with ruins, when they make sense. The Highmaul ogres were once a great power in Nagrand. Now they are on the edge of oblivion. All that’s left of their once great civilization is scattered remnants, as evidenced by their crumbling towers and roads you find throughout the zone. It’s not a coincidence that the area they occupy in the zone doesn’t exist in Outland.
We also wanted to touch on the floating islands, one of the classic visuals of Nagrand everyone remembers. We needed to figure out how could we could capture that vibe and still tell a story. One way was to create geography so delicate in places you could imagine it snapping off and floating into the sky—fel energies notwithstanding. The sweeping arches and impossible rock formations also lean toward that realm of magic, without fully committing.
The player experience, and the way a player feels when they are moving through the environments is something we’re always thinking about. Moving from zone to zone, or even within the subzones and small microcosms we create, can dramatically impact someone’s perception of their progression and the game world around them. Stay too long in one area and it can get very tiresome, but move too quickly from one to another and it can feel overwhelming. We work very closely with the quest designers to move players through the world so they can experience a dramatic environmental change at the best possible points, or when we feel they could enjoy a change of scenery.
The challenge with Nagrand was creating enough variety within a theme while maintaining an organic feel. This is a zone that is essentially grassland, but we knew we couldn’t fill a space this large with only fields. Developing an ecology that feels fresh and real is an important tenet of designing a world. Mountains flow into valleys; the edges of a forest blend naturally into open fields. The high points are dryer with scrub bushes and dead trees. The low points are lush, sometimes flooded with water. The riverbanks are a subzone in themselves, covered in reeds and thick vegetation. These areas all offer variety yet stay within the fantasy we are trying to deliver.
The way the NPCs occupy the areas should also make sense. The panther-like Saberon live in roughed out caves below the rock arches. Herds of Clefthooves roam the fields. The Highmaul for the most part occupy the mountainous areas. These relationships to the environment tell a story without any reading required.
A great zone is one that, upon entering, you immediately “get” the fantasy of, and years later you still remember that moment, and I hope we’ve achieved that with the latest incarnation of Nagrand.
Tomorrow, senior level designer Ely Cannon will explain more about the role of level designers in the creation of a zone.
Hi, I’m Chris Robinson, senior art director of World of Warcraft, and welcome to a special edition of Artcraft focused on environment and zone design. Previously we showed you what it was like to create the Spires of Arak from a purely art-focused perspective, but over the coming days we’ll be releasing a series of articles focused on exterior level design, using Nagrand as a focal point. You’ll be hearing from the team who works with the artists, as well as the quest designers, systems designers, historians, and more to craft and create not only the zones we adventure in, but the visual story that is told about these locations and the creatures and races that inhabit them. For this first article, I’m pleased to introduce Julian Morris, our lead level designer.
Hey everyone, Julian Morris here, lead level designer for the World of Warcraft exterior level design team.
Exterior level design is the process of designing and constructing the zones of World of Warcraft, from Azeroth to Draenor and everything in between. Our team has planned, plotted, and designed the rise and fall of ancient cultures, as well as shaped mountains, forests, seas, lakes, rivers, roads, ruins, and every land feature imaginable. In addition to the land itself, we also design and create cities, towns, and Battlegrounds (with the random exterior dungeon or two in there every now and then, too).
The level design team is a hybrid of both art and design. We work hand in hand with the quest design team to build the environmental stories that support the content that defines Azeroth’s lands, cultures, and conflicts.
We also work every step of the way with all of the art groups on the Warcraft team. Working with the environment art team, we sculpt and paint the landscapes to create the rich, vibrant settings that form the foundation of the world. Within those spaces we work with the dungeon team, designing and constructing the thousands of camps, towns, settlements, and cities that provide the unique architectural beauty that anchors all of our cultures and creatures to the world. These locations in turn provide the scenes and staging for the finely crafted set dressing—the tables, chairs, books, and more—that our prop art team creates.
Level design binds the vision of many groups together, and it takes the passionate effort of all these teams to create an incredibly detailed, hand-crafted experience.
The zones of World of Warcraft are their own main characters that come to life before our very eyes during development. In this series, we’re going to draw back the curtains a bit to show you more on how we approach world-building and how we breathe life into a zone.
Join us again tomorrow as senior level designer Michael (Mac) McInerney gives you a deeper look into the level design of World of Warcraft using Nagrand from Warlords of Draenor.
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I thought these Fire icons where interesting.
Today we learned that Warlords of Draenor will release – November 13, 2014!!
Here’s the Warlords of Draenor intro video.
Hello, and welcome to Artcraft! I’m your host Chris Robinson, art director of World of Warcraft, and today we’re going to tackle something I know a lot of you have been looking forward to: facial customization options.
When we began working on the updated character models, we knew it would be a huge project, and we weren’t sure we could do it all at once. The idea originally was that a few races would be available at launch, and all the others would be patched in throughout the course of the expansion. While it wouldn’t have been ideal to see a mix of lower-quality and higher-quality models running around side by side, it did seem like the most realistically achievable solution at that time. Since then, though, we’ve committed ourselves to getting all of the original character models in by launch. It’s been a monumental challenge for us, but we think the effort is worth it, and the finish line is nearly in sight.
Our next big focus is doing justice to the facial options. With the original models and their simplistic geometry and low-resolution textures, a lot of facial expressions were simply painted on. Now that we’ve moved to higher-polygon models with lips, teeth, and fully articulated faces—not to mention higher-resolution textures—recreating those same facial options isn’t as simple as painting them onto a flat surface. Previously, to get a sneer out of a model, you’d just paint a sneer on its face, and that was that. To do it correctly now—and make it look great—we have to fully pose a sneer, create a custom texture, and mesh that base pose with all of the existing emotes and animations.
These more detailed face customization options were also originally part of our earlier “update-as-we-patch” rollout plan. Our initial idea was to release the new models with their base face, and then add additional options in updates over the course of the expansion. Again, that plan was based on the sheer amount of work involved in creating what are effectively all-new races (art-wise) on top of all of the art a big expansion like this one generally requires. But stepping back, we came to the conclusion that it just wasn’t going to be a good experience to have everyone playing with the same face geometry and a slight texture change, not knowing what their character would really look like until some later patch. In the end, we decided it would be best to tackle all of a race’s facial options at once. Up to this point, you’ve seen one facial geometry set, but very soon you’ll start seeing more finished products for each option in upcoming beta builds.
The original Dwarf model (left) has his teeth painted directly on his upper lip to give him a snarl. With the new models, which have fully modeled and textured teeth, a simple paint job just isn’t an option—it would look terrible. In the middle, you can see what that same sneer looks like right now in the beta test; on the right is what you’ll see in an upcoming beta build.
On the left, we have a pair of original Orc faces. The second column represents what you’re seeing right now in the beta build, showing texture variation but the same facial geometry. The third column shows a posing rig to demonstrate how we’re customizing each of the face appearances further. On the far right, you can see the final product.
We’re working hard to ensure all of the updated character models have the high level of quality you expect from us, and that we expect from ourselves. This revamp is a truly enormous project that we care deeply about, and we know you feel the same. We’re looking forward to seeing all of these new, high-quality, awesome-looking models running around Azeroth, and we hope you enjoy seeing the characters you know and love in a whole new light.
Thanks for reading, and see you next time!
The Horde chopper is on its way, and you need to log in now to claim it!
Your votes for Azeroth Choppers were counted, and one faction’s war cry roared loudest: the Horde bike will now be turned into a mount in World of Warcraft! Anyone who logs in to the game between now and September 30, 2014 will automatically have their account flagged to receive the Horde chopper upon the release of the upcoming Warlords of Draenor expansion. Everyone can (and should!) claim their chopper by logging in now, but as a reminder, only your Horde characters will be able to mount up and take it for a ride.
We’re here with a brand-new Artcraft! I’m your host, Chris Robinson, senior art director on World of Warcraft, and today we’re showing you where we’re at with the female Tauren.
The original female Tauren had a lot of issues with too-angular geometry and stretched-out textures. It’s not her fault—it’s just what we had available to us at the time. Our new process has allowed us to add a lot of detail to her hair, fur, horns, and hooves, to build a far more detailed and expressive face, and to add a lot of definition to her musculature (while retaining her shape and silhouette).
One other change of note: Warcraft character design is commonly known for its stylized long arms, large hands, and big feet, but the female Tauren’s hands were just completely out of control. We brought them down to a more consistent size with the other updated models, and were also able to add a ton more detail and dexterity in the process.
We hope you enjoy her new look—let us know what you think in the comments!
Forged by the brutal hand of the Iron Horde and tempered by hatred, the Iron Skyreaver is a fearsome blend of beast and machine. This twin-headed terror dominates the sky and strikes fear into any foe who dares challenge it. Take the reins of one of these monstrosities for 40% off this week only, but beware—the Skyreaver suffers only the most formidable masters to ride it.
Curse of Naxxramas™ Creeps Out on July 22!
Are you prepared to face the horrors lurking within the dread necropolis Naxxramas? Curse of Naxxramas: A Hearthstone Adventure is just about ready to open its gates to the world. There’s a whole host of undead monsters inhabiting the halls of Naxxramas, ready and waiting to defend their lair against Hearthstone’s heroes. If you . . . somehow . . . manage to defeat them, you’ll be rewarded with ghastly new cards for your Hearthstone collection!
Curse of Naxxramas goes live in the Americas region for Windows®, Mac®, and iPad® on Tuesday, July 22, starting with the Arachnid Quarter, the first of five creepy wings that will be released weekly after the gates are opened. The Arachnid Quarter will be free to play during the Curse of Naxxramas launch event, which will last roughly a month. Those brave enough to step foot into the Arachnid Quarter during the launch event will unlock it permanently for free. Check out our recent blog for further details on how to access the Arachnid Quarter and the subsequent wings of Naxxramas.
Polish up your decks, card-slingers—we’ll see you inside the necropolis soon!
For release information regarding the European region, please go here.
Note : This model showed up in Build 18471, along with the Undead Male, Night Elf Female, and in progress Human Female model.
Welcome once again to Artcraft! I’m Chris Robinson, art director of World of Warcraft. This Artcraft is another quick one, but still packed with goodies. Today we’re showing you our work on the male Draenei. The original was one of the better character models in the game, so it didn’t require a ton of translation—but with higher-resolution textures and more polygons to work with, we were able to bump up his fidelity quite a bit, as well as improve how we convey emotion through a new animation rig.
That’s all for now—thanks again for continuing to follow along as we develop these updated character models. See you next time!
World’s First Butterfly Cosplay – Part 1: Sculpting Monarch Brightwing
“Brightwing like loyal subjects! Bow down. Now.”
- Monarch Brightwing
While numerous people have dressed up as butterflies, how many actual live insects have dressed up to mimic video game characters?
I’m Community Manager Kimberly “Vaeflare” LeCrone, and today I wanted to share with you a unique project I’ve been working on over the last couple months that may very well result in the world’s first butterfly cosplay!*
How It All Began…
From the first time I saw Brightwing snacking on Uther’s corpse, I knew that she was a hero I could get behind. The mix of her sugar-sweet personality with just that *touch* of something dark and sinister amused me to no end, and it was a treat to work on her Hero Week blog and Twitter Takeover!
But as soon as I saw her Monarch Brightwing alternative skin, something clicked.
…because by pure happenstance, I actually raise monarch butterflies!
A Plan Takes Shape
In addition to raising monarchs, I also do quite a bit of art and writing in my free time. This personal interest in art is one of the reasons I’m so passionate about sharing the work of our creative community of fan artists, cosplayers, musicians, machinima artists and more. I genuinely love sharing their hard work and ingenuity with other Blizzard players!
In time though, the more I thought about it, the more I thought it would be a fun challenge to try and have a live monarch butterfly “cosplay” atop a wingless, scale Monarch Brightwing sculpture, so that the wings of the butterfly could act as the “wings” of the resulting sculpture. I talked to some coworkers about this fun and quirky project, and after getting folks like Samwise onboard, it was time to get to work!
The Amazing Life Cycle of Monarch Butterflies
There’s a lot written about monarch lifecycles online, so I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice to say, they are a Near Threatened species of butterfly. During the Spring, Summer, and Fall months, these colorful creatures carry on their life cycle on or around a flowering plant called milkweed, or “butterfly weed.” Then as the winter chill draws near, the final generation of the year head off on a great migration to areas in Southern California, Mexico, and Florida where they will stay cozy in various overwintering sites.
Once the worst of winter is over, these winged wonders migrate northward again to continue their lifecycle. Monarch caterpillars grow inside an egg for around four days, and then they munch on milkweed for about two weeks. When the caterpillars have eaten their fill and they’re large enough, they’ll form a chrysalis for around two weeks, and will stay inside as they undergo a metamorphosis into a butterfly. When they emerge, summer generations will only live for about two to five weeks as adults, but winter monarchs will live for as long as seven to nine months. This allows the winter monarchs to complete their full migration cycle, which can entail thousands of miles worth of travel.
During the last year, I’ve enjoyed getting involved with monarch conservation, and continue to revel in raising monarchs and releasing them back into the wild (I’ve successfully released 63 so far)!
As soon as I realized I wanted to do this project, one of the first things I did was to start measuring how large the various monarch butterflies were that I was raising so that I could have a proper sense of scale for the sculpture I was to create. I found that their size varied quite a bit, so I took an average of my measurements and then compared that against the in-game model of Monarch Brightwing. Thanks to the great folks on our machinima team, I was also able to get a few screenshots of Monarch Brightwing to use as references throughout the process.
From there, the hard work began.
A Butterfly-Sized Armature
My next step was to get to work sketching out a scale profile view of Monarch Brightwing. This view was especially important because I would be using it to determine how large each piece of her underlying support armature was to be.
From there, I started assembling her armature using various gauges of aluminum armature wire, aluminum mesh, hot glue, and two-part epoxy. Once cured, the epoxy is incredibly hard, so it allows the armature to carry the weight of the clay that will be put on top of it later. I also like to use the epoxy to form “bones” along the limbs of a creature, so that I’m able to selectively pose a figure along where their natural joints would be, such as a shoulder, elbow, or wrist, without the whole arm bending out of shape.
It was around this time in the process that I began to truly appreciate the stunning complexity of this character, for in addition to having four limbs and a long, curled tail, she also has sixteen fingers and toes, five spines, two antennae, the fin along her back, and an open mouth! In addition, she would need a proper monarch’s jeweled crown and scepter, which was due to be more than a bit of a challenge at this scale!
Rough Sculpting a Faerie Dragon
Next up, I created a mix of Sculpey polymer clays that I felt would suit the detail needs of the project, while still being “buttery” enough to work with. I then took this clay and began to layer the clay over top of the underlying armature. The figure didn’t need to be detailed at this point, instead I was focusing on trying to build up the basic figure and try to get it to “read” as Brightwing from multiple angles. The thought in my process is that I work from bone, to muscle and sinew, to skin and final details.
Brightwing Begins to Emerge
Slowly the figure started to emerge, and I worked to cover up the majority of the remaining mesh and wire and begin smoothing her with some rubbing alcohol. I intentionally left her right hand unfinished as I knew that down the road I would be using the excess wire to help support her regal scepter.
During this stage, I also decided it was time to Dremel out some holes in her armature so that I could insert Brightwing’s new glass eyes! These particular eyes seemed just spot-on for Monarch Brightwing, and having them in place really helped me get a better feel for how the sculpture looked as a whole.
Muscles, Fingers, Toes, Claws, and More!
I continued to layer on the muscles, and began to try to finalize Brightwing’s pose so that she looked natural and interesting from multiple angles. Once I was decently-pleased with her pose, I used some Aves Fixit Sculpt to create hardened claws so that I could get them all into place prior to continuing work on detailing and smoothing the figure with rubbing alcohol.
This was also a perfect time for me to take a few more photos with a live monarch butterfly to see how the sculpture was shaping up!
The detail phase continued, and soon it was time for the next big challenge: Monarch Brightwing’s accessories.
Accessorizing a Monarch
Due to their painfully-small size, I decided to work on Brightwing’s accessories separate from the main sculpture. The first order of business was to determine their overall size, and from there I started hunting for gems that best reflected the sizes and colors of those seen on Monarch Brightwing’s model. The smallest of these were barely larger than the tip of a pencil! At this stage, I was sculpting using the smallest tools in my arsenal.
Next, Monarch Brightwing got her first bake in my oven. This made it so that I would be able to attach her crown and scepter without risking damaging the work I’d already done on her.
I sculpted the crown in my Sculpey mix, but I opted to sculpt the scepter almost entirely in Aves Fixit Sculpt since it would be particularly precarious to support. Once I was nearly done with the scepter and all its tiny gems, I attached the scepter to the wire I’d left exposed on Brightwing’s arm. After that, I sculpted the hand and claws around the scepter so that it appeared as though Brightwing was holding it.
Baking, Patching, and Sanding Her Majesty
Next, Monarch Brightwing underwent her final bake in my oven, and then it was time for a bit of touch-up work! During this stage I patched some areas I wasn’t completely happy with using two-part epoxy, and then helped give Brightwing a smooth finish by going over her with wet/dry sandpaper, followed by fine steel wool.
Masking and Staining
Next I planned to cover Monarch Brightwing in a sandable-primer, so to protect her eyes and gems from the spray paint, I masked those areas with clay before spraying her. Shiny!
During this stage I also began drilling, patching, sanding, and staining her final base in the hopes that it would be ready around the same time the sculpture was!
Monarch Brightwing all Primed and Ready for Color!
But Monarch Brightwing wasn’t yet ready for her butterfly cosplayer (or world domination), because she still needed her luxuriously-colored coat and regal accessories! In the next blog covering this quirky project, you’ll be witness to the next colorful stage of this sculpture’s inception!
Do you have any questions about sculpting materials, the sculpting process, or raising monarchs? Let me know in the comments below!
Are you working on any Blizzard fan creations or Heroes fan art? Make sure to tell us all about them over in our Community Creations forum!
*- As far as we know!
For more Pictures please read the full blog and comment on Vaeflare Blog post on the Heroes of the Storm main page. You’ll find the full article here!
Please follow Vaeflare on Twitter here @Vaeflare
And don’t forget she has a DA page with DEATHWING here!
I can’t wait to try this Hero. The Spirit Darter was once an Alliance only pet. You would get it as a quest reward. Now, hordies can farm Spirit Darters in Dire Maul. The pet has a 1% drop chance… so… be ready to stay there for a couple of days…
As previously announced, we’ve been working toward connecting realms to increase the number of players on low-population realms. Here’s a continuously updated list that contains currently planned connections, future plans, and completed realm connections, all in one convenient location.
*Please note this list does not encompass all potential future connections. Please check back for further updates.
We will be connecting the realms listed below on Thursday, June 26 during a scheduled maintenance beginning at 5 a.m. PDT through approximately 1:00 p.m. PDT. Once maintenance is finished, these realm connections will be complete.
We will be connecting the realms listed below on Thursday, July 3 during a scheduled maintenance beginning at 5 a.m. PDT through approximately 1:00 p.m. PDT. Once maintenance is finished, these realm connections will be complete.
We do not have a date for the following realm connections, but will update this post when we do.
*Plans for these connections may change at any time, but we’ll provide additional updates on specific dates for future connections here as we can. Please note that as a part of the connection process realm times may change to match each other.
Glory. Power. Victory.
The daughter of Draenor stands ready to achieve all three, thanks to new visual and animation updates we’re making to the female Orc model in the next World of Warcraft expansion.
In making changes to the model for Warlords of Draenor, the World of Warcraft art team wanted to evoke the spirit of the original while making sure her new representation felt even more alive and vivid than before. But don’t just take our word for it—see for yourself! We’ve updated the character viewer on the Warlords of Draenor website with the new female Orc model and new emote screenshots. We hope you enjoy them!
As development continues on Warlords of Draenor, we’ll show you even more of the updated character models. Let us know what you think!
We’re in the process of bringing down the Alpha realms while we work to resolve this issue. Unfortunately, it’s going to require an updated build, which we won’t be able to finish today. Realms will remain offline over the weekend while we get everything ironed out. We hope to be able to bring the Alpha back up on Monday, June 23rd.
Again, we greatly appreciate your patience during this time. We’ll get you back to Draenor as soon as we possibly can.
Hidden under a shroud of perpetual night broken only by bright starlight, the lush idyllic forests of Shadowmoon Valley are home to a majestic draenei tomb and sanctuary: Karabor. While many of Shadowmoon’s denizens study prophecy among Karabor’s ancient stone circles, plotters with darker ambitions lurk in the valley’s vast underground cave network, gazing greedily at the sacred temple.
In Warlords of Draenor, Shadowmoon Valley serves as the starting zone for Alliance players once they’ve endured the initial rigors of Tanaan Jungle and survived their first encounter with the Iron Horde. To take you on a journey through Shadowmoon’s forests, temples, and secrets, we’ve tapped one of the creative minds behind the zone, Senior Designer Helen Cheng.
What’s the story in Shadowmoon Valley?
Helen Cheng: After a daring escape from the Iron Horde in Tanaan Jungle, Alliance players crash land on the northern shores of Shadowmoon Valley.
The valley is tranquil and serene. Rolling green hills give way to lush, violet forests. Draenei temples stand proudly beneath a star-studded sky. Here, the draenei have built wonders of their civilization—the town of Elodor with its majestic Altar of Sha’tar serves as the proud home of the great Exarchs, while the shining Temple of Karabor acts as the font of all holy learning. Under Prophet Velen and Exarch Akama’s watch, all is well.
But times are changing. The Iron Horde have called the native orc clans to join their ranks. The Shadowmoon Clan, led by Warlord Ner’zhul, yearns to prove itself worthy to Grommash Hellscream. Beneath the valley’s bright moon, a dark star hangs in the sky. For centuries, the Shadowmoon have been forbidden to tap its void-touched energy . . . until now. Will Warlord Ner’zhul succeed in harnessing the star’s power to destroy the draenei and the Temple of Karabor? Or will Prophet Velen, aided by his disciple Yrel—and a few fearless heroes—be able to stop him?
Meanwhile, trouble brews amongst the Exarchs, the most powerful and influential draenei heroes. Even as they debate the future of the draenei on their adopted homeworld, there is growing evidence of a traitor among their ranks. Who can be trusted?
The night elf Wardens sense a demonic presence in the northern woods of Shadowmoon Valley. As they hunt for the source of the fel energy, a sinister truth is revealed: Gul’dan, the Destroyer of Dreams, has returned.
Most importantly, as a proven champion of the Alliance, you are charged with establishing the Alliance foothold on Draenor. The land is harsh and unforgiving, and the Iron Horde has amassed an enormous army without equal. Before you can hope to defeat them, you must build a stronghold—your Garrison—from the ground up and gather allies to face this indomitable foe.
What are some of your favorite places within the zone?
Helen Cheng: Shadowmoon Valley is one of the most beautiful places on Draenor, with a breathtaking variety of stunning areas. I would say that the two most striking aspects of Shadowmoon Valley are the draenei and Shadowmoon orc areas.
The draenei architecture in Shadowmoon is really impressive. You get everything from a merchant town in Embaari Village to the valorous training grounds of the Exarchs in the north to the crystalline dome that is Teluuna Observatory. The draenei are cultured and sophisticated. Theirs is the pinnacle of an advanced society, and their towns and cities reflect a perfect balance of beauty and function. I really love all of the draenei locations—and there are more in other zones—but the Temple of Karabor has to be one of my favorites. The sheer size and scale of the place is incredible, and it’s remarkable to see it in its glory before the events of The Burning Crusade, which turned it into the Black Temple under Illidan’s control.
The Shadowmoon clan structures are impressive as well. The Shadowmoon were once a wise people, with a deep respect for the elements and a natural curiosity about the stars. They are natural-born leaders with a strong affinity for magic. However, since they joined the Iron Horde, Ner’zhul has strayed from the ancient ways. You can see this gradual decay reflected in their way of life. The Burial Fields is a place where the Shadowmoon traditionally bury and honor their dead. That place has become defiled and corrupted with void magic. Their ancestors, whom they once revered, are now being brutally tormented. Ner’zhul’s stronghold, Anguish Fortress, is an open-air ziggurat with a sacrificial pit in its center. In a nearby dungeon, players will see that there are more dark secrets hidden beneath this compound.
Tell us more about the Alliance garrison!
Helen Cheng: Nestled near the northern shores and with a commanding view of the main road, the Alliance Garrison location is of immense strategic importance. Prophet Velen will give the land to players as a thank-you for their deeds in the jungles of Tanaan, the intro zone. But there isn’t much time to rest—as great as the Prophet is, he needs your help. Your Garrison is awfully close to Shadowmoon territory, so be prepared to defend it.
Your Garrison will start as little more than an outpost, and your laborers will quickly run into trouble as they discover that even the forests of Draenor can be their enemy. But before long, you should have a comfortable Town Hall to call home and a Barracks that you can use to train new recruits. One of the perks of having your home base here is the ability to sound a “call to arms” anywhere in Shadowmoon, and Alliance troops will rush to your aid.
Kick your feet up – after all, the Garrison is all yours.
Could you name three of your favorite locations players should check out on their journey through the zone?
Helen Cheng: Once you’ve settled in, you should take a quick jaunt over to the town of Elodor, home of the revered Altar of Sha’tar with its stunning view of Karabor and the surrounding ocean. There you can meet the five Exarchs who act as the hand of the Prophet, guiding draenei society, and you can witness their own internal conflicts as they argue about their place in this savage land. Don’t miss the nearby Rangari Enclave, where the elite scouts of the draenei train—you won’t see mushrooms that size for another 30 years!
If you’re the adventurous type, try spelunking in Bloodthorn Cave. Don’t mind the flesh-eating pale orcs—they only kill you when provoked. Also, don’t eat the local mushrooms. They can be rather . . . potent.
We’ve heard mixed reviews about Gloomshade Grove. Some folks rave about the pristine beaches, while others are just never heard from again. If you see anything that looks like a flower, makes a sound like “mawarwaawa,” and has very sharp teeth, run away! Though it’s probably too late for you, so oh well. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
You’re probably wondering if there are any creatures on Draenor that won’t bite your head off. Try heading over to the Shimmering Mor. This enchanted forest glade is home to wild faerie dragons. Awww, they’re just so cute! No, you can’t take one home . . . oh, who are we kidding? You’ll probably find an egg or some-such to raise eventually.
Finally, don’t forget to stop by Embaari Village. This draenei merchant town is known for its delicious food and exotic wares. No trip to Shadowmoon is complete without a tasty meal and a mug of honey mead.
As with all places on Draenor, Shadowmoon Valley is filled with sights to see, adventures to be had, and savage enemies to destroy. Enjoy your journey!
Next, our voyage will take us north into the Horde starting zone of Frostfire Ridge. Stay tuned for more!