Blizzard talks Starcraft II art design

A panel of the Irvine, CA-based studio's top artists discusses the art design and environments in the newly announced Starcraft II.

SEOUL, South Korea--At the 2007 Worldwide Invitational event, Blizzard Entertainment is offering tournament play for its hardcore fans and open panel discussions for its inquisitive ones. The company's senior artists, including senior 3D artist Dave Berggren, senior 3D artist Allen Dilling, senior 3D artist Trevor Jacobs, lead technical artist Rob McNaughton, and senior art director Samwise Didier, sit on a panel to discuss how the studio creates art "the Blizzard way."

Didier explains that within the core philosophies of Blizzard art design, "nothing is subtle--every character is over the top; every environment is either beautiful or battle scarred." According to the art director, Blizzard's characters come to life by means of strong silhouettes, exaggerated proportions, distinctive animations, and "bold, saturated colors" so that they not only look memorable, but are easy to distinguish at a glance as well--an important quality for real-time strategy units that must often be viewed from a zoomed-out view. Didier adds that at Blizzard, art is something that "isn't finished until the game is shipped"--artists typically work on continued passes right until games are complete.

Technical artist McNaughton then takes the stage and explains how the studio uses a handful of primary art tools to create its games; there is Adobe Photoshop for texture art, 3D Studio Max for its low-polygon models, and Mudbox for its high-polygon models, as well as its own proprietary toolsets, such as "Startools," to create in-game objects such as trees and other "doodads," and "Scumedit," the updated map editor. McNaughton also points out that Startools and Scumedit will be part of the map- and mod-making tools that will ship with the game. McNaughton explains that Starcraft II's graphics will be based off of the DirectX 9.0 API and fully support Pixel Shader 2.0, including support for conventional DirectX 9.0 effects such as normal mapping and high dynamic range lighting and bloom. While the game will be playable on both Windows XP and Vista, Starcraft II does not support DirectX 10 in its current state. The artist tempers his description of the advanced graphical effects by explaining that although the game will feature advanced graphical effects, it will scale, to some extent, downward to still allow players who don't own cutting-edge PC hardware to play the game.

3D artist Jacobs then discussed the process of how Blizzard starts with 2D concept art and eventually arrives at finished models, using the Protoss Immortal tank as an example to go from hand drawing to rough modeling (adjusted to make sure the model looks good from the traditional RTS overhead view) to texturing to polishing, and 3D artist Dilling reiterates the importance of creating distinctive animations for units. As an example, Dilling shows the Starcraft II flying mutalisk and tiny, doglike zerglings in action, both alone and in large crowds.

Starcraft II's units will have multiple "move cycle" animations so they don't all move in unison with the exact same frames of animation; the crowd of zerglings looks especially creepy because none of them seem to be running in the same way or in the same direction, like a swarm of hyperactive fire ants. Dilling explains that because Starcraft II is being developed with professional competition in mind, the sequel's special effects will be "tight, fast, and quick" such that they don't obscure the action or slow down your computer. However, "landmark events" like the summoning of the top-level Protoss mothership unit will be accompanied by sufficient graphical fanfare to point out their importance.

The panel winds down with a brief presentation on environments from 3D artist Dave Berggren, who suggests that Starcraft II will take place both in new worlds and in worlds that had appeared in the original game. Berggren shows concepts for the Protoss world of Bel'Shir, a lush, jungle planet that had once served as a religious retreat for the race before it was sacked by the Zerg. The planet has since become covered in ruined temples. Berggren also introduces Braxis Alpha, the Terran settlement that appeared in yesterday's video presentation. Braxis Alpha will be a combination of industrial wasteland and mountainous regions, covered in craggy rock formations and factory-like debris, such as loose gears and turbines that jut out from mountain faces. Finally, Berggren shows concept art of the Zerg world of Char (where Kerrigan, the Terran-ghost-unit-turned-Zerg-commander holds court), which will, like in the previous games, be a craggy, volcanic planet covered in lava floes. Berggren points out that although Blizzard's art team is taking advantage of modern texturing approaches to environments by mapping terrains and overlaying photorealistic textures, the art team will also make final passes to tweak environmental areas by hand.

The Blizzard Worldwide Invitational 2007 event winds down today in Seoul, South Korea. For more information about the biggest news of the show--the Starcraft II announcement--see our previous coverage.

Written By

Want the latest news about Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty?

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

Discussion

51 comments
SRDET
SRDET

i just hope the art style is more serious than warcraft 3, or WoW. the starcraft games were more serious, with a more adult oriented invitation. from what i saw in the videos this wont be a problem though. i just hope it stays that way.

bobgeoman
bobgeoman

this is gonna be the game of the decade!!! I bet that there will be an expansion 4-6 months after the release of starcraft 2.it's goin to sell like crazy.

bob9999999999
bob9999999999

I think it will have a flexible camera kaziechameleon... didn't you watch the 25 minute gameplay video where the camera is moved all around?

smbius
smbius

I want to frame one of their works in my home.

grafkhun
grafkhun

yes, i think my PC niw could run this decently... but i am getting a new one in the summer thankfully.

Phazevariance
Phazevariance

well as long as the game look sgood and plays good.

speedy2295
speedy2295

Thankfully it's not a vista only game that would really piss me off because i would have to wait forever to get the game because i won't upgrade to vista until at least one service pack has been released.

DontEatCream
DontEatCream

"although the game will feature advanced graphical effects, it will scale, to some extent, downward to still allow players who don't own cutting-edge PC hardware to play the game." This is why Blizzard games sell like hotcakes on the PC.

spidyvenom
spidyvenom

I have always enjoyed Blizzard's Single play RTS cause they tell quality Story, with great Art and awesome game play. I am sure they would pull this through just fine.

EchoEcho
EchoEcho

"a more flexible camera would be nice, or how about a queing system." - kaziechameleon How do you know those features won't be in the final game? It would be absolutely ridiculous to make a 3D RTS without a flexible camera, and queing has become pretty much standard for the genre. After excellent games like Dawn of War (which more than tied me over in my wait for StarCraft 2 -- it's quite simply the best RTS I've ever played), they can't afford not to do these basic, expected things.

Alvaro_20
Alvaro_20

the zerglings look as if they have wings?

Praetorian25
Praetorian25

kaziechameleon I couldn't agree with you more. Blizzard (aside from EA) is perhaps one of the greatest examples of a gaming company that milks the hell out of whatever concept provides profit - and doesn't attempt to change, add, or otherwise improve it in any way until that profit begins to suffer.

kaziechameleon
kaziechameleon

ok i'll let them get away with it this one time, creating a "remake" of a timeless game, but if they pull this crap with warcraft 4, or diablo3, i'll come after them. i know new units, new levels, and new story yet the game looks to familiar. a more flexible camera would be nice, or how about a queing system. i will own and love this game but blizzard is getting to good at doing things that have already been done.

tyzee
tyzee

The animation for the new starcraft looks Brilliant!

leonhartt
leonhartt

Dun copy cnc3's mothership!!

CodE-E
CodE-E

The Zergling rush in the video looks amazing. Really well animated!

yox_12
yox_12

so, this game focus in the gameplay...hm... i need bigger picture for that

TintedChimes
TintedChimes

I need more pictures, a freaking demo will be awesome.

MaCoDaMieNuTz
MaCoDaMieNuTz

You guys shouldn't doubt the talents in Blizzard for one second. I still play Warcraft 3 and I am still impressed with its graphics, primarily because of its attention to detail; an attribute that is overlooked in oh so many games today. Remember, the atmosphere of the game is what truly engages a player, and that is exactly what Blizzard excels at.

penguintacos
penguintacos

should be great to see how this game turns out

GizmoVirus
GizmoVirus

Another positive idea with Starcraft II, Blizzard sure know what there doing

GrimGravy
GrimGravy

game looks great i perfer artistic style to realism any day

Peaches1347
Peaches1347

i like the crappy graphics i don't want them ruinin the images of the classic buildings/units and they look more like classic starcraft look. i hope the movie scenes improve though

can0of0cheese
can0of0cheese

I will zerg everyone! Still the graphics seems kinda crappy.. not that i care, it's starcraft 2 for sailermoon's sake. They could have sold sausage named starcraft 2, i would have bought it.

100yan
100yan

I'm sure blizzard will deliver. SC2 will be fun as hell. I do have an issue w/ the graphics or rather the style... it's to cartoony. if they kept the graphics kind of low so that anyone can play the game, but just made it look a little more realistic and not so saturated i would be happy.

Goze
Goze

Awesome... I love the over-the-top concept and that is why I loved the original Starcraft so much. I'm glad that they figured in the need for quick differentiation of units into their overall plan, because that is so important in competitive games.

Warfust
Warfust

I am really looking forward to it, and it sounds like Blizzard is going to put their normal polish on the game.

Thing2
Thing2

OMG how many of you guys have even played starcraft!? I gotta say it doesn't sound like too many by some of these cheesy posts. Personally Starcraft was my very first PC game ever, right before Half-Life. Someone down there said that what we can expect is a very well balanced game....that's exactly why the original was so popular. This was what, 1998? 99 maybe, there are RTS games that have come out in the past few months that have not pulled off what the original Starcraft pulled off. Go check some reviews for the original if you don't believe me And personally I think you guys are putting WAY to much thought into whether it'll run on your PC or not. Like some people have been saying on this thread, if I had to guess I'd say it's going to run on your rig. Blizzard isn't trying to sell video cards with this game and get people to build new PC's, they want as many people as possible to play their game My point is, this game is going to play great and the graphics will not disappoint

FlashNovice
FlashNovice

hehe, I hope that the new map editor allows you to make your own graphics and doodads and stuff to put on the map... I would like to make a map of my house, complete with couches and stuff, and see how it plays... hehe, maybe I might even make my own campaign... well, I hope that's the case, cause adding that wont break the game or something... peace

night_haunter
night_haunter

gameplay is what this game is all about, but then again the graphics hel out in a huge way!

ut40755
ut40755

Will the pixel shader 2.0 be mandatory, or an option?

Funkyhamster
Funkyhamster

Blizzard rarely has good graphics technically, but their artistic talent is amazing. Just look at WoW; it looks wonderful, and can be maxed out with 4xAA and 16xAF on a 6600GT or lower.

LoserMike
LoserMike

Starcraft 2 will probably run perfectly fine on a Geforce 6000 series GPU, this is what I'm expecting from Blizzard. Blizzard games are never on the cutting-edge of technology, instead Blizzard tries to include as many computer systems as they can. WoW was the first good looking MMO that I can remember that ran decently on a low-end system when it was released.

rikhan_z
rikhan_z

These artist feels very condifent, I hope this game art turns out better then expected.

TurambarGS
TurambarGS

I'll say again, that I'll take gameplay over graphics, although I am hoping for a nice graphics bump over the screenshots that I've seen already. What was 'great' (in most people's opinions) about SC and SC:BW was that mid-low end computer could still play the game with ease without frame rate issues. That's awesome and inclusive and means it's available to the most amount of people possible but I'd still like plenty of graphics options that I can turn on (especially in campaign mode, where frame rate isn't such a priority) to push the limits of pretty :P

asmodeus_z
asmodeus_z

Agreed with WeeWeeJumbo - What differentiate Blizzard from the rest of the other company is - Graphics (still looks good even running on a older system) - Gameplay (does not required the latest cutting age system to play and rarely are there any severe bugs on shipping) - Storyline (the story is engaging even as it's fun and responsive)

WeeWeeJumbo
WeeWeeJumbo

I have a strong feeling that like every Blizzard game to date, SC2 will run perfectly with all goodies turned on, on a cutting-edge system, will run great on last year's system, will run decently on a three-year-old system, and will run passably on a five-year-old system. Blizzard always takes the route of involving as many players as possible, with a broad range of hardware setups.

zsc4
zsc4

This game is not merely about graphics, the gameplay is what it's all about.

alesys
alesys

Err.. if you expect awesome graphics, then go and play C&C or any other nubi wannabe rts game... What you may want to expect from SC2 is a well balanced and competitive game, with an awesome multi player platform. An unbeteable game (at least for the next 10 years).

crunchy9178
crunchy9178

Blizzard never seems to fail in the artistic department and judging from the screens it looks like it won't for SC2 Lets just hope the system specs aren't too demanding... :)

TheBeerinator
TheBeerinator

i wish i could see starcraft in graphics like Command & Conquer 3. that would be amazing

blackleech
blackleech

Hmm... hope they offer better graphics for those with more powerful pcs...

WarVengeance
WarVengeance

i jujst hope the graphics are sharper and smoother than the ones in warcraft 3

comthitnuong
comthitnuong

I hope that they do not put too much focus on the graphics..I want my computer to be able to handle this.

GreatTaco
GreatTaco

This so wanta make me be a game tester for Starcraft 2 =D Well let hope Starcraft 2 do not have player hater like most people in Warcraft Three that I usually meet just to have some fun they act like.... it real life and yeah.....

jwmakoto
jwmakoto

Sounds great, can't wait to see more of this game...