World of Warcraft art panel drops Deathwing details

BlizzCon 2009: Artists from the upcoming Cataclysm expansion pack give BlizzCon 2009 attendees a sneak peek at the way the world of Azeroth is going to change.

Who Was There: Chris Robinson, World of Warcraft art director, and the heads of the various art groups on the massively multiplayer online role-playing game.

What Did They Talk About: Chris Robinson and the team leads ran through an overview of the process of generating the staggering amount of art that's going into the just-announced Cataclysm expansion pack. The panel began with a quick look at some Ice Crown raid loot, then dove into a run through the art being created for the new races being introduced: the goblins and the Worgen. The team footage showed the art being implemented into the game.

Deathwing looks friendly...

The talk then shifted to creatures, specifically Deathwing, the winged terror that is central to the problems in Cataclysm. The audience got a look at sketches of the massive dragon in better days, when he was a just a protector of the land, before he went insane and wound up getting shattered. The sketches of a post shattering Deathwing showed the mighty dragon back, covered by goblin-forged plates designed to contain his power.

The technical art team shed some light on its specific role in the development of art. While a fair amount of the work it does is behind the scenes, focusing on fixing problems and improving performance, the team also generates the dungeon and world maps that are obviously a big part of the experience for players.

Lead animator Steve Aguilar was up next, giving the audience its first look at the animation being developed for the Worgen transformations. Aguilar noted that the team looked at a variety of references for inspiration, including movies, cartoons, and video games. Aguilar showed off the evolution of the transformation from rough pass to the most current version, tricked out with a first pass of special effects that include smoke and lighting.

The Worgen are back.

The next topic was the development of the zones, and the talk included a basic run-through of the process of their creation. The zones start out in brainstorming sessions where the team throws out ideas that are eventually mapped and prototyped to see how they feel. Ideas that make it through those stages are also checked to make sure they don't cause any technical or other performance issues. If there are no problems, then the stages are marked for inclusion in the game and passed on to the other art teams for polish.

The talk also touched on the various improvements that have been making their way into the game since its launch, which dovetailed into talk of the work being done for Cataclysm. Visual improvements such as more detail in levels, a greater viewing distance, and vertex shading have smoothed out the game's look so far. Cataclysm will continue to offer more improvements in those areas and include an impressive revamp of water in the game that improves its appearance and includes some very cool reflection effects, which will be implemented everywhere it can.

Lead city and dungeon artist Wendy Vetter took the mic next and ran the audience through the creation of cities and dungeons. The team starts by examining the storyline and background lore tied to what's being created. She then discussed the kind of gameplay needed for the areas. Once that's all sorted, the team pulls reference materials and artists begin creating concepts and experimenting with color and lighting. Silhouettes are also key, since the team wants to make sure players are able to recognize locations at a glance. Central to work on cities and dungeons is the use of a style guide to ensure that what's created correlates to character design.

Onyxia gets fired up.

Vetter also touched on the new technology being implemented in the Cataclysm expansion and how the new cities and dungeons are benefitting. Texture blending is playing a big role in giving the new underwater area, the Abyssal Maw, an organic look. Vetter closed her section with a movie showing a montage focusing on the Worgen village, which mixes sketches with gameplay to show off how the art is translating into the game.

Jason Morris, lead prop artist, picked up the talk following the movie to offer insight into the role of props in the game. The objects are meant to complement the story and help set the mood. To illustrate his point, Morris showed off an early look at a Worgen village. Besides the expected assortment of houses that looked slightly sinister, Morris pointed out how the various props peppered throughout the area--curtains, leaves, and scraps of paper--are all given some movement. A fly-through of the area also showed off gypsy-style caravans and light posts. Morris pointed out that the team has created roughly 350 props and showed footage of the area with and without the props to illustrate their subtle but key contribution.

Morris then gave an overview of the logic behind the goblin props, which have a cobbled-together look. Drinks were shown to be served in hollowed-out coconuts, direction signs were springy arrows, and food preparation machines were inelegant creations that punched eggs out of chickens and demolished carrots. There were also the expected mechanical contraptions of questionable use such as rocket turtle catapults. Morris also showed off the props being created for the Abyssal Maw which included coral, and a jellyfish elevator.

Cataclysm will feature goblin beach parties.

The panel wrapped up with a combination Q&A and a live demo showing senior artist Dion Rogers creating a tree in real time. The Q&A responses revealed some interesting bits of information. The team is working toward refreshing the older zones and races with coming expansions. Cataclysm will update a fair number of zones, but not all will get a refresh. Character skins are likely to be refreshed over the next two expansions or so.

The team is also working to increase the resolution of the older armor sets to pretty them up some. There are still no plans for customization features such as armor recoloring because the team is still thinking about how to implement the feature without winding up with hot pink goblins running around the world. It was also pointed out that one of the challenges in adding color to armor sets is that the art teams color the sets off of class to make it easier for recognition in player-vs.-player.

Random Facts: All the zones in World of Warcraft are still done by hand. The same is true of all textures.

The Takeaway: The upcoming Cataclysm expansion pack is shaping up to be the most drastic overhaul of World of Warcraft that has been seen since the game's release.

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Discussion

100 comments
yelicateta
yelicateta

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

maliGGs
maliGGs

for a game that generates $250 million in revenue every year, this is nothing.

Evilthiefs
Evilthiefs

@Tomislaf, Don't you find it a bit boring though,the leveling? I don't think I would enjoy it again tbh

theguf
theguf

Best MMO ever. Ate 3 years of my life. Wouldn't take it back.

Tomislaf
Tomislaf

Well i say yes its worth every second u play it... Didnt stop with WoW even when I had a lvl 80 priest ready for ulduar then stopped with the priest and lvled a shaman up to 80 on other server from lvl 1

GetafixOz
GetafixOz

Gotta hand it to Blizz.... love this game or hate it.... they massage it like its an elite athlete and it runs like one. I dont play it, but I am a fan.

Evilthiefs
Evilthiefs

Wow, Reading this gets me really excited lol, though that might sound a bit sad? :P I stopped some time after I hit 80,mainly 'cause I got quite bored due to doing the same heroic dungeons over and over to gear up for high-end content,then eventually getting there and having troubles with guilds etc... You probally know what I'm talking about. But it also gave me alot of joy in return, I met several people,who are now some of my closest friends. And I must say doing Karazhan and BT,Naxx and Obsidian Sanctum,playing as a DK and much much more,was frickking awesome. Though I wonder now,will it be worth the hassle and the tedious task of leveling(from the start to 85),finding guilds,being on time and prepared for the raids,doing my homework,not getting in the way of sport and a few other things... So guys,what are your thoughts on this? Do you think its worth it?

upgradeyd
upgradeyd

I stop playing after 3 long years was really bad at the beginning, but now im a free man again and i never never go back to wow again!!!!!!!!!!

titloco
titloco

is a good game but play for 3-4 year i dnot no man that the blizzar want people play forever i play no forever

Naimek
Naimek

This will definetly make a reason for players to play wow but Blizzard had over changed it. I am sayin this because me and fw of my friends have been playing WOW for some time now and it is a beauy game with beauty scenery but this will change. WHY?? Because of this expansion the beauty jungles,unusual Darkshore and many more will be destroyed because of this lava. I JUST WANTED TO SAY THAT BLIZZARD WILL DESTROY THE WARCRAFT WORLD. AND THAT I STILL LIKE WOW

Pete5506
Pete5506

Wow just think of all the money people are throwing away every month

insanitycheck7
insanitycheck7

Playing a worgen sounds like the ability to play Alliance and Horde rolled into one.

Bowser05
Bowser05

That is awesome. I enjoyed WotLK because it had some good solo content, but I got bored of it after I got to 80 and did the Heroic Dungeons a few times. This looks like it might be the first true and proper Blizzard expansion (no offense to BC or WotLK...both which I did enjoy). Not to mention I've been waiting FOREVER for Deathwing's return. Can't wait to join in again when this is launched.

df-1
df-1

@wolfie600 Goblins are with the horde. Worgen are with the alliance. Seems like you'll still be a hordie :)

Wolfie600
Wolfie600

That goblin with the warlock tier is it? looks totally radical. Finally a reason for me to roll an alliance! :D cant wait

devoid27
devoid27

ChoiMein@ Yes i do agree with the fact that Blizzard took ideas from pother things but I dont agree that blizzard rips off from other companies simply because what basically Blizzard does is looking at other games mistakes and making sure that there wont be any defaults with their games like WH has or Runes of magic or RUnescape. Most of MMO's suck today and the only 2 that are mainly flayed are FF XI and WoW. Warhammer's gameplay isn't that perfect, and thats why today most of people prefer WoW because its the only MMO today that is made correctly thatnks to BLizzard. Plus I don't remember any BLazzard games that failed yet. Star Craft Ghost probably could be a fail, thats why Blizzard canceled it. Im not getting angry with any one. I just don't understand why so many people complain about WoW when most of them spend hours on it.

Axal69
Axal69

this might be the ice breaker to having me return to WoW again. the goblin race sounds pretty damn cool if u ask me, plus alot of other good features, character customization, flying mounts in azeroth, and a pathway system?? sounds pretty hype-ish, definately gonna give this game another go.

phmeyer
phmeyer

Worgens. I'm definitely going to Alliance for that. Man this is going to be good!

OF-5
OF-5

I quit a year ago I really did... but... now... cant resist... must reinstall World...of Warcraft!

terafumos
terafumos

I didn't expect an overhaul of this magnitude. It's clear that Blizzard does in fact thoroughly listen to their customers, and even these days gives in to their silliest demands occasionally. Which is a good thing, by the way. :)

TheFrostWolf
TheFrostWolf

Until Now I Always Played as The Horde. But The Worgens Are The Only Reason I am Going To Play As The Alliance

BigDaddy973
BigDaddy973

Does sound pretty cool, I love dragons!

SauhlGood
SauhlGood

yeah that other shot is not deathwing, gamespot...

-Adob-
-Adob-

The wow fanbase speaks for the game. Years after its release it has over 10 million subscribers. You can like it or not, and that's alright. Everybody can't find enjoyment in the same products, but don't come here to curse and swear about how much you don't like it.

Genexus
Genexus

IMO... Everyone has their own opinion on MMORPG's and WOW in particular. IMO this is the best MMO EVER!! Went through AOC, LOTRO, GW and BF2142 but nothing compares to WOW ATM..they are all great games but WOW is the undisputed Champion of MMORPG's... ...IMO :)

Revan_911
Revan_911

Wow sucks! You do the same thing all the time.

asdfpo
asdfpo

"Deathwing gets fired up." thats onyxia folks

Poppy425
Poppy425

I still play Warhammer..but I do get bored if there isn't any good pvp going on.. and now the game is down to what a handful of active servers. I wanted Warhammer to be good..I knew it wouldn't take out WOW.. I don't think anyone right now can.. Not even the New Star Wars game will do that but Warhammer just had too many problems. And the fact the higher end lvling was so boring.. just very slow grind with little story to even keep you interested. It has been patched and is better now.. but Still mainly boring. Wow can be boring too.. but it is better than other MMO's in that department.. alot of the other's don't have a coherent storyline anyways.

Never3ndingLife
Never3ndingLife

WoW is so massive... seriously the most massive and powerful game ever in my opinion.. i used to play so i know its wrath.. it is one HELL OF A GAME..the game of games...king of all games if you think about it

Kosake
Kosake

This makes me actuially consider coming back to playing WoW... Maybe putting down a few game cards on it to get caught up would worth it... But honestly.... goblins? no ty. I'd rather have my goblins either being something I'm killing, or that i'm buying stuff from / selling stuff to.

trane2
trane2

thank god i left wow, its pointless and stupid i dont care what u ppl think but star wars mmo will rip this into pieces

ChoiMein
ChoiMein

devoid holy cow.. man you have some anger issues.. Warhammer actually isn't that bad a game TBH.. although it DID feel a lot like WoW, it wasn't a WoW clone.. lore wise, Warcraft is actually based off of things like warhammer.. Warhammer has been around much longer than Warcraft. As well, Blizzard tends to rip off other people as well.. I mean, just look at what's coming in cataclysm! Guild leveling system?? Where do you think they got that from?? Warhammer. And yes, WoW's graphics are dated but I agree, you shouldn't base your entire opinion on graphics. Anyways, jsut so you don't get angry with me, I currently play WoW and I'm excited for these changes, but don't be so naive as to think that all the things that Blizzard does are "brand new" ideas... they've been ripping people off for years by implementing others ideas into their gameS (notice the s there..).. they're just good at spinning them enough so they aren't copyright infringements..

Satross
Satross

@devoid27 ooooor maybe because onyxia is the spawn of deathwing maybe *hint hint* =P

devoid27
devoid27

Mabe Deathwing looks slightly like onyxia because its a Dragon?

devoid27
devoid27

Just a little message to those dumbasses that think that Runescape is better than WoW and to those that think that WoW's graphics suck for the 2009 compare to all the other games. Now listen, if some of you play games only for the graphics, then you should get your selves a good pair of glasses and a therapist because that's the dumbest thing anyone can say. WoW isn't based on graphics. It's based on it's story line, it's community and the way people interact together within the game to achieve various goals (Raids, QUests, etc.) YOu know people still play FF VII nowadays?? Why?? because that game is kickass and will always remain KiCKASS. Now please, if you want to insult this game, do so to your selves in the mirror once or twice a day to keep your selves busy. But don't do it here where most of the people love this game with passion.

devoid27
devoid27

Nibustan@ Warhammer sucks compare to WoW. And the whole game is a cheap rip off from WoW if you haven't noticed. WoW is #1 most played MMORPG in the world..If you haven't noticed.

rottenskater
rottenskater

The pic is actually of the Onyxia fight look at where it is lol.

Trogeton
Trogeton

WoW consumes peoples lives... Watch out

Wylen0
Wylen0

Well then. i quit wow a year ago becuase it was getting bland and old seeing the same thing over and over. but now that you can play as the WORGEN and they changed the terrain alot i will probally start back up.... darn you blizzard just when i thought i was in the clear

AyKay_47
AyKay_47

@Nibustan The number of people playing WoW is still in the millions, and still growing, if you haven't noticed.

Nibustan
Nibustan

Poppy425@ Warhammer has actually stolen many WoW players, if you haven't noticed.

Poppy425
Poppy425

Looking forward to the Deathwing storyline.. and making a gobbie anything.. hehe. As for the morons that think Aion is going to even dent Wow's popularity.. Really? Wow Killer? I bet you said the said the same for Warhammer, Conan, Guild Wars, EQ 2, Vanguard, Pirates anything, Tabula Rasa, D&D online...

Yossi1007
Yossi1007

BTW WE R SICK O THESE EX PACKS FOR WOW THERE IS NO EVEN ONE THING THAT CAN UPGRADE ITS STUPID SQUARISH GRAPHICS

Yossi1007
Yossi1007

WOW IS EPIC FAIL ON THESE YEARS ITS FROM 2004 ITS ALMOST CLASSIC IT HAVE TOO BAD GRAPHICS FOR THIS TIME WAIT FOR FF14 ONLINE IT WILL KICK WOWS A**

lannyboy334
lannyboy334

That deathwing shot is not going to be the final model, I guarantee you. The game is still in its earlier developement and polishing stages, the model that they will end up using will end up being more interesting, Illidan and Arthas are both very cool looking models, I would certainly expect the same for one of the strongest creatures in all of Warcraft Lore.

Link3301
Link3301

for all of those people who say deatwing looks like onyxia you are right. The reason is that deathwing is onyxia's father