Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm artists color in unit design

Blizzcon 2011: A trio of Blizzard's 3D artists (and one engineer) discuss design and share additional details on Blizzard DOTA.


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Who was there: Conducting this Blizzcon 2011 panel were lead 3D artist Allen Dilling, 3D artist Steve Provost, lead graphics engineer Dominic Filion, and senior 3D artist Phill Gonzales.

Kerrigan is ready to kick butt in two games.
Kerrigan is ready to kick butt in two games.

What they talked about: Blizzard Entertainment is known for its iterative design process and commitment to releasing games "when they're done." At the Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm Art and Tech panel we got to see this process in motion, as well as learn a few extra details about the upcoming Blizzard DOTA. Dilling led this discussion, starting with an explanation of Blizzard's overall design philosophy and a slide show of some early versions of the new Heart of the Swarm units.

Provost spoke next about the environmental improvements in Heart of the Swarm. To illustrate this, he showed several slides of clean urban settings, a new lava tile set with walls that small units can walk on top of, and a very yellow gas planet with midair scaffolding. The focus is to give each environment a distinct color scheme to distinguish it from the rest. "All of the art in Heart of the Swarm is brand new," he added. "We used very little [art] from Wings of Liberty."

Gonzales then moved the discussion to an explanation of Blizzard DOTA's design philosophy--and a few extra details about the game. With design, it's all about the heroes. This is especially exciting for the Starcraft units, which are traditionally low on detail in their native game. Gonzales showed some of Blizzard DOTA's minion units (which all have a chess theme), as well as the mercenary ogres who have adapted to the futuristic technology prevalent in the game. An ogre king was also mentioned, described as a "gold pinata" that would spill out gold for the entire team if caught and killed.

In many cases, Gonzales said, the artwork came before the design concept for a character. Arthas was an example of this; the team knew they wanted him in the game, they had the art, and it was up to design to make it work. He then touched on a few different character models, including Illidan and a goblin tinkerer. Illidan's gameplay design is still in flux, but the goblin tinkerer will be able to construct structures on the battlefield (and pilot a giant mech suit).

The design team is also having some fun with the universe crossover in Blizzard DOTA. An example of this is Diablo III's witch doctor model, which was seen holding a severed troll shaman head and had a Zerg skull on its belt. Alternate outfits were teased, including the hulking stitches unit in marine armor. During the subsequent question-and-answer session, Dilling hinted at the pricing structure for Blizzard DOTA, stating that a box version isn't in the works (yet) and that they do want to release it free-to-play "in some form."

Quote: "We might have Arthas say something like 'Didn't I kill you already?' when he sees Illidan."--Phill Gonzales, on character interaction in Blizzard DOTA.

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