Art Panel Discussion Notes - BlizzCon 2005

11am, Saturday, October 29th, 2005.

The Art Panel was lead by:
Justin Thavirat - "Team 2" Art Director (for World of Warcraft)
Brian McCray - StarCraft:Ghost Team
Steve Rank - Console Development Lead
Chris Metzen - Lead Lore Guru
Samwise Didier - Art Director, Team 1 (Main Titles)

I'll have to apologize for the lack of textual meat in this section. Most of the presentation was delivered graphically, for obvious reasons. =) For more, see the image gallery.

Ahn'Quiraj and Patch 1.9
The art panel began with a preview of some of the artwork in the new upcoming Ahn'Quiraj dungeon to be released in patch 1.9. There was some footage of the tunnels of the Ahn'Quiraj dungeon, with the illuminated firefly lights swimming around the 'alien membrane tunnels.

Ahn'Quiraj was sealed off by the Titans, and the Quiraji have a 'relationship' with the Silithid.

We got a quick look at some of the new items that will be coming out in 1.9. They mostly have an egyptian/insectoid look to them. One of the items was an axe with a large eyeball in the middle of it, that looks around and blinks. Another was a cool scorpion tail looking mace weapon. A lot of the creatures and weapons that they are adding have a higher polygon count than previously. This upward polygon creep is intended to keep World of Warcraft graphically competative.

We also got a look at some of the revamps of Tier 1 raid armor that is being redone in 1.9. For the paladin, they wanted to explore more of the avenging judgement look. We also got a look at a rhino-esque looking Wrath armor, and some concepts for the Hunter Dragonstalker armor, and the shaman set as well.

The Burning Crusade:
The Night Elves already have kind of a mixed samurai/nordic feeling going, but the Blood Elves are more of a power-driven society, who build their structures to glorify their power. For them, literally, the sky is the limit. This was reflected in a lot of the concept art with the buildings being architecturally impossible, with a somewhat surreal floating quality to them.

Some of the concept art they showed us was the Blades Edge Mountains, which can be seen here in the Burning Crusades Wallpaper. The green stuff in the sky is the twisting nether, which is the WarCraft equivilient of the Astral Plane. A floating energy that sort of binds the remains of the destroyed Outlands together.

A picture of a 'fel-energy' fueled storm, and some concepts of Zangor Marsh, which is an purple and blue colored illuminated fungal forest. We saw 3d model of an Ogre King, and were told that Ogres are indigenous to the Outlands, but are larger than the ones that we see back on Azeroth. (Chris said, think half-giant sized.)

For the environment and the world they are increasing the model and polygon count.

We saw a concept drawing of the Nether Dragon, which is rumored to be the flying mount that you will use to get around in the Outlands.
A wrath guard ("it's very large"), a Fungal Giant from the Zangor Marsh, and a Arcane Golem, which are magical "enforcers" used by the Blood Elves.

Finally, we got to see some of the item models for The Burning Crusades. Most of the art was 'blood-elf' themed weaponry. Blizzard has a 'whole slew' of new artists, which they unleased on some of the 'grey items'. Many of the weapon and shield models looked better than some of the existing higher-end items, so they definiately have their work cut out for them in topping that.

StarCraft Ghost:
At this point, they handed the panel off to the StarCraft ghost guys, who ran us through some stuff, basically just showing off their unit models. They had a 'SCU' which they used to pick up and throw boxes and people with. They showed the new Grizzly air unit, which they described as a "more armored wraith", and showed how the Ghost unit can commandeer vehicles. Specifically, she climbed onto the back of a Vulture and threw the Light Infantry guy who was sitting on it, to the ground.

Next they showed us the Zerg and Protoss units including a pilotable protos scout which fired a plasma beam. They are currently working on getting the protos units into multi-player. They then switched to an outside map to show some of the building units from the game. The first of which was a command center. Someone from the audience yelled out a question asking if it lifts up, and they responded that it does indeed. They also showed a vespine gas tank, and a pylon that isn't stationary like it was in StarCraft. They closed up with showing us a marine base on Abbenon, a dreary lava planet, which had some of the terran units placed on some clifftops over a burbling mess of lava.

Question and Answers Segment
First question up was someone asking if since the Horde now has a 'pretty race', whether or not the Alliance were going to get an 'ugly race'. Chris Metzen responded that they were not telling. Someone from the audience yelled, 'the alliance already have dwarves'.

Someone asked if there will be new tameable creatures in the Outlands, and they responded 'that's a good question... yes'.

Next question was whether or not the Goliath was going to be in StarCraft:Ghost. They said that it was a scheduling issue, and asked how many people wanted the Goliath in. (Lots of cheering from the audience.)

Asked what software they use, the WoW team uses 3DS Max for modeling, and Maya for animation. The Ghost team uses Max for everything.

The StarCraft:Ghost has two graphical engines, one for each platform (XBox and Playstation), due to the vast technical differences.

Someone asked about problems sniping in Ghost, and they said that hit reactions are not in yet, so they realize that it is a bit hard to tell if you hit someone from a long distance right now.

Someone asked about 'real world physics' in Ghost, and they said they look at the real world, and the mechanics of sci-fi movies. They try and make it 'feel real' but their first priority is to be true to StarCraft. They said 'those crates are filled with helium', jokingly in response to the lightness of the crates being thrown around in the demo earlier. They also mentioned that the crates did not yet have sound effects, so they do appear 'too floaty'.

Samwise said he picked up most of his tricks working at Blizzard, and learned a lot from the rest of the team. He draws everything in pencil and paper, and colors in photoshop. He said he doesn't have time to paint.

Someone asked about the Starport and the Battle-Cruiser. The Ghost team responded that they have a level that takes place inside a Battle-Cruiser, but they are absolutely huge, and Starports like... make Battle-Cruisers, so how do you model something that builds something that is absolutely enormous.

There are no plans for the Valkyre. They've been replaced with the Grizzly.

Chris said that he doesn't draw as much as he used to.

Samwise said that the art team made numberous Dire Maul runs together. (There was some yelling from the audience here, and I think they said Dire Maul east?)

Justin said that they don't have 'concept artists' at Blizzard - everyone, the modellers, texture artists, etc, all work on concept art.

Someone asked why there are no body options in World of Warcraft, and they responded that it was mostly a technical issue, because they got in the way of all the armor. Chris added that there was also some lore issues, as you don't see 'fat' night elves, and generally the uniformity makes the classes more recognizeable on the battlefield.