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!
After touching up the pose, we move on to re-animating the standard idle motion. Slight changes on how muscles move, limbs are carried, or feet hit the ground can get across a better sense of weight for whatever creature it is we’re animating. Tweaking the male Tauren was a lot of fun because we were able to add a lot more weight than the previous model had and make the Tauren feel bigger and beefier. Another thing that stood out was the lack of motion on the nose ring, braids, and especially the face. With the addition of a facial rig, we were able to get his brows, nostrils, ears, and cheeks to react with his breathing motion. Getting these subtle motions to work added so much to the simple standing pose, I imagined the Tauren looking up at me and saying "thank you."
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the old and new models.
Next up is Kevin to talk about the face rig and what that process entails.
We also create a “face fileFace File
This file holds several expressions and phonemes for the player model.” with several preset expressions the animators can use while working. It’s a lot faster than creating a new pose from scratch. If they need a sad or angry face, they can start from the preset ones, and then adjust from there to make it more unique.
We also create several mouth shapes, or phonemes, for use in talking animations. Again, posing the face is time consuming, so having a jump start is extremely helpful. It also makes the character feel like it was animated by one person, when there’s actually a big group of us working on them at one time.
Once we had identified what needed polishing we went straight into Maya and got to work. A popular method of cleaning up locomotion animations would be saving the contact poses, major breakdowns, deleting the in-betweens, and smoothing out the motion from there.
Emotes were also super fun to work on. We would often times shoot video footage of ourselves acting out emote animations for reference—and no you don’t get to see them. We’d then use that reference as a jumping off point for setting key frames in Maya.
All of our character animations are hand keyed, and not dynamically simulated within the game engine or created through motion capture. This allows us to have complete control in shaping the movement and style for each character, and it adds a unique life to the characters you can’t really get any other way.