By perculia on 2014/10/29 at 1:32 PM Pacific
By perculia on 2014/07/20 at 3:27 PM Pacific
By perculia on 2014/07/17 at 2:09 PM Pacific
Built upon the remnants of an ogre civilization, Ashran looks deceptively like a nice enough island just off the coast of Tanaan Jungle. And it probably would be a lovely place to visit if not for the never-ending tug-of-war between the Horde and Alliance taking place in the central region of the zone. Then again, this might just be just your kind of excursion.
Ashran offers tons of opportunities for players to engage in a variety of activities, whether they want to go it solo or join a group, slay monsters, or engage in PvP with their rival faction.
Over the years, players have been asking for more opportunities to engage in world PvP, and we’ve experimented with a variety of approaches to that in places like Halaa and Wintergrasp. Creating opportunities for unscripted, unexpected skirmishes might seem simple on the surface, but they’re often difficult to engineer without sacrificing the unpredictable nature of these encounters. In its purest form, world PvP means no boundaries or limitations on when skirmishes break out. When creating areas specifically designated for PvP encounters, gameplay objectives will always have an impact on how people play and engage with each other. In the end, many will choose the path of least resistance to achieve their faction’s win condition, and sometimes that path involves simply ignoring other players.
In order to create the type of atmosphere that encourages more free-form world PvP in Ashran, we decided to apply lessons we’ve learned from the Timeless Isle. By giving players more personal goals and opportunities—such as killing creatures—players are more likely to find themselves spontaneously engaging in PvP to compete for them. We want players to get caught up in the moment and become emotionally invested in the outcome of each new encounter, whether it’s just getting the drop on a member of the opposite faction player or getting revenge for a stolen kill. While Ashran still has plenty of objective-based conflict (more on that in a bit), if you want that distinctive flavor of world PvP, the island has that for you too.
Located off the coast of Tanaan Jungle, Ashran is a large, open PvP zone for players who have reached the max level of 100, and it offers a little something for everyone. Players can reach the island easily a few different ways, including using a flight path or by unlocking quick access within their Garrison once it reaches Tier 3. The more daring—or foolhardy—adventurers could also try doggy paddling to the island, but we don’t recommend it. (Seriously, we wouldn’t try it if we were you. You’ve been warned. In a world where pretty much everything wants to kill you, you’re best off traveling to an island of pure conflict the safest possible way. We really wouldn’t steer you wrong on this one.)
Unlike previous PvP zones, such as Tol Barad or Wintergrasp, no raid group is required to take part in the excitement, and the zone will cap out at approximately 100 players per side, opening the door to some truly epic-sized confrontations. To keep the action amped up, the same large group of regular realms will feed into the zone, so it’s likely you’ll run into some familiar faces whenever you visit, both friend and foe. There will be plenty of room to roam, as Ashran measures approximately the size of the Isle of Thunder. The intention is to provide as much of a true world PvP experience as we possibly can to those who choose to frequent the island. The odds may not always be in your favor, but with so many places to hunker down to either hide or lie in wait, there are plenty of opportunities to achieve whatever goals you’ve set forth for yourself.
At each end of the island, separate from the conflict enveloping the isle, players will find a small sanctum of relative safety. Full-sized Horde and Alliance hubs sit behind each faction’s base, offering pretty much everything a regular city would.
Ready to dive into the fray? One main artery runs through the center of the zone, and it’s here that you’ll engage in an endless faction tug-of-war. At opposite endpoints, Horde and Alliance bases wait to be captured, and you’ll be fighting for control of five additional capture points as you make your way down the lane. Capturing these points along the way will push you and your faction toward the enemy base, making it possible to take the battle all the way to the opposing faction’s base. To effectively hamstring your opponents and hobble their efforts for a time, you’ll just need to take down their General within their base. Doing so will not only garner you bragging rights, but will also deny the opposing faction access to their General, who serves as a Conquest vendor.
At the central hub, the Ogre King stands waiting, flanked by his two bodyguards. Engaging one of the bodyguards and proving your worth in combat will win the Ogre King to your faction’s side, and he will fight for you for a time. But beware! His endurance is limited, and the longer he goes undefeated, the more susceptible to damage he becomes.
As in many Battlegrounds, each faction will have a Resource count available to them. Once a faction’s Resources drop to 100, they’ll get a little extra help via a randomly spawning Captain who will begin to fight for their side. Many of these will bear familiar names such as Swifty, who will fight for the Alliance, or Talbadar, who will fight for the Horde. There’s no guarantee who will ultimately come to your aid, however. Each time a side reaches this Resource count, a new random captain will join the fray.
There’s more to Ashran than the conflict in the central lane. Around Ashran there are additional points of interest (POIs) and monsters to slay. The various POIs offer a variety of random events which will allow players to win awards for the Horde or Alliance. Buffs can also be earned by killing other players or NPCs. There are currently seven POIs set around the edges of Ashran—we’ll go into detail on each of these later on down the line.
As you make your way around Ashran, you’ll be collecting currency from other players and from monsters you’ve slain. This currency can then be turned in at your base for additional bonuses for your faction, such as Mage Portals or a Warlock Gateway. Or you can choose to summon a random—and truly epic—NPC to join in the fight. You’ll want to take care, though, and plan your turn-ins accordingly. One losing encounter with a player of the opposite faction can strip you of your hard-fought treasure and have it wind up in their pockets instead.
You’ll also be able to collect zone-bound items (usable only on the island) to give yourself a little extra advantage as you take on the various challenges around Ashran.
For those looking for the next step in gear, Ashran will provide access to Conquest-quality gear that is unavailable elsewhere.
Building on lessons learned from the Timeless Isle and Alterac Valley, we want players who make their way to Ashran to always have something exciting to do, and to offer them a true world PvP experience. Whether your aim is to engage in PvP or take on the various points of interest, there’s bound to be something to get your adrenaline going.
Our perilous journey through Draenor now takes us into the treacherous jungles and unforgiving canyons of Gorgrond, where opposing primeval forces are locked in an eternal battle. We sat down with Senior Game Designer Steve Burke, Associate Game Designer Zachariah Owens, and Game Designer Ryan Shwayder to find out more of what this savage land has in store.
Located in northern Draenor, Gorgrond is where heroes either rise up and persevere or fall and become carrion for rylaks. After your initial confrontation with the Iron Horde (in Shadowmoon Valley for the Alliance or Frostfire Ridge for the Horde), this brutal, beautiful land divided by ancient hostilities is your next destination.
(Check back later for music.)
At this point in our journey, players have survived the rigors of Tanaan Jungle and journeyed through either the majestic forests of Shadowmoon Valley or the icy expanse of Frostfire Ridge. What brings them to Gorgrond, and what’s the story waiting for them to discover there?
Steve Burke: After withstanding the Iron Horde’s initial assault, you’ll make your way into Gorgrond with a handful of allies to try to discover the Blackrock orcs’ intentions and find a way to thwart any plans the Iron Horde may have. It’s a perilous recon mission. Gorgrond is a land of giants embroiled in an epic struggle between creation and destruction. It’s the kind of place you avoid unless you have a death wish.
If you’re an Alliance player, you’ll enter the zone from the eastern coast, where you’ll get your first taste of things to come. You’ll immediately encounter an elite group of draenei known as the Rangari holed up in a hidden encampment, fighting for their lives against vicious plant-like creatures. When the dust settles, your group will join the Rangari survivors and make a retreat to a clearing deeper in the zone.
Horde players will enter the zone from the west, where you’ll encounter the Laughing Skull clan. These maniacal orcs are volatile and bloodthirsty, capable of extreme brutality—and as you experience Gorgrond for yourself, you’ll begin to understand why. The Laughing Skull orcs are struggling to maintain their ancestral territory, but the brutality of being constantly assaulted by the warring factions of the zone has forged them into bloodthirsty savages.
How would you describe the zone’s ambience? What’s it like?
Steve Burke: Gorgrond consists of two distinct regions, each reflecting the nature of its inhabitants. The eastern portion of the zone is filled with lush plant life and shimmering pools. It seems idyllic until you realize looks aren’t everything. The northwest region couldn’t be more different. It’s a dry, barren wasteland, but with a beauty of its own. Fantastic rock formations mixed with geysers and sulphur pools create an unconventionally vibrant environment.
Zachariah Owens: The forested region definitely isn’t what it seems. The creatures here are merciless in seeking out anyone who enters their territory. They will capture them, kill them, and then infest their corpses with plant life or mulch them into fertilizer. Basically, everything in this zone wants to kill or eat you—in that order, if you’re lucky.
Which locations would you say are some of your favorites?
Steve Burke: Personally, I love the steam pools and geysers. They remind me of my visits to Yellowstone as a kid. I really like the level design of the whole zone. It does a great job at setting the scene for the events that take place.
Zachariah Owens: For me, it’s Evermorn Springs. The rainbow, the pristine lake, and the botani homes are a beautiful contrast to the decaying bones and corpses the grove rests upon. The majestic botani move here and there tending to the grove while their infested denizens patrol like mindless guards ready to attack anyone who would threaten the bloom.
Ryan Shwayder: Most of the zone has a really expansive feel to it, but two places in particular always grab my attention. The first is Gronn Canyon. It is filled with dangerous monsters and is a barren wasteland, but it’s also somehow incredibly beautiful. And the name is a pun, which automatically makes me like a place more. The second is Tangleheart, a lush jungle where botani are working to raise new ancients for their armies. The ancients here have fiercely embraced their susceptibility to fire . . . but you'll have to delve into the jungle see how.
What outposts will players be able to build in Gorgrond, and how do they impact the Garrison?
Steve Burke: The outposts you build shortly after arriving in Gorgrond will provide a preview of a building you might want to include in your own Garrison. In this zone, you’ll make a meaningful choice between building a Lumber Mill and a Sparring Arena.
The Lumber Mill will grant access to the shredder, a vehicle you can summon throughout the zone. The shredder will grant powerful abilities and allow you to cut your way to otherwise inaccessible treasures and areas.
The Sparring Arena will provide a gladiator who will fight alongside you and bestow a buff that will increase in power based on your prowess. If you do the entire quest line, you will free up to five gladiators, each with their own distinct buffs.
Your choice of outpost will also determine which region of the zone you’re directed to quest through and have an impact on how you’ll assault the Iron Horde.
There’s lots left to discover on our journey through Draenor—be sure to check back for more zone previews soon.
Our journey into the wilds of Draenor takes us next into Talador. We unabashedly absconded with a little of Associate Quest Designer Johnny Cash’s* time to learn what’s waiting for players here.
Located in the heart of Draenor, Talador offers significant strategic value to the Iron Horde should they complete their quest to gain control. The city of Shattrath, a shining jewel of draenei civilization, now lies in the Iron Horde’s clutches, and the situation is looking grim..
Zone Music Piece: Last Night by Neal Acree
What can you tell us about the path that leads players into the events taking place in Talador? How does the story evolve within this zone?
Johnny Cash: After coming out of a major confrontation against the Iron Horde in Gorgrond and leaving one of their bases in ruin, you and your forces have begun erecting an outpost just north of the draenei city of Tuurem in a bid to push back the invading fleet. Under the command of the ruthless Warlord Blackhand the Destroyer, the Iron Horde has already made landfall on the Orunai Coast and have taken most of northern Talador—including the sprawling city of Shattrath, the trade capital for all of draenei civilization. If they aren’t stopped soon, all of Talador will fall into Grommash Hellscream’s grip, and the rest of Draenor is sure to follow. Talador’s strategic location at the heart of Draenor would give the Iron Horde the perfect launching point for their amassing forces in Tanaan Jungle.
Pushing the Iron Horde back will be no simple feat, however. They have greater numbers, a stronger foothold, and one of the most brilliant military generals to ever live backing its mission. A confrontation of epic proportions between Warlord Blackhand and Orgrim Doomhammer within Shattrath will shake the city’s foundations, and not every hero who enters may make it out alive.
Even once the Iron Horde is routed out of Shattrath, the city will not remain safe for long, as new foes are waiting to emerge and lay claim to the city. The Sargerai are a sect of draenei who have aligned themselves with the Shadow Council to usher Gul’dan’s twisted schemes into fruition. With most draenei cities razed and sacked by the Iron Horde, allies are few and far between . . . but they do exist. Pockets of draenei resistance dot Talador’s forests, eager to retake their homes and enact vengeance on their assailants. In an ancient caldera to the east at a major ley line nexus, Archmage Khadgar and the Kirin Tor have taken up residence. Perhaps most curiously, there have been several sightings near the city of Aruuna of arakkoa outcasts—flightless bird-men powerful in the ways of shadow magic. Some say their existence is little more than a legend, but players will have to find out for themselves if the rumors are true—and if they are, what brings the arakkoa outside of their ancestral home in Spires of Arak . . . or, more importantly, who.
On top of all of the very real threats players face in their first foray into Talador, a darker, more sinister threat lurks to the south. Teron’gor, right hand of Gul’dan, leads a massive assault on the holy mausoleum of Auchindoun, resting place for all draenei souls. Demons pour in at the Burning Front from the remains of a ruined world somewhere in the Twisting Nether. The Shadow Council eyes the city of Telmor. Exarch Maladaar leads the Auchenai, ancient defenders of Auchindoun, in a desperate effort to hold off the seemingly endless waves of death. If their lines falter, Teron’gor will have unhindered access to innumerable draenei souls . . . and plans to consume them to gain a terrible power not meant for mortal hands. But the Auchenai have an ally that Teron’gor did not expect. Lady Liadrin and her Sunsworn felt the demonic presence and have flocked to Auchindoun’s aid, and will call upon players to help turn the tide—but will they be enough?
How would you describe the zone’s ambience and the creatures that can be found in it?
Johnny Cash: Talador is home to the heart of draenei civilization. It is stunningly beautiful, and the zone has a palette of oranges, golds, and greens that make it incredibly vibrant.
It’s particularly lovely at dusk and into the evening, where its gentle orange sky fades into a dazzling starry night. The zone really showcases the breadth of draenei life: the sprawling trade hub of Shattrath, the massive mausoleum that is Auchindoun, the iconic city of Tuurem, the mythical Telmor (it does exist!), and so many others. Talador is more than a pretty place, though, and there is a prevailing sense of urgency that you feel everywhere you go. The Iron Horde and the Shadow Council threaten to unravel all that you’ve done in one fell swoop. Talador also boasts these great contrasts everywhere: old versus new, tranquil versus literally on fire.
Of course, while you’re in Talador you’ll have run-ins with the many creatures that call this great forest home, many of whom have adapted unique hunting techniques to survive. The devious stalker is able to change its skin coloration to camouflage it, allowing it to ambush prey or escape predators unseen. Mighty teroclaws, flying beasts that use their strong beaks to sever both flesh and bone, rule the skies here rather than the rylaks found in many of Draenor’s other locales. Moths are drawn to the plentiful water sources, and have developed the ability to channel the abundant magic energy in the air around them into condensed blasts. Those same water sources are home to all sorts of electric eels, poison frogs, and even mighty riverbeasts. Some caves are home to ferocious territorial spiders that few dare disturb—their venom is said to be able to alter both the body and mind. Tigers prowl the lower mountain ridges, hungry for their next kill. Talador looks like a welcoming place . . . but every forest has its dark side.
Which locations are some of your favorites? Any highlights players should make sure to see and experience?
Johnny Cash: Talador offers some truly diverse locations that are all worth a visit. You’re seeing these places that you may be familiar with from The Burning Crusade in a totally different light. You know more or less where everything is in Talador already if you braved the Terokkar Forest, but nothing in those locations is quite as you remember it. That’s what makes it so exciting to explore. I would say there are three main areas and their surroundings that really define Talador: Shattrath, Auchindoun, and the northeastern forest.
Shattrath is initially occupied by the Iron Horde and is exponentially larger than the Shattrath players know from The Burning Crusade. Carefully manicured trees and hedges lines its walkways, and numerous rises, canals, and bridges connect several large, unique sections of the city. One section is protected and cordoned off by an ornate, magically enhanced shell structure. Nearby, Shattrath’s docks offer ample room for traders from all across Draenor to come peddle their wares—or for an Iron Horde war fleet to bring their ships. Those who prefer to live a quieter lifestyle outside of the hustle and bustle of the big city may find themselves in Tuurem or a village along the Orunai Coast.
Auchindoun has not yet been sullied by the Shadow Council, and players will have a chance to see it in all its glory. Draenei from all around make pilgrimages there to pay their respects to their ancestors and the recently deceased. The northeastern forest may not have an enormous city dominating its horizon, but it is far from short on sights worth seeing. Your Garrison outpost stands tall in an ideal position for accessing the whole of Talador, wherever your presence is needed.
What outpost bulidings are available, and what will players be able to earn for their Garrison?
Johnny Cash: Talador will offer some really cool choices that will affect your Garrison. You’ll have the opportunity to build an Arcane Sanctum or an Arsenal in the last available spot in the outpost. Which building you choose will offer you a different questing experience, a blueprint to construct a Mage Tower or Armory at your Garrison, and a special follower. Each building also unlocks a special zone ability to use anytime you’re in Talador. You can call in an artillery strike from the cannon mounted on the Arsenal, or summon a guardian orb from the Arcane Sanctum that will follow you around for a time and fry any enemies that dare to get too close.
Talador is full of enemies to slay and problems to solve, and I hope you enjoy playing it as much as we did making it. Good luck; have fun!
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about Talador, and we look forward to continuing the journey through Draenor in our next zone preview.
*Not to be confused with the original “man in black,” though Johnny—like most game designers—does own a healthy collection of black T-shirts. He does not, however, take song requests.
By perculia on 2014/06/30 at 2:10 PM Pacific
Hidden under a shroud of perpetual night broken only by bright starlight, the lush idyllic forests of Shadowmoon Valley are home to a majestic draenei tomb and sanctuary: Karabor. While many of Shadowmoon’s denizens study prophecy among Karabor’s ancient stone circles, plotters with darker ambitions lurk in the valley’s vast underground cave network, gazing greedily at the sacred temple.
Zone Music Piece: Eternal Night
In Warlords of Draenor, Shadowmoon Valley serves as the starting zone for Alliance players once they’ve endured the initial rigors of Tanaan Jungle and survived their first encounter with the Iron Horde. To take you on a journey through Shadowmoon’s forests, temples, and secrets, we’ve tapped one of the creative minds behind the zone, Senior Designer Helen Cheng.
What’s the story in Shadowmoon Valley?
Helen Cheng: After a daring escape from the Iron Horde in Tanaan Jungle, Alliance players crash land on the northern shores of Shadowmoon Valley.
The valley is tranquil and serene. Rolling green hills give way to lush, violet forests. Draenei temples stand proudly beneath a star-studded sky. Here, the draenei have built wonders of their civilization—the town of Elodor with its majestic Altar of Sha’tar serves as the proud home of the great Exarchs, while the shining Temple of Karabor acts as the font of all holy learning. Under Prophet Velen and Exarch Akama’s watch, all is well.
But times are changing. The Iron Horde have called the native orc clans to join their ranks. The Shadowmoon Clan, led by Warlord Ner’zhul, yearns to prove itself worthy to Grommash Hellscream. Beneath the valley’s bright moon, a dark star hangs in the sky. For centuries, the Shadowmoon have been forbidden to tap its void-touched energy . . . until now. Will Warlord Ner’zhul succeed in harnessing the star’s power to destroy the draenei and the Temple of Karabor? Or will Prophet Velen, aided by his disciple Yrel—and a few fearless heroes—be able to stop him?
Meanwhile, trouble brews amongst the Exarchs, the most powerful and influential draenei heroes. Even as they debate the future of the draenei on their adopted homeworld, there is growing evidence of a traitor among their ranks. Who can be trusted?
The night elf Wardens sense a demonic presence in the northern woods of Shadowmoon Valley. As they hunt for the source of the fel energy, a sinister truth is revealed: Gul’dan, the Destroyer of Dreams, has returned.
Most importantly, as a proven champion of the Alliance, you are charged with establishing the Alliance foothold on Draenor. The land is harsh and unforgiving, and the Iron Horde has amassed an enormous army without equal. Before you can hope to defeat them, you must build a stronghold—your Garrison—from the ground up and gather allies to face this indomitable foe.
What are some of your favorite places within the zone?
Helen Cheng: Shadowmoon Valley is one of the most beautiful places on Draenor, with a breathtaking variety of stunning areas. I would say that the two most striking aspects of Shadowmoon Valley are the draenei and Shadowmoon orc areas.
The draenei architecture in Shadowmoon is really impressive. You get everything from a merchant town in Embaari Village to the valorous training grounds of the Exarchs in the north to the crystalline dome that is Teluuna Observatory. The draenei are cultured and sophisticated. Theirs is the pinnacle of an advanced society, and their towns and cities reflect a perfect balance of beauty and function. I really love all of the draenei locations—and there are more in other zones—but the Temple of Karabor has to be one of my favorites. The sheer size and scale of the place is incredible, and it’s remarkable to see it in its glory before the events of The Burning Crusade, which turned it into the Black Temple under Illidan’s control.
The Shadowmoon clan structures are impressive as well. The Shadowmoon were once a wise people, with a deep respect for the elements and a natural curiosity about the stars. They are natural-born leaders with a strong affinity for magic. However, since they joined the Iron Horde, Ner’zhul has strayed from the ancient ways. You can see this gradual decay reflected in their way of life. The Burial Fields is a place where the Shadowmoon traditionally bury and honor their dead. That place has become defiled and corrupted with void magic. Their ancestors, whom they once revered, are now being brutally tormented. Ner’zhul’s stronghold, Anguish Fortress, is an open-air ziggurat with a sacrificial pit in its center. In a nearby dungeon, players will see that there are more dark secrets hidden beneath this compound.
Tell us more about the Alliance garrison!
Helen Cheng: Nestled near the northern shores and with a commanding view of the main road, the Alliance Garrison location is of immense strategic importance. Prophet Velen will give the land to players as a thank-you for their deeds in the jungles of Tanaan, the intro zone. But there isn’t much time to rest—as great as the Prophet is, he needs your help. Your Garrison is awfully close to Shadowmoon territory, so be prepared to defend it.
Your Garrison will start as little more than an outpost, and your laborers will quickly run into trouble as they discover that even the forests of Draenor can be their enemy. But before long, you should have a comfortable Town Hall to call home and a Barracks that you can use to train new recruits. One of the perks of having your home base here is the ability to sound a “call to arms” anywhere in Shadowmoon, and Alliance troops will rush to your aid.
Kick your feet up – after all, the Garrison is all yours.
Could you name three of your favorite locations players should check out on their journey through the zone?
Helen Cheng: Once you’ve settled in, you should take a quick jaunt over to the town of Elodor, home of the revered Altar of Sha’tar with its stunning view of Karabor and the surrounding ocean. There you can meet the five Exarchs who act as the hand of the Prophet, guiding draenei society, and you can witness their own internal conflicts as they argue about their place in this savage land. Don’t miss the nearby Rangari Enclave, where the elite scouts of the draenei train—you won’t see mushrooms that size for another 30 years!
If you're the adventurous type, try spelunking in Bloodthorn Cave. Don’t mind the flesh-eating pale orcs—they only kill you when provoked. Also, don’t eat the local mushrooms. They can be rather . . . potent.
We’ve heard mixed reviews about Gloomshade Grove. Some folks rave about the pristine beaches, while others are just never heard from again. If you see anything that looks like a flower, makes a sound like “mawarwaawa,” and has very sharp teeth, run away! Though it’s probably too late for you, so oh well. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
You’re probably wondering if there are any creatures on Draenor that won’t bite your head off. Try heading over to the Shimmering Mor. This enchanted forest glade is home to wild faerie dragons. Awww, they’re just so cute! No, you can’t take one home . . . oh, who are we kidding? You’ll probably find an egg or some-such to raise eventually.
Finally, don’t forget to stop by Embaari Village. This draenei merchant town is known for its delicious food and exotic wares. No trip to Shadowmoon is complete without a tasty meal and a mug of honey mead.
As with all places on Draenor, Shadowmoon Valley is filled with sights to see, adventures to be had, and savage enemies to destroy. Enjoy your journey!
Next, our voyage will take us north into the Horde starting zone of Frostfire Ridge. Stay tuned for more!
Hello, and welcome to another edition of Artcraft. I’m Chris Robinson, senior art director on World of Warcraft, and today our environment team is going to give you a look at one of the zones we’re creating for Warlords of Draenor, as well as share some insight into how we approach creating environment art. Take it away Gary!
Hey, I’m Gary Platner, lead environment artist on World of Warcraft. I direct a team of artists who help create the world . . . of Warcraft. We shape the land; texture it; place the trees, rocks, and buildings; and design the “sets” where our quest team will later place the “actors.” Today we’re going to be showing you some of what's going into the creation of the Spires of Arak. This location that would later become known as Terokkar Forest, but in Draenor-terms, this zone is the home of the regal, sinister, and flighted arakkoa.
One of the best parts about working on WoW for me is when we first start a new exterior zone. Creativity reigns, and almost anything goes—it’s real blue sky stuff. When we started working on Spires of Arak, we only had some basic ideas: tall rocky spires jutting out of a dense forest. So we got together to talk about what that might look like, and soon afterward, artist Jimmy Lo started making concepts.
Based on these concepts, we could tell right away that this zone was going to present some unique challenges. The biggest one was how we were going to build the large spiky rocks that would give the zone its distinctive look. We had two basic methods in mind to create those spires. Some of us thought that the best way would be to make most of the rocks as 3D props instead of using our terrain editor to sculpt the landscape into tall spires. 3D props have some distinct advantages, since building a prop allows for the creation of fully 3D objects of any shape, which gives us a lot of design freedom. The downside is they tend to be difficult to blend into the landscape in a natural-looking way (see the original Blade’s Edge Mountains in Outland). They’re also much more difficult to iterate on as design needs change. If instead we used our terrain editor to create the spires, that would allow us a lot of freedom to iterate on zone layout and design without needing to fidget with large pieces of premade geometry, with the potential downside of not being able to do the concept justice.
Our design team wanted to at least give the terrain editor option a chance, so they embarked on creating a proof of concept to see how well it could work. A lot of us contributed to the Spires of Arak, but ultimately Matt Sanders (exterior level designer) and Kelli Hoover (environment artist) were tasked with creating the zone. Kelli gathered resource material and started to do some paint-overs of our concepts in order to unify a distinctive new color palette. Meanwhile, Matt created the proof of concept in our editing tools in order to test ideas for creating large spiky rocks with the exterior terrain editor.
Kelli gathered a lot of reference pictures, paying special attention to color and mood. She then slightly recolored Jimmy’s concepts to model different times of day.
Then Kelli moved on to testing texture ideas by creating rough and quick block-out textures, which aren’t intended to look final but help give us an idea of color and detail. We can paint these rough textures over the landscape and do various tests to help us see how they interact. We can also see how the textures change and distort as they are painted on steep mountain terrain.
As you can see here, Matt and Kelli experimented with different textures and geometry in an attempt to duplicate the concepts from Jimmy.
Kelli and Matt discovered that using a striated rock texture would actually work better than a simpler rock pattern, and the striations give the impression of upward movement. These linear texture shapes would also bend and stretch well over the exterior terrain creating a really unique look for the zone.
Once Matt and Kelli finalized their demo zone and we agreed that everything was heading in the right direction, the real work could begin. Now the whole zone could be completed using the style and techniques that worked in the small demo zone. They’d still have to work out the look for some of the smaller subzones, though, like dense forests, beaches, and a massive thorny bramble where the Shattered Hand orcs dwell.
Last but not least, we’ve prepared a short video for you to demonstrate the various steps involved in creating the Spires of Arak. Thanks for tuning in, and we look forward to sharing more with you in the future!
By perculia on 2014/06/26 at 3:01 AM Pacific
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Charlga's powers of crystal manipulation are unprecidented, giving her the ability to command powerful crystals, aiding her in combat. These crystals may not be attacked.This power allows her to command two crystals simultaneously.