Warcraft III: Reforged Development Insights with Game Informer
10.11.2018 um 19:18
As part of their
month long coverage
of Warcraft III: Reforged, Game Informer's Ben Hanson and Dan Tack recently shared some insights from their trip to Blizzard Entertainment. In their show, they discussed a number of topics, including some history of Warcraft 3 development, the challenges of molding that into Reforged, and how that compares to remastering StarCraft. You can watch the full 18 minute talk, or read our synopsis below.
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This post is part of our coverage of
Game Informer's Month of Warcraft III: Reforged
. You can check all our recaps below.
Concept Art, Story Interview with Christie Golden and Justin Groot
How Blizzard Created Warcraft III's Classic Cinematics
While a lot of talent, including many of the original voice actors have moved on over the years, one of the unique things about Blizzard is in how many of the "old timers" from the original development team remains with the company. Some of the most influential people, such as Darek Duke, who composed music for the Zerg music for StarCraft, or Samwise Didier, one of Blizzard's original artists, who originally came up with the name Warcraft (apparently based on his D&D character as the opposite of witchcraft).
It's fascinating to see how different game development was then compared to now. At the time, and with such a small team, everyone would do everything; there was no pipeline or hierarchy of development, people were assigned where they were needed, and one developer would work a project from start to finish, rather than it moving through a series of departments, as is more common today. There are downsides however, the small, less organized team led to a lack of old assets, recordings and art stashed in an old computer lost in a back room somewhere; they joked about randomly finding the Warcraft 1 source code on a shelf somewhere (and some fans might remember
about a redditor who found the 1998 StarCraft source code in a box of Blizzard stuff bought off ebay last year). Moving from Warcraft 3 into World of Warcraft development was a turning point for the team of 30-something "really ambitious kids", who had to grow up once they realized they needed to figure out how continually supported game with a subscription service would work!
Warcraft 3, then planned as Warcraft Legends, was originally much more RPG focused. By the time the decision was finally made to go full RTS, and a number of new team members brought on to see it to fruition, the design intent varied considerably. Depending on who you asked, there were originally as many as 13 different races planned, paired down to somewhere between 6 and 9. There were the original Orcs and Humans, but also Tauren, Trolls, Ogres, Demons, Centaurs, and some type of playable Demonic Infernal race that was almost entirely fleshed out. According to Samwise, there was even a concept Dragon race, consisting of a single unit with no buildings or base - just a dragon which would grow from a baby to adulthood (although he has no idea how far the concept got). Additionally, the Dwarves originally rode spider mounts, and Night Elves were paired with insects; needless to say, there was a lot of iteration from concept -> design -> production -> players, as the wide range of ideas was paired down to the four core races experienced in the final release.
Warcraft III: Reforged is going under similar revision - less extreme, but no less extensive. The Culling of Stratholme started out much more brutal during its initial development; the townspeople never turned into zombies, and instead the mechanics pushed players to murder them while still human. In the Reforged version showcased at BlizzCon, the mission parameters haven't changed, but the map has been rearranged entirely. The player now enters the city head on over a bridge and the layout better reflects the city seen in World of Warcraft, using many of the landmarks and bosses from the Stratholme dungeon as characters during the mission. While this is a more pronounced example, the team isn't clear yet on how many campaign missions would be rearranged in this way, but want to go through them one by one to decide (The Fall of Silvermoon is similarly planned to be redone, but no others have been mentioned so far). There are also other ideas bouncing around regarding things which could be added, such as the cut final mission which took place after the destruction of the World Tree, that was ultimately removed from the original release due to feeling anticlimactic.
While this may seem like a lot of unknowns, a big takeaway was that Warcraft III: Reforged is very much still a game in development. The writers have a rough first draft done, but not ironed out completely, and the Game Informer crew was only able to play as Orc and Human at that point. While the team is dedicated to a 2019 release, getting work to get the engine up and running alone took 6 months longer than expected; it's a mind bogglingly technical task - the Warcraft 3 engine was heavily modified to become the World of Warcraft engine, and now the WoW engine needed to be retrofit back into Warcraft 3 to update all of the visuals... but of course because it's Blizzard, the cool things is that they have the guy who originally built the WC3 engine 20-something years ago working on it!
Other big changes include new character variants; female Death Knights, Demon Hunters, and Zombies, more hero options at the Town Hall, and more options for players overall. A big point is in modernizing the character models for future, "2020" audiences, with less cleavage and a more subtle character design. A key inspiration for that art direction is actually the Mists of Pandaria opening cinematic, which is seen as the end of the exaggerated World of Warcraft look - since then there's been more emphasis on realism, but the Warcraft III team loved the slightly cartoony look of big shoulders and the human's Popeye jaw; that's the look they're going for in Warcraft III: Reforged.
That ability to find a pleasing artistic tone which doesn't become outdated too quickly is seen as one of Blizzard's key strengths. Even though old World of Warcraft graphics are low res, the artistic style can still look good, which is something that helps the game stand the test of time. Not all games do this as well, some games try to be too realistic, which can look great at the time, but don't age well and quickly becomes outmoded. Even some of the oldest Blizzard games such as Lost Vikings and Rock and Roll Racing still retain their charm, despite being severely outdated by today's standards.
The Lost Vikings, 1992
As for what to remaster next, Blizzard isn't giving anything away, though Diablo is a community favorite, as are Warcraft 1 and 2. Remastering StarCraft was trickier than most people think; they actually need to make 2 games in order to remaster the one - new models and sprites weren't just redrawn, new high rez units were completely rebuilt in 3d to reuse in the future, and then a 2d version is made out of that for StarCraft sprites. It takes a weird, unexpected loop to get there.
The team also worked hard not to change much between StarCraft and StarCraft: Remastered. Taking a risk with Warcraft III: Reforged is a different task, and there will probably be a crowd angry that the game isn't a pixel perfect remake of the original, but while there are merits to both approaches one of the design intents of Warcraft III: Reforged is making it backwards compatible with Warcraft 3, so that fans can play together despite their preference. A big part of this decision is drawn from the community; during StarCraft: Remastered development, many fans were consulted, particularly in Korea where the game is still wildly popular, and they were adamant that the masterpiece not change. Warcraft is still very popular in China, and in consulting with the many fans, experts, and pro players, a recurring theme was the impact and flexibility of modding keeping the game relevant 10 years past the point fans may have otherwise stopped playing. Not everything will change entirely, though some things may be different. The script is a tricky point - the many taunts and jokes in the game are considered somewhat sacred, but they contain a lot of dated references, like *69 jokes, which might not carry much charm with a newer audience. All the raw audio will still be there, but casting is also being redone with World of Warcraft voice actors.
StarCraft Original and Remastered comparison
Although many changes will be made in Warcraft III: Reforged, something they hope remains is the passionate modding scene; map mods were always a hotbed in Warcraft 3, and hopefully new tools will keep that longevity and create new genres all over again. How long until someone recreates HotS in Warcraft?! As for genres, Blizzard has made a lot of them, Samwise even let on that Blizzard worked on a few fighting games back in the day, but they were "not really appropriate and never saw the light of day". As for Warcraft 4, Blizzard won't say, but the current topic of conversation is Warcraft 3; maybe Blizzard just can't count to 4 the way Valve can't ever make it to 3. That said, Blizzard Classic Games team is an exciting prospect, so far they're dissecting Blizzards best games, and at some point they're going to run out of old things to remake; by then maybe the experts of RTS will finally be ready to move on to Warcraft 4 - check back in 10 years!
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