MMO-Champion - Artcraft — Running of the Bulls
Artcraft — Running of the Bulls
The new male Tauren character model is here!



Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Hey there everyone, I’m Steve Aguilar, lead animator for the World of Warcraft animation team. Today we’re showing off the male Tauren, and with some help from the rest of the animation team, we’re going to give you a look at the animation processes we use to bring this big guy to life.

Before we even started animating him, we already knew the Tauren was going to be a blast to work on based on all of the detail the character art team added.

As we begin applying animations, we’re extra careful not to stray too far from the original. It’s important to us to retain the essence of the original animations, because how a characters walk, move, and carry themselves help to define their personality. We use all of the original animations as a starting point, and then go through the process of cleaning them up and adding additional articulation. Let’s delve into what that process looks like.

The Re-Animator (Steve Aguilar)
The normal “stand” animation is one of the most important animations because this is what you, the player, see the majority of the time. When you stop moving or walk up to an NPC, the stand is the key pose that is being used. A huge chunk of animations also rely on this pose so they can easily transition into and out of it.

When we import the original stand animation onto the new model, we then look to see if there are any weight shifts, odd rotations, or hitches that we need to fix. After we’ve cleaned up the pose, it goes through another sanity check to see if other animations will still be able to transition into and out of this new stand pose. If we happen to change the pose too much, it can cause a domino effect and possibly harm all the existing animations.

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.


Face Off (Kevin “Snap ‘n’ Point” Rucker)
Since the facial animation system worked so well with the Pandaren in Mists of Pandaria, with the updated models we wanted to add the same life and emotion they deserved. In the past the character models only had a jaw bone that could be animated, but now we’re able to add movement to the brows, eyes, cheeks and mouth. We’re able to properly make them smile, look angry, and talk.

We start with a base mesh and add joints to specific spots that will allow us to mold the face. We then add influence, or “skin” the mesh to those joints and shape them into poses: jaw open, eyebrows down or furrowed, for example. We hook up those poses to main controls to make the process of animating the face faster and more cohesive between several animators. For instance, instead of having to move 9 individual joints to shape the eyebrows, we just need to touch 2 controls which include a sub-set of attributes for more detailed shaping. After that if we still need to tweak the poses, we can always go back to the original sub controls for additive fine tuning.


We also create a “face file” 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.



Body Movin’ (Jeremy “Goonies never say die” Collins)
On a certain level, how you move in the game is one of the most important things you experience as a player. It’s your main interaction with the world around you. For Warlords of Draenor, we wanted to improve the locomotion of WoW’s player characters with brand new rigs. These new rigs are capable of doing so much more in terms of fidelity of motion for our characters, and we wanted to showcase that as much as possible.

Everyone who plays WoW is familiar with their character’s idle and run animations—those are the two you see the most. We wanted to really take a look at what made the old player model animations successful, and what made them so iconic. Our job was to then retain the spirit of the old animations, but clean them up so they would look epic on the new rigs. That proved to be a really fun task. Part of the joy of cleaning up an animation like the Dwarf male’s run is going back and seeing what the original animators were thinking about when they first worked on these characters. Some of these runs and walks were animated over 10 years ago!

The first thing we did when we cleaned up an animation was ask ourselves a series of questions. What are some of the areas that could use touching up? Does the center of gravity on the character feel skewed? Is the character leaning appropriately when moving in a direction? How can we shift the timing to give this animation a greater sense of weight?

All of our rigs are manipulated with the use of controllers. Controllers are curves that drive the joints the tech artists have placed that ultimately deform deform the model you see. When we open an older animation, we’re manipulating what is called "baked data." Baked animations have keys on every attribute on every frame. In some cases, it’s necessary for us to delete some keys to make the animation curves easier to manipulate. Here’s what we see inside of Maya. Every one of those colored curves represents rotation or translation of that foot controller.

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.



Glass Case of Emotion: Part I (Carman“Boba Muscles” Cheung)
For the majority of the character cleanup phase, the team focuses on three main things: cloth, hair and the face. Cloth includes a front and back tabard and a cape. Hair can be anything from a back ponytail, a front ponytail, pig tails, beards of varying sizes and shapes, or a combination of all of these. We also add facial animation, which adds a lot of character and life to the model. Occasionally, we will also fix minor posing issues or any errors, like jittering.


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.




Glass Case of Emotion: Part II (David “Coffee Corn” Edwards)
My favorite part of the entire process is adding the facial expressions, or fixing up the timing or posing of a character. It is astounding how adding a simple facial expression can instantly bring a character to life. It’s always incredibly rewarding to take an old animation and see what even small changes can do to vastly improve it.

As a contrast, the most difficult part of the process, at least for me, is having to hold myself back from wanting to fix or adjust every little thing for every single animation. Due to the sheer volume of animations that exist for player characters, our goal of having updated models in time for Warlords of Draenor, and the need to animate all the new creatures and objects going into the expansion, we have to prioritize our time. We’ve broken the cleanup passes on character revamp animations up into phases. Phase 1 has all of the locomotion animations (walk, run, etc.) as well as all the emotes and spell casts. Phase 2 deals with the combat animations (attacks, stuns, etc.), and phase 3 is a catch-all for the remaining animations (swimming, fishing, etc.). Regardless of the phase, every animation is touched in some form or fashion, but phase 1 gets the most love since those are the animations are seen the most.

At the start of each animation we always focus on cleaning up the body first, since this motion drives all of the secondary animation. Below is a video showing the finished product after it has gone through the cleanup process.



That’s All For Now (Steve Aguilar)
Thanks for reading and letting the animation team share this part of their process with you. I hope we’re doing justice to one of your beloved characters, and that you can see the amount of love we’re applying to not only the male Tauren, but the animations for all of the characters in the game. Have a great day, and you stay classy WoW players!
This article was originally published in forum thread: Artcraft — Running of the Bulls started by Boubouille View original post
Comments 232 Comments
  1. Aureth's Avatar
    I really enjoy the new male Tauren. To me, Tauren are the peaceful, spiritual race whom yes-fight when necessary, but are more gentle giant on average than ferocious. Even most of the NPCs are a lot more chill; more like the type ''Hey, we're big and we'll throw down if we have to, but we're actually pretty cool, spiritual folk.'' I actually think the more 'Disney' look suits them to this manner. He can still look snarly-I mean Beast from Disney could still look pretty snarly and everything(they actually kinda give me a Beast vibe.)

    Love their casting poses too-I always liked caster Tauren-shamans, Balance druids, and now Priests.
  1. Mucrush's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Aureth View Post
    I really enjoy the new male Tauren. To me, Tauren are the peaceful, spiritual race whom yes-fight when necessary, but are more gentle giant on average than ferocious. Even most of the NPCs are a lot more chill; more like the type ''Hey, we're big and we'll throw down if we have to, but we're actually pretty cool, spiritual folk.'' I actually think the more 'Disney' look suits them to this manner. He can still look snarly-I mean Beast from Disney could still look pretty snarly and everything(they actually kinda give me a Beast vibe.)

    Love their casting poses too-I always liked caster Tauren-shamans, Balance druids, and now Priests.
    I totally agree. + for me, WoW have never striked to be a realistic game, I feel these cartoonish character models fits the world much better!
  1. Rorcanna's Avatar
    Seriously...I don't see a difference between the tauren and the other races as far as art style goes...
  1. Blackburn's Avatar
    This is not my fierce warrior of 9 years... too goofy looking. They need to tone down those facial animations and offer drastically different facial options for those of us who don't like looking like a Dreamworks character.
  1. Mucrush's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Blackburn View Post
    This is not my fierce warrior of 9 years... too goofy looking. They need to tone down those facial animations and offer drastically different facial options for those of us who don't like looking like a Dreamworks character.
    Just a question, do your character wear a helmet? Because if so, then it doesn't really matter, does it? You cannot see his face anyway :P
  1. Plasticpaddy's Avatar
    So much time and money wasted on this this - new models in a 10 year old game? really?
  1. Shirohibiki's Avatar
    Oh my goodnessssssss!!!! I LOVE IT SO MUCH!!! Brb rolling 500 tauren. Absolutely astounding. Wonderful. I can't wait for females omggg
  1. Blackburn's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Mucrush View Post
    Just a question, do your character wear a helmet? Because if so, then it doesn't really matter, does it? You cannot see his face anyway :P
    No. He doesn't.
  1. Vajarra's Avatar
    Yeah, my male Tauren is getting a race-change for sure. This is dreadful. I'm glad I'm not the only one here :/

    The shape of the nose is all wrong, the new model has huge goofy eyebrows, and those big rubber lips. Also the coloration has no darker/lighter areas, it's all just one flat color. Let's not even mention the disgusting pink fingers.
  1. Amorexis's Avatar
    I quite like it. Been playing since vanilla, and am happy to see Blizzard giving the old races some much needed attention
  1. Blackburn's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Vajarra View Post
    Yeah, my male Tauren is getting a race-change for sure. This is dreadful. I'm glad I'm not the only one here :/

    The shape of the nose is all wrong, the new model has huge goofy eyebrows, and those big rubber lips. Also the coloration has no darker/lighter areas, it's all just one flat color. Let's not even mention the disgusting pink fingers.
    I LOLed.

    But seriously, I commend the animation quality, but I fear it's been misplaced. The animators did a great job from a quality perspective on both the body and facial animation. However, the exaggerated animations (especially facial) do break away from the original look and feel of the race, hence it goes against what they promised. While Tauren are suppose to be a peaceful race, lets not forget they're muscular giants towering over other races. This is race who has endured the hardships of nomad life, always struggling and battling both nature and their enemies for survival of their race. They're not suppose to be cute. The voices and gestures of current models suggest calm and wise people, but ones you wouldn't want to mess with. The new model and animations scream Shrek!
  1. Dinozor's Avatar
    Anyone else find them a little too comical? Some of the updates look awesome, I'm particularly fond of the male Dwarf. But the male Orc and Tauren look incredibly cartoony, and I find reminiscent of Sullivan from Monsters Inc. I was kind of hoping that some of them would just be some updated animations and more detailed textures... it's kind of hard for me to take the new Tauren model seriously :c
    Quote Originally Posted by Blackburn View Post
    But seriously, I commend the animation quality, but I fear it's been misplaced. The animators did a great job from a quality perspective on both the body and facial animation. However, the exaggerated animations (especially facial) do break away from the original look and feel of the race, hence it goes against what they promised. While Tauren are suppose to be a peaceful race, lets not forget they're muscular giants towering over other races. This is race who has endured the hardships of nomad life, always struggling and battling both nature and their enemies for survival of their race. They're not suppose to be cute. The voices and gestures of current models suggest calm and wise people, but ones you wouldn't want to mess with. The new model and animations scream Shrek!
    Well said, I'd have to agree with this.
  1. plaits's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Plasticpaddy View Post
    So much time and money wasted on this this - new models in a 10 year old game? really?
    If it means the game gets to live another 10 years then why not? I'm sure they wouldn't do it if they didn't think the ROI wasn't there.
  1. gkai's Avatar
    Very impressed with the new animations.
  1. Stylez's Avatar
  1. Anium's Avatar
    pretty impressed! they could look slightly more rugged though, feel slightly cartoony. Also the new models look so much bigger, am i right?
  1. Todesbote's Avatar
    Whine all you want those new models are awesome. They are 100% true to the original and now finally our characters won't be ugly as fuck while the world around them is beautiful. Deal with it. Great job Blizz.
  1. Fauier's Avatar
    Well it makes me wanna return to WoW, so i think they did pretty damn good job. If it will be cheap, i might give it a try.
  1. Wayne25uk's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Vajarra View Post
    Yeah, my male Tauren is getting a race-change for sure. This is dreadful. I'm glad I'm not the only one here :/

    The shape of the nose is all wrong, the new model has huge goofy eyebrows, and those big rubber lips. Also the coloration has no darker/lighter areas, it's all just one flat color. Let's not even mention the disgusting pink fingers.
    Who are you to say what Tauren should or should not be like,is it your game? No. Is it your idea? No. Is it your concept of what the Tauren look like? No. So shut the fuck up you self entitled moron.

    The only thing i thought was wrong with the models is the back view looks abit like a gorilla model,but apart from that i was just amazed we didnt see the Taurens BULLOCKS when his loin cloth got abit windy!
  1. Ardourdan's Avatar
    I'd love to know the average age of the WoW player base. I can only imagine its got older as the game has got older. There are so many dark, gritty games that seem to be becoming more and more popular. While I applaud Blizzard for their incredible success with this game, I do wish they'd make a much darker game. A Diablo MMO would be so awesome.

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