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. Winterstrife's Avatar
    This is awesome & amazing! But where are the Human male models gonna come?! If this is the sign of things to come I really can't wait for the Human male models.
    Also, as pointed out by a poster above, I do hope with these newer models there will be less armor clipping.
  1. Uwibami's Avatar
    I was worried to begin with, seeing the still pictures first he looked way too goofy.

    However, seeing him animated changed my opinion completely. They've done an awesome job with this, and I am now extremely excited for Tauren aswell. Definitely plan on re-leveling my druid once WoD hits!
  1. Felricia's Avatar
    Another fine model re-creation! Keep 'em coming!
  1. Magruun's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by MrHappy View Post
    I really hope that people at least now understand why new models is a really big development challenge and task. Look at how much work it takes to create ONE facial expression and animate something "simple" such as running animation. This is a labor of love and you can tell by the results so far. I'm impressed and I can't wait for my tauren shammy to channel those spells.
    Exactly this, animating a character by hand is iterating and iterating over and over again trying to make everything flow nice, have the proper weight, timing and force.
  1. Zephre's Avatar
    hahaha loved the face when he's /dancing.
  1. Adoxe's Avatar
    LOL at people calling the Tauren a "Fierce Warrior" and "Goofy" You do know the Tauren lore right? The model fits them perfectly.
  1. Aboubacar's Avatar
    I liked the previous models. This one I'm not very satisfied with. I agree with the people that say he's over-animated. Tauren should have more deliberate /calm movements. I also feel like the face proportions are a little off, not sure how to explain what i mean by that.
  1. kugothemighty's Avatar
    Make. Me. This.
  1. jason1975's Avatar
    Just looking at the pictures, I was thinking "hmm . . . doesn't look that different to me".

    But those spellcasting animations are freaking amazing. I love how it seems the elements are whipping around the Tauren as he casts . . . really befitting the race. I also love the weight you can feel watching him walk . . . it's awesome!

    Great job!
  1. Spotnick's Avatar
    Big improvement, but not enough to convince me to go tauren priest even with that racial.
  1. Brewhan's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by lunchbox2042 View Post
    Take the video with the two Tauren models running side by side and imagine both with whatever set yours is wearing now. With the way armor is overexaggerated in this game, you won't even notice much of a difference. It just feels like a huge waste of resources.
    probably the reason models are shown without armor or especially without a helm on. Once you put a helm and full armor on you'll notice very little changes besides casting animations and running maybe. Look at the asian beta footage videos you can see orcs full armor with helm not notice much change.
  1. Maleagant's Avatar
    The dance face alone sold the model to me.Nice job Blizzard.I can't wait to see the Night Elf model when they are done.
  1. Guyviroth's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Okacz View Post
    Uhh, don't like this one. All other models vary between amazing (dwarf male) and nice (human female), but this one seems to take the new over-the-top-expressions apporach a bit too far. The face and mimic looks like Tauren was a comedy relief from any Disney movie ever made, the walk animation seems to beg for a guy playing a tuba theme on each step and the model overall feels, well, just goofy. Not what I've expected a fierce, proud warrior to look like.
    Not what I've expected a fierce, proud warrior to look like.
    a fierce, proud warrior
    I think you're confusing the tauren for orcs.
  1. Frozenbeef's Avatar
    Great models <3 I want male space goats though :*(
  1. Tebayo's Avatar
    GG Blizzard, now I HAVE to do a faction change.
  1. Spotnick's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by lunchbox2042 View Post
    Take the video with the two Tauren models running side by side and imagine both with whatever set yours is wearing now. With the way armor is overexaggerated in this game, you won't even notice much of a difference. It just feels like a huge waste of resources.
    Sure.. go tell me my pandaren with the same armor as a troll looks as good as the other.

    The skin won't matter much due to armor (although NPCs don't all wear armor), but the animations, it's just a major improvement.
  1. Tebayo's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Okacz View Post
    Uhh, don't like this one. All other models vary between amazing (dwarf male) and nice (human female), but this one seems to take the new over-the-top-expressions apporach a bit too far. The face and mimic looks like Tauren was a comedy relief from any Disney movie ever made, the walk animation seems to beg for a guy playing a tuba theme on each step and the model overall feels, well, just goofy. Not what I've expected a fierce, proud warrior to look like.
    Tauren aren't supposed to look like a fierce warrior, they are calm and peaceful.
  1. Okacz's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Guyviroth View Post
    I think you're confusing the tauren for orcs.
    Yeah, because only one race can be strong. Living for years as a nomadic tribes and having to fight Centaurs and Quilboars every day for supplies and water makes me immidiately think about Pluto face. How are they not fierce and proud warriors?
  1. Alenarien's Avatar
    First model I don't really like. Reminds me of Sully from Monsters Inc.; big, fluffy and not very scary/intimidating at all.
  1. Solidusbr's Avatar
    Tauren master race.

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