MMO-Champion - Artcraft—The Spires of Arak
Artcraft—The Spires of Arak
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
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!

This article was originally published in forum thread: Artcraft—The Spires of Arak started by chaud View original post
Comments 68 Comments
  1. Fenixdown's Avatar
    They should call it "The Spires of We Could Have Designed This For Flight, But We Didn't Because We Hate You".
  1. Failmuffins's Avatar
    When the zone was originally revealed, I was expecting more sheer canyons and cliffs - something like the original Thousand Needles turned up to eleven where we'd be questing above the clouds, with the ocean far below us.

    Still looks good though, I'm looking forward to seeing the Arakkoa.
  1. Sainur's Avatar
    meh.

    /10batsandfrogs
  1. Chasavaqe's Avatar
    The detail on the ground looks absolutely amazing.

    I'm hoping that the sky is still in development... I really like how the yellow/orange sky in the concept art looks, and I'm hoping it's implemented as well... The one that's in now is a little bland compared to the amazing details going on down below.
  1. aoussar123's Avatar
    Quite underwhelmed when you compare the in-game images to the artwork. Of course, it will never ever look like that, and while the zone looks cool enough, i'm a bit disappointed by the color palette and the hight of the spires. The colors look much more vivid in the artwork, and the spires are HUGE. In the game, they look like small generic hills you have everywhere and the colors look bland and uninspired.

    Oh well, still looking forward to WoD
  1. OneSent's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Fenixdown View Post
    They should call it "The Spires of We Could Have Designed This For Flight, But We Didn't Because We Hate You".
    Why bother? You'd just fly over it all and see only the tops of trees and the upper-half of the spires?

    Ever flown over Ashenvale before? Exactly.
  1. Difuid's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by aoussar123 View Post
    Quite underwhelmed when you compare the in-game images to the artwork. Of course, it will never ever look like that, and while the zone looks cool enough, i'm a bit disappointed by the color palette and the hight of the spires. The colors look much more vivid in the artwork, and the spires are HUGE. In the game, they look like small generic hills you have everywhere and the colors look bland and uninspired.

    Oh well, still looking forward to WoD
    The video was of the proof of concept that it can be made... but yes, the spires should be humongous in the final version.

    The colors were good the concept art looks like sunset and everything is tinted orange and purple.
  1. nymz's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Fenixdown View Post
    They should call it "The Spires of We Could Have Designed This For Flight, But We Didn't Because We Hate You".
    Standing in a dense forest, seeing these spires with a society that is a sinister looming threat above you, and walking around on the ground among the outcasts is a totally different feeling than flying above and looking down on them. How is that hard to understand?
  1. Mellrod's Avatar
    I think it's amazing how easy blizzard makes this stuff look. I bet it requires long nights awake and all sorts of planning. I also love how their method of designing a zone is ALOT more different than what many people's assumptions have been in the past. Blizzard definitely knows what they're doing better than any of us when it comes to designing the look of their world unlike i see alot of people saying. Although everyone has their artistic tastes, I just wish people would be more open minded.

    Also for the less observant, those spires aren't going to be small like that in the final version for anyone wondering. If you read the article they talk about two methods - using 3D props to create spires or using the terrain editor. Basically, all you need to know is that both methods are very hard to pull off without looking weird, and the work shown here is just a test to see if the spires are possible using the terrain editor method apart from the props one. One has to assume they are testing both methods to see which one is better and more polished. I haevn't seen both methods, but after seeing a screenshot of a gross gray spire awkwardly sticking out of the ground in this zone, somewhat similar to BEM, i would go with the terrain method. I'm sure they are planning on making them alot taller though.
  1. Sargiean's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by nymz View Post
    Standing in a dense forest, seeing these spires with a society that is a sinister looming threat above you, and walking around on the ground among the outcasts is a totally different feeling than flying above and looking down on them. How is that hard to understand?
    Personally, I think flying above something offers a much more complete and whole perspective over the design then being limited to small bits on the ground. You call this 'sinister' I call it 'underwhelming'. I'd like it much more if there were ledges/caves that were only accessible via flight. That would add another dimension to the game. At this point though, you're either for or against flying and there's not much either side can say they haven't already said.

    OT: I think the zone looks decent, but I do agree with some posters that say the 'spires' are more like small hills then what the concept art reflects. I was thinking the spires would be similar in size to mountains you see in the storm peaks, or blackrock, or even mt. neverest.
  1. Zyranthian's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Masternewt View Post
    BETA!!! Oh, no, wait ... just more pointless information and some random JPGs. Such fun.
    This isn't MoP, no early beta with hundreds of thousands of invites going out, they've said this in many interviews. Even when beta does start it'll be much smaller in scale, more like BC and Wrath betas, so odds are good you'll never get into it anyway. Learn to live with disappointment.
  1. Morgomir's Avatar
    Anyone see how big those trees are compared to a character in those tree concepts? Damn those are gonna be some big trees and spires.
  1. cptaylor38's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Morgomir View Post
    Anyone see how big those trees are compared to a character in those tree concepts? Damn those are gonna be some big trees and spires.

    I feel it will be very similar to the Mantid places beyond the wall in Pandaria. About the same scale ratio. I have a feeling A LOT of the zone is going to look very similar geographically to those places with the exception of the spires and the textures/atmosphere used.

    Which I wouldn't really mind as I like giant trees in fantasy and real life. But I'm hoping it will be slightly different. The color palette and textures almost seemed a bit like Redridge to me. Which seems a little odd and dull compared to the concept art.
  1. Kaleredar's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by OneSent View Post
    Why bother? You'd just fly over it all and see only the tops of trees and the upper-half of the spires?
    The spires look pretty darn small to accomodate for the fact that you can't fly.

    This zone easily could have been like storm peaks, but with giant twisted spires instead of mountains, and arrakoa overlooks instead of titan buildings.

    But so far, it's kind of looking like... desolace, with pointy rocks jutting up. It's not a slight on how Blizzard is designing the zone; they're doing so fine. It's a grievance on how they have to restrict their development because they have to constantly remind themselves every little valley and spire will be a detriment to travel and not an accentuation like they would be if you could fly.

    Ever flown over Ashenvale before? Exactly.
    Actually you fly THROUGH ashenvale. Next to no one flies over the treetops. Funny how that works. ANd funny how that, after running through ashenvale for over half a decade, I was not too bent out of shape about being able to fly over it.

    And who cares; if I want to fly over ashenvale, I should be able to. If you want to scamper around on the ground you're more than welcome. That you hold yourself to the pace of how others manage their time is a personal issue, tbh.
  1. arcaneshot's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Kaleredar View Post
    Actually you fly THROUGH ashenvale. Next to no one flies over the treetops. Funny how that works.
    I don't know where you get the idea that "next to no one" flies over the trees because it's more convenient than having to dodge a tree.
  1. Kulthar's Avatar
    i could happily watch the vid's of the guys makin this ... 100 times more interesting than the motorbike drama queens show.
  1. Laylriana's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Kulthar View Post
    i could happily watch the vid's of the guys makin this ... 100 times more interesting than the motorbike drama queens show.
    I enjoyed this video. I like watching the game being created. In last week's Azeroth Choppers the best part of the show was the guy creating the environment of WOW.
  1. archanfels's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Disgruntled Penguin View Post
    When the zone was originally revealed, I was expecting more sheer canyons and cliffs - something like the original Thousand Needles turned up to eleven where we'd be questing above the clouds, with the ocean far below us.

    Still looks good though, I'm looking forward to seeing the Arakkoa.
    I share this expectation and agree while that would have been amazing, what we are currently being shown is not bad either
  1. Tirilka's Avatar
    Wait, is this a real, honest, dark night?!
    Or it's just my wishful thinking?

  1. Nexxius's Avatar
    I really love the look of it. Reminds me of if Terrokar and Blade's Edge had a baby.

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