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. Tedstery's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Rocheku View Post
    Its the same people that scream like teenage girls and smash their piggybanks as soon as Blizzard pumps out another Store item, While Blizzard leans back in their office chairs laughing their asses off.

    There is absolutely nothing new thats gonna shake things up a bit for the next expansion. No real exciting feature at all. Garrisons? Farm 2.0. New models? Long overdue and doesnt add any new exciting gameplay. Mythic raiding? Not the first time the setups of raiding got changed. On top of that: recycled lore, removal of flying mounts cuz you know, "immersion gaise!" like adding aerial dangers and obstacles is hard to implement.

    I unsubbed a while ago and am still waiting for anything exciting that will change my mind. But so far all i see is an expansion that might aswell have been labeled as a giant patch.
    Its weird people are excited over things your not. Its like people just have different opinions to you. I think the best course of action is to stop browsing this site.
  1. OmniSkribe's Avatar
    The only problem I have right now is that after ESO zones this spires don't look so big and epic. For some reason Volcanos in Stonefalls had more of huge-ass mountain feeling compared to Wow hill-like mountains. But that's just me. I love Wow zone, but even with ground mounts they feel small.
  1. Ostrich's Avatar
    The only thing I don't like about it is the color palette, I really wish it was mostly orange and blue like the concept art. The colors of the concept art are so unique and vivid, but the green and brown is something we've seen so many times. Maybe it has to do with the lighting, plus that sky doesn't look final and once they add in an orange sky it might make the zone feel more true to the concept art. To people not happy about how small the spires are, I think that giant, menacing spires will be saved for having arakkoa buildings on them. These smaller ones are just the average ones that are too small for the arakkoa to build their cities on. If you look at the first two pictures of concept art you see that smaller spires are empty, while the giant ones have arakkoa buildings on them.
  1. OmniSkribe's Avatar
    Yeah, that's understandable. I just came to this conclusion after watching video and comparing Vale of Eternal Blossoms for example with Stonefalls (or even Cyrodill pvp area, even though it lacks in details). I'm just a little spoiled by ESO scales. But that's not a big issue really.
  1. Rorcanna'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?
    That's how YOU feel. Now, do you seriously think that everyone else agrees? Then why that snide "How hard is that to understand?" as if your view = the only right one?

    /Been there, done that = my response to no flying even past level cap.
  1. IKT'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".
    They are designed for flight, Blizzard isn't completely retarded, re-doing Azeroth for flight cost them an entire expansion, they won't be designing places without flight in mind anymore (except maybe bgs etc).
  1. Kaleredar's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by arcaneshot View Post
    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.
    The trees in ashenvale are so far apart, and you'd waste time flying above the treetops and then back down because they're so damn tall. Plus, there's an invisible wall not too far up above the trees in ashenvale.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by OmniSkribe View Post
    The only problem I have right now is that after ESO zones this spires don't look so big and epic. For some reason Volcanos in Stonefalls had more of huge-ass mountain feeling compared to Wow hill-like mountains. But that's just me. I love Wow zone, but even with ground mounts they feel small.
    It's BECAUSE people are using ground mounts that Blizzard had to make them small. Look at Storm Peaks, or icecrown. The mountains and topographical features are MASSIVE in those zones, because they were designed with flying in mind.

    Now look at somewhere like Kun'lai. Sure, it looks pretty, but the mountains are actually very small when you size them up, because you have to feasibly run around it in within four or so minutes. There's more or less one linear path around the back area of the mountains that leads you through a little valley, with a set path here or there that takes you right up the "accessible" parts of the mountain. The Kun'lai mountains only get truly "huge" when you go to the north face of them, which drop off to the ocean (again, because you can only use flying mounts to traverse that area)

    Quote Originally Posted by IKT View Post
    They are designed for flight, Blizzard isn't completely retarded, re-doing Azeroth for flight cost them an entire expansion, they won't be designing places without flight in mind anymore (except maybe bgs etc).
    The point is is that they didn't design them with flight in mind, as in, things weren't meant to be explored or circumvented with flight in mind, meaning everything has to be a great deal smaller so that people aren't wildly inconvenienced by every single mountain and cliff they'd have to hoof it around on foot.
  1. Thaliya's Avatar
    Loving that artwork

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