The Cutscene - Behind Blizzard's In-Game Cinematics
Originally Posted by Blizzard Entertainment
  • The machinima team started doing trailers back as early as Burning Crusade. They quickly realized they could do more than just trailers and took on the Wrathgate cinematic next.
  • In 2010, the machinima department was part of the in-game cinematics department, which made all of the content for the Starcraft 2 story mode.
  • After Wings of Liberty, the team had made upgrades to their tools in preparation for Heart of the Swarm. The Diablo team wanted an announcement trailer for the Demon Hunter, so it was assigned to the machinima department.
  • A Cinematic Director works with the game team and creatives to get together and come up with the story that is going to take place in the gameplay experience or online. The story is then brought to artists, working with storyboard artists to block out the scene, layout artists to get the characters in their poses in the environment, as well as animators, lighters, compositors, and effect artists.
  • The director has to ensure that the truth, spirit, and flow of film are maintained during each step of the process.
  • The team has grown from 2 to more than 20 people.
  • Machinima artists work with the technology that makes everything work, as well as the creative side that makes everything look awesome.
  • Once the team has an idea of what assets they want to use, they have to find them. The team can use the regular game development tools, as well as a tool that allows them to browse the existing models. Once they have selected a model, they can change the textures if needed.
  • Once assets are pulled together, the other artists work on improving them so that they fit the cinematic and are high quality.
  • Game characters are the base for the characters in the cinematics, but in game they are optimized for situations where there are lots of characters on screen.
  • The team takes the game character and rounds out the edges and makes them higher quality so they still look good when viewed close up in the cinematic. This is done to all of the character, but especially the hands and faces. The topology of the face is important, as the characters need to be able to act when the animators work with them.
  • The lead animator brings characters to life though movements and performances.
  • Skin weighing plus additional bones meant that the Pandaren were able to emote much more than the older character models.
  • The team was about to work on the cinematic with Garrosh, so they decided to improve him without breaking the look of the game. They took the older model and made a new face rig, giving us Garrosh 1.5, which hasn't been seen before the panel. The game team happened to be making the new character models at the same time, starting with the Orc. The team took the new Garrosh and used the new face rig, creating the Garrosh we saw in Siege of Orgrimmar cinematics. This was the start of more expressive animation for in-game cinematics.
  • Compositing may be working with hundreds of layers at once on hundreds of shots, so it gets complicated really fast.
  • The team starts by looking for a visual style that complements the story. They then work with the in game shots, adding layers like atmosphere, fog, effects, colors, and fire. Warlords added per pixel lighting which was helpful for Gul'dan's cup.
  • WoW doesn't use a lot of lighting in the shots, but Heroes of the Storm does.
  • Heroes of the Storm trailers are 99% straight from the game, including the effects, background, and character models.
  • Heroes of the Storm was getting ready for closed beta and wanted a trailer for each hero. One new artist was tasked with creating all of the trailers. The too he used was a modified version of the Starcraft 2 editor, made especially for Heroes of the Storm.
  • The tool allowed for sculpting of the ground, painting textures, placing trees and objects, and summoning NPCs. This allowed him to cut from Camera 1, to Camera 2, to pan across to another hero, and fade out.
  • There are now 4 artists working on Heroes of the Storm machinima, allowing for lighting and compositing, custom models, and animations. This was first done for the Eternal Conflict trailer, as well as more recently in The Arena trailer.
  • In January 2014, the team was also working on Warlords of Draenor. Their plan was to make as many cinematics at launch as all of the other expansions combined. Alliance and Horde specific cinematics had worked well before, so they did it again with the first zone finale cinematics. Both are identical in the general concept, but the details are different and fit each faction well.
  • The Garrosh vs Thrall cinematic was the most challenging cinematic that Terran Gregory had ever worked on. There was a very complex and emotionally rich backstory between Thrall and Garrosh. Writer's block isn't always not knowing what to say, in this case it was having so many options and being paralyzed with choice. He knew it was going to be a battle to the death, so they started with the fight sequence. There used to be observers on the sidelines, almost as if they were in an arena. The observers were removed, giving the scene a different vibe. One on one is different than when you are around strangers. If this was the first time Garrosh was able to talk to Thrall without having to maintain any mask, what would really come out of his heart. They realized it was about abandonment, his father, Thrall leaving him to be Warchief. The final voice over came out amazing. While we could never forgive Garrosh for the things he had done, he was not a character that was beyond sympathy. It was a satisfying death for one of Warcraft's greatest villains.
  • Yrel's horns and hair were a unique identifier, as well as a customized gear progression to show her journey. Her gear became nicer over time, starting out with a simple modified Aldor set from Burning Crusade. She went to a Paladin set for Talador.
  • Garrisons needed a reward when they leveled up. Something flashy but not too long, giving you a little ego boost. The team worked with assets from the game while it was being developed, as well as their custom camera system to get smooth curves. The same methods were used for the Shipyard.
  • The team started with Yrel's game model, making the horns exactly like the concept, but they didn't look great when she wasn't looking straight ahead. They were then adjusted to work well with other camera angles. Her armor was then uprezzed and 3D armor was added to give her an actual breastplate rather than painted texture.
  • Yrel had to give a very emotional performance while not saying many lines, so expressiveness was important. Her game model was turned into a movie star!
  • Yrel's cinematic was quiet and subtle rather than the usual overly epic cinematic. It had to be compelling with very little dialogue in under 2 minutes. The team started by showing her looking to Velen for answers, but she doesn't realize the answers are within her. The final shot shows her hope and determination, which you see later in the Battle of Shattrath.
  • Garrosh vs Thrall is the more standard epic cinematic, but it is also a very intimate moment.
  • Warlords was a ton of work for the team, 6 sequences, 274 shots, all due in 6 months. The team developed a comp template that allowed artists to sit down and hammer out some stuff really quickly, making them functional really fast, increasing throughput.
  • Lords of War required a real 3D package for the first time. Real lights, real shadows, and they created dark and brooding sessions.
  • The team showed a small Legion in-game cinematic storyboard teaser at the end!

This article was originally published in forum thread: The Cutscene - Behind Blizzard's In-Game Cinematics started by chaud View original post
Comments 15 Comments
  1. Doffer's Avatar
    I loved the work they did on Yrel. Her cutscene in Shadowmoon valley gave me so many chills! And her face when she looks at Velen is so fantastically beautiful.
    My only problem with that cutscene is that I couldn't find ANY info on what music is playing during it, as it is by far my favorite piece of music in WoW.

    On the topic of that storyboard sneak peak though, man I wonder whats going on there.
    The first three photos is obviously Illidan looking over the Black temple being invaded so thats probably a separate part to the rest.

    It looks as if it starts with Alliance led by possibly Varian is fighting the legion when over the ridge Sylvanas and the Horde appears.
    They're looking over the field of battle at scores of demons coming towards them. Next its panning over various leaders, Baine and Lor'themar obviously, Varian and then possibly Mekkatorque?
    Panning shot as an alliance airship flies over the field firing at the demons. No idea who the night elf could be though, doesn't seem like Tyrande would use a staff.
    Next we see possibly Greymane fighting in his worgen form and then a shot of sylvanas firing her arrows.

    The last two pictures has to be Gul'dan using his power against the Horde and Alliance forces, possibly against the leaders themselves! He looks sinister in that last photo as if he succeeded in destroying their forces.
  1. voskopoula's Avatar
    i gotta ask, didn't read anywhere about graphic engine upgrades yet.
  1. TrollShaman's Avatar
    Looking at the cinematic development process is really cool and inspiring
  1. mmoce043f44c28's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by voskopoula View Post
    i gotta ask, didn't read anywhere about graphic engine upgrades yet.
    They mention 3x view distance option not sure if that was all about it
  1. Coconut's Avatar
    Is that Alliance skyship firing on Horde, and is Genn perhaps behind it?
  1. 7empest's Avatar
    Thought the orc was Thrall at first, because you know, eyebrows. Hope there will be a standoff between Genn and Sylvanas
  1. Nerevar's Avatar
    Reminds me of the coliseum of lust machinima.
  1. GreenJesus's Avatar
    That is a gnome in a cinematic!!! Omggg!!!! Mekatorque is in a cinematic!!!

    - - - Updated - - -

  1. randomnamegenerator16's Avatar
    Where can I watch it?
  1. Easo's Avatar

    Also gratz to Yrel basically having been given 3D breasts, ahem...
  1. Rhlor's Avatar
  1. mmocb54112e783's Avatar
    I can't believe it. That looks like.. a Gnome in a cinematic.

    Oh my god! Amazing. That should be put in a book of records or something.
  1. Bub's Avatar
    Any ideas, where did THIS frame came from?:O))

  1. Azahel's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Bub View Post
    Any ideas, where did THIS frame came from?:O))


  1. Bub's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Azahel View Post

    Great Scott! How did I miss it?!
    Thanks, man

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