BlizzCon 2019 - Designers at Work: World of Warcraft World Creation
Come see how your favorite areas of Azeroth are created. Join a team of World of Warcraft world builders and level designers for a live demonstration of how a zone is created, from concept to completion.

  • Team works with all the departments to bring things together and make the world!
  • Blue Sky time, what will this zone be like?
  • Final stage, polish - Demonstrate the story and details, complete the picture.
  • Want to see something every 12-15 seconds that tells a story, unrelated to the one you are currently playing.
  • In Kul Tiras, Gary build a mine cart out of a barrel, dinner plates, smoke, and other parts.
  • Sound and music are important. Can tell if a zone is hot or cold, safe or dangerous, all from the music.
  • WoWEdit, select chunks you are going to work on, select them, they are yours to work on and no one else can use them.
  • There is a tools team, plus individual level designers can create their own brushes, much like Photoshop.
  • Time of Day is huge, team usually starts with noon in a zone and then figures out the other times.
  • Weather is a different skybox. Whole new light that comes in at a certain speed.
  • The team can change the sky for individual players now, but previously they couldn't.
  • When the team was working on WoW, they had an accelerated day and night, about 4 hours. Another game had a realtime day and night, Alan was a fan of that, so that's what they went with.
  • Build an entire scene yourself, it'll help you decide what part of the process you enjoy.
  • When designing a PvP environment, it is a little more confined, smaller, more of a planned out space. Don't want to cause collision issues. Have to be careful with small props, don't want Goblins hiding in the bushes.
  • The team wants to see a story in a Level Design portfolio. Concentrate on duplicating nature!
  • The team gets emails about new props. Designers may browse through a giant list or ask the room if they know of a good prop.
  • Internal art site let's Blizzard artists post what they are working on.

Zone Design
  • First thing, pull up a 2D, top down, map of the zone to get a general idea of where the player will start, some other locations.
  • Next is a trace map of the 3D world the designer has started to build. More detail, roads.
  • Later stage, map is overlaid on top of 3D world. Helps quest design to figure out the flow in the zone and where things will go.
  • Grey map stage has big blocky mountains, make large changes really fast. Get down on the player level and see how the space feels.
  • Draw roads and hubs as a rough sketch placeholder on the world.
  • Next designer: Start with concept art, need sub-zones.
  • Sometimes there is no concept art for the sub-zones, so the designer will jump into the editor and start working on a concept.
  • Some designers use assets from other zones as placeholders to sketch out how an area will look to get buy in from everyone.
  • Avoid players getting burnt out on a zone looking the same across the entire area, add variance.
  • Use brushes to raise/lower terrain, flatten out spaces, smooth out spaces to make it easier for players to navigate.
  • Further on in zone design, level designer is working with quest design.
  • Had a section that is covered in spider webs, so the people living in that space could be sneaky, maybe spymasters, creeping around in the shadows. Pitched to quest design and they loved it.
  • Replace purple line for roads with proper texture from environment art team.
  • Indicate that a certain way is a path, but not a safe path. Used a different texture, less clear that it is a path. Leads to end area for that PoI.
  • WMO team gives the designers awesome building props. Mostly work on dungeons.
  • Having textures and assets makes it easier for the team to sell their vision.
  • Talk to other departments, come up with asset list needed to complete the sub-zone.
  • Environment art demo. Create a space where assets can be placed so people can see them in context.
  • Art team uses the story and list to create assets.
  • Try to figure out how the assets work together, place them together and see.
  • Even though it is Shadowlands, players will see things that are wrong and stand out. Trying to duplicate nature.
  • Nothing is procedurally done, everything is touched at least once by hand.
  • Asset list includes textures, orange moss, purple bushes.
  • Limited to 4 terrain textures per square on the grid. Self imposed performance limitation.
  • Textures are applied by hand, pressure sensitive tablet.
  • At the polish phase, you get down on the player's level, turn on game mode to have all the lighting, see what it looks like.
  • Polish the road, add markers, lighting, pavement, help guide you to where you need to go.
  • Some of the textures have additional depth, vert color. Designer can paint color on top of textures to add more variation and emphasis.
  • Have to make sure there are no holes for players to fall into.
  • Need to ensure the secondary path is clear. Need a second set of eyes, as if you build it you already know a lot about it.
  • Another artist built some mountains separately, they can be copied and pasted around the area to have awesome mountain silhouettes and let the designer focus on the areas the player can go through.

Raid Design
  • Next designer: Designing a raid!
  • Raids are much more linear, so the team has much more control of what a player will see.
  • Started with art from Chronicles book for the raid.
  • Use block pieces and scale models to figure out the correct scale.
  • In an open world you have to be able to walk to everywhere, but in raids players can't get to many areas, so you can cheat a little bit.
  • Run through raid space with encounter designers.
  • 50 yd radius disk to ensure there is enough space for encounters.
  • Feedback - It became repetitive to only be on platforms, so pulled out some terrain to replace some of the platforms.
  • Ramp tool to help level designers quickly add ramps.
  • Terrain changes from red to green when it is too steep to run up.
  • Use textures to give players an idea of where to run. Visual language.
  • Try to put rock where you don't want players to go so that they know there is nothing that way.
  • Got feedback that there was enough tentacles, so removed some and added more crazy architecture and volcanoes.
  • In the Polish phase, new assets are all in, lots of different level designers have looked at the space.
  • Have to use art in many ways to avoid having to constantly requesting new art.
  • Doing lighting, effects, atmospheric effects.
  • Point lights are adjusted in this phase, color, position, intensity, size, falloff, animate, and more.
  • At the base of the Old God mouth, rocks from Arathi Basin, Underrot, painted color, and you have some extra Old God parts!
  • New lava art and lava falls!
  • Don't have to worry about finishing the backsides of things in raids, no one can get there to see them.
  • Work with other artist to ensure the skybox blends in with the terrain.

This article was originally published in forum thread: BlizzCon 2019 - Designers at Work: World of Warcraft World Creation started by chaud View original post
Comments 4 Comments
  1. Redroniksre's Avatar
    Ah the only side panel i actually care about. Love this team.
  1. iosdeveloper's Avatar
    The best panel there was, thanks for the tips, Blizz!
    I'm making my own game, i'm done with yours. You're outdated and lost your grip
  1. exsanguinate's Avatar
    A lot of people just forget how hard it is to create something like this. You can think what you want about Blizzard, but on the creative level, they're unbeatable.
  1. sylenna's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbselle View Post
    A lot of people just forget how hard it is to create something like this. You can think what you want about Blizzard, but on the creative level, they're unbeatable.
    and that is one of the problems: people deem this expansion shitty after getting an early glimpse. they hang themselves up on how the lore doesn't fit and whatnot, they don't try to immerse themselves anymore. they want flying from the start to get everywhere in a matter of seconds.

    but deep down there is always a great world to discover. packed with details, crafted with love. and even though all the mouthbreathers stomp with hatred through the zones and bitch about quests, flying, story, lore, they do it every time again and when they grow up, they will remember the beautiful landscapes that only blizzard can create this way.

    you will never see a game with the art level these designers operate at. and blizzard always does this, no matter who is in charge.

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