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by Published on 2019-11-03 12:03 AM

BlizzCon 2019 - CodeCraft: Exploring Blizzard Engineering
Join experienced Blizzard Engineers to ask questions about how your favorite Blizzard games are created.

  • Containers weren't mature enough when Overwatch launched to use them. New projects at Blizzard are using Kubernetes.
  • Teams with legacy software are slowly migrating them to containers.
  • Diablo 4 uses C# and WPF for tools. Game is C++. Interop layer that glues them together.
  • Overwatch is C++, tools are TED, in C#. Python for administration.
  • Battle.Net - Java, Spring, Angular, Vue, Go, Python, Javascript.
  • The game needs to be reliable regardless of if there are esports or not. Blizzard makes a game for players, not just esports. They need a reliable game for everyone, not just esports.
  • Warden isn't sending private player data to Blizzard. It is GDPR compliant.
  • GDPR compliance took a lot of effort.
  • Blizzard operates like a lot of studios under one umbrella. Individual teams make tech decisions.
  • Engineering council, engineering directors meet and discuss things such as coding standards.
  • School isn't necessary, you can learn a lot on your own. Do some work and showcase it.
  • For some games, Blizzard has to provision enough servers to handle peak load and leave it at that, as they were created before clouds and scaling was a thing.
  • Overwatch autoscales VMs based on player demand.
  • Classic was part of a hackathon project. Tried to load the code, then get it to run on a modern system.
  • When Overwatch is rolling out a new feature, such as Role Queue, they use the Automation Team's headless Overwatch client to stress test things.
  • Thunder Thursday - Internally stress test things.
  • Work on open source software to get feedback on your code.
  • Upgrading C++ standards is a scary thing that has to be timed correctly.
  • WoW upgraded to C++17.
  • When making something like Overwatch, you are restricted by developing on multiple platforms and the features available.
  • WoW Classic APIs are an ongoing discussion about the appropriate balance.
  • IT Implementation team flies out to datacenters and sets up, modifies, and tears down hardware.
by Published on 2019-11-02 11:12 PM

BlizzCon 2019 - World of Warcraft: Developers' Tales
Join members of the World of Warcraft team as they share stories from the early days of the game’s development.

  • Gary was hired to work on Nomad, a sci-fi RPG. No one thought it was great.
  • At some point the team thought about making an MMORPG and was influenced by Everquest.
  • Morgan Day started in Summer 2005. Got in the car, drove across the country, really wanted to work on the game. There was an opening for QA at the time, he was part of a successful raiding guild. Interviewed for QA night crew, got the job, a new position opened up a few months later for a Raid and Dungeon QA specialist.
  • Testing AQ20, split QA Night Crew into 2, whoever got furthest got to test it.
  • Monte Krol started in October of 2000. Studied Computer Engineering, graduated and went into Healthcare software. A friend showed him Diablo and he played a ton. He bought Blizzard's next game without seeing it, Starcraft. Played a ton of it with friends. Warcraft 3 trailer had come out when he was looking for a new job. Flew out, interviewed, didn't know what game he was working on. WoW was still a secret at this point, so Monte thought he would be working on Starcraft 2. Monte was loaned to Team 1 for 6.5 years, then came back to Team 2.
  • Terran Gregory has been at Blizzard since 1.12. He was playing a ton of WoW as he was finishing school and working. A friend wanted to enter the movie contest at BlizzCon with him, had to convince Terran to do it. They dove right in and found a little project called the WoW Model Viewer. He reached out to one of the two developers, asking for some new features to make movies easier. The author kept adding features he requested, allowing them to make their BlizzCon submission. Terran made a few more films, got in contact with Blizzard, interviewed, and was hired. First project was the 1.12 trailer, then Black Temple trailer, one of the first times telling a story in the game.
  • When Terran submitted his movie, no one at Blizzard knew how he did it. They were trying to make their own movies at the time.
  • Joeyray came out and asked Gary to draw something in the lobby for his interview.
  • Joeyray asked if Terran made the movie, like actually did the editing. After that it was a casual conversation.
  • Some people on the team thought Warcraft was the wrong setting for an MMORPG, as Team 1 was already making Warcraft 3.
  • The team didn't want to have to make a whole new world, they already saw how that went with Nomand.
  • Everyone was very influenced by Warcraft. Gary wanted to go and see what was inside the Barracks.
  • No one was thinking about demographics, just making the game they wanted to play.
  • The team originally started with a more realistic graphic style. Someone took a Gnoll from Warcraft, upresed it, and Bill Petras decided that it would be the cornerstone for the art style.
  • The team started making more of the world based on the style of the Gnoll.
  • Easier to be creative with a style guide.
  • Hogger is the artistic cornerstone of World of Warcraft!
  • The team wanted to make 4 continents.
  • They didn't know how fast a person should run, or how big they should be.
  • The speed of characters were 7.2 yd/sec.
  • The team wasn't sure if all characters should move at the same speed.
  • The whole world was initially built on inches, with 1 inch being the base unit. The team found that numbers got very large quickly. There were numeric precision problems in the graphic engines, making animations happening far away jerky. The team then scaled everything with yards and ended up calling them meters.
  • In one cinematic, there were characters far from the origin and this was causing jerky motion. The team had to move them above Dalaran crater, which is 0,0. They then put them back in the scene.
  • One of the bugs for the BlizzCon demo was missing scrolling combat text. The Bastion zone was so far away from 0 that it caused this.
  • Sending things to 0,0 was done to prevent crashes.
  • Terran was asked to work with a team of 2-5 to make the Icecrown in-game cinematic. 20 members of QA ran up the stairs to make the charge scene. Most of the movie is players actually playing the game, including the Alliance charge. The flame effect was a vehicle that someone was driving.
  • Vehicles were abused a lot.
  • In Lich King, there were some ghouls walking around. Designers wanted icy spike ghouls, but the art team didn't have time. Designers used vehicles to add the spikes to the ghouls.
  • Testing Dalaran, they found an area with an awful framerate. It was inside the Toy Shop. One of the toys was a Dalaran in a bottle. A designer had spawned all of Dalaran, scaled it down to 1%, and stuck it in a bottle.
  • In 2010 Monte got to go to Moscow to do a signing. About 3,000 people were waiting in line, in December, for the Cataclysm launch signing. A man came up to him, gave him a rolled up piece of paper, told him that he worked for Blizzard. It was an artist that did TCG art for Blizzard, he came to Moscow for the signing.
  • Terran put his parents in Stormwind. In 2004, Terran visited his mom for Thanksgiving, right around release. He told her the game was about to come out, they took a 3 hour spontaneous road trip to the event. His mom picked up a copy of the game, joined a guild, made friends all over North America. She became very ill in 2005, MRI of her brain showed a large abscess. It wasn't a tumor, just a serious infection. As she slowly recovered her tactile skills, she played WoW with her friends playing at her pace. She made a full recovery and went back to being an RN. She has come to BlizzCon, asked questions, done cosplay, and is watching right now.

by Published on 2019-11-02 10:14 PM

BlizzCon 2019 - Warcraft III: Reforged Deep Dive
Join developers from Warcraft III: Reforged as they discuss the creation process. Learn more about the game and its upcoming launch.

  • Adding Undead next week and Night Elf shortly after. 3v3 and FFA coming next week as well.
  • On the animation side, don't break what was originally there.
  • Time on the damage point on the animation had to match the original.
  • There is an attachment system on the characters, so the weapons can be attached to the character and projectiles can spawn from that weapon. The timing remains the same between both versions of the game. Projectiles will hit at the same time, but may look different.
  • Character animations and models could be updated, as technology has come a long way. Characters have fingers now, so they can wrap their fingers around the weapon.
  • A lot of the models in the original game were the same, just scaled up or tinted to show they are different. This time there are unique models for everything, over 2,200 models now!
  • The team had to make sure you can still recognize the silhouette. Some units had to be tweaked, as they were hard to recognize when in battle.
  • Blademaster had to be tweaked to change the run animation to be more similar to the original.
  • Single account system, race based MMR.
  • Different MMR for 2v2, 3v3, FFA.
  • Blizzard has learned a lot about matchmaking over the years. Hopefully good matchmaking will help new players have a good experience.
  • Team colored health bars. Old days had green health bars that were on or off, but now you can have them colored per team.
  • Special hero healthbars will make it easy to tell what unit is a hero.
  • The team wants feedback on how matchmaking is going.
  • The old chain sounds and other parts of the old UI will remain. The team will continue to improve on the UI as feedback comes in.
  • If you've pre-purchased, you'll get in to the Warcraft 3:Reforged beta.
  • Scary moment with SC:Remastered. Capped the framerate actually capped input, the pros noticed that input was being lost.
  • So far the beta still feels like Warcraft 3.
  • The team got involved with the current mapmaking community and figuring out what they were blocked by.
  • Before if you wanted to make an RPG map, you wanted to grant +5 health for completing a quest. You'd have to go into the map editor and make a ton of units with 5 more health. Now you can just change an individual unit's health.
  • The team put some community maps in the 1v1 map pool. The team wants to hear what the best community maps are so that they can include them.
  • You can control where your opponents will spawn
  • New camera tools for map makers. Tower Defense towers, new models, Orc/Dwarf carts, and more.
  • The team can't wait to see what the community will make with the new tools.
  • There are now High Elf swordsmen models.
  • Balance is an iterative process. Starcraft was hard to balance with 3 races, WC3 has 4!
  • Crystal Orb feedback mostly consisted of "Trash" and "Vendor". The team thought about making a big change, but thought it would take away from what it was. The real issue is that it was showing up too late. Scouting is really important early on.
  • By the end of the beta, you'll have everything in your hands from a multiplayer perspective.
  • The team knows people are here for cinematics and the campaign, so we got a little sneak peek.

by Published on 2019-11-02 09:22 PM

BlizzCon 2019 - World of Warcraft Q & A Panel Recap

Q: How will heritage armor be obtained with the leveling changes?
A:You will obtain the heritage armor by leveling an allied race to the new level cap.

Q: Did the Jailer see Sylvanas as a threat?
A: We will find out during the story that Sylvanas's dealings with the Jailer started when she threw herself off of Icecrown in Edge of Night. She helped Varian in Legion as a way to thrust herself into a position of power.

Q: How are the Covenants and new systems that come with them going to affect PvP?
A: The Covenant choice is supposed to be a net effect of different variables.

Q: Will War Mode still be in Shadowlands?
A: Yes

Q: How is flying going to work in Shadowlands?
A: Shadowlands will use the same system as Legion and BfA for unlocking flying.

Q: Will there ever be an HD model toggle for Classic?
A: The HD models were meant to improve the look of the characters to the current game, and HD characters would look out of place in Classic.

Q: Will legendaries ever be transmoggable?
A: Short answer: yes! Very soon!

Q: What is the creative process for choosing an expansion theme, specifically Shadowlands?
A: The team begins brainstorming expansion concepts even two expansions ahead. The first thing to consider is the world that will be explored, and where do we want to go next? Where should the story take us next? Sometimes an idea sounds great, but it isn't right in the moment, and it is pushed further down the line until the story leads there. The team liked that the Shadowlands was so other-wordly and something never seen or done before.

Q: Have you named an expansion before you developed it?
A: Legion was the placeholder name, but eventually it was made the real name.

Q: Is the Jailer someone that we already know that is connected to death?
A: They created the Jailer as a mysterious new figure. He is an important part to the mythology of the cosmology. He is not someone that we know, but familiar figures will be aligned with him or opposing him. He is the centerpiece villain of the expansion.

Q: What will happen with the essences and Heart of Azeroth we have earned this expansion?
A: Our connection to the Heart will weaken as we journey into the Shadowlands, but the abilities and essences are still usable in timewalking.

Q:What other customization options are coming to the races?
A: What we have already seen is just a small sample of what is coming. The team wants to offer a lot of diversity so you can really represent yourself as a person.

Q: Are we ever going to see another round of realm connections?
A: Yes, the team knows they need to address realm population very soon. No ETA, but very soon.

Q: Have you considered releasing additional digital tracks of music that comes out in patches after the expansion?
A: The team wants to do this, and are actively working on it.

Q: Lore-wise, who won each Warfront?
A: Canonically, the Alliance wins both warfronts.

Q: Would you consider loosening faction restrictions for grouping with friends?
A: They understand why you want to, but the Alliance and Horde separation is what makes Warcraft what it is and there is some value to mechanical reinforcement of that division. Grouping together is not an option at this time.

Q: Will anything happen in 8.3 if you kept the Gift of N'zoth?
A: Wait and see?

Q: Will there be Burning Crusade or Wrath of the Lich King server options?
A: They can do it, and are not opposed, but want to make sure they do the right thing.

Q: Will anything further happen with the story from the Mag'har Orc Scenario?
A: We might see the beings that tagged along back to Azeroth, and stories like this are kept in the back pocket for future stories where they make sense. Light and Void will most likely be addressed in the future.

Q: Is Chronicle cannon?
A: It is, but it is from the view of the titans and so there is room to explore the more obscure mythology.

Q: What happens when we die in the Shadowlands?
A: There is a much different aesthetic when you die in the Shadowlands. There is a different screen effect as well as the idea that Azeroth still needs us and so we are able to corpse run back to life!

Q: How much of end game will be taken up by Torghast?
A: It depends on the player. You will want to do 1 to a few runs a week, but the content is created to be repeated as much as you want if you enjoy it.

Q: Is there a possibility of playable races with more or less than two legs now that Mechagnomes are a thing?
A: If it is appropriate to the story then maybe! They got new tech for mechagnomes and can explore it now.

Q: Are tier sets coming back next expansion?
A: Not in the initial patch of Shadowlands, but they want to have class-themed armor return at some point. They don't want players to feel like those slots are locked for tier sets, but know that set bonuses are exciting and want to find a way to implement them without checking a box in a gear slot. The team knows sets were a big drive to raid and are gonna use the feedback for Shadowlands by giving things to chase in raids. You will want to kill N'Zoth a lot!
by Published on 2019-11-02 08:33 PM

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.

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