How Blizzard Has Reforged Warcraft III
Memory is a funny thing. Games from yesteryear often look better in our mind’s eye than they do when we actually sit down to play them. This is a real challenge for developers who remake their classics. How do you compete with the visuals of a game in someone’s memory? Blizzard is working hard to update its classic RTS visuals for Warcraft III: Reforged. Below you can find several character sketches for Warcraft III’s updated units and compare them to their original models.
“It sounds cliché now, but at one point we all sat in a room and talked about what we wanted, and we just threw everything at the whiteboard,” says lead designer Matt Morris. “New neutral buildings came up, a new tile set. We talked about introducing new items. We wondered if we could introduce a new neutral hero from the tavern. All those things are still on that list of things we’d like to tackle. I can’t promise it, but it is something we want to have happen. The good news is, we have ideas for what we want to do post-launch, and what we want to do post-post-launch. We want to give this game continuous support.”
Warcraft III: Reforged features all new models and all new animations. Each animation has been hand done, from scratch, to match the animations from the original game in order to preserve gameplay.
“We were pretty inspired by the Mists of Pandaria opening cinematic, which stayed within the stylized portion of Warcraft, but felt a little more realistic,” says lead character artist Chris Amaral. “In our mind, that’s the most successful cinematic we’ve made, because it still has that Blizzard feel but steps more into the realistic style of texturing.”
Since a lot of the Warcraft III images are so old and small, Blizzard referenced a lot of World of Warcraft assets, because WOW does a better job representing the modern look. At the same time, Blizzard spent months iterating on the Orcs and trying to get them right. There were multiple versions where Blizzard messed with their proportions, because a model that worked in third person for WOW will look different in a top-down RTS.
“Blizzard has this rich history, not just in storytelling in the moments, but in the art style,” says lead producer Pete Stilwell. “Look at the original top-down versions of Warcraft art and how those progressed into 3D and then into WOW. Our first core value is gameplay, but how things read in-game is a massive bit of how it plays. For RTS you want things to be a little bit overbuilt and easier to read from the top down.”
Along with all the art updates, Warcraft III: Reforged now features female versions of male heroes and female versions of zombies. “There is an edge of realism that you see in this world,” says lead producer Pete Stilwell. “Despite the bubbliness and the pop-culture references there’s some really heavy sh-- happening in the background. We wanted that to be emulated in the art itself, so we can recognize this as Warcraft III, but when you get in close, you’re like, “Damn, there’s some grit here.”
Be sure to stick around this month, because we’ll be posting various video interviews with the teams and doing a deep dive into the lore of Warcraft III. Click on our banner hub for more on Warcraft III: Reforged.