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Back in the Good Old Days
20/11/2008 alle 02:00
I'm not sure offhand what percentage of World of Warcraft players also played
Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos
and the expansion pack,
The Frozen Throne
certainly did--for a while, Warcraft 3 and Diablo II were the only games I was capable of playing. I was never much GOOD at Warcraft 3, but I enjoyed it a great deal even when I was losing. In fact, my primary reason for picking up World of Warcraft in the first place was because I was excited to see the familiar characters, locations and battles from my old favorite game writ large--I wanted to see Warcraft 3 from the Footman's point of view.
My choice of race in Warcraft 3 was the
, and it was that reason (and that reason only) that saw me on the Horde side of the game rather than on the Alliance side--which to this day is where most of my friends remain. My first
was Undead, because I really wanted to get in and see the Scourge mobs and buildings in huge, life size versions. After getting over my initial disappointment at discovering that you didn't REALLY face off against the Scourge on their home ground until you started questing in the
, and finding solace in the incredible coolness of the
, I began to notice subtle differences in the presentation between WoW and Warcraft 3.
Maybe you noticed some of them too. The model work in Warcraft 3 was always superb--each individual model was easy to follow, eye-catching, and expressively animated on the screen. The Warcraft 3 developers had a huge challenge--they had to make each individual look different, be easily distinguishable with a simple palette swap (for different teams), and express the
of the model--all in a minimum number of polygons, since any given battle could have hundreds of them on screen at a time. They were a stellar example of the "simple polygon, complex texture map" philosophy that continues to serve Blizzard well to this day. The artists were forced to "do more with less", and under this pressure they created some really excellent work.
When Blizzard began to translate those models into WoW, they expanded their range of possibilities a great deal--and in so doing, they
seemed to create models that were softer, rounder, more symmetrical, and more washed out than the Warcraft 3 models. In the process of expanding their creations to "life-size", those creations lost a little bit of their life.
Now don't get me wrong, I adore the art direction on World of Warcraft. It is and has been one of the great triumphs of art direction in the video game world, and Blizzard's art team is at the top of their game. When the WoW team is building their own unique NPC models, they do
--but it seems like once you tether the team to an older model and say "make this, only bigger and better", the inspiration isn't quite there.
I've put together a little gallery of screenshots showing some of the differences between the old Warcraft 3 models and the newer WoW models. See for yourself!
The WoW abomination is rounder, and more symmetrical than the one from War3. Less emphasis is put on the stitching. Note the sharper angles on the War3 Abomination--the blood on the cleaver, the angry expression, and the ragged, bleeding, off-center chest wound. On the WoW Abomination the chest wound is carefully centered, and the ribs protrude around it in an even, regular pattern. It almost looks like an overweight man with an underbite and a hole in his stomach--not like a horrific patchwork of sewn-together corpses. But note what the WoW art team was able to do when they WEREN'T trying to duplicate a War3 model:
Now THAT'S creepy.
You can see how the WoW version looks less like a temple of ultimate evil, and more like a...building. It's made of simple brick, and aside from the central skull the Necropolis is surprisingly free of spikes, bones, and other "undead-y" sort of influences. Notice especially the semi-transparent obelisk in the center of the War3 Necropolis, vs. a solid block on the WoW version. And look how interesting the War3 building gets as it evolves--adding new entrances, canals filled with green fluid, streams of it running from the skull's eye-sockets--while even Naxxramas itself only matches the same model we see here. But again, when the WoW team breaks free of the limitations placed on them by Warcraft 3, they come up with something a little more interesting:
Once again the creative liberties pay off.
We see the same thing happening here. The Infernal is a creature I specifically liked from Warcraft 3--it's a perfect example of an art team doing more with less. They clearly had a very small number of polygons to work with, but by applying their textures carefully they create a very dangerous looking creature. The first time I encountered an Infernal in WoW I remember thinking "...
an Infernal? He has no hands!" The WoW infernal looks more like an animated rockpile--and to a certain extent that's what they were going for. But look what happens when the WoW team starts stretching a little bit:
There we go!
There are a number of other places where we see the same progression from War3 to WoW:
Okay, so you can tell I'm an Undead player. But we see this in other places too:
So what do you guys think?
Am I imagining things? Am I just falling victim to nostalgia? Or did those old Warcraft 3 models actually have some mysterious quality that the early WoW models didn't?
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