One of the more underrated panels during every BlizzCon is the World of Warcraft art panel, which discusses the little things that players usually gloss over when playing the game. Environmental Art Lead Gary Platner and his team spoke about how the art in the game evolved through time, particularly with the advances in the game's technology. Since its launch in 2004, World of Warcraft has evolved in many visual, if not always noticeable, ways. For instance, players can now see up to twice as far into the distance compared to when the game first came out. Projected texture effects are overlaid on some terrain, creating a more "realistic" environment, and vertex shading for richer, better lighting.
The new Cataclysm expansion will continue to improve on the look of the game, utilizing new technologies such as texture blending - which allows distinct objects to be blended together visually. The team also previewed new water, which was just marvelous to look at. They also discussed the creation of new dungeons, which start from brainstorming, picking up lore, and getting real world inspiration.
Gilneas, the Worgen environment, in particular, seems to have an Eastern European feel to it, with dark and foggy villages. The art team were also playing around with the silhouette of the buildings, toying around with onion domes such as the ones found in Russia's St. Basil's Cathedral. It feels like a village in what movies would have us believe is Transylvania.
On the flip side, the art team showed a bit of whimsy with the Goblins, whose environment exude a Gilligan's Island vibe. The ingenious and resourceful Goblins make use of island materials such as bamboo and coconuts (and even some livestock!) to power their machines. The art team seem to have let loose with their ideas here, and I'm sincerely hoping they all make it into the game.
The panel concluded with attendees asking various art-related questions, such as the inspiration for tier armor or dungeons. One attendee even asked what inspired Ulduar and a member of the art team remarked, "Greece. Couldn't (you) tell?" It was a low-key panel that didn't have the same impact as the Cataclysm, but it pays homage to an aspect of the game that most players overlook yet provide the richness and detail that permeates and improves the playing experience.
BlizzCon 2009 is coming up on August 21st and 22nd! We've got all the latest news and information. At BlizzCon you can play the latest games, meet your guildmates, and ask the developers your questions. Plus, there's some great looking costumes.