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Breakfast Topic: Is it time to update WoW character models yet?


Ok, I'm going to come right out and admit it: I'm thinking of cheating on WoW. No, I don't mean like Mass Effect or Dragon Age, I mean seriously playing another MMO and sticking with it. I'm talking in specific, of Lego Universe, the upcoming title from NetDevil. I've been a Lego Maniac from a pretty young age. One of the best days of my childhood was the day my parents bought a massive bin of Legos from a garage sale. I created my own massive Lego castle village. My birthday and Christmas wish lists invariably consisted of Lego sets. Even to this day I sometimes think I should have pursued a master builder career. So the chance to do this all again in an MMORPG? You know I'll leap at it.

Of course, other MMOs are usually the purvey of our sister blog, Massively, but in this case, something caught our eye in a recent report on the making of Lego Universe by the Denver Westword News: The article claims that the number of 3-dimensional surfaces on a single 16-stud Lego Universe brick is twice as many as found on your average World of Warcraft character.

At first glimpse, that number seems a bit confusing. How could a simple Lego brick be that complicated? Of course, it gets a bit easier to understand when you consider a few issues: First, we have to admit that a Lego brick is a lot more complicated than it first appears. Not only do you have each individual stud, but there's the tubes on the undercarriage that allow it to snap onto other bricks. That's a good amount of surfaces.

Of course, the other issue is that World of Warcraft's graphics are 5 years old, and weren't top end even then. Now, I don't want to outright say they're sub-par or primitive. In fact, just today as I was fooling around on my long neglected level 70 hunter, I was marveling once again at the incredible scenery and architecture in Howling Fjord and the amazing Vykrul models. That said, the graphics are showing their age, and this nowhere more apparent than the character models. Only yesterday was I treating my guild to another rant on how Human Males who are not Arthas or Kalecgos (in his half-elf form, which looks mostly human) look like shaved gorillas. And certainly, I'm not the only member of the team who'd like a few face lifts.

Of course, the somewhat low-tech look of the PC models has its advantages too. If nothing else, WoW's not-exactly-Crysis level graphics give it a wider audience. Even if you're the type of person who doesn't upgrade their computer more than once every 5-10 years (and there's more of them out there than some of you might think), you can still play WoW. Still, I can't help but think when I look at my poor snub nosed Human death knight that he really deserves to look every bit as pretty as Kalec.

So the question remains: Should Blizzard keep the low level old PC graphics so they can focus on new art and keep system requirements low for their customers? Or is the fact that they're being beat out by a bunch of a bricks a good benchmark for a graphics upgrade? Then again, perhaps they should split the difference and just license some Warcraft Legos, which could then inevitably show up in Lego Universe.

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