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As we've published our different Design a Legendary articles, one request we've seen over and over again is to share more behind-the-scenes information about the visual design process in Diablo III. What's involved in creating an item's appearance? How long does it normally take? Who works on item art: is it one person, or many? Why is Aaron Gaines so amazing? And so forth.
Well, we're happy to oblige! Read on below for a step-by-step process on how our community Legendary sword was brought to life, as well as a Q&A with Aaron himself.
This whole process started with an initial piece concept art. Knowing that the community had selected a one-handed, Mephisto-themed sword for the Design a Legendary project, Aaron began sketching a first draft in Photoshop.
Next step: Iteration! After the intial concept was complete, Aaron created a second piece of concept art, also in Photoshop. This illustration would serve as the final concept piece and ultimately provide a visual basis for the in-game model. Before sketching this piece, Aaron made sure to pour over feedback from the community, making adjustments to the concept's design per player suggestions.
Once Aaron finished the final concept piece, he used the 2D illustration as a basis to begin sculpting a high-poly 3D model. This work was done in zBrush.
After completing the high poly sculpt in zBrush, Aaron created a low poly model of the sword in Maya. He then baked (or applied) the high poly sword texture onto the low poly model in order to create a detailed, but low poly version of the item that would be fit for use in the game. In the image on the right, you can see both the original low poly model (left) and low poly model with the applied high poly texture (right).
From there, Aaron "unwrapped" the 3D model to ready it for painting in Photoshop.
For those who aren't familiar with 3D graphics, the way a particular texture is wrapped around a model is determined by mapping coordinates (often called UVW coordinates). Unwrapping is the process of laying out those coordinates flat so that texture painting can be done. To provide a very simple analogy, think of unwrapping a 3D model like breaking down a packing box to its original folding pattern or taking a globe of the Earth and rolling it out into a two-dimensional map.
Unwrapping is an important step, as during this process the artist can adjust the UWV coordinates to minimize stretching and identify seams (or visible "folds"). Usually, the less stretching there is, the more seams there are, and vice-versa. It's all about balance! Thankfully, a clever artist can hide seams with a 3D paint -- which is exactly what Aaron did once the unwrapping process was complete.
Once the texture paint was done, Aaron passed the torch to Jill Harrington, a senior technical arist on the Diablo III development team. Jill is responsible for the adding the awesome smoke-and-lightning effect (and making sure it animates properly as your heroes rofflestomp everything in sight) seen in the screenshot below.
And there you go! The visual life cycle of Legendary, from concept (art) to animation. Pretty neat, huh?
If you're hankerin' for even more information about how items in Diablo III are created, you're in luck! It just so happens we had an opportunity to sit down with Aaron and ask him a few questions (i.e. we emailed him the questions because we're gamers and it's more efficient that way) about his role in the Design a Legendary project. Check it out!
A character artist on Diablo III is a chimera of focused energies. Heroes, monsters, bosses, NPC’s, items, weapons, and armor are our bread and butter. Some of us do our own concepts, and some of us even have rigging, sfx, and scripting skills. My specialization is weapon design and creation.
Currently, there are six character artists, and each one of us has a unique style and personality. It’s a great environment to work in. We all learn from each other and help each other to become better at our craft. If a needed asset is tasked to the character department, we will see if anyone wants it specifically. It could also get added to a list and then divvied out to everyone, or to whoever has the time. But for the most part, if you really want to make something you get to make it.
I could talk all day about what makes a Diablo III weapon a Diablo III weapon. I love making weapons. A while back, we came up with a rough style guide with that exact goal in mind; to give anyone working on an item some clear direction and understanding for their task. The main thing for me is to keep it in the realm of realistic, but still fantastical. We like to think of it as "low fantasy," whereas something like WoW is more high fantasy. Identifiable materials, themes, and strong, iconic silhouettes are a must for our camera angle. WoW has a very big, bulky, chunky design language that fits incredibly well in their world. For us, we need to be a bit more toned back, while keeping that epic Blizzard feel. It's a bit of a challenge, and I love doing it.
Well, as in practically all game design, it never really goes exactly according to plan. Hah. Someone in design might have an idea first and write up some flavor text, for instance. Or someone will say "we need six new swords right now," and we have to scramble to get someone on concepts first then design where they go later.
In an ideal scenario, the design team will need some art for an item they need. The concept team or the character team will do some rough sketches first and then a more finished piece based on what we all decided was the best one. From there, it is tasked to a character artist and we model it, then paint it, then export it into our game using our tools, and then everyone says AWW YISS THAT'S AWSEOME. And we eat cake and celebrate.
Legendary items more often than not take a bit longer than standard items due to their super sweet nature. Usually anywhere from 1-2 days for a concept, and then 1-3 days for the creation. Helms and shoulder pads take longer because we have to manually fit them to all the classes, male and female. I'd say a week to be safe, but they’re often part of a group of items which has a longer deadline so it’s tough to really say exactly.
I started by being excited because I love Mephisto, and apparently, so does everyone else… which is awesome. After that it was a mix of successfully translating the idea of the item visually and then taking into consideration some of the awesome suggestions from the forum posts. I’m really happy how it turned out.
My favorite part is the wickedness of the blade I think. It looks like the mouth of a tiger shark badly in need orthodontics… and I wouldn't want to get hit by it.
Making sure it was iconic enough and didn't get too busy. There is a lot of stuff going on in this sword. Picking the right things to be focal points and keeping other things as supporting visuals was the key to keep it in check so it doesn't look ridiculous.
The best advice I can give is to never stop believing in yourself, never stop absorbing inspirational material, and never stop doing art. Unless you're some sort of alien savant, you aren’t going to become a master overnight, so the old saying " practice makes perfect" very much applies.
Also know when to be finished. You can noodle away at tiny details of something forever, but you have to move on to the next piece to learn from the last piece.
Blood, sweat, and tears stain the Arena floors and Battleground fields—a grim chronicle of the hard-fought battles many of you have survived. Once again, the time has come for the victorious to be heralded, and champions to be rewarded!
Season 14 is coming to an end as early as two weeks from now. On that day, we’ll begin the process of determining end-of-season reward eligibility, which could take up to two weeks to complete.
Qualifying players should note the following in order to ensure you receive your just rewards:
At the end of the season, Conquest Points will be converted into Honor Points, and any Honor above 4,000 will be converted into in-game currency at a rate of 35 silver per point. There are a few other things to keep in mind once the season ends:
Season 15 Arenas and Rated Battlegrounds will begin approximately one week after the end of Season 14, and all Personal Ratings will be reset at the same time. Also note that Arena and Rated Battleground matches will not be available during the break between seasons. Once Season 15 begins, players will battle for the right to equip Prideful Gladiator gear, the most powerful PvP gear in game to date with an Item Level of 550.
Lastly, as of the beginning of Season 14, PvP players no longer needed to join or create an Arena team to compete. You can find more information about this earlier change in our Patch 5.4 Arena Update blog.
Hearthpwn uradio je odličan intervju sa Hearthstone Lead Designer, Eric Dodds, i Senior Game Designer, Ben Brode. Dosta interesantne stvari govorile se o eSportu, ono što većinu interesuje je spectator mode, koji bi trebalo da se ubaci tek kad igra bude izašla u finalnom izadnju. Trenutno njihov prioritet je portovanje Hearthstone igre na iPad.
Hamilton Chu, Hearthstone's Executive Producer, recently had an interview in China where he stated there were going to be new heroes available with real money. Are there any plans to make heroes available with both gold and real money?
Ben: We're right at the start of talking about that type of stuff, kinda right at the beginnings, so we don't have any specifics to announce right now.
How do you feel about the pace at which you reward players? Are there any plans to boost the rewards per day to give players more incentive to play outside of daily quests?
Ben: So, the pace at which we reward things is different based on which kind of player you are. If you're the kind of player who plays a couple of games each day, the pace is actually really great. You get the daily quests, and the gold for winning games. You get a pack every other day or so. If you're a player who plays all day, you might get less gold per hour played, but we look at it as rewarding people to come play Hearthstone each day, and if you want super hardcore rewards, you can get those through the Arena.
Eric: And really in a lot of ways, we view the biggest reward of playing Hearthstone as playing Hearthstone. It's a fun game to play and certainly the gold is a great way to earn packs and that sort of thing, but just playing the game is pretty fun.
So what about the scenario where you win your 40 gold daily quest, and win 30 games to hit your daily wins gold cap. You now don't have enough gold to enter the arena, and you need to wait until the next day. Are you guys thinking about changing that up to maybe make it so you can earn 110 gold from daily wins, or 50 gold from the daily quest?
Ben: I'll tell you, the 100 gold limit wasn't intended as a thing that most players ever hit, we only put it in as kind of a measure to combat some things that some players were doing to cheese the system. We picked a number by looking at how much gold people were earning, and that limit should really effect very few players. It isn't a kind of thing that we put in to prevent you from playing an arena each day, and 100 is just an easy number to remember.
Eric: We don't really have any plans on changing the gold rewards right now. Players are getting cards at a pretty good pace, and if you want to go into arena, you've likely got some gold from your last run that you can put towards the gold you earned from your daily quest and your gold for wins.
Ben: Plus, if you're doing your thirty wins and doing an arena run, that's a lot of hours!
Back in World of Warcraft Patch 5.3, a new mount and achievement was datamined for the Hearthsteed, and back during the alpha, we had datamined that the mount was to be a reward from a quest. Do you guys have any information on the Hearthsteed, or are we going to have to wait?
Ben: We don't have any information right now on the Hearthsteed, but stay tuned because we might have so information soon.
Ugh. The dreaded Blizzard soon!
Eric: But, real soon! Not Blizzard Soon.
So, March, but like actually May. Sounds good!
Achievements! People have been wanting these for a long time, and they're kind of already in the game, but there's no interface for them yet. Are you going to be calling them achievements in the game or are you going to be sticking with quests?
Ben: Once upon a time, our version of achievements would be quests, and the goal was to give you a reward for every quest you complete. There's been a lot of requests for the traditional sense of achievements where they award points, and we're still looking at how that interacts with the game and if it's the right thing for Hearthstone. We don't have anything to announce regarding achievements right now though.
You guys said at Blizzcon that there was a slight advantage in going first over second. Is this still holding true, and are there any matchups which vastly differ from the median?
Eric: It's still true. Actually, I think for every class now there's a small advantage to going first at every level.
Ben: It's about three percent better to go first over second. It's only a tiny bit better to go first at the lower levels of play.
Eric: And that being said, are there some decks which are built around going second, and might have a small advantage for going second? Yeah, that's certainly the case, but the advantage for going second in those decks I would imagine is less than one percent.
You've stated in the past that you're happy with the current set of mechanics and there's lots of room for new fun stuff without adding new ones. Are there any mechanics you are thinking of adding to the game or have you considered a Spell Taunt mechanic?
Ben: There's a lot of stuff that we can do with the current mechanics that we have, and beyond that, we can expand this game to crazy different places. We can make new keywords, new card effects, we could add new components to the game. That's one of the best things about this type of game. I don't want to tell you about any specific mechanics we might be thinking about adding for expansions and adventures, but there's definitely lot's of stuff we can do.
What about implementing a cap on the amount of armor a hero can have?
Ben: We don't have any plans to do that right now.
Eric: We're going to continue to pay attention to the meta game, and from week to week and day to day, there's always different heroes on top so if something changes with the meta and it becomes a problem, it's something we can talk about. Right now though, the meta just keeps bouncing around all over the place [so there aren't any major issues].
Some cards have races, like Dragons, but there's no interactivity with these races like what the Murlocs have. Is there any plans to add some interactivity or was this done just for flair?
Eric: So the Dragons was really done for flavor. To give you some insight into development, a couple of years ago, we were talking about adding this guy who would interact with the Dragons, but he never made the cut. Really we just kept it because the Dragons are such iconic and cool Warcraft characters that we felt needed to be labelled as dragons. We're likely to do something with that in the future, we just don't know exactly when.
Ben: One of the cool things about this game is we can go back and add those tags to different creatures. Say we wanted to create a Kobold expansion in the future and wanted to label Kobold Geomancer as a Kobold and he would interact with the Kobolds in some way, so that's kind of cool.
Eric: Just to be clear, Ben, I don't think we're going to be making a Kobold expansion.
Ben: We're going to make an expansion about the whole level one experience! (Sarcasm)
Sticking on the theme of card races, are you guys happy with the current place that Pirates are at? They don't really have the same level of cohesion as the Murlocs have.
Eric: I think we're likely to put more stuff in for all the races in the feature, but on the other hand, we feel like they don't have to play the same way. Murlocs feel that they should all hang out together and be a swarm, whereas when you think of Pirates, you don't really think of them as a cohesive bunch. So if I want to play with a Pirate deck, I might play with a couple of them together, but they're not as quite as tight a unit. So when we look at these different race groups, we feel that they don't need to have the same vibe to them.
Are there any plans to visit Anduin Wrynn's Shadow Form voiceovers? The light shall burn you is't very fitting.
Ben: We don't have any plans, but I think that's a great idea and we can definitely look into it.
Players are sometimes frustrated they can't have more than nine decks. Are there plans to give players more than nine deck slots?
Eric: So when we first started developing the game, we wanted to make this a really physical game. It lead to the box, and it lead to things feeling very physical, but it also lead to some of our UIs being built in specific ways that feel physical. So for example, right now, we have the nine decks setup in a very physical way, and it's certainly possible for us to change it in the future, and we've certainly talked about it some, but there's definitely challenges there as well. We still want it to feel physical and make decks feel like big solid pieces of the UI.
Ben: One very important thing for why we set that deck limit in the first place is because when we were first developing, we wanted to create a collection manager which players would not be scared off by. Deck building is one of the more daunting parts about playing a card game, so we tried really hard to kind of remove complexity and streamline the deck experience and give you tools for that. One of the things that got out of hand quickly is that players would build a lot of decks, and they'd forget which ones were which. We put the nine deck limit it to keep it management and understandable. We could certainly add more [slots] in the future, but that was the reasoning behind why we started with the nine deck limit now.
Eric: Yeah, but certainly imagine if you had 50 decks, and you were looking for that one deck, it can be quite difficult. To be frank, there's also something fun about going, hey I need a deck slot, and I haven't played this one in a while, so let's rip it apart and try something new. There's certainly other reasons, but there's also something fun about it as well.
Are there going to be limits to how much you can play through an adventure, or are we going to be able to play through it over and over again?
Ben: We are still working on the structure for adventures, so I don't know how it's going to end up.
Are there any unannounced rewards for adventures outside of the cards?
Eric: I think the big reward that you can expect is the cards. That's going to be the most important thing for players, it's going to change the environment, the arena, and that sort of thing. You also get to play the adventure. Not all these things are thought of what rewards the player gets out of it, but to make sure they're also super fun to play.
Ben: And these cards that we're adding, twenty to thirty of them, are super fun to play with.
Are there going to be any class specific cards?
Eric: Yeah I think we'll be seeing some class cards.
Ben: Scoop! Class Cards!
Are adventures going to be 100% against AI or will they also feature a human component.
Ben: The adventures themselves will be only against the AI. The human component comes out though when you're playing in Play mode and the Arena.
Are there plans in place for co-op adventures?
Ben: Not right now.
How are you going to make sure the cards from adventure mode are balanced, and if needed, when will we see balance patches to take care of any issues?
Eric: If we do things the way we'd like to do them, everything will be perfectly balanced when they go into play, and we won't need to change any of them. Of course though, if changes need to be made, we will be sure to make those changes.
Ben: We have some really great guys working on balance, and they test not only all the new cards, but how the cards interact with the current dominate decks, and see how they'd be used in new decks that nobody has even thought of. Hopefully we can introduce cards which are really exciting and don't end up in a degenerate state.
It was announced we would be able to play in other regions via Battle.net Global Play. When can we expect to see this?
Eric: Yeah, our intention is to have that available for release.
So we can play in other regions, that's great, but why can't we just play globally. Latency isn't a very large factor in a card game.
Ben: It's not really a latency issue, it's how we interface into Battle.Net, so right now, it's just not possible for us, and there's no plans for it currently.
It was stated by Hamilton Chu that you guys aren't currently working on spectator mode. We've seen a number of live tournaments that could benefit greatly from a spectator client and would further prove Hearthstone as a competitive sport. What's the plan for spectator mode so we can start producing higher quality online events like Blizzcon.
Eric: A spectator mode is certainly something that is important to us, but more important than that, is getting out the game and getting these last few features for release in, and getting the iPad client out.
Ben: It's pretty high on our list.
Are there plans to implement a tournament mode into the game itself? Maybe players could signup for a PUG tournament?
Eric: So right now, we've been watching the tournament scene evolve and it's been exciting that this thing has appeared and that there is a tournament scene. I anticipate us getting involved at some point, it's just not yet. So, no plans right now to put something like that in, but we're definitely very interested in paying a whole lot of attention to what's going on in the tournament and esports level.
Ben: And even though that we aren't actively putting that into game right this second, the tournaments and things going on right this second are informing us of things that are going to be important for us to get in.
So what's left to do before release?
Eric: Our plan is to have reconnect mode, so if you get disconnect in a game, you can get back into it and you don't lose.
Ben: We're also working on card backs for ranked play, and golden heroes.
Eric: And, people might also be excited to have us working on the minion swapping bug!
There's some people out there in the community who are creating some awesome applications surrounding Hearthstone, and there's a lot of manual data input. Are there any plans for a community platform API like the one World of Warcraft has?
Ben: We don't have any plans for that right now, but the fact that you're asking about it, is actually useful. We're going to listen for those types of requests and see if it's something that we can prioritize.
Eric: And one of the cool things for us, is that once we've released, we can start paying attention to all these feature requests that everyone is talking about and figure out which of them are the first priority to get them into the game.