In this inside look into the creation of a Mini, Art Director Jeremy Collins shares some insights on what it takes to bring one of these fabulously fun units to life by taking a look at the Gargoyle— a flying fortress in Warcraft Arclight Rumble.
Stages of Creation
When creating the model for a Mini such as the Gargoyle, we go through a multi-stage process before the final character is added to the game.
This is the initial idea rendered to provide inspiration and reference to the character artist who will be modeling this creature. Often, the concept artist will provide multiple angles of a character — called a turnaround — to give the character modeler a better idea of what the creature looks like from the rear and three-quarter views. Having lots of information about how the character looks going into the modeling process is extremely helpful.
To block out a Mini, we lay down some of the bigger, blockier shapes to help us understand scale, material separations, and overall character proportions. These big shapes that are created in the blockout phase become the groundwork for the surface details we add later.
Once these first two stages are completed, we then bring the model into a digital sculpting program called Zbrush, where it is sculpted— much like working with digital clay. Surface details like eyelids, musculature, and hair are added. Once the final sculpt is approved, the model moves onto the texturing process.
The final skin (texture) is added to the Gargoyle by digitally painting on the surface of the 3D model. The character artist will use various texture maps to inform the surface qualities of the Mini’s materials, controlling properties like color, reflectivity, and transparency.
Bringing the Gargoyle Mini to Life In-Game
Once a Mini has gone through its initial modeling stages and is ready, it is time to rig and animate the Mini for its debut in the game.
What is Rigging? Rigging is the process of adding digital “bones” to a character model. These digital bones allow animators to manipulate the character model of the Gargoyle into various poses and expressions.
The animators on Arclight Rumble will often create various test poses to help find the personality of characters. When creating new poses, animators focus on strong silhouettes and clear, dynamic posing. These poses will then sometimes become the basis for in-game abilities or Talent animations. There have even been situations where specific Talents were inspired by pose testing. The Murloc Tidehunter Talent “Safety Bubble” was inspired by a pose made by one of our animators, Carin Huurnink!
As game developers and artists, we constantly look at the artwork we create from all angles, but we’re especially concerned with how the art looks from our in-game camera’s gameplay view. Warcraft Arclight Rumble’s top-down camera view presents some interesting challenges for animated characters. Most of the information of the character is seen in the top 1/3 of their bodies during gameplay. For most characters, we only see them from the shoulders up. Because of this, we need to be very deliberate while creating the character art to ensure that we stick to a limited color palette. Most of our minis have 1-2 major color break-ups so that when you deploy a Gargoyle onto the field, you’re already accustomed to his black, purple, and grey color scheme.
In addition to, color, shape, and silhouette play major factors in getting that ‘quick read’ for each of your Minis. For a time, we were experimenting with the Gargoyle attacking with its legs, much like the harpy’s attack animation. But, because he is a flying tank, the gargoyle needs to be beefy and imposing, and most importantly, he needs to look like he could take a lot of damage. That meant big wings for the gargoyle, and those big wings were going to be a problem if he attacks with his legs.
While animating his fly-cycle, Carin paid special attention to the movement of his shoulders/clavicle and biceps muscles. By emphasizing the force he must put into each flap, she added to the feeling of beefiness. For his Wing Buffet Talent (where he gains 33% movement speed) we chose not to increase his wing-flap speed to preserve this ‘tanky’ feeling: a fluttering Gargoyle feels much less imposing.
All these elements come together to create truly magical Minis full of life (and attitude) and ready to take the battlefield and crush the competition.
Concept: Sam Didier
Character Model: Joe Keller
Animation: Carin Huurnink