CGI Interview: The Making of Wrath of the Lich King Cinematic Trailer

I am glad I subscribed to a few CGI Animation and 3D community newsletters back in the days when I used to promote and recruit staff for the Starcraft Chronicles unofficial fan CGI film, a few years ago.  CGChannel has announced their latest interview with Blizzard Entertainment’s CGI Artists Jeff Chamberlain and Fausto De Martini to talk about the making of the Wrath of the Lich King Cinematic Trailer. This three-pages interview contains four never-seen-before pre-rendered footage video clips. The interview covers which techniques and software tools were used to create the Sindragosa frostwyrm, Arthas, Frostmourne and the special effects of Arthas sweeping away the snow to reveal the ice floor.

This interview can be a dream for those who are CGI students or aficionados, and to those who would love to join the Blizzard team at one point. It will help you know how the different teams work the pipeline. Read the full interview. Help others find this awesome interview by commenting at N4G.

Blizzard cinematics are popular in part because of the excellent animation of characters, effects and camera work. Does Blizzard use Motion Capture or other technologies to achieve this level of animation?

We’ve built a team of really strong keyframe animators, and we have always keyframed our animation—and we prefer it that way. As I said, we strive for a hyper-realistic look, so our characters proportions are way augmented from what they would be in real life. As a result, they would tend to look a bit odd if they moved like someone with normal proportions would. Keyframed animation allows us to move our characters in a stylized way that fits the overall look. Also, there’s something about the level of quality you can get from a keyframed animation compared to a motion-captured one.

We have used motion capture a lot for getting a realistic handheld feel in our cameras, and in the interest of creating more and better content, we’ve looked into using motion capture as a tool during previsualization. Having the ability to quickly try out different angles and layouts for a shot by utilizing the speed of motion capture is very compelling from a director’s viewpoint. As far as the final frames go, we plan on sticking with our stylized keyframed animation.

The reanimated corpse dragon in the Lich King cinematic is beautifully executed in its design, modeling, effects and animation. Can you tell us a little bit about the tools and techniques used in those sequences?

We approached the sequence in which Arthas raises the frost wyrm in exactly the same manner as we approach all of our projects. We start with a loose script written by a few cinematics guys: Blizzard Entertainment’s vice president of creative development Chris Metzen; and the leads from the game team. The idea then moves to storyboarding and 2D concepting. Once that’s done, we start pre-visualizing the sequence. Modeling, animation, and production tech tend to then take over for a while, generating the meat of the project. Finally, finishing (lighting and compositing), effects, and matte painting take it all home.

Wrath of the Lich King was a project with a lot of firsts in our pipeline. It was the first time we used Maya to animate and lay out every shot, the first time we rendered every shot in Renderman, and the first time we used Nuke to composite. Some other products we use are 3ds Max and Mudbox for modeling, Mirage for storyboarding, and anything we can get our hands on for effects and matte painting.

World of Warcraft # 15 Preview – Garona Birthed A Half-Human Baby?

imageFrom the creative minds of Wildstorm’s World of Warcraft comic book writer Walter Simonson (Mighty Thor) and Chris Metzen, Blizzard has released a loregasmic preview teaser of World of Warcraft # 15.  After King Varian Wrynn decapitated Onyxia’s corpse to display her head in Stormwind, Garona makes her appearance for the first time since the events from Warcraft: The Last Guardian.  The preview reveals that shortly after Garona assassinated King Llane, she found out about her … pregnancy.  She gave the baby to an ancient human mage, named Meryl,  to raise him. It is now confirmed that Garona was cursed by Sargeras to betray and do things against her will. Therefore, she couldn’t bare to rise her own child for fear she would kill him.

This plot brings about so many intriguing questions. Who is the father of Garona’s baby? Medivh? Khadgar?  King Llane? On the other hand, Meryl is described as undead, but one who has lived by sheer will and through the use of his own magical powers to prolong his life for milennia; he exists even before Ner’zhul created the Scourge. Is Meryl one of the previous Guardians of Tirisfal?

Garona’s baby has grown up, and there is a prophecy behind him found in a scroll digged from Hellfire Peninsula. This child is to become the savior of Azeroth. Do you feel the vibe that this guy, Med’an, is the heir of Medivh? Watch the PDF preview and get that HOT comic book at a newsstand near you!

This issue will be on newsstands on January 21.

In stores 1/21.

The road back to Theramore begins in issue #15 of the ongoing series. After the events of the last arc, King Varian and Prince Anduin must return home. But who will return with them? And what role will Garona Halforcen play in this next quest? Check out the preview pages.

If you like what you see, you can visit Wildstorm for more information, locate a nearby comic store (type zipcode), or subscribe to the series directly.

Account-Wide Death Knight Creation Updated

Nethaera has informed us of an update to the recent Account-wide Death Knight Creation issue alert posted at the official forums. Some players are able to still create Death Knights, but other players can’t. Blizzard is trying to isolate what is causing this seemingly random bug.  As of later tonight, the problem will be resolved after the restarts. We have below a FAQ to Account-wide Death Knight Creation provided by Blizzard.

Blizzard Quote:
Update – 1/21 11:30 AM PST

We are continuing to work on allowing death knight creation on all eligible realms per the creation rules for death knights and will provide further updates as soon as they are available.

Update – 1/20 5:20pm PST

We will be bringing all realms down at 5am PDT (Oceanic realms will be brought down at 12pm PDT) on January 21 to address an issue with Death Knight creation. The restarts should only take approximately 15 minutes to complete. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Update- 1/20 3:30 PM PST

Please be aware that select players are currently able to create death knights on realms other than the one they currently have a level 55+ character on while others are still unable to do so at this time. We are currently working to address this issue and anticipate this to be corrected as of tonight

Patch 3.0.8: Ghostcrawler On Dispel Resistance Overhaul

Ghostcrawler explained the internal concerns about Dispel Resistance mechanics from talent trees and dispel abilities.  The Developers wish to hear your feedback at the following forum thread. Feel free to submit to them your feedback, and tell us what you think by posting a comment below. Do classes need this nerf, or does it sound logical to you?

Blizzard Quote:
Ghostcrawler: The general rule of thumb is that helpful spells (e.g. buffs) and dots are protected. Other offensive spells (e.g. crowd controls) are not.

We are definitely interested on hearing feedback on this implementation. We like the basic mechanic of casting and dispelling spells, but I think many players agreed that the system beyond that needed an overhaul. I am sure many players have their own ideas on how this should have worked, because a lot of them have been pitched to us.

Feel free to discuss dispel and dispel resistance here rather than having the conversation across multiple threads.

The dispells spells themselves generally have not changed. The talents that protected some of your spells have changed.

Overall, dispelling attacks used against you should be easier to dispel (except for dots).

Windows 7 and World of Warcraft

Windows 7 OS beta (Watch the video demo) will be distributed on January 10th to the first two million downloads. Thereafter, downloads will be disrupted. If you are among the very few lucky, you will have to burn the ISO file. You require to have a DVD burner drive.  The Windows 7 installation must be made from within the DVD containing the ISO file.  No physical DVDs will be distributed by Microsoft. (Official Windows 7 Website)

World of Warcraft players attempting to install Windows 7 will very likely go: “Zomg! Windows 7 sux!” As per Blizzard Entertainment, today, Darth (from Technical Support Team) cleared up that Blizzard doesn’t support new OS in alpha or beta stage. You still have the opportunity to discuss issues or features of Windows 7 and World of Warcraft with other fans at a specific thread.  Don’t create new threads. Moderators will lock or delete them.

Blizzard Quote:
Please keep in mind that we (Blizzard) do not support operating systems in Alpha, Beta or Release Candidate phases. We will allow you to discuss the game or OS performance here when the public beta is released in a centralized thread. It’ll most likely be this sticky when it is unlocked tomorrow.

Getting Started

Drivers for….

Video:
-AMD – http://support.ati.com/ics/support/default.asp?deptID=894%20ID%20737-39069
-NVIDIA – http://www.nvidia.com/object/windows_7.html

Important: Naxxramas and World Latency Fixes

The World of Warcraft Developers need your feedback to find solutions to the latency afflicting raid players throughout Naxxramas and the outdoor world. Feel free to post your comments at the following official thread.

Blizzard Quote:
Nethaera: For the last several weeks, our players have been experiencing periodic latency in both outdoor Northrend areas and Naxxramas, and we wanted to provide you with several updates on what we’re doing to resolve these issues. As many players have discovered, the outdoor Northrend latency has been tied to activity in Wintergrasp. We are actively working on a server-side fix that should address the high latency experienced in the outdoor world when Wintergrasp is active. This fix is currently in testing on internal test realms and we anticipate that we’ll be able to push it to live realms in the near future. Concerning Naxxramas, optimizations are being made that will address both the latency and disconnection issues affecting players while in that zone. These optimizations will be included with the next minor content patch.

We appreciate your patience as we work to address these issues.

Lore: The Heart of the Lich King

Recently, I transcribed the first pages of World of Warcraft: Arthas, Rise of the Lich King by Christie Golden. The book to be published on April 21 introduces a very key feature of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion’s storyline that reveals Arthas was wounded in the duel against Illidan, and after he merged with Ner’zhul, Arthas went into a long sleep where the orc, the prince and the boy (Matthias Lehner) brewed an inner-turmoil during his long dark dream.  The answer to end this long dreamscape was to cast his own heart out to strip away his weakness.

If you read the book preview, and experience the Icecrown quests with Matthias Lehner you will see a big tie-in between the book and the in-game quests. Probably a connection with what might happen in the Lich King dungeon encounter. Some fans do not have yet the Wrath of the Lich King expansion or don’t play WoW at all. If you don’t mind heavy spoilers, watch the two videos below showing you the quests given by the child Matthias Lehner (Arthas Menethil anagram).  You get to control Arthas and use his abilities in two quests.  You fight Illidan too.  More interesting is what happens when Tirion Fordring—wielding the Ashbringer—faces Arthas the LIch King at the Cathedral of Darkness in Icecrown.

At the bottom of this page, you may read the transcript of all the questline.

Video 1: Army of the Damned

Video 2: The Hunter and the Prince

Opportunity (Horde)—Exploiting an Opening (Alliance)

Koltira Deathweaver: We recently came upon schematics that indicate a weakness in Icecrown Citadel. An opening in its defenses, both figuratively and literally.

The captured diagrams show an orifice leading several hundred feet into the ground. We’re unsure of its purpose, but our scouting has revealed it to be of high importance to the Scourge.

Speak to Sergeant Kregga below Icecrown Citadel, she’s leading the attack on the site.

End
Seargeant Kregga: Just in time, (name). Koltira spoke highly of you. Perhaps you’ll be able to push the scales in our favor.

Establishing Superiority (Horde)—Securing the Perimeter (Alliance)

Sergeant Kregga: We’ve one shot at dealing some damage to this place—let’s make sure we get it right.

We’ve acquired potent, Scourge-made, saronite bombs. But we must secure this area before we can set them off.

We’re going to need to get the Scourge defenses under control quickly, before reinforcements arrive.

Help my men out and come back when you’re ready for some fireworks.

End
Sergeant Kregga: You made quick work of the Scourge, (name). Let’s finish what we came to do here.

Blow it up! (Horde)—Set it off! (Alliance)

Seargent Kregga: This is probably as under-control as this situation is going to get. Let’s do this, (Name).

I need someone to light the fuse on those bombs and it looks like you’re the one to do it.

Yourself: These bombs look pretty potent. They should at least put a dent in the surrounding structure.

A Short Fuse

Yourself: As you light the fuse, you notice that it is consumed by fire far quicker than you would expect.

The bombs are about to go off and your best chance at surviving is to lean towards the pit and hope the fall doesn’t kill you.

Note: Once the bomb explodes, your character is catapulted into the pit landing into a pool within the Forgotten Depths. A pulsing ice crystal floats inside the pool.

End
Object: This pulsing object is covered in a thick layer of ice. It shimmers strangely beneath the water.

A Voice in the Dark

The object is not a crystal at all, but some form of organ, encased in ice.

As you touch it, your hand reels in horrible pain. You feel as if your hand has been cut, yet there is no visible wound.

As you collect your thoughts, you hear a young boy’s voice nearby.

“You really shouldn’t have done that.”

Time to Hide

Matthias Lehner: You shouldn’t have touched it. But now that you did, he’s going to come looking for you.

And he’ll find you. Unless you hide yourself from him.

Bring me blood from the faceless ones if you want to live!

End
Matthias Lehner: Did you get the blood? What are you waiting for? You have to rub it on you!

Quick! Or he’ll see you!

Return to the Surface

Matthias Lehner: You should leave now. You’ll find a portal behind me. It’ll take you to the surface.

We’ll meet again. He’ll be looking for you.

It’s only a matter of time until he finds you.

End
Koltira Deathweaver: (Name)! We thought you were dead!

We lost a few men in that explosion… but we sure put a hurt on the Scourge. They’re scrambling their forces back to the citadel and leaving big gaps in their defenses. It’s time to push forward.

Field Repairs (Horde)—Field Repairs (Alliance)

Koltira Deathweaver: The Scourge is still reeling from our attack, (name). Now is the time to capitalize on our momentum.

The strategically important valley below us is wide open. We’ve located a disassembled demolisher vehicle in what we believe is working condition in the southeastern corner of the Valley of Lost Hope area.

If you can get the remaining parts from the Scourge scavengers, you should be able to get it running again. A single working demolisher can wreak havoc on the enemy’s ground units.

Object: The demolisher has suffered much damage.

The Demolisher has seen better days, but the structure hasn’t suffered any permanent damage. The parts you obtained should be enough to get it running again, at least temporarily.

Do your Worst

Matthias Lehner: You’re going to use this machine against the Scourge? You’re not going to win against them like that.

You can destroy hundreds… even thousands of them. But you won’t win. Not out here.

When you’re done playing with your machine, meet me to the north. There is an old army encampment. What I will show you will teach you a little bit about who you’re up against.

Use the Refurbished Demolisher to destroy 150 Decomposed Ghouls, 20 Frostskull Mages and 2 Bone Giants in the Valley of Lost Hope. Speak to Matthias Lehner at the First Legion Forward Camp when you’ve completed this task.

Matthias Lehner: You see? You killed your fair share, but for every one you destroyed, another rose from the dirt to take its place.

You don’t know what you’re up against, (name). Let me show you.

Army of the Damned

Matthias Lehner: You probably think you’re quite strong—fighting these undead and crushing their bones beneath your war machines.

That is nothing compared to the strength it took to create them.

I saw the prince do it himself. I can show you how it happened… if you’d like.

Matthias Lehner at the First Legion Forward Camp wants you to raise an army of 100 Ghoulish Minions

Matthias Lehner: The prince’s true power wasn’t his ability to make armies out of corpses… that was easy

But killing his own men, with whom he’d shared many battles… the prince’s true power was his ability to do what had to be done.

Futility (Horde)—- Futility (Alliance)

Matthias Lehner: Do you see now? Sending your men against the prince’s armies just swells their numbers.

I don’t expect you to understand… you’ll probably just end like the others. You’d best return to whoever sent you. They might be worried.

End
Koltira Deathweaver: There you are. Nice work down in the valley. The carnage was visible all the way up here.

Are you ok? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.

Cradle of the Frostbrood (Horde)—- Sindragosa’s Fall (Alliance)

Koltira Deathweaver: We need to keep our momentum going. Let’s not give the Scourge forces any respite.

Sindragosa’s Fall lies east just beyond the Valley of Lost Hope. The Cult of the Damned operate there, under close supervision of the Lich King’s undead Vrykul lackeys.

It is a place of great power, possibly a blue dragonflight graveyard. The feared Frostbrood are raised there from the bones of blue dragons.

An attack there would have great impact on the enemy’s access to Frost Wyrms. Are you up to it, (name)?

Koltira Deathweaver aboard Orgrim’s Hammer wants you to slay 5 Wyrm Reanimators, 8 Cultist Corrupters and 3 Vrykul Necrolords at Sindragosa’s Fall.

Koltira Deathweaver: Hail, (name).

You’ve done well, (name). You might want to rest for a while. You look a little pale.

Where Dragons Fell (Horde)

Matthias Lehner: A whole brood of blue dragons fell here. And now, one by one, they’re being raised by his servants.

He raised the biggest of them all himself. Bring me some bone dust from the whelps and I’ll show you exactly how he did it.

End
Matthias Lehner: Did you get the dust, (name)?

Note: Before you, Arthas the Lich King phases in replicating the Wrath of the Lich King cinematic intro where he rises Sindragosa from the ice ground.

End
Matthias Lehner: Even the mighty wyrms had to heed his call. How is a simple mortal like you going to resist him?

Time for Answers

Matthias Lehner: You have a lot of questions, (name). You’re the only one who can see me because you touched something that once belonged to him… don’t you remember?

You don’t know what it is? Well I can’t just tell you… that would make him really mad. He’s not just a prince anymore… he’s the king!

Meet me at the Court of Bones, north of Icecrown Citadel and you can see for yourself.

End
Matthias Lehner: There you are. I started to wonder whether you’d show up.

The Hunter and the Prince

Matthias Lehner: Before the prince became a king, he fought many battles… but only one where he came close to dying.

It was fought right here. After you let me show you what happened, you’ll understand everything.

Find a bloodstained stone and pick it up from the floor. You’ll see what happened.

Note: You become Arthas the Death Knight and you fight Illidan the Betrayer, reliving the duel from Warcraft III: Frozen Throne.

End
Matthias Lehner: After that fight, the prince realized what was holding him back was that he was still human… he could still feel… he could still bleed. He still had a heart.

The first thing he did when he became king was to rid of himself of it. He threw it down the pit where we first met. And you, (name), were the first person to touch it since.

Knowledge is a Terrible Burden (Horde)—- Knowledge is a Terrible Burden (Alliance)

Matthias Lehner: Now you know what you’re up against, (name). An opponent who no longer knows pain… remorse… or humanity. An opponent who will do anything to get what he wants.

The heart was his weakness and now he knows you’ve found it.

If you’re going to go back for it, you’d best bring help. He will not leave it unguarded again.

End
Koltira Deathweaver: Little kid’s ghost… Arthas’s heart… you’d better slow down… you’re making my head spin.

Argent Aid (Horde)—- Tirion’s Help (Alliance)

Koltira Deathweaver: There were rumors about the events you speak of among the Death Knights. I always expected the story to be more… symbolic.

We must warn others, but we must be discrete. As soon as the Lich King knows we’re making our move, he’ll move the location of the heart—we’ll never get a chance like this again.

The Horde and the Alliance have been infiltrated by the Cult of the Damned before. The Ebon Blade operates too close to the Scourge.

We have to speak to Tirion Fordring and his Argent Crusade.

End
Tirion Fordring: Heavy words, (name). If it were somebody else saying them, I’d be likely to judge them insane.

Tirion’s Gambit

Tirion Fordring: Just this morning, my scouts informed me of a Cult of the Damned procession leaving from Icecrown Citadel to the Cathedral of Darkness, bearing an artifact.

And now I learn that it might be Arthas’s own heart… a thing containing the last bit of his remaining humanity.

This is a sign of the Light. As long as such an artifact exists, there is a chance that Arthas Menethil can become a man again!

Meet me at the cathedral’s entrance. Be sure to bring a cultist’s hood—we’re going incognito.

Tirion Fordring, at the Crusader’s Pinnacle, wants you to obtain and wear a Cultist Acolyte’s Hood and meet him at the entrance of the Cathedral of Darkness, northwest of Icecrown Citadel

Note: At the Cathedral of Darkness, once you acquire the Cultist Acolyte’s Hood, walk to the bonefire on the right side of the door. There is Tirion Fordring disguised with other Argent Dawn agents.

Tirion Fordring: There you are.  Are you ready then? Once we start, there is no turning back.

You: I’m ready, Highlord.

Tirion Fordring: It’s time. May the Light give us strength.

Note: Tirion and the Argent Crusade agents walk slowly into the Cathedral of Darkness, and stand near a table close to the altar where the Heart of Arthas has been brought by the Cult of the Damned.  Arthas the Lich King walks in.

Tirion Fordring: Keep yours head down and follow my lead.

(Shortly after)

Tirion Fordring: Here it comes. Stand ready.

The Lich King is here. May the light guide our blades.

Arthas the Lich King: Uninvited guests? Did you think you’d go unnoticed inside my dominion?

I must confess—you were not altogether unexpected. I hope you find your final resting place … to your liking.

Tirion Fordring: You sound a little too confident. Especially considering the way our last encounter ended.

Arthas the Lich King: Last time we met, you had the advantage of fighting on holy ground. You’ll find that our situation has been … reversed.

Tirion Fordring: That might be, but I don’t need to stand on holy ground to run that disembodied heart of yours with the Ashbringer.

Arthas the Lich King: I call your bluff.  You’re a paladin after all.  Your obsession with redemption goes beyond the inane.

You surely wouldn’t destroy humanity’s only chance to redeem its most wayward son. You’d sooner die!

Tirion Fordring: The heart … the last remaining vestige of your humanity.  I had to stop it from being destroyed.  I had to see for myself.  And at last I’m sure …

Only shadows from the past remain.  There’s nothing left to redeem.

Note: Tirion Fordring charges with blazing-speed toward Arthas’ ice-encased heart … and destroys it. An immense flash of light blinds everyone. Tirion is knocked unconscious by this, while Arthas the Lich King is badly hurt, falling to his knees … barely holding himself with Frostmourne.

Arthas the Lich King: Arrrrrrrrgggggghhhhhh !!!!!!

Disguised Crusader: Tirion’s down. Defend him with your lives !

Arthas the Lich King: You … will pay for that, old man. Slay them all !

Note: The Cult of the Damned surrounds the Argent Crusade agents and clash in combat.  The Cult of the Damned is decimated with the sudden assistance of Highlord Darion Mograine and his Ebon Blade Knights. Darion opens a death gate to facilitate everyone’s escape from the Cathedral of Darkness back to the Crusader

2009 New York Comic Con: Share Your Questions

I am gearing up with a press badge to attend the 2009 New York Comic Con to bring you as many details as possible of all Blizzard Entertainment products to be showcased at the event.  The event will take place through February 6-8. Among the companies coming to the New York Comic Con are: Pocket Star Books, Tokyopop, and DC Comics. Sideshow Collectibles, sadly, isn’t coming to the event this year (bottom). I will be in contact with some writers and with Upper Deck to find out if they are attending.

The line-up of products to be most likely showcased are:

  • World of Warcraft: Arthas
  • Starcraft: The Dark Templar, Twilight
  • Warcraft Legends Vol. 3
  • World of Warcraft: Death Knight
  • DC Direct World of Warcraft Action Figures
  • World of Warcraft Comic Book

One Blizzard product in particular I am hoping to hear about—crosses fingers—is the StarCraft Comic Book. My DC Comics contact wouldn’t budge to offer details a few days after Blizzcon 2008.  It was revealed in the BlizzCon comic sampler. DC Comics will make an announcement of this comic on 2009. The matter is when. New York Comic Con could be a good candidate for the announcement, as well as San Diego Comic Con (July).  It was at the San Diego Comic Con where the World of Warcraft comic book was first announced.

Keith R.A. DeCandido confirmed to be attending the event. I will corner him to get some details of the Starcraft Ghost; Academy trilogy (manga) and the Starcraft Ghost: Spectre (Pocket Star Book).  Aaron Rosenberg will be book signing copies of World of Warcraft: Beyond the Dark Portal. Jim Lee (Wildstorm) and Bill Roper (ex-Blizzard North) will be at the event too.

Pocket Star Books will be at booth 1402.  Tokyopop at booth 1621 and DC Comics at booth 1641. Grab your tickets online early. They are more expensive on-site.

Open to the Public:
Friday, February 6—1:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Saturday, February 7—10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Sunday, February 8—10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Got any questions for any of those companies about a particular product? Feel free to share your questions to ask them on your behalf.

Tokyopop Warcraft: Legends: Troy Lewter Interview

TOKYOPOP Editor Troy Lewter sat down with NEO Magazine writer Lesley Smith to discuss all things Warcraft and StarCraft, giving her all the details on TOKYOPOP’s 22-book publshing program with Blizzard Entertainment, the creators of World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Diablo, and many others. Read the full interview. You can find the NEO Magazine article here (PDF).

And when you’re done reading that, make sure to check out details of StarCraft: Frontline Vol. 2, and Warcraft: Legends Vol. 2 now in stores!

Blizzard has been involved with the production of the manga every step of the way. Every element that appears in the manga has gone through a rigorous approval process with them, whether it

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