This is a full transcript of the BlizzCon 2016 In-Game Cinematics: The Cutscenes of Legion Panel. Among the panelists were the following game developers:

  • Geordie Swainbank (senior machinima artist, lightning lead)
  • Yeon-Ho Lee (senior animation artist)
  • Jason Hill (associate project director)
  • Jessica Dru Johnson (Cinematics artist)
  • Chris Evans (Supervisor, Cinematics)
  • Sherman Ohms (Senior In-Game Artist, Cinematics)
  • Terran Gregory (Project Director, Cinematics)

The following in-game cinematic plays as the intro to the panel: World of Warcraft: Legion– The Fate of Azeroth.

Khadgar: Heroes of Azeroth, I have witnessed our end, the Legion is spilling over the horizon and onto our shores. Heed my warning, the Burning Legion has returned. Stronger, more determined than ever before. These demons seek to annihilate everything upon Azeroth. No single person can stand against the Legion alone.

Illidan: And so, you came to me. I will deal with these intruders.

Varian: No she wouldn’t.

Greymane: I knew we couldn’t trust her.

Sylvanas: In the end, death claims us all.

Gul’dan: The Legion cannot be stopped.

Illidan: Our time is short. Now go, but remember, should you fail, all worlds will burn.



Terran: Hello, citizens of Azeroth. How are we doing? Welcome, and thank you so much for coming to this year’s In-Game cinematics panel. My name is Terran Gregory. I am an In-Game cinematic director for World of Warcraft, and we are gonna have a great panel for you today. Now looking around the crowd, I get this sneaking suspicion that maybe, just maybe, you are more aware than most that the Legion has returned to Azeroth, maybe? Yeah?


How many of you are taking the fight to the Broken Shore? Maybe come across a couple cinematics as you have been adventuring? Maybe a little? Maybe a little brutal. Alright, so before we get into it, I do have to warn you all, we are going to talk about spoilers, only in the context of the stuff that we released with Legion. So if you want to remain unspoiled, maybe not, but please stay. We want to share everything with you, so please go, but you have been warned: spoilers ahead!

Now let me introduce our panelists. Up on stage with us today we have Chris Evans (our in-game cinematics department supervisor). We also have with us Sherman Ohms (World of Warcraft lead cinema artist), Geordie Swainbank (our in-game cinematics lighting lead), Jessica Dru Johnson (our in-game cinematics modeling project lead), and Yeon-Ho Lee (our animation show lead for Legion).

So before we dive right into the story content, our in-game supervisor, Chris is going to come up and tell you a little bit more about In-game cinematics, and how it works.


In-Game Cinematics

Chris: Thank you so much, Terran. Well, as it states there, my name is Chris Evans, and I am the supervisor of the in-game cinematics department. First off, thank you so much. We share something that is so cool, and I know it is so awesome. You guys come out here, and check us out, and I love this.


So this is our second BlizzCon panel dedicated to the in-game cinematics department. Was anybody here last year? Awesome. Welcome back, and if this is your first time, welcome and thank you. So let’s get right to it. A lot has changed. We have a lot of new faces, and in fact our department has nearly doubled in size.


Yeah, we have a lot of new tools and techniques that we had to utilize to address all the challenges that the Legion expansion put in front of us. These are primarily to improve our speed, and our quality; and we are going to be talking about that today.


We did a lot of content for Legion. I hope you enjoyed it. Awesome! Yeah, we love doing it too. In fact, if you count the cinematics we did nearly double the number of cinematic for Legion that we did for Warlords of Draenor; and we are always looking forward to doing more. I will tell you that.


So about us we, are the in-game cinematics department. You might hear people say today IGC stands for in-game cinematics. We are part of the Story and Franchise Development Division at Blizzard, and that is the part of Blizzard Entertainment the makes like books, radio plays, toys, collectible figures, and house’s pre-rendered and in-game cinematics department under the umbrella of the Blizzard Animation Department; and in fact, we are a department within pre-rendered cinematics.


So the thing that differentiates us from those high-fidelity pre-rendered cinematics is we work with the game engines to create our content. We get our art direction directly (or the way we make the cinematics look) directly from the gameplay; and thus, our movies are created in the style of the games we are working on.


So why, why an in-game cinematics department? Well, if we take a look at a frame of the Varian here, yeah, there is a lot going on. There is a lot of detail. This takes a lot of people, a lot of planning, and a lot of computer horsepower to get done.


We however, use the game engines to create our content. Because we use game assets, we use game environments, this allows us to change our story content quickly in response to things like Quest design. So we can stay in sync with the game design process, and one thing I will tell you about a game design is that as you get towards the end, it starts to change really really fast.


So in the case of World of Warcraft (and this is pretty cool), we are actually treated like part of the development team. So we use a custom version of their game client that is a tool to help us make our cinematics. Now some of the benefits of this are: (1) our environments are already there for us. They might not always be done, but at least we have something to work with.


We also can generate background characters and crowds from game assets. Now this gives us the ability to put extra characters and creatures in our cinematics without having to create rig and animate them ourselves, which is probably one of the most time consuming and expensive parts of 3D animation is creating characters.


So here is Khadgar. This is what he looks like when he comes fresh out of the engine. Right? So we create our basic frames in the game engine, and they render really quick. So that is Khadgar, and then we can enhance this as the narrative requires; and so we soup it up in a post-process, and you are going to be hearing a lot more about this later, and it is a fascinating topic.


So I’m going to turn this back over to Terran, and we are going to get into the meat and potatoes of Legion. Thank you.

Next: Creative Development

In-Game CinematicsCreative DevelopmentDemon Hunter CutscenesSuramar CutsceneGenn vs Sylvanas
Broken Shore CutsceneAnimationLightningBroken Shore FinaleNexus: Varian

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BlizzCon 2019 Panel Transcripts