Suramar Cutscenes

Sherman: Not if we can help it, Thalyssra. Suramar was a bit of a different beast for us this time around in Legion.


It was being worked on at about the same time as the Broken Shore cinematic was, but in contrast of that cinematic’s amazing complexity, Suramar was more of an exercise in efficiency. A quick one at that. We knew you were going to spend a lot of time at max level.

So this introductory cinematic was a way for us to open the gates well as it were to bring you up to speed about what was happening, and show you what was at stake through the perspective of a character you would be interacting with a lot: Thalyssra; and through hearing her tale, you would experience the sorrow she felt, the betrayal she suffered, and the anger she felt at being cast out of the elite Nightborn society, to becoming one of the nightfallen when you first meet her.


In a lot of ways, it’s reminiscent of the Black Temple trailer. That in-game cinematics we had made prior. A single narrative thread told by one character witnessing the downfall of their civilization, while also suffering from their own transformation simultaneously.

And we had to fit an entire history lesson for this zone in a scant couple of minutes. So how do we do that? What is the process there?


Well, when we are trying to make something as efficiently as possible, we start by looking for existing assets and other things that we can use; and at the time, a comic was being made for the web called Nightfallen (Note: Actually, it’s named Twilight of Suramar), and some of these panels in the comic were gorgeous. They were already cinematic in nature. All we had to do was bring them into the game, and sort of set them in motion, and they would help tell the story.


Now Suramar was also telling its story. It was immense. The first time we saw it we couldn’t see from one end of the city to the other in the game. It was a real jewel too to juxtapose into Legion’s brutal monochromatic aesthetic.


But what you see in the final frames isn’t exactly how it starts out. In fact, when we first walked into Suramar, this is exactly what we saw. It is something we call grey boxing, and it is a way for the game team (as they’re building a city) to sort of make a 3D sketch to figure out the placement, the size and shape of buildings, as well as where city streets and causeways go, so that when you are walking around in the final city, you can really get a feel for the size and scope of it, as well as not getting lost, and everything flows nicely.


And as I sat there, finalized by the game team, they implement them and we start to see the city take shape around us. But has all this stuff starts going in, how do we take advantage of that? How do we see all of it?


But we have some other tools for that too. One is a camera system that we can use. It is sort of a get-in and go-fire, and forget sort of system — where we can take a single camera, and put it at one point; but then, we can move that exact same camera to any other point in the world, and we can scope out every nook and cranny of the city, and leave no stone unturned.


Now to that end, we can also take entire seeds and transplant them to other parts of the world.


So in this shot Thalyssra was walking along the streets, but we can marginally whisk her away to Blacokrock Mountain, give her a tour high among the clouds of Skywall, or just for fun put her in the depths of the sea in Vash’jir.


Wait, something is not quite right there, but using these efficient tools, we can spend more time focusing on bringing the city to life even more, using our crowd tools to create a bustling population where everyone is going somewhere. Something is always being done, and adding little doodads and knickknacks to help tell our story.


So that once that story is told, you understand the history of Suramar, its opulence and magnificence, as well as its fall to the Legion, and Thalyssra’s plight within all of this chaos; and why you at this point in time are needed to reclaim that city from the Legion.


Next: Stormheim: Genn vs Sylvanas Cutscene


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

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BlizzCon 2019 Panel Transcripts