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On Revamping WoW Graphics

The World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Interview on Eurogamer is another conversation from the Leipzig show with designer Tom Chilton and producer J. Allen Brack about the upcoming WoW expansion. They talk about new graphics options in the expansion, but when asked about how to entirely replace an aging graphics engine in an MMORPG, they point out that both Ultima Online and EverQuest created new graphics engines that some users refused to adopt because of performance drop-offs and other issues. In spite of that, Brack admits that they will "probably" need a "graphical update from the ground up at some point," and he is "positive we'll talk about it next expansion." Thanks IncGamers.

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15. Re: No subject Aug 23, 2008, 12:27 wtf_man
 
Fixed my post. I wasn't actually agreeing with upgrading equipment, etc.

 
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14. Re: No subject Aug 23, 2008, 12:21 The Half Elf
 
I disagree. The biggest issue with redoing the characters and equipment is the sheer amount of art assets that would need to be upgraded.
As mentioned by Funcom, the biggest hurdle in their graphics upgrade of Anarchy Online is the equipment.
Not to say it's not doable, but very time intensive.

 
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13. Re: No subject Aug 23, 2008, 12:11 wtf_man
 
Beyond a performance hit, there's the problem of WoW's art style, and its target audience. The art style of WoW is intentionally unrealistic. Colors are exaggerated, proportions of character models and weapons, etc. Now, the good thing about this style is that you don't need a lot of polygons or high detail texturesto do it right. This means that WoW can be run on some pretty low end machines.

That's a LARGE contributing factor to its popularity. You dont need a $2500 PC to run the thing.

While an engine upgrade would be good, they have to maintain a consistent art style, or the game will age rapidly. Nothing makes a games older graphics stand out more than sticking them right next to better graphics.

World geometry has to remain consistent for all users for obvious reasons, so you can't just go modifying the world for some users, but not for all. Or modifying it for all users but crippling some of them to unplayability.

Character models are easier to do, though. The same goes for weapons. These can be made optional rather easily.

I agree with NKD about the art-style.

WoW's art style (which I don't particularly care for) doesn't demand much of an upgrade. A few more polys on the character models / mobs would be nice to smooth out some "blockyness"... but I don't think it's worth the effort (Probably have to re-do the animations, and get a performance hit for little benefit), given that you are playing in a cartoon-styled environment.

As for upping the texture resolution... again... minor benefit, given the art style.

Maybe some of the newer effects in the areas of the expansions could be put in the original world... but that's about it.

It's probably more worthwhile for them to spend money on content additions (In the original areas (to keep the original areas somewhat populated)) than revamping the whole graphics engine.

This comment was edited on Aug 23, 12:25.
 
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12. Nothing new to see here... Aug 23, 2008, 10:29 Finalnight
 
Look at their previous interviews. They review whether to do a graphical overhaul before each expansion. They did they same thing before TBC and WOTLK.

 
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11. No subject Aug 23, 2008, 10:06 dryden555
 
If Blizzard waits long enough a crappy intel graphics chip will support their "upgrades" -- perhaps that's their plan

 
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10. Re: No subject Aug 23, 2008, 06:16 osage no onna
 
They've said before that when they update the graphics, it's not likely to be optional, apart from the effects side of things. They don't want to do all that work and have people go "That's nice, but I'll stick with the original, thanks" which is understandable.

 
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9. Re: No subject Aug 23, 2008, 03:56 NKD
 
why even point out the bleeding obvious?

Since when is the bleeding obvious apparent to Blues News readers? If I dont point out the obvious, then I just have to remind someone of it later.


I also think the models alone would be good enough for now just because the art style of the game makes it so that it has aged extremely well. It doesn't look like a four year old game right now.

One thing I think WoW could benefit from is a better armor system. Real meshes for armor. Right now you basically just get big shoulderpads, everything else is pretty limited.

This comment was edited on Aug 23, 03:57.
 
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8. Re: No subject Aug 23, 2008, 02:12 manic half
 
World geometry has to remain consistent for all users for obvious reasons, so you can't just go modifying the world for some users, but not for all. Or modifying it for all users but crippling some of them to unplayability.

why even point out the bleeding obvious?

 
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7. No subject Aug 23, 2008, 02:12 heroin
 
I'd like to see them... revamp some if not all of the quests in the game. Come on Blizzard, get innovative - you've got the money.

Seriously, I have a blast running raids - they're very strategic and many times interesting and challenging. I wish the world/quest/grind part of the game played a bit more like the raids do. I still love the game but I've come to expect more from Blizzard since I know they have both the talent and the money.

 
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6. No subject Aug 23, 2008, 02:08 PropheT
 

As long as they let the people with old machines keep playing, and don't compromise their own unique art style, it would be a good thing.


That pretty much nails it. And I think they understand that, too, which is why they haven't really just gone for it yet.

The draenei and blood elf character models are a higher poly model than the original races use, so at least in part the technology is there and even if the upgrade was slight it could be done. Just re-doing the original race character models would probably be enough at this point anyway; the new world areas are quite a bit better than anything the game had going before Burning Crusade, and in many areas it's quite a bit better than that expansion.

I also think the models alone would be good enough for now just because the art style of the game makes it so that it has aged extremely well. It doesn't look like a four year old game right now.

 
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5. Re: No subject Aug 23, 2008, 01:59 NKD
 
There's a certain problem with a WoW engine upgrade. Like they said, UO and EQs graphical upgrades weren't really widely accepted. EQ's char model upgrades for Luclin were pretty bad. The highly detailed special textures for the Velious armor were not imported. Basically you ended up getting armor rather than a textured skin suit, but sacrificed the entire texture for a flat color.

And in UO the performance of their engine put you at too much of a disadvantage in PvP, and it didn't look that good.

Beyond a performance hit, there's the problem of WoW's art style, and its target audience. The art style of WoW is intentionally unrealistic. Colors are exaggerated, proportions of character models and weapons, etc. Now, the good thing about this style is that you don't need a lot of polygons or high detail texturesto do it right. This means that WoW can be run on some pretty low end machines.

That's a LARGE contributing factor to its popularity. You dont need a $2500 PC to run the thing.

While an engine upgrade would be good, they have to maintain a consistent art style, or the game will age rapidly. Nothing makes a games older graphics stand out more than sticking them right next to better graphics.

World geometry has to remain consistent for all users for obvious reasons, so you can't just go modifying the world for some users, but not for all. Or modifying it for all users but crippling some of them to unplayability.

Character models are easier to do, though. The same goes for weapons. These can be made optional rather easily.

Of course, a new engine doesn't necessarily mean excluding older systems. You can create an engine that has more optional goodies for high end systems, while maintaining high performance for old ones.

As long as they let the people with old machines keep playing, and don't compromise their own unique art style, it would be a good thing.

 
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If you don't like where gaming is heading, stop giving your money to the people who are taking it in that direction.
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4. Re: No subject Aug 23, 2008, 01:49 Narf2029
 
The thing is that most of their customer base isn't running a somewhat new rig that can run WoW in sleep mode... a lot of people are probably using stuff that was middle-of-the-road or worse when WoW launched. Given it's enormous subscriber count, the "hardcore" players who spend tons of money on their machines are probably a tiny minority. An optional graphics update would be nice though, cuz then everybody wins.  
Huh? I'm sorry, I was thinking about cake.
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3. No subject Aug 23, 2008, 00:16 Sempai
 
An engine upgrade would be welcomed by me.

Seriously folks if your pc cant run wow at 1024x768 with respectable frame rates its time to upgrade that dell toaster.

I realize they dont want to alienate their customer base but guys like me feel a bit alienated when my somewhat new rig runs the game in sleep mode..

 
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2. Re: No subject Aug 23, 2008, 00:09 Kxmode
 
If you look at the textures in WOW close-up they look blurry. I would say they're probably using 512 x 512 textures. The difference between 512 x 512 and 1024 x 1024 is staggering. Blizzard could leave the engine alone and concentrate on updating textures. The game would look incredible with 1024 textures.

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1. No subject Aug 22, 2008, 23:07 PropheT
 
As long as they make it optional, I'd love to see new graphics with the game.

It's getting so the areas in the expansions really outpace the original areas of the game. Some of the new areas look as good as anything new coming out despite the older game engine.

 
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