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Shadowlands Art Blast: Plants and The Heart of the Forest with Environment Artist Kate McKee
31.12.2020 um 10:06
has posted some behind-the-scenes information and work she did for Shadowlands on
Kate McKee on ArtStation
Kate worked on many of the plants we see in the Shadowlands, including the lilies of Bastion, the bone spikes in Maldraxxus, and the pod trees in Ardenweald. We love how the Bastion Lily is meant to represent a Valkyrie in flight!
Bastion Zone Overview Maldraxxus Zone Overview Ardenweald Zone Overview
One of my first tasks for Shadowlands was to take a concept created by Servando Lupini, and interpret it to create my own unique flower for the zone. I wanted to design a flower for Bastion that felt different at every angle the player looked at it. The goal of this plant was also to unify the colors of other plants in the zone. It started off as a simple peace lily design. Then from there I started to play around with its shape language.
Now if you view the flower from the side, it should resemble a Valkyrie in flight. Then if viewed from the top, it should resemble a bird sitting in a nest.
Maldraxxus Bone Spikes
This asset was designed to help bring visual chaos to the war torn battlefields of Maldraxxus. Telling the story of battles past where spiked exploded out of the ground as the result of a spell.
I started off with the model on these pieces and got the texture up to a blockout stage. Then I passed these rocks along to my coworker Tai Walker, who then finished the textures for me. Bringing to life the look and feel I had envisioned for these rocks.
Once the rocks were completed, they were sent off to our level designer, Travis Hickman, who had fun creating a cool POI with them.
Ardenweald Lily Pads
This is the lily pad kit that was inspired by the lily pad tileset created for Ardenweald. I wanted to create the feel that these lily pads grow underwater and slowly rise to the surface to bloom their flowers.
The idea of underwater lily pads was originally designed by Visual Developer,
, and I wanted to bring that idea to life.
Ardenweald Grotto Plant
This was such a fun plant to design for the Glitterfall Basin. This biome's kit was centered around water and the magic within it. I took inspiration from an herb node created by my college, Gabe Gonzalez, called the Riverbud from Battle for Azeroth. I wanted to play with, "what could the otherworldly version of that herb node look like?"
The idea behind this plant was that it collects magic from the water around it and grows dew drops all along its stamen that can later be collected for its magic.
Ardenweald Butterfly Trees
While we were in the concept phase for Ardenweald, I really wanted to make a tree that had not been done before. Keeping the otherworldly, magical feel in mind, I decided to play with a butterfly motif. What started as a small sketch of a twiggy looking branch covered in butterfly leaves, turned into a full blown tree kit to accent the larger trees throughout the zone. I got to work with some of my favorite colors and love the pop of blue that stands out from the dark barks in the zone.
Ardenweald Pod Trees
These trees are some of my favorites I have ever gotten to make. They were concepted by my colleague Servando Lupini who designed such a unique look for them. I knew this one would be a challenge because of the types of materials we wanted to capture in this tree.
The idea behind them was these bulbous trees that are infused with magical anima amber glass that oozes and solidifies out of the bark. Which then forms this sheen of glass that the inhabitants of Ardenweald can use for weapons, armor, and more. The fun part of this project was that I also needed to design depleted versions where the anima has all but left the tree. For the depleted versions, I wanted the glass to resemble oxidized bronze.
One of the things we like to do is reuse some elements of old assets that still hold up to our current art standards to save us time and allow us to generate more assets. For these trees we decided to reuse a canopy made for Suramar by Tina Wang and change up the color. Their design really brought to life the look and feel
wanted for the canopies.
Ardenweald Dwellings and the Heart of the Forest
Kate also designed the homes of the Night Fae in Ardenweald, from their dwellings to the Heart of the Forest - the Night Fae Covenant Sanctum.
Heart of the Forest Overview
A big part of undertaking the pod tree kit for Ardenweald was also designing and creating buildings to go with it in their style. The idea behind it was that the inhabitants of Arden, used hollowed out pod trees as their buildings. What made this task fun was getting to create almost stained glass-like windows for the entrances. We wanted a big theme in this zone to be art nouveau, which mean the entrance needed to feel intricate and elegant. The look and design for the entrances were concepted by Gabe Gonzalez and I executed them onto the model. Just like the pod trees, the canopy for the buildings were originally designed by Tina Wang, but recolored for use on these trees.
What also made these buildings special, is that they are entirely outside which meant our Level Designers really got to have fun decorating the interiors. While it meant more work for them, it also mean that each building got to have its own unique look. They did such a fantastic job with the prop/environment kit and I love getting to see what is different inside each tree.
Ardenweald Covenant Sanctum
One of my proudest achievements this expansion, was getting to be apart of the team that brought the Ardenweald Covenant Sanctum to life. This was such an amazing experience and every person involved did such an amazing job. This may be a long read, but so much work went into this project and I want to call out those who I specifically worked with during this process and what they contributed. I highly encourage everyone to check out the work from all of those who worked on Ardenweald and the Covenant Sanctum. Enjoy!
I got to primarily work with my coworker Gabe Gonzalez on this project. He was tasked with the initial 3D blockout/design of the sanctum, including scale and layout of the interior and exterior. When I joined onto the project, I was given the greyscale, low poly model to begin polishing up all of the geo within the Sanctum. Meanwhile, Gabe focused on polishing the exterior and producing all of the textures for me to apply to the interior. I got to contribute to a couple of textures to the interior of the Sanctum, but the bulk of the textures came from Gabe. Since I designed the look of the amber glass on other trees within Ardenweald, I also got to design all of the glasswork textures within the Sanctum.
On top of the textures, Gabe created all of the doorways into the Sanctum. He designed all of the exterior geo and bark for the tree, as well as the canopy and branches spiraling above. We also decided we wanted to frame the Winter Queen in her chamber, so Gabe concepted the amber glass backdrop that frames the Queen and her throne. Then the concept was passed off to me to model.
As the Sanctum started becoming more and more complete, we realized we wanted some specific pieces made for the Sanctum, not found anywhere else in the zone. Gabe and I got to work with one of our prop artists,
, who concepted and created such beautiful pieces to accent the Sanctum. Ashleigh created the Heart of the Tree that is the center focal point in the Sanctum. She also created the ethereal banners that drape down the pillars of the Sanctum. Ashleigh also created the throne for the Winter Queen and floating lamps that decorate her chambers.
Once the geo was established and the layout complete. The next step was to start decorating the interior. Normally I handle the placement of just the environment assets when it comes to decorating, and the level design team handles the prop asset placements. This time around leadership felt that since I was the most familiar with the interior of the Sanctum, that I would be in charge of all of the decorating. This was my first time getting to work with prop assets to decorate and I had such a fun time creating all of the POIs within the Sanctum.
To figure out where things needed to go, I got to work closely with Arden's point Quest Designer, Katherine Bankson. She and I were in constant contact to figure out where places like the Inn would go and where all of the specific vendors would be and to make sure the look and feel were what she envisioned. I really had such a great experience getting to work this side of the pipeline. Some of my favorite POIs I made, were the Garden Portal area in the lower Sanctum, as well as the Inn.
Now speaking of props. Not only did Ashleigh work on the Sanctum props, but she and
, our other Arden prop artist, designed every prop used in Ardenweald. I had so much fun getting to utilize all of their assets to help decorate the interior. Every asset that came from them was stunning. Outside of the prop team, the rest of the assets came from the Ardenweald environment artists, including; Myself,
, and Tina Wang. Both the Prop and Environment team really went above and beyond with amazing assets that were so fun to place around the Sanctum.
Then lastly, once everything was established and decorated. Our point quest designer, Katherine Bankson, and our point Level Designer,
; went through and placed all of the NPCs and vendors that make up what the player sees today in game.
So much love went into this Sanctum and everyone involved did such a great job.
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