The Art Style of WoW
After my playing companion (aka my wife) decided to turn in early (not really that early but earlier than me), I ended up traveling solo back into Zangarmarsh to grind out the last of my Sporeggar Rep. Upon arrival I had second thoughts and decided to wait until she could join me as I knew she also wanted the Sporeggar rewards and I was already a few thousand XP ahead of her in the leveling race.
I wasn’t quite tired thanks to an accidental extended power-nap from earlier so I logged onto an alt to do some AH business. This only took a few minutes and I wasn’t really in the mood to play one of the many lowbie characters . So I fired up the Hellgate London Demo that I downloaded a few nights prior and decided to give it a whirl.
Now I’ve always been a fan of Blizzard’s work. Especially the Diablo Series. So when a few of the top guys from Blizzard North decided to take their leave and form their own game studio, I was intrigued to see what they could churn out. Hellgate London as a concept sounds like a winner. It’s part RPG, part FPS, with some MMO thrown in for good measure.
Unfortunately, I found the game to be extremely unappealing. It wasn’t so much the gameplay nor the clunky interface that turned me off. It seemed to have an inspired art direction but it was ultimately the graphics that did me in.
Now, my gaming machine is decent. Not the latest and greatest, but it gets the job done. I didn’t really have a problem with meeting the technical demands that the graphics required, but rather it was the uncanny valley that tainted the experience.
For those of you not familiar with the the term. The uncanny valley theory refers to the paradox of computer generated depictions of humans that seem less real and more “creepy” as they approach photorealism. When the image in question attempts to be realistic our brains will focus on the details that just aren’t right; like plastic-looking skin and hair, or weird eye-balls and false-looking teeth. When we’re shown a cartoon image, we compensate for the missing detail and the subject seems warm and lifelike, often even cute.
This is where Blizzard (in my humble opinion) really outshines the rest. Nay-sayers may argue with me on this but I definitely prefer the “cartoony” flavor of WoW over the attempts at ultra-realism from the competition. (Yeah I’m looking at you LOTRO).
I have to give props to Chris Metzen and crew for accomplishing the goal of creating a very cohesive and recognizable art style that not only ages gracefully, but also retains a lower-end system requirement. In-turn allowing for an increased penetration of the “casual” space.
I don’t doubt that the utter uniqueness of their style that ties the entire game together for players has also contributed towards increasing awareness with non-players and securing their place in pop culture.