blizzard releases new episode of building azeroth northrend featured image 2

Blizzard just released a new episode of the Building Azeroth series, focused on Northrend. This episode is presented by art director Ely Cannon, Lead Level Designer Sarah Boulian-Verrall, and Overwatch game director Aaron Keller, who worked together as level designers on the original Wrath of the Lich King team.

The 3 hosts talk about the importance of Northrend as a zone that has existed in the lore since the beginning, with Warcraft 3. They touch on the design process of World of Warcraft zones, and how 2-D drawing of a map gets translated into the zones we know. Evidently, some of the designers had lived in the Pacific Northwest, which helped them design the zone’s snowy mountaintop setting, as well as the evergreen forests of the area, which were inspired by the forests of Washington and the Olympic Forest in specific.

There’s some talk about the design technology behind WotLK zones as well. Heightmap texture blending technology was not as advanced at the time, so everything had to be drawn by hand. There were no real measurement tools either, so for instance when it came to calculating the heights of world elements, the designers would drag pirate ships next to f.e. mountains, stacking ships on top of each other to figure out how tall they were — making “pirate ships” the de-facto yard stick of the time. They also widely used the copy-paste tool, which the developers begun using in Outland, which helped them design zones like the Icecrown Glacier quickly, while still looking visually appealing.

The developers finally go into detail about the thought and design processes behind some of the players’ favourite zones, specifically Grizzly Hills, Borean Tundra, Howling Fjord and Sholazar Basin. They talk about the unique challenges they faced when creating each of those zones, and bring up some personal stories about what developing them was like.

About the Author


Classic WoW is my jam, with a passion for PvP. Most know me as Baranor, the ret paladin guy, but I'm secretly a druid main, don't tell anyone. In my free time I play Switch games, particularly JRPGs. Some day I'll be making my own games and I humbly hope you play those too!

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15 days ago

Today I learned that Warcraft began with Warcraft 3!

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