Let’s Talk Character Models
I have a thing for horns. And hoofs. Tails are certainly a bonus. In short, I adore the draenei race. They are goofy, nerdy spacegoats that lack comedic timing, and have a hard time picking up sarcasm (they are also tall, and beautiful, with far too many knees to make my Co-GM completely comfortable). Their accent is reminiscent of eastern Europe, and they are foreigners in a strange land, on a strange planet.
I guess I can relate. In the World of Warcraft community, English is the main language. As Sweden is far too small to have servers dedicated to just us, and because we are good at English, we play the game in English, and we speak English in guild chat, over Skype, on the forums, and on Twitter. Heck, we even record podcasts and write articles in English about our passion for the game. But communicating in a language that’s not your first language can be difficult, and many things get lost in translation. That’s how I imagine it is for the draenei; they are well-meaning, good-hearted, and very passionate, but they are outsiders in Azeroth.
This is why I love them. It’s also why I’ve been beyond excited about the new character models for the draenei race. When the new models appeared on the beta servers I threw myself in there and started making characters, testing out facial expressions, casting animations, new hairstyles and much more.
At first I was very skeptical. It is a natural reaction to change; despite being a very progressive and intelligent species, humans do not like change. The status quo is desirable because we know how to handle it. It’s safer that way. Considering these factors, I gave myself some time to get used to the changes before reacting to them. The last thing the internet needs is another rage-filled rant on Twitter.
Spacegoats with Insect Eyes
Before I get started, keep in mind that the character models and animations are still a work in progress, and are subject to change, per the devs:
@Lenneth95 Beta anims are still WIP for many races
— Jeremy Feasel (@Muffinus) July 18, 2014
With that said, here are my impressions of the new model:
The animations, and facial expressions are fantastic.
The male draenei looks great.
Their resting faces, animations, facial expressions, and hair all look really good.
The female draenei have some issues I’d like to address:
Their animations and facial expressions are great. But their resting faces are not. At first, I wasn’t sure what was wrong, but after comparing the new faces with the old ones, side by side, it started to become clear.
Comparison of all the face choices for the female draenei. Old versions to the left, and new, corresponding, versions to the right.
It’s mostly about proportions, but also the fact that some characteristic features have been remodeled (lips and eyebrows have different shapes and/or angles). The biggest offenders are the eyes. They have changed from glowing white to a faded blue. This in itself isn’t that bad, the draenei children have had that eye color for a long time after all. It’s the shape of the eyes that bother me. They are bigger, and differently shaped which makes them look bulging. That in turn makes the new female draenei look a little bit like insects in my opinion. It doesn’t help that many of the hairstyles have become slightly egg shaped, higher and narrower on top and wider below.
Basic sketch of how the eye shape differs. Old version on top, and new version below.
Face no. 5. Old version to the left, and new version to the right. The yellow lines denote proportions.
The face is pretty much the same size as before (it may be slightly wider), but the texture makes it appear fuller. The eyes and eyebrows are higher up which makes the forehead shorter/smaller. The nose is also higher up, and the lips are less full. This makes the skin-colored part of the upper lip longer.
Ponytail hairdo from the front. Old version, displayed on face no. 4, to the left, and new version, displayed on face no. 5, to the right. The yellow lines denote proportions.
The Curious Case of the Pink Hair
Lastly I’d like to address The Color that has had Twitter exploding lately. The white hair color choice looks like it’s pale pink in the beta. There are a few conclusions you can draw from this. Either the developers have decided to replace the white hair color with pink, or this is an unintended effect of say, more polygons/better textures. Seeing as it seems that the pink hair only looks pink in certain lighting (albeit most lighting), my bet is on the latter unfortunately. However, the community have been wanting pink hair for the draenei for a long time, and the positive feedback from the beta might convince the developers to add it to the game. Fingers crossed!
The new draenei character model looks great. It really does. The animations, and facial expressions, are nothing short of amazing in comparison to the old ones. But the resting faces (for the female draenei) – the actual appearance of the individual faces – are not good. Many of the characteristics that players have come to identify their avatars with have disappeared. I honestly believe that the old faces with better textures (and smaller tweaks here and there) would have been the best way to go.
What do you think? Are you happy with what you have seen so far from the beta coverage when it comes to the new character models?