Tales from the Smithy: Reforging the Night Elves
An avalanche of work goes into reforging even a single Warcraft III model. First, concept artists scour real-world history, World of Warcraft visuals, and original Warcraft III concept art for inspiration. Fueled by this research, they create several concepts for review by the entire art team. The art team chooses their favorite parts from each concept: the pose from A, the eyebrows from B… the shoulder-spikes from C, the toe-structure from D…
When the finer (spear)points have been agreed upon, a 3D model is constructed. The art team reviews each model from every angle, evaluating scale, color, readability, and silhouette. Each model goes through several rounds of exacting polish. Then it’s on to the animation phase, where the movement of fabrics and body parts is polished for realism and personality. Every new model goes through the full process, whether it’s Prince Arthas or a humble cactus. And there are a lot of new models. Over 700, in fact.
All that work paid off. In Warcraft III: Reforged, orcs, humans, night elves, and the undead have been brought to life in higher fidelity than ever before. Across this article series, we go behind the scenes with the art team to discover the secrets of each reforged race—beginning with the ancient, reclusive Night Elves.
The Night Elves were the first race to study magic and let it loose throughout the world nearly ten thousand years ago. They barely managed to banish the demons of the Burning Legion from the world, but their wondrous homeland was shattered, and the Night Elves went into hiding from the rest of the world atop their holy mountain, Hyjal.
While redesigning the Night Elf units, the artists really captured the essence of the Night Elves: that nature is a constant in their theme and function. Wisps bend branch and root into Ancients, and many night elf units, like the Dryad, literally bridge the divide between forest fauna and elf.
Illidan (Demon Hunter)
Demon Hunters are dark, shadowy warriors who are shunned by the greater Night Elf society.
They wield demonically-charged warblades in battle, call upon fel energies to augment their formidable combat skills, and now have a chance to appear in either male or female variations during multiplayer matches.
Illidan Stormrage’s classic fel tattoos are more elaborate channels for demonic power, and his model’s been retooled with all the musculature he’ll need to support future wings and horns.
Cenarius (Keeper of the Grove)
The enchanted Keepers are the favored sons of the demigod Cenarius and possess strange powers over nature and animals.
These ranged spellcasters complement the ranged Night Elf army, rooting any enemy that gets near, or using Treants to push attackers back.
The wood of the reforged Keeper’s clawed hand is much more defined and noticeable; you’ll have a chance to summon either this multiplayer model or the mighty Cenarius himself in competitive games.
Cenarius is draped in ivy as with his original model, but the competitive play Keeper has his own look with a number of variable outfits. He’s a few millennia short of 10,000, so his antlers and ivy haven’t fully grown in yet.
Tyrande Whisperwind (Priestess of the Moon)
The Priestesses of the Moon epitomize the power and grace of their race's ancient Moon Goddess, Elune.
The Priestesses ride the fearless Frostsaber tigers of Winterspring into battle armed with magical energy, and improve the damage of ranged units.
In reforging Tyrande’s model, we opted to give Ash’alah armor to set her apart from the average saber cat—she is the High Priestess’s right paw, after all.
Maiev Shadowsong (Warden)
The mysterious wardens serve as the night elves' police force in Kalimdor, employing a number of supernatural powers that enable them to recapture their target and mete out justice.
Maiev’s reforged model is quite distinct from her multiplayer sister, who wields a chakram but lacks her distinctive bladed cape and crescent back piece.
The first rank of the Sentinel army is comprised of Archers who are able to Shadowmeld at night and attack from stealth.
Archers are staples of the Night Elf army. They can cause serious damage with a Priestess of the Moon, and become even more effective as Hippogryph Archers later in the game.
Whether looking at concept art from Warcraft II, looking at bows in WoW, or the Improved Bows upgrade—which we ultimately drew inspiration from—we do a healthy bit of research before creating each unit. The bows of Archers in Warcraft III: Reforged have a more traditional, pointed recurve where the string attaches.
The enchanted Dryads are the daughters of the Night Elf demigod, Cenarius. Though they abhor unnecessary violence, the Dryads will defend the wildlands of Kalimdor with their lives if need be.
Dryads are excellent at chasing fleeing units and debilitating enemies with their Slow Poison. While the original Dryad model looked like she was dragging around the top of a tree because of the quantity of leaves in her spear, the Reforged Dryad reduces the focus of the spear let you take in the entire unit’s details, and her colors have been changed to more closely match a fawn. The character of Lunara (from Heroes of the Storm) was definitely an inspiration here—her fawn coloring felt more alive, in contrast with the dominant grayish-purple coloring of the original, which was almost undead in nature and at odds with this vivacious, fearsome forest fawn.
Druid of the Claw
These ancient Druids have adopted the totem of the bear, and use its powers to defend their society from any external threats. Their magical spells augment their allies' fighting skills and bravery as well.
The Druid of the Claw, acts as a powerful advanced melee unit when he assumes bear form. This Druid has always worn furs and other accoutrements of the bear he transforms into, but the redesigned unit more clearly distinguishes the outfit from the druid, and his face is more that of a stoic night elf and less like a bear mid-transformation.
But what about those claws? Are they gloves, or part of the druid? Lead Producer Pete Stilwell suggests that insight can be found in the single-player campaign: ”…having gone a bit native, [the Druids] attempted to grow their nails a bit more aggressively than your average elf, but, disappointed in the result, they strapped some giant claws on anyway.”
Benevolent and solitary by nature, the mountain giants have awakened to find that the tranquil world they once helped to shape has become a hectic battlefield of fire and sorrow.
These massive melee units can take incredible amounts of punishment from attackers. The improved Mountain Giant has better-defined crystals on the shoulders, and the grass placement makes it look less like a tunic and more like an actual mossy rock. Multiple concept art pieces were reviewed and the best parts of each were combined to create the version below.
We hope you enjoyed this look at the Night Elves. Join us soon for the next installment of this series, where we’ll be giving you a closer glimpse at the reforged Undead.
Warcraft III: Reforged launches January 29, 2020, and there’s still time to prepare to join the fight on launch day. Pre-purchase now and gain instant access to the multiplayer beta!