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New Character Models and Game Impact

Posted Sun, Jan 26, 2014 by Messiah

Warlords of Draenor Character Model Banner


Blizzard posted some more information last week regarding the upcoming character model changes and the direction they are going with for them.  While some details were release previously at BlizzCon 2013 about new character models and some images were shown, this provides an even close look.

The article posted by Blizzard is called Artcraft – A First Look, and takes an in depth look at the human female model as well as discussing some of the considerations when re-doing the model.

Memnock just posted an article about the update of the look and not a reinvention of the look which can be found here. This article looks more at the impact of these new models and what they may mean. You can also find more images in our past article on the character model updates here: BlizzCon 2013 - Updated Character Models.

Key Details

So what are the key changes taking place with the new character models that really matter?  Glad you asked, to me the most important changes are the following:

  • Polygon counts are jumping from sometimes less than a 1,000 to over 5,000!
  • More than doubling the texture resolution used in all aspects of character display.
  • As a result of the above two items, characters will have at least the same amount of detail and sometimes even more than current Mists of Pandaria boss models.
  • More “bones” in models to allow smother animation and movement.
  • Completely updated animations and facial expressions for every class and race.
new human female face
The great looking new Human Female face model.

Maybe even more important than any of the changes being made to the character models, are what is not changing.  Blizzard has repeatedly stated that they do not want the characters “soul” to change.  While the characters will look better, they want them to look like the same character they were before.  Chris Robinson from Blizzard had an excellent line in the article:

”Well feel like we've succeeded if you see the updated version of your character and it still feels like you’re looking at the character you’ve been playing for the past however many years—only someone has finally focused a lens.”

So far from everything they have shown us that looks to be the case.  You can recognize which model he updated version is based on and it just looks cleaner and better, not really different.  The only exception to me personally are some of the models with horns, tusks, or beards.  Because of the changes made to the bone, polygon, and textures, some of these items look so much better than the old versions that they look completely different.

Impact on the Game

So, we know and can see that the new characters are a huge improvement appearance wise, but what will that do to the game itself?

At first, maybe completely naively I didn’t think of much impact, after all, it is only your character and the others in the party with you.  How much affect can that have, right?

Then I started thinking about it more.  These character models are used for EVERYTHING.  All the guards in a city, all the quest givers, many of minions you find and fight throughout the world and instance, in fact most NPC’s are based off of character models.  Sure some have different skins than those available to characters, but they are still the same models and therefore have the same polygon counts and new higher texture rates.

Since the new models have in some cases over 5 times the polygon count, and at least double the texture resolution, that means that they will be consuming at least twice and probably five times the processing and graphics power to create and move them in game, as well as more memory to track everything.  What will that mean to the system requirements for the game, and the impact on the game for players that do not upgrade their system.

Since most models in the game will now require more power to run, how much will that affect those players that already run at low frame rates? Will they drop down to unplayable levels? Will they have to constantly be looking at the floor so that they are able to actually play in a raid? There are a lot of questions to be answered.

World of Warcraft has some insanely low system requirements, especially for an MMO.  While most people do not play it on a minimum spec system, it is awesome to have that option.  There are many times a year when I travel for business when I only have access to a laptop.  Laptops in general have far less power than a full out desktop system due to the fact that they are trying to balance size, weight, power, heat, and more in such a small unit.  This makes it hard to play most games at any sort of reasonable setting while travelling.  World of Warcraft is awesome though as it runs, and runs well, on almost any semi-modern system, no matter how low end it is.

The question now is, how well will it run with all the upgraded character models?  Blizzard already admits that the system requirements will be going up, but not how much, at least not until later in the development process.  The potential ramp up has a lot of players worried in the WoW community, and Blizzard is already making sure that they are making it known that there will be a bump in requirements.

 

My question is, do you have any idea at this time what that demand is going to be? I have signed up for Beta and my computer specs are listed there, but I also know that I get lag in raids and high graphic environments, like flying through heavily colored areas.

We don't, and we tend not to have updated system requirements/recommendations until most content is in, most big changes and engineering are done, and we're looking like there isn't going to be anything else that would greatly affect performance. So we won't really know absolutely until some point through the beta. We're keenly aware of the system requirements the new character models may require, and how that could impact client performance. No further details yet on how they'll be supported on lower end systems, if at all.

Fun fact, the game still supports processors and graphics cards that were released over 8 years ago. To put that in other terms, modern day systems are in some cases 50x more powerful than the lowest end systems the game still supports. Moving us forward graphically in such a dramatic way with the new models is going to require a lot of testing, tweaking, optimizing, and determination of what we can realistically support going forward, but we just don't know what that will look like yet.

While I completely understand that the game needs this upgrade to look better and at least come a little closer to looking modern, I am a touch worried.  There are many players that really like playing WoW, but do so on limited spec systems.  There are also those of us out there that play WoW on Apple computers, which are supported, but have lower spec graphics cards than modern PCs.  Apple just doesn’t put great graphics cards into their systems, in fact they generally seem to be about 2 years behind PC systems.  While they run the game, they do not do so as well as a current PC.

Apparently though, Blizzard may include the option to use the old models if you so choose for users that it impacts heavily - mentioned here. This is of course not finalized yet though and is subject tot change.

Comments

The Messiah has had his say, how about you.  Do you like the new graphics, do you feel that the potential system boost is worth it.  Do you play on a limited power system and are fearful of not being able play?  Make your comments known below.

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