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War of the Ancients - The Well of Eternity Brought to Life

Suzie Ford Posted:
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It’s no secret that players love games – they play them, often with almost religious fervor, and they take their affection outside the actual game world in many ways. One of the most popular and widely known ways that player express themselves outside of a game is through the creation of videos that are then shared on YouTube and other video sharing sites. Videos run the gamut from gameplay to Easter eggs to podcasts and, as in this case, the creation of story-based Machinima projects.

For those who do not know, the World of Warcraft War of the Ancients trilogy by Richard Knaack was published in 2004-2005.

The trilogy takes place ten millennia before the first Warcraft games, during the Burning Legion's first invasion of Azeroth. The storyline proceeds to expand the depth of the Night Elves past, and leads up to the Sundering of Kalimdor. Whilst this storyline was detailed in brief in the past, the trilogy involves time travel back to the past, causing the way events unfolded in this era of time to be changed permanently. (Warcraft: War of the Ancients Wikipedia)

It is from this point that a true labor of love began with one particular fan of both the Warcraft games and the storyline from the War of the Ancients. After four years in production and the creation of hundreds, if not thousands, of new game-based models, the team finally, on Saturday, August 16th, released War of the Ancients – The Well of Eternity (click to watch on YouTube), a nearly two-hour tour de force. We managed to find the doubtless exhausted leads from the project Norbert “Keytal” Szilagyi and A.W.A. “Vaanel” Oemraw to talk about the film.

MMORPG.com: Please introduce yourselves and your position on the team.

Keytal: Hi there! My name is Norbert Szilagyi; I am a level designer from Hungary. I am the Producer and Director of the Machinima: War of the Ancients – The Well of Eternity. My main responsibilities were producing and directing the movie, planning and creating the events, creating and editing all the video materials and writing the script.

Vaanel: Hey everyone! I am A.W.A. Oemraw, better known as Vaanel. I’m a Graphic Designer from The Netherlands. My main responsibilities were creating all the models in the Machinima: War of the Ancients – The Well of Eternity. What most people do not know is that this includes not only the character models of the heroes/villains/background characters but also objects, animals and structures. Besides making those, I have been making the Graphic Designs for the Machinima, designing the Highborne culture and assisting the director.

(click the image below to be taken to YoutTube to watch the video)

MMORPG.com: War of the Ancients is based on a World of Warcraft novel by Richard Knaack. What inspired you to bring the events portrayed in the book to life in a Machinima project? Why this particular series of books describing this moment in the extensive history of WoW?

Keytal: It all began with an older Machinima called “Dawn” featuring a completely original story made up by me and using the Warcraft 3 game engine with basic Warcraft 3 models. That Machinima was cancelled in mid production, for those whom are interested: the first part can be found on Warcraftmovies.com. During the production the main voice actor said to me: “Man it’s all cool but why not make an epic scale Machinima featuring the War of the Ancients” That was the exact moment when it all began. I have read the novels and well … night elves, demons, epic battles, sorcery … it has everything I like and I think many others do.

MMORPG.com: Of which part of the video are you most proud? Were there any parts that gave you trouble?

Keytal: I would say the battle sequences are the ones I am the most proud of. They were really hard to put together considering I was using the original animations for the movie so from existing animations we had to put something together that looks unique. About the parts gave me the most trouble... hmm … basically nothing went smooth with this movie really but if I had to choose I would say the actual rendering and uploading took most of my nerves. The production itself was a delight even though it was tiring at its best!

Vaanel: For me that would be the sequences around the arrival of Hakkar the Houndmaster. These consist of several amazing terrains for which I had the pleasure of creating all the objects for constructing the scene and the design of the terrains. Part of my role (which I requested myself) was to be responsible of creating the highborne ‘culture’. The highborne are actually night elves but from higher class. My goal was to create environments, wardrobe, atmosphere which could show their position being different from the ordinary night elves of Suramar and the current night elves from Darnassus. These scenes were all shot in the highborne capital Zin’Azshari, so for me it was a tough job creating all the objects (statues, flowers, vined pillars, floor tiles, walls, weapon racks etc.) and models (from the main characters like Azshara, Varo’then and Hakkar the Houndmaster to background models like the highborne summoners, soldiers, stable keepers, panthers etc.). The final product shows a scene which is not only very diverse and beautiful for the eye but is also very diverse in events. Having Hakkar arrive in all his glory (thanks to Keytal’s great composition), made the entire scene for me utterly amazing.    

MMORPG.com: Did the Machinima project start as a one-man effort or did you recruit a team straight away? Ultimately, how many people participated in one way or another in the making of the video?

Keytal: It did start as a one-man effort but fortunately I found Vaanel pretty quick and we have been working together almost from the very beginning. For a long time we just worked on some visuals that we could show to our voice actors. After we got a few shots together I started to approach voice actors known from other Machinimas. In time the project got into the spotlight and voice actors from all around started to approach me. In the end the whole team grew to 20-30 people I think. This counts basically everybody who had anything to do with the movie.

MMORPG.com: This question is for Vaanel – What inspired you to create so many unique models rather than simply using the game models as is?

Vaanel: I was inspired making unique models because I was able to, I had a lot of fun with it and more importantly most models I had to make for the Machinima did not have an own unique model in the game (World of Warcraft). If there was an official model I used this model as a base and perhaps gave it a new outfit. I mean the story of the War of the Ancients takes place 10.000 years ago. I guess it was not really necessary to make new outfits but I blame myself for being a perfectionist. I wanted to give the Machinima a realistic scenery. Which is why I wanted to have the characters design as close as I could get to their description given in the novels of the War of the Ancients by R. Knaak or from World of Warcraft. Using the models from the game does not give the opportunity to create a character according to their description. Unfortunately (for example) we do not have a ‘scar on face’ option in the character creation screen of the game. Being able to create unique characters and background models for a setting which takes place 10.000 years ago is a great inspiration as well. I enjoy the ancient world of Azeroth before The Sundering.

MMORPG.com: Vaanel: Give us a thumbnail sketch of the process you go through to create a new model please.  Once models are created, how are they brought to life within the video itself?

Vaanel: Alright so first of all I do some research. I get some facts about the character I have to make from the novel and wowpedia mainly.  Then depending on the information I collected I start making a quick sketch of how the model basically needs to look like. After that is done I start searching for some more inspiration from objects such as weapons and armor from The World of Warcraft game. I use Warcraft Model Viewer for this part obviously. When I find something that looks interesting I add that to my collection of stuff I need for making the model. After this I basically start up my programs and insert all the stuff I collected together with the ‘naked’ base model and start building the model. When the 3D model is finished, I open Photoshop and update all the textures from the naked model and the objects I added until there is a great balance of color.

The time I spend on making a model is very diverse. Models like Hakkar the Houndmaster, Lord Ravencrest, Queen Azshara and the Pantheon members take a lot of time to make. The easier models take around three days of work.

After ‘finishing’ a model I leave it for a while and check it again another day to see it again from a different perspective. The flaws I correct and the model is finished.

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Suzie Ford

Suzie is the former Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. Follow her on Twitter @MMORPGMom