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What went into the creation of WoW’s iconic Wrathgate scene?

by John Paul
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World of Warcraft players can soon relive the first ever in-game cinematic by playing Wrath of the Lich King Classic. However, knowing the story behind the Wrathgate scene might make it more memorable.

The Wrathgate was an important moment in WoW’s history. It saw the Alliance and Horde forces fighting the Lich King’s armies to confront Arthas. However, all three factions were decimated when Forsaken unleashed a deadly chemical. It causes players’ first encounter with Lich King. In addition, the Wrathgate resulted in the death of Varok Saurfang’s son. At the same time, a disfigured Bolvar Forragon takes Arthas’ place at the expansion’s end.

Terran Gregory, WoW’s cinematic narrative creator, has outlined the importance of the scene in a new making-of clip. However, it might have been better to use glue and duct tape to create MMO’s first in-game cinematic. Blizzard is known for its amazing pre-rendered cutscenes. However, when it came time to use WoW’s in-game engine to create a cinematic moment back in 2011, there were very few tools.

Blizzard needed to think outside the box. Blizzard had to come up with a new use for an add-on camera originally designed for esports commentary. It became an in-game cinematic camera. Gregory and other employees were hired to voice various characters. Blizzard employees had to also act as NPCs because some custom-made characters weren’t able to move in the way they needed. A group of 40 Blizzard employees coordinated and performed the charge emote to create the iconic charge of Horde up the Wrathgate steps. Gregory claims that around 90% of animations in the cutscene were already in-game.

The Wrathgate scene ends with the Red Dragonflight dragons igniting the battlefield with their flames. This moment was possible thanks to the (at the time) innovative vehicle technology. Blizzard was able to drive around the scene in various pillars-of-fire pilotable vehicles, attaching them with dragon character models and making it look like dragons were flying around the Wrathgate spewing fires.

Wrath of the Lich King Classic releases on September 26 for players to relive history. Wrath of the Lich King Classic is mostly an accurate reproduction of the 2008 game. Still, Blizzard is making adjustments as it attempts to accommodate the surge of new players generating enormous server lines on the game’s most popular lands.



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