The upcoming World of Warcraft expansion will introduce diverse character skins for the first time in the MMO’s 15 years.
But why has it taken so long to allow players to choose characters with ethnic diversity and skin that is darker than tan? Speaking to Eurogamer, Blizzard senior producer Michael Bybee and lead gameplay engineer Patrick Magruder explain it comes down to resources.
“One of the things that’s just a reality of making video games is we have to figure out exactly where we spend our resources,” Michael Bybee said. “We have time that we can spend on characters and art, and we have to make decisions about that.
“What’s happened over the years is: we did HD resolution updates to all of the player models a few expansions ago, made them higher resolution, and that was a tremendous amount of resources, and we thought it made absolute sense. What we really didn’t want to do is just slap a new skin colour on there and say: ‘Yep, done, we’ve got diversity.’
“Instead what we’re doing is we’re actually remodelling the faces of these characters to match what might actually make sense for that particular ethnic background. Which takes time – but we wanted to do it right. The biggest piece there is we wanted to make sure this actually made sense in our game.”
“He’s absolutely right,” Patrick Magruder continues. “[We’re] recompositing the faces so they reflect the ethnicities. And it’s not just for humans: it’s for all of the races. We’re adding customisation choices across the board. The amount of art- it’s just amazing.
“This is actually, frankly, one of my favourite features I’m looking forward to. I’m so, so happy we’re putting this in and people are finally able to say, ‘That’s me,’ in the game.”
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands is slated to arrive “on or before December 31,” Blizzard confirmed over the weekend.