Designing the World of Warcraft

April 11, 2016
Production designer Gavin Bocquet (Star Wars) discusses the challenges in creating a world that gamers will recognise, while not alienating newcomers.

“We always have to keep that balance,” Warcraft’s production designer, Gavin Bocquet, explains. “We try to appeal to the games players so they have a reference, but we also don’t want to alienate the audience that doesn’t know the game and [make sure] they feel comfortable. So we tried to put a lot of things in its design that were game-oriented, but not so strong that it would turn people off who did not know the game.”

Crucial to their approach was endowing the world with an “urban gritty reality. So we developed our own digital models as a design that matched this city and brought it into something that the audience would believe is real rather than a fantastical place.”

Gamers though will recognise a number of iconic features I the set design including the infamous mailboxes. “That’s probably the closest thing we’ve gotten to a game piece,” Bocquet says. “We have to be careful that it’s not misunderstood for people who don’t know the game. But everyone that knows the game, from Duncan [Jones, director] to Chris [Metzen, creator], loves the letterbox. It’s almost their favourite part of the set. So for the game players, it’s a real iconic thing. In the game, it’s quite funny because people post things, but they post bigger things that go in the box, and magically in the game it [fits] in the box. They did a scene [in the film], where somebody walked up, and it looks like a big box suddenly appears.”

While the game shifts though different periods, the film adaptation is an origin tale that unspools before the game starts. “The period in Warcraft is not a period at all. Although it has a sort of European medieval feel, in the game the architecture and technology changes quite radically from motor bikes to steam engines and all sorts of things. [The film takes place] 30 years before the game starts, and those levels of technology haven’t come in yet. But we have bounded two, three or four centuries of architecture here, we haven’t kept it to a purely medieval feel. The idea is to keep it in our world, but keep it looking real.”

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