With nothing more than a pencil and paper, Blizzard's Paul Warzecha creates a... man with... a snake-arm. Okay. Take it away, Paul.
Last week, games.on.net sat down with Diablo 3's senior character artist, Paul Warzecha. He was expecting an interview, but instead he ended up helping us with some redesigns of Diablo's iconic classes, which was much better.
Warning: The following text contains some strong language.
GON: So I’m going to give you this sketchpad - you’re probably familiar with sketching - and your choice of any of these pencils.
Paul pulls out his own technical pencil from a pocket.
GON: Excellent. Excellent. You have your own.
Paul: So what are we doing here?
GON: Okay I’ve decided to reinvent the Amazon class for the modern age. In this glorious new age of gender equality I think the Amazon obviously looks more like this.
GON: So I was hoping you could give me your feedback and maybe help me draw a revised version and maybe explain some of the changes you’ve made.
Paul: My question here is - are we looking at a male or a female amazon?
GON: Well the belt is a bit of a giveaway.
GON: It’s a man.
GON: Also there’s a massive codpiece.
Paul: So there is. I’m trying to think of what I can really do to this.
GON: It’s going to be difficult to improve on. I gotta agree. It’ll be hard to top this. I don’t want to toot my own horn here but you know.
Paul: First of all, I think that it needs a javelin.
GON: A javazon?
Paul: I think so. So that’s point number one. It’s a little bit vanilla, in the sense that it… it looks like it’s made out of regular stuff.
GON: Like bones and skin and things?
Paul: Yeah exactly. I think we can do something more interesting. Why don’t we, this here, why don’t we turn it into a javelin made out of a snake?
GON: Like an Egyptian cobra-topped staff or like, actually a live snake?
Paul: No, this one has been hardened, so it’s just, uh…
GON: ...like a varnished snake?
GON: Maybe their initiation ritual is to find a snake and varnish it.
Paul: In fact they drugged the snake. And you can see that in its crazy eyes here. Also, it is smiling.
GON: And then they varnished it.
Paul: Yes. Now we’ll give it a little bit of patterning on the back. Alright, we’ve got kind of a plain necklace here. Anything you want to do with this necklace?
GON: Woah, hey, I’m not the senior character artist on Diablo 3.
Paul: I’m just saying, you know, we always say “every voice matters”.
GON: Okay, well why not have a snake necklace as well?
Paul: In fact, why don’t we make it a snake shawl. Where the snake has wrapped itself around his/her neck. How sold are you on a male Amazon?
GON: I just thought I’d mix it up a little. A male Amazon is definitely interesting.
Paul: It’s good. It’s good. We’ll keep it male.
GON: I was imagining like, gleaming, oiled Chippendale skin.
Paul: Jesus, what is it with you guys and oiled skin?
GON: I don’t know what you’ve heard..
Paul: I’m telling you. I’m just saying. I’ve heard things today. The requests from the Diablo fan community have, uh, been interesting today.
Paul: Alright. This hair. We’ve got kind of an 80’s thing going on?
GON: Yeah I was just thinking some really long, gorgeous hair. Like Fabio, if someone had stopped grooming him about ten years ago.
Paul: I like that.
GON: I saw a dreadlock-mullet on the way here today. It was amazing. I don’t mean amazing in a good way, you know. I mean amazing, like a train wreck.
Paul: Dreadlock-mullets are pretty awesome.
Paul: Well, you shouldn’t have brought it up, because it’s going in.
GON: This job interview is going terribly.
Paul: It’s going in. It’s happening. We’re going Crystal Gayle style and just going right down to the ground.
GON: That’s useful in combat for sure. Nobody will grab that at all.
Paul: That’s right. Okay I see you’ve got the one-sided shoulder pad. I like that. We’re gonna play that up. You gotta deal with game cam, you gotta see that from the game cam.
GON: Now obviously you’re from Blizzard, so the company’s art direction will be to make that shoulder pad as big as possible. That has to be at least eight miles wide.
Paul: Yeah, eight miles is pretty much what we shoot for.
GON: Is there a guy whose job it is to go round through the Blizzard offices, look at shoulder pads and just say “Hrm, bigger I think.” And everyone is afraid of him?
Paul: Have you seen Samwise?
GON: Well yeah, I have. On the internet I mean. Never in person. He doesn’t return my calls.
Paul: Okay we’re gonna keep with the snake theme. You know I do like this… this symbol here. We can pull that in on a few other things. You want those repeating shapes, for sure. In fact let’s do a little… yeah, he’s a dude, but he’s got a beret.
GON: Beret and a mullet. It just goes together.
Paul: It does.
GON: Like chalk and cheese.
GON: Maybe his whole arm could be, actually like, a live snake.
Paul: Oh shit.
Paul: Well played. Absolutely. Let’s do this. I’m trying to think, the end of the snake, it’s gotta be something different.
GON: I don’t know.
Paul motions to PR minder Dan, sitting quietly on the other side of the table.
Paul: You’ll have to jump in here, Dan.
Dan: I’m on PR! I’m not on the creative team!
GON: This is why you’re not on the creative team, Dan! You don’t know how to finish a snake-arm.
Dan: There’s only two ends to a snake! It’s either the one that bites you, or the other one.
GON: Maybe it should be a snake with a smaller javelin in its mouth.
GON: For absolutely no reason.
Paul: Well you know what, yeah. Why not.
GON: I feel like I’m making too many of the decisions here.
Paul: This is a collaborative process. This is how we do things at Blizzard. So there we go. Now his pants are pretty good.
GON: I was going for a really skintight leotard-deal.
Paul: What I like about this is that he’s got a kind of tightey-whitey on the outside thing going on.
GON: Well it was meant to be a massive codpiece, strapped on and, you know buckled down. Restraining.
Paul: What if we make it…. a snake?
GON: Crotchsnake. I like it.
Paul: I’m going to get back to the office and I’m going to be so fired.
GON: I think you mean fired up. To create a new character. Make sure you sign it there, and write “Official Blizzard Art, 100% Canon” underneath.
Paul: I like this stitching. This is leather. Let’s just go with the leather straps.
GON: No underwear underneath?
GON: That’s for losers. I’m not even wearing underwear right now.
GON: Well one of us is going to get fired for this, anyway. Maybe it’ll be you, Dan, for organising it. Who knows. I miss the Amazon. That was always one of my favourite classes. Well, my favourite class was “anyone except the Paladin”, so...
Paul: What’s wrong with the Paladin?
GON: He just… he pranced when he walked.
GON: Once I saw that, I was like… I can never play this character again.
Paul: Now that we’ve got the Crusader, it’s like the Paladin without the prancing. Which… probably should be a back-of-the-box feature, actually. Are we gonna go snake-legs? Is that too weird?
GON: You could make a naga-style snake body, but I think we gotta draw the line somewhere.
Paul: So you’re saying you could but you wouldn’t?
GON: Yeah I think it would probably weird people out. What’s your process at Blizzard when you’re designing snake-legs?
Paul: Mostly, yeah. We’ve only got a handful of snake-legs, and they’re some of the characters in Caldeum. Tell you what, let’s… we’re going peg-legs.
GON: Little tiny javelin-legs.
Paul: Javelin legs.
GON: He can do some sweet jump kicks.
Paul: I wanna do abs but I wonder if there’s something we can do that’s better than abs.
Paul: What was that?
Dan: (quietly) ...snakes.
Paul: We’re drawing the line here on snakes, Dan. No more snakes. There could be a mouth there. Like that.
GON: Like a… John Carpenter’s The Thing-style mouth?
Paul: We are fans of The Thing at work. There’s been a lot of things like, as you work on, it’s like “yeah, like the thing”. The tricky part is a lot of times the thing looks awesome when you’re super up-close on it, but by the time you get a little further away it just looks like a bunch of stuff. You know. So it’s always kind of a balance.
Paul: Okay we need a face.
GON: I’ve gone for a very sexy male model face. Such as I could draw. Perhaps a man with javelin legs needs that sexy model face, to stop people being completely weirded out about the fact he has javelin legs and a snake. For an arm.
Paul: I’m giving him a little goatee.
Paul: Christian, our art director on D3, loves the mean brows. What else do we need to do?
GON: He’s looking pretty good. When can I expect to see him in the game? Probably like, tomorrow?
Paul: Might have to wait. I would not hold your breath.
GON: I’ll just reskin the Barbarian.
Paul: Okay I think also we need this… to be a snake. And he needs some plate armour on his legs. Josh Tallman on our concept team, he wants to add plate armour onto everybody.
GON: Can’t ever have too much plate armour.
GON: I think it was King Richard who said that.
Paul: Alright will that do?
GON: That’s absolutely what I was going for.
Paul: I hope I was able to improve it.
GON: Oh, it’s been immeasurably improved.
GON: Okay I’ve got a few more choices for you. There’s the Druid, re-imagined as a sort of crazy cat-lady. Then we’ve got a new iconic class, the Battle Accountant.
GON: And here’s a Clown.
Paul: These are all pretty good. I tell you what, this guy - the Accountant - he does everything he needs to do. That’s the fantasy right there. This is great as well, but… the Clown. Let’s bring the Clown into the Diablo world a bit more.
Paul: I love this face. I love it. But he needs to have Mean Brows. And you need to drop that nose directly down from the eyes, like this. Also, uh… this is not a happy clown. This is a battle-scarred clown. And I think he’s… he’s got the classic clown type hair except, because it’s Diablo, those are gonna be horns.
GON: And a tiny little horn on top.
Paul: Absolutely. And - you know what, no, that is a soulstone.
GON: I feel like I’m learning a lot about the creative process. Strap some plate armour on it! Make it look angry! Tell me more about how you designed the Crusader.
Paul: Add horns, too.
GON: Add horns.
Paul: I do like the battle-tats here. I think I want to make his face paint just a little more organic in the sense that… these teeth are fantastic. I would actually turn them a little bit. Chin-wise, do you want to do something with the chin?
GON: We could have another goatee.
Paul: Actually you know what? *gestures to Tim’s beard* I love that. Let’s put that on there.
GON: Great. Solid choice.
Paul: This is excellent. I’ve got an excellent reference here. So he’s got some stuff going on on here. What’s that about?
GON: Well I figured it was Diablo, so he had to wrap some random bandages around it or whatever. And add some skulls. Actually you know, random skulls is more 40K than Diablo.
Paul: I was gonna say. We’re fans of the 40K as well, but we want… tell you what we’ll do. There’s some new mojos in Reaper. One of those is a heart with spikes. So we’ll go ahead and do that. And uh… another mojo here. Yeah. Alright. Now this thing on his neck, this is cool, this is a nice piece of battle armour. In fact it’s a little like the Crusader gorget.
GON: Except made of frilly fabric.
Paul: We’ll let’s play that up right. Again, from game-cam, you gotta push it. It’s gotta be exaggerated.
GON: Perfect. That looks pretty tight. I doubt he can even move his head any more.
Paul: You know what - let’s go ahead and… I don’t think he needs a shirt. Does he need a shirt?
GON: Whenever I picture a clown, I always take their shirt off.
GON: We’ve all been there.
Paul: Well we’re going there today, anyway. And I like these pants but I would… he needs some mobility. I would go full-on hammer pants. Remember in the 80’s when they used to wear potato-sack pants? Remember those? With the things?
GON: Those were the days. You putting some plate armour on that too?
Paul: Yeah. And these boots… these are pretty great boots. But I want to push the silhouette a bit so we’ll make them a little thinner on the bottom and then really make the ends big.
GON: I put spikes on as well obviously, because he’s going to be kicking a bunch of people.
Paul: Absolutely. Let’s step that up and make them barbed. Yeah. ‘Cause it’ll be that much more painful.
GON: He’ll put the fear of clowns into the hordes of Hell.
Paul: Now, his weapon here….
GON: I was going for a wiffle bat, but hardcore.
Paul: Hardcore wiffle bat. Here’s a question…
GON: “What am I doing with my life?”
Paul: What if it was essentially like a, like a lacrosse thing that he carries a magic ball in that he can..
GON: Like screaming decapitated heads or something?
Paul: Oh shit. That’s perfect. You got it. And we’ll put a little loop on the end so when he goes home he can hang it on the wall, next to his dryer.
GON: It’s just sensible.
GON: I mean I don’t want this to be too far out of the realms of reality.
Paul: Of course. We talk about “grounded fantasy” in Diablo. That’s what we want to do.
GON: Yeah. That’s definitely what I think about when a magic sword falls out of a flock of mosquitoes.
Paul: Absolutely. I can’t tell you how important that is. Actually let’s make sure we - can I get an eraser?
GON: Here you go. I came prepared.
Paul: Well done. Now let’s put this guy (the accountant’s) head in there.
GON: I should point out that’s actually not what my accountant’s head looks like. I don’t have like, a weird beef against my accountant or anything.
Paul: Will he see this?
GON: Probably not.
Paul: Okay we’ll put stitches on the mouth here.
GON: Because it makes the screaming even more eerie and weird?
Paul: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. And we’ll add stitches on the eyes as well. Now I feel like it needs… a little something extra.
GON: Don’t say snakes.
Dan: The thought did cross my mind.
Paul: And just like Diablo, he’s gotta be dripping blood. Alright. And I think… I think we’re just about there.
GON: He’s like the clown of my dreams.
Paul: You mean nightmares.
GON: Yeah, sure. That one.
Dan: Remember how you were talking about getting that Diablo tattoo, Paul?
Paul: Oh shittttt.
Paul: Does he need a codpiece? A little tiny one?
GON: Well probably no-one will ever see it, but…
Paul: Let’s add some happy trails here. Going up like this. There we go. Let’s look at them both here, I don’t want to send you away with anything that’s not Blizzard Quality.
GON: Of course.
Paul: Was there anything else you wanted to know? Anything not make sense here?
GON: I think the creative process at Blizzard has been made abundantly clear.
Paul: He needs bigger ears actually. Yeah. Hopefully you’re happy with the results.
GON: I’m very excited to go away and model these guys up, and email them to you over and over again while complaining that they’re not instantly in the game.
Paul: I can’t wait. I can’t wait…
GON: ...to reject my shitty six-polygon character models?
Paul: Only six polygons? Alrighty. There you go.
GON: It’s beautiful Paul, thank you very much. You know I started off thinking that this would just be a pretty funny interview, but, uh... they actually really do look really Diablo-ey.
GON: Against all odds. It worked. We have created a Diablo clown.
Paul: I appreciate you coming in. It’s been really cool. I think we’ve made some cool decisions.
GON: Thanks heaps Paul, this has been great.
Dan: Did you have any specific questions you wanted answers to? About Reaper of Souls?
Originally published on games.on.net on March 27, 2014.