An unusual insight into World of Warcraft's armour art

Tim Edwards at

ragnaros thumbnail wow art

In the process of PRing and promoting the 4.3 patch for World of Warcraft, the Blizzard development and art team are showing off some new features. We’ve seen the new raids and dungeons, new mechanics (yay transmogrification!) and new areas. Now, finally, we’re starting to see new art; in the form of the Tier 13 armour sets. With the pictures come a few smart bits of insight.

Note for the uitiated: Tier armour sets are the pinnacle pieces of loot available to raiders. Each expansion for WoW will includes a new tier of dungeons that drop new pieces of loot, on a rising scale. The loot from 4.2 is of better quality than that from 4.1, itself better than 4.0. As you gain armour, your player power increases, so you’re better able to take on the bosses from that tier. Collecting two or four of the tier sets will give you a unique bonus that’s a little bit of extra help - it might increase the duration of certain skills, or give one or your abilities a new flavour.

The best tier armour sets, in my opinion, reflect both the class they’re for and the raid they’re earned from. For instance, many of the Lich King raid sets featured quite bony, metallic, sharp edges - to reflect the style of Arthas and his minions. But those themes tend to break down when, say, you’re making a set for a druid, a class that hugs trees and throws around nature magic. It’s at that point you see the artists moving to slightly odder ideas.

So, warriors, this is what you’ll be rocking by the end of the the Deathwing raid: Deathwing’s bloody jaw.

As the Blizzard team* say “A simple concept: Let’s make a warrior tier that looks like Deathwing! Gnarled dragon horn and angular elementium plating with burning fire behind it were the key ingredients.”

Concept achieved. I think this is the best Tier set I've seen. It's awesomes.

Now look at the Shaman. The whole Deathwing story sees Thrall using his Shaman-y magic-y, wobbl-y stuff to save the world - so this time round you’d expect a very traditional Shaman-y look.

Again: that’s about as pure Shaman as you can get. From Blizzard: “the best shaman sets are a mix of the animal and the elemental. This tier combines huge wolf-skull shoulder pads, bone fetishes, and fur with glowing shards of amber crystal. The entire set is lashed together with lengths of rope and heavily stitched leather, which lends the set a savage bearing.”

The Warlock set hints at possible Old God influences in the Deathwing raid: it’s got tentacles swinging from the face. “A set with the flavor of the Old Gods about it - General Vezax from the Ulduar raid was a reference point. Any warlock tier is a great opportunity to bring a dark and warped aesthetic to player gear and this set was especially ripe for the treatment. Replacing the caster’s face with writhing tentacles was the ‘hook’ I started the concept with and built out from there. We always try to include numerous points of illumination into a tier set as it helps to tie the various armour pieces together – whether that be glowing gemstones, fiery runes or, as in this case, bulging otherworldly eyes!”

Fearsome.

Here’s the mage set. Blizzard sez: “It’s fun to put a spin on any caster class that moves it away from the usual wizardly archetype, and this set provided the perfect opportunity to do just that. Gnomish clockwork technology is an established part of the Warcraft universe, but it’s not something we’ve incorporated into a tier of player armor before. The combination of moving cogs, quilted fabric, and lots of buckled straps give the set an intriguing "techno-mage" flavor.”

I say: that’s gonna suck if you hate gnomes. Like all the horde.

Lastly - here’s the Rogue set. Rogues just get to be Bat-ish man. Quoth a blue: “A "bat-themed" armor set for rogues seems like a no-brainer, but we were careful to skirt the more obvious inspirations. World of Warcraft often makes playful references to pop culture, but it’s important -- particularly with player gear -- that what we create has integrity within our universe. Rogues look good in close-fitting masks, collars, and cowls rather than elaborate armored helms. It also helps reinforce the rogue's sneaky silhouette if the shoulder pads have a streamlined shape... even if that shape has sharp, bladed details.

The rest of the armour sets can be viewed on the official World of Warcraft site.

One last thought: I wonder a little about how Transmogrification will affect the WoW art team's approach to designing tier sets. Transmogrification lets players apply the stats of a high level item to any item of the same armour type you own. So, you could upgrade old bits and pieces with the stats of the current tier set. That means players can create outfits that characters could wear through entire expansions and above. For the WoW art team, I'd expect them to push even heavier on the unique themeing from each dungeon, rather than creating generic class looks. Have you planned a specific look for your WoW characters when transmogrification launches?

*The blog post doesn’t say who’s writing this, but I think it’s probably Chris Robinson, WoW’s art lead.