For its consistent quality, Blizzard’s cinematics department is rightly acknowledged as one of the very best in the games industry. Many games have been accompanied by dazzling cinematics that we watch on repeat as we anticipate a launch, or watch again later as we relive a game's most memorable moments. But few studios can produce cinematics so assuredly energising at those produced by Nick Carpenter and his team in Irvine, California.
First conceptualised to demonstrate the versatility of StarCraft II’s galaxy editor, Heroes of the Storm is a mash-up of Blizzard intellectual properties that undermines many of the aesthetic conventions established by each of Blizzard's marquee franchises - Diablo, StarCraft, and Warcraft - over more than a decade.
“I’ve been at Blizzard for 19 years. I’ve helped carve these characters out,” begins Carpenter, vice president of art and cinematic development. “I’m very precious about them. I want to make sure that we always convey them in the right light, and that people take them very seriously.”
“We talked to the game team about what they wanted to achieve, and they really wanted something a little lighter, like, ‘Do we have to fully explain why all these characters are together?’ We went through a lot of permutations, and trust me, at Blizzard, we don’t leave any stone unturned.
“Maybe it’s a Wreck-It Ralph-type situation: they’re on a server, the lights go out, and they come alive. But we thought that was too much math. We were spending too many calories thinking about something most gamers aren’t really going to care about. Let’s just assume everyone’s along for the ride.”
“I played a lot of Street Fighter when I was younger, a lot of different fighting games, a lot of mash-ups like X-Men vs. Marvel,” Carpenter tells Gameplanet. “I went back to some of the coin-op experiences that I had and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it just be badass if we threw them all together and had this ‘O.K. Corral’ kind of situation:
Heroes of the Storm cinematic with commentary from Nick Carpenter:
The Heroes of the Storm cinematic was the fastest turnaround in the studio’s history, estimates Carpenter. Usually, it takes a year to a year-and-a-half to turn around a cinematic for Diablo, StarCraft, or Warcraft. From concept to final it took only six to seven months to create the Heroes of the Storm cinematic, says Carpenter.
“We’re spending a lot of time right now looking at our studio and trying to figure out how to become more efficient so that we can create more of this stuff. We’re known for hyper-detail and a lot of realism, but we also find that people are hungry and they want more.”
“A lot of the efficiencies and structural changes we’re going through have allowed us to get there. I can’t give away anything I’m working on right now, but oh my god.
“There’s a piece we have that’s probably rendering on our render farm right now, it’s like nothing we’ve ever done, and it’s taken the shortest amount of time, and it’s by far the most visually complex thing we’ve ever done.
“You’ll see the fruits of our labour on Heroes pay off for years to come.”