Now that I’ve had a moment or two (or ten!) to recover from the sheer shock of Druids finally getting our long-awaited model updates, I’m here to offer my expert opinion!
First, let’s examine the models and textures themselves!
First we have Ye Olde Bear, next we have the New Hotness, and third we have the New Hotness now in Polar flavor!
First, a little vocabulary review.
Skin: The combination of model and texture that wraps around the bones.
Bones: Used by animators to make the model move. (we don’t see these in the game)
Model: Pure polygons built to make a shape.
Texture: An image mapped onto the model to add detail without adding extra polygons. (Think about a bearskin rug as opposed to a real bear)
Alpha Map: Same as a Texture except in black and white. The Alpha Map works in tandem with the Texture to make polygons see-through. The teeth on both the old and new bear Model is a texture with an Alpha Map. So are the dangley bits on the new Model.
Geometry! It’s fun 😀
For Example (If I haven’t completly confused you uet): Ye Olde Bear Skin has one Model and one Texture. The New Hotness Skin has one Model and five Textures.
I saw a number of people on the official forums complaining that it was jut the same old thing re-done. Nothing new, they expected more. I can sympathize with that viewpoint, but I also think what Blizzard has done (with the bears at least) is right on target.
Consider, if you will, the middle bear on my above picture. On the official screenshot this bear is in the upper-right corner. I happen to have very few problems with the present Tauren bear form. It’s certainly more pleasant than cat form and a good deal less rediculous than Night Elf bear form. I like the horns. It’s also the form I’m used to seeing for coming up on four years. If the general concept were changed drastically (like say, bear form would now be something like the Frenzyheart) I’d be pretty upset. That’s too much change.
What they’ve done with the Model, is updated it, fixed some of the outstanding architectural problems (see the back leg on images above) and just generally cleaned it up. Another reason why the bears have the same Shilouette as before is most likely a combination of art direction and expediency. The bears need to not look out of place in the game they’re in. WoW has a very stylistic approach and anything too complicated would just look out of place.
Don’t expect the bear animations to change.
Apart from fixing our terrible habit of mouth-breathing, I will lay money that the animation (how the character moves) will not change. Because the bear has the same amount of mass in the same places, the same shilouette, the bones from the previous model (and the animations that came with them) can (and will!) be re-used. There’s nothing wrong with the animations, and no reason for Blizzard to re-do them. (apart from fixing mouth-breathing.
For variety, they’ve added different Textures. War paint, markings, everything is the same across all the Skins, but the color combinations differ. The different textures are done in such a way that it’s possible they’ll be expanded on in the future. Not likely, but possible.
On the Mechanics of the thing ~
I love it.
I won’t, however, be surprised if it changes so that the forms are no longer linked to fur/hair color.
When I read the way things would work I saw added depth to the game. I imagined what it was like as a new Druid, and the excitement of getting my bear form, my cat form, then my Dire Bear form! What will I look like?
The amazement that a new player can have the first time they shift into form and see what they become, the amazement when they see another druid and they look different.
How now brown cow? Brown bear? Cat? Yes, please. I don’t like all the bear forms. I’m also hoping desperately that one of the cat forms comes with tiger stripes. If I have to choose a skin color to get tiger stripes that gives me a bear form I don’t like well then, I’ll get used to it.
Because as Tigerfeet, that’s who she is. Her color is such that when she shifts to cat, the markings are thus, and that other is her bear form. It’s who she is.
Can you imagine the turmoil that this would cause if these Skin updates came before the barbershop, or if Blizzard were not giving Taurens the option of changing their fur color?
As for me, I’m a fan of Ye Olde Bear. Because of that, my favorite is the ‘generic’ brown bear. I don’t feel like I identify with the white one, and the grey one (the one I suspect Tiger will turn into when this is implemented and before I go buck-wild in the salon) doesn’t do much to tickle my fancy either.
I know a lot of people desperately want something different, and I love the variety, but I’m also glad that at least one of the Skins is an echo of the bear that I have always been.