Hidden under a shroud of perpetual night broken only by bright starlight, the lush idyllic forests of Shadowmoon Valley are home to a majestic draenei tomb and sanctuary: Karabor. While many of Shadowmoon’s denizens study prophecy among Karabor’s ancient stone circles, plotters with darker ambitions lurk in the valley’s vast underground cave network, gazing greedily at the sacred temple.
Zone Music Piece: Eternal Night
In Warlords of Draenor, Shadowmoon Valley serves as the starting zone for Alliance players once they’ve endured the initial rigors of Tanaan Jungle and survived their first encounter with the Iron Horde. To take you on a journey through Shadowmoon’s forests, temples, and secrets, we’ve tapped one of the creative minds behind the zone, Senior Designer Helen Cheng.
What’s the story in Shadowmoon Valley?
Helen Cheng: After a daring escape from the Iron Horde in Tanaan Jungle, Alliance players crash land on the northern shores of Shadowmoon Valley.
The valley is tranquil and serene. Rolling green hills give way to lush, violet forests. Draenei temples stand proudly beneath a star-studded sky. Here, the draenei have built wonders of their civilization—the town of Elodor with its majestic Altar of Sha’tar serves as the proud home of the great Exarchs, while the shining Temple of Karabor acts as the font of all holy learning. Under Prophet Velen and Exarch Akama’s watch, all is well.
But times are changing. The Iron Horde have called the native orc clans to join their ranks. The Shadowmoon Clan, led by Warlord Ner’zhul, yearns to prove itself worthy to Grommash Hellscream. Beneath the valley’s bright moon, a dark star hangs in the sky. For centuries, the Shadowmoon have been forbidden to tap its void-touched energy . . . until now. Will Warlord Ner’zhul succeed in harnessing the star’s power to destroy the draenei and the Temple of Karabor? Or will Prophet Velen, aided by his disciple Yrel—and a few fearless heroes—be able to stop him?
Meanwhile, trouble brews amongst the Exarchs, the most powerful and influential draenei heroes. Even as they debate the future of the draenei on their adopted homeworld, there is growing evidence of a traitor among their ranks. Who can be trusted?
The night elf Wardens sense a demonic presence in the northern woods of Shadowmoon Valley. As they hunt for the source of the fel energy, a sinister truth is revealed: Gul’dan, the Destroyer of Dreams, has returned.
Most importantly, as a proven champion of the Alliance, you are charged with establishing the Alliance foothold on Draenor. The land is harsh and unforgiving, and the Iron Horde has amassed an enormous army without equal. Before you can hope to defeat them, you must build a stronghold—your Garrison—from the ground up and gather allies to face this indomitable foe.
What are some of your favorite places within the zone?
Helen Cheng: Shadowmoon Valley is one of the most beautiful places on Draenor, with a breathtaking variety of stunning areas. I would say that the two most striking aspects of Shadowmoon Valley are the draenei and Shadowmoon orc areas.
The draenei architecture in Shadowmoon is really impressive. You get everything from a merchant town in Embaari Village to the valorous training grounds of the Exarchs in the north to the crystalline dome that is Teluuna Observatory. The draenei are cultured and sophisticated. Theirs is the pinnacle of an advanced society, and their towns and cities reflect a perfect balance of beauty and function. I really love all of the draenei locations—and there are more in other zones—but the Temple of Karabor has to be one of my favorites. The sheer size and scale of the place is incredible, and it’s remarkable to see it in its glory before the events of The Burning Crusade, which turned it into the Black Temple under Illidan’s control.
The Shadowmoon clan structures are impressive as well. The Shadowmoon were once a wise people, with a deep respect for the elements and a natural curiosity about the stars. They are natural-born leaders with a strong affinity for magic. However, since they joined the Iron Horde, Ner’zhul has strayed from the ancient ways. You can see this gradual decay reflected in their way of life. The Burial Fields is a place where the Shadowmoon traditionally bury and honor their dead. That place has become defiled and corrupted with void magic. Their ancestors, whom they once revered, are now being brutally tormented. Ner’zhul’s stronghold, Anguish Fortress, is an open-air ziggurat with a sacrificial pit in its center. In a nearby dungeon, players will see that there are more dark secrets hidden beneath this compound.
Tell us more about the Alliance garrison!
Helen Cheng: Nestled near the northern shores and with a commanding view of the main road, the Alliance Garrison location is of immense strategic importance. Prophet Velen will give the land to players as a thank-you for their deeds in the jungles of Tanaan, the intro zone. But there isn’t much time to rest—as great as the Prophet is, he needs your help. Your Garrison is awfully close to Shadowmoon territory, so be prepared to defend it.
Your Garrison will start as little more than an outpost, and your laborers will quickly run into trouble as they discover that even the forests of Draenor can be their enemy. But before long, you should have a comfortable Town Hall to call home and a Barracks that you can use to train new recruits. One of the perks of having your home base here is the ability to sound a “call to arms” anywhere in Shadowmoon, and Alliance troops will rush to your aid.
Kick your feet up – after all, the Garrison is all yours.
Could you name three of your favorite locations players should check out on their journey through the zone?
Helen Cheng: Once you’ve settled in, you should take a quick jaunt over to the town of Elodor, home of the revered Altar of Sha’tar with its stunning view of Karabor and the surrounding ocean. There you can meet the five Exarchs who act as the hand of the Prophet, guiding draenei society, and you can witness their own internal conflicts as they argue about their place in this savage land. Don’t miss the nearby Rangari Enclave, where the elite scouts of the draenei train—you won’t see mushrooms that size for another 30 years!
If you're the adventurous type, try spelunking in Bloodthorn Cave. Don’t mind the flesh-eating pale orcs—they only kill you when provoked. Also, don’t eat the local mushrooms. They can be rather . . . potent.
We’ve heard mixed reviews about Gloomshade Grove. Some folks rave about the pristine beaches, while others are just never heard from again. If you see anything that looks like a flower, makes a sound like “mawarwaawa,” and has very sharp teeth, run away! Though it’s probably too late for you, so oh well. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
You’re probably wondering if there are any creatures on Draenor that won’t bite your head off. Try heading over to the Shimmering Mor. This enchanted forest glade is home to wild faerie dragons. Awww, they’re just so cute! No, you can’t take one home . . . oh, who are we kidding? You’ll probably find an egg or some-such to raise eventually.
Finally, don’t forget to stop by Embaari Village. This draenei merchant town is known for its delicious food and exotic wares. No trip to Shadowmoon is complete without a tasty meal and a mug of honey mead.
As with all places on Draenor, Shadowmoon Valley is filled with sights to see, adventures to be had, and savage enemies to destroy. Enjoy your journey!
Next, our voyage will take us north into the Horde starting zone of Frostfire Ridge. Stay tuned for more!
Hello, and welcome to another edition of Artcraft. I’m Chris Robinson, senior art director on World of Warcraft, and today our environment team is going to give you a look at one of the zones we’re creating for Warlords of Draenor, as well as share some insight into how we approach creating environment art. Take it away Gary!
Hey, I’m Gary Platner, lead environment artist on World of Warcraft. I direct a team of artists who help create the world . . . of Warcraft. We shape the land; texture it; place the trees, rocks, and buildings; and design the “sets” where our quest team will later place the “actors.” Today we’re going to be showing you some of what's going into the creation of the Spires of Arak. This location that would later become known as Terokkar Forest, but in Draenor-terms, this zone is the home of the regal, sinister, and flighted arakkoa.
One of the best parts about working on WoW for me is when we first start a new exterior zone. Creativity reigns, and almost anything goes—it’s real blue sky stuff. When we started working on Spires of Arak, we only had some basic ideas: tall rocky spires jutting out of a dense forest. So we got together to talk about what that might look like, and soon afterward, artist Jimmy Lo started making concepts.
Based on these concepts, we could tell right away that this zone was going to present some unique challenges. The biggest one was how we were going to build the large spiky rocks that would give the zone its distinctive look. We had two basic methods in mind to create those spires. Some of us thought that the best way would be to make most of the rocks as 3D props instead of using our terrain editor to sculpt the landscape into tall spires. 3D props have some distinct advantages, since building a prop allows for the creation of fully 3D objects of any shape, which gives us a lot of design freedom. The downside is they tend to be difficult to blend into the landscape in a natural-looking way (see the original Blade’s Edge Mountains in Outland). They’re also much more difficult to iterate on as design needs change. If instead we used our terrain editor to create the spires, that would allow us a lot of freedom to iterate on zone layout and design without needing to fidget with large pieces of premade geometry, with the potential downside of not being able to do the concept justice.
Our design team wanted to at least give the terrain editor option a chance, so they embarked on creating a proof of concept to see how well it could work. A lot of us contributed to the Spires of Arak, but ultimately Matt Sanders (exterior level designer) and Kelli Hoover (environment artist) were tasked with creating the zone. Kelli gathered resource material and started to do some paint-overs of our concepts in order to unify a distinctive new color palette. Meanwhile, Matt created the proof of concept in our editing tools in order to test ideas for creating large spiky rocks with the exterior terrain editor.
Kelli gathered a lot of reference pictures, paying special attention to color and mood. She then slightly recolored Jimmy’s concepts to model different times of day.
Then Kelli moved on to testing texture ideas by creating rough and quick block-out textures, which aren’t intended to look final but help give us an idea of color and detail. We can paint these rough textures over the landscape and do various tests to help us see how they interact. We can also see how the textures change and distort as they are painted on steep mountain terrain.
As you can see here, Matt and Kelli experimented with different textures and geometry in an attempt to duplicate the concepts from Jimmy.
Kelli and Matt discovered that using a striated rock texture would actually work better than a simpler rock pattern, and the striations give the impression of upward movement. These linear texture shapes would also bend and stretch well over the exterior terrain creating a really unique look for the zone.
Once Matt and Kelli finalized their demo zone and we agreed that everything was heading in the right direction, the real work could begin. Now the whole zone could be completed using the style and techniques that worked in the small demo zone. They’d still have to work out the look for some of the smaller subzones, though, like dense forests, beaches, and a massive thorny bramble where the Shattered Hand orcs dwell.
Last but not least, we’ve prepared a short video for you to demonstrate the various steps involved in creating the Spires of Arak. Thanks for tuning in, and we look forward to sharing more with you in the future!
Very cool,a beta-key would be cooler :D
Talador is awesome.Such shame we got no sancutary city over there.Great job Blizz.
What's the point of making such a big and beautiful city but making it being occupied by Iron Horde? Being jealous we can't have such a nice city for sanctuary or generally not having sanctuary at all? I miss having a sanctuary city for our current level, it's a nice change from alliance only or horde only towns. Other than that best zones I have seen so far in the game, although I get the feeling that spires of Arak will be the "black sheep" of the expansion, a barren and plain zone that soon noone will want to lvl there (Kun Lai Summit).
Spires is officially my new fave zone.
The Talador Toggler for the screenshots is broken =P needs fixing ASAP.
Graphics are getting awesome.
Gorgrond looks awesome!
I was worried Gorgrond would be dull. However it turns out that Gorgrond's environment is very diverse. Looking forward to exploring there.
I'm really in love with the new zones! WoW zones are very unique form all the other MMO's. I want to explore them now! Fantastic work!
You can really see how much Blizzard is putting into this expansion on all fronts. The zones feel so much more fleshed out and it shows in places like Shadowmoon how much they're really starting to care about lighting, doodads, and scenery.Sure, Frostfire may be a bit barren, but it looks perfect for what it is. Ain't nobody want to live there.
Oh Christ, not another rainbow. Now we're going to get another round of people complaining about how the game isn't grimdark enough for them.
Wow lost the wall of text I was going to post. I guess the wow gods don't agree. All I will say is they are really pulling out all the stops on this expansion. Like its the foundation for the next 10 years of Warcraft. Looks Great so far!
I agree! It is something totally new!
imagine that we are only in early beta :)
Here I was thinking SMV would be my favorite zone on Draenor. These other zones look like they could change my mind. Especially Talador.