Blizzard has been around longer than many of its fans have been alive, yet the company has rarely celebrated itself in such a brazen fashion as it has with The Art of Blizzard Entertainment. It's a 352-page behemoth of an art book with over 800 pieces of concept art, sketches, paintings, and more, and it's really something to see. Considering some companies release art books after just a few years—we're looking at you, thatgamecompany—we find it quite remarkable that it took Blizzard this long.
The southern California studio celebrated the launch of The Art of Blizzard at Gallery Nucleus in Los Angeles over the weekend, inviting fans and press to join in the festivities. But it wasn't just the first opportunity to purchase the book; Blizzard artists were on-hand doing signings and painting demos and mingling with the crowd, there were real-life mana and health potions (check the photos), and 50 pieces of art from Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo, and even some forgotten, unreleased Blizzard games hung on the walls.
Best of all, we got to sit down with Blizzard's senior vice president of story and franchise development, Chris Metzen, who's been with the company forever and contributed much of the art in the book. We touched on a few subjects, from Blizzard's past and one of those "lost" Blizzard games, to overcoming the hurdle of being bogged down by three incredibly successful franchises and whether the studio will ever try something new.
Of the art book, Metzen said:
We started talking about the images. And suddenly we're laughing and we're talking smack and we're like, "Oh man, I can't believe you—you know, look at that pose! What were you thinking?" You know? And we just started laughing, and suddenly—with all the complexities of our day jobs these days—it's 20 years on, and Nick's now running the cinematics department, I'm working on the world teams, Sammy's doing two games at once right now—you know, the All-Stars and Starcraft 2—you know, we don't get together and hack it up all that much, as much as we used to. And it was funny just looking at these old drawings, and we fell right back into it [snaps] like it's 20 years ago. And for me, flipping through this book, like, it's about that. It's about, like, "How the hell did all this happen?"
We went on to discuss one of the never-released, never-discussed Blizzard games that's featured in The Art of Blizzard Entertainment, a title called Bloodlines that Metzen was working on prior to the release of Starcraft:
We had all sorts of story docs, we're going at, like, terrible pencil-and-paper level design, you know, levels laid out, whole missions of the game and weapons systems. Nick was in there, it was just when everyone started jumping on 3D Studio—it wasn't even 3ds Max yet—it was just 3D Studio, the crudest 3D program we had. But he's over there building robots and building cyborgs, and it was kind of like a world of, like, space vampires, you know? And like different clans of them fighting for contention. And it was just—it was just kick-ass. It was just a purely unadulterated 90s franchise idea, right?
Finally, can Blizzard ever branch out beyond Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo?
I certainly think we could if we wanted. I think this place represents, I mean, just the top of the rocket in terms of talent. I mean, forget art, right? Just technologists and design and just, our musicians, engineers, you know, we have some of the most talented people in the world, and if we wanted to shake it up we could go crazy, right? Right now our docket's a little full, but it'll be interesting to see in the next couple years what ideas start to pop and what vectors we might choose. Because it really did—the story really did become about these three franchises, you know? Certainly for the past decade or so. But you know, you never know with this group. You never know what we might chase next, and I think there's a lot of highways still.
We certainly hope so. It was a blast speaking with Chris and it was certainly interesting seeing everyone geek out over the work that Blizzard has done over the last two decades. Head to the next page to read our full interview and let us know your predictions for the studio's future in the comments or on Twitter.