Defining Moments: Warcraft III

February 7, 2024

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It was 2002, and I was 14 years old.

I remember Dad bringing home Warcraft 3 — I had begged for it and had thoroughly explained the box art and which flavor I specifically wanted. There were 4 versions, each with their own faction featured on the front. I wanted the Undead one, cause skulls are sweeeet.

Warcraft 3 brought something new to the table. Along with the great level design and strategy components, it had an attention to detail that other games just didn’t. WC3 raised the bar with its in-game cinematics and gorgeously rendered cutscenes. And the personality! The whole game just oozed this amazingly creative and wonderful fantasy charm. The patina has only gotten richer with nostalgia.

Aesthetics & Art Direction

The art direction is impeccable. And those design decisions have shaped my own preference in game design as a result.

Chonky and exaggerated proportions on units was an awesome art style choice that lent itself to unique outlines — perfect for RTS games and understanding what was happening at a glance.

The developers also added 3rd-party creeps into multiplayer maps — a clever feature to gain experience early on in the game, without having to directly confront the enemy player. It also allowed you to secure new resources or unlock merchant shops to purchase upgrades. Furthermore, it encouraged exploration of the entire map. Many multiplayer maps were asymmetrical as a result, and lent themselves to feeling more natural and less like arenas (a là Starcraft II).

WC3 also had tons of secrets. One of my favorites was the Hungry Hungry Lizard. During the campaign, you play a level inside of a cave. There’s no base building: it’s one of those make-your-way-through-and-survive-until-the-end kind of levels. About halfway through you find a neutral creep chomping away on giant mushrooms that extends past the edge of the screen. If you simply wait (like 10 minutes maybe?) the lizard SLOWLY chomps his way through the forest of shrooms and opens up a secret path to a treasure box. The game does NOTHING to encourage you to wait around. But if you do, you’re rewarded. *chef’s kiss*

Reforged vs Classic

There’s so much to love about this game, and the re-release WC3: Reforged is pretty good too. Although I prefer to play it in classic mode — the updated visuals don’t really do that much for me. In same ways they kind of take away from the immersion. That’s another topic for another day (I’ve found that fidelity and resolution can have a big impact on immersion… or lack thereof.)

WC3 was a defining moment for me and my preferences for art and design. I can see a lot of inspiration from it in my own game Wildwood. I hope one day I can be as half as good as the team that brought WC3 to life nearly 25 years ago.

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