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Sam “Samwise” Didier Discusses Everything Blizzard

/ Mar 18th, 2013 No Comments

Samwise Didier Interview

We continue our conversation with Blizzard Art Director and Ethereal God, Samwise Didier…

Samwise Didier, with the Gaming Illustrated team at the HotS Launch Party

Samwise Didier, with the Gaming Illustrated team
at the HotS Launch Party

Gaming Illustrated (SG): I’d kind of classify Wings of Liberty as gritty in style, utilitarian almost. Whereas the Zerg is all about intimidation and organics in style. Could you talk about which art style you think that you might personally latch on to more? What gets your juices flowing? Or is that even a good assessment?

Samwise: Well for me the Terran are, like you said, kind of general. I think anyone can look at the Terran and immediately kind of see … oh that’s a big robot like I saw in this movie or oh that’s a big guy with a guy with a gun … that’s a Marine you know like … the Zerg are sort of different where you look at the units and a normal person may not necessarily know what they do. And that goes back into defining these things so they look like they do. Like we make the Swarm Host … on his back he has all these little holes with all these eggs popping out. As a player someone’s probably going to go ‘oh well I bet he just doesn’t do one big attack. He probably does lots of small little tiny attacks’. So, I think designing games for the gamer; they’ll get that but it’s also if we want to get any new players we have to make sure that we do the artwork clean enough so that they’ll know what it is. So, for the Terran it was a lot easier to draw the artwork for these units than it was the Zerg and the Protoss as well. Protoss being big golden arcs in power and energy, they’re almost magical looking.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): Indeed.

[adsense336itp]Samwise: They look like you know space elves or something like that with their architecture. But I would say that the Terran were probably the easiest to do and the Zerg were almost the more refreshing because it was the exact opposite of the Terran. Like you said Terran are … square boxes right? They’re gritty and clunky and all that. The Zerg were just all over the place … organic … teeth, spines, tails, all that stuff so it was really refreshing starting up on the Zerg stuff.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): In terms of the story … obviously from the trailer … it does not look like this is going to be a wonderful reunion for Jim Raynor and Kerrigan on the good ship lollipop. This definitely looks like it’s going to be even darker in tone. Is that a good assessment? Where do you think you want to take the players in Heart of the Swarm in terms of emotion?

Samwise: Well, Heart of the Swarm starts off picking up from the end of Wings of the Liberty, [with] Raynor and Kerrigan. You’re looking at them and you’re like ‘oh wow; they could probably do all right now’. She looks like she’s got most of her Zerg kind of taken away. The hair is still a little bit Zerg-y but other than that … Kerrigan retains her senses; now she has that desire for revenge and it’s no longer the physical thing that separates Jim and Kerrigan. It’s her own internal conflict – revenge for what Arcturus Mengsk did to her.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): Right.

Samwise: So, until she can address that there’s no way they can ride off in the sunset together. So yeah, this one is definitely the heaviest of I guess the three that we have planned. Wings was a little bit more ‘hey ho’, not so dark, more adventure, more Indiana Jones, you know breaking the temple, stealing artifacts. This one’s a bit more personal I think.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): Right.

Samwise: Yeah, it lets you get into the head of the Queen of the Swarm you know the ‘Queen of Blades’ and you get introduced to all of the characters she interacts with on a daily basis and you’re like ‘this guy’s disgusting’ or ‘Wow, this girl is cold and heartless’ or ‘Wow, this one’s just a complete ball of rage and anger’ … You know it’s definitely not hanging out with Swann saying ‘hey how ya doin?’ and you’re not hanging out with Horner, ‘it’s time to go sir’. You’re definitely in the Heart of the Swarm.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): Plug! (laughing) All right. As you get the story when it’s being developed, are you still ever shocked by what some of the story artists do in terms of the strange twists or shocking deaths or anything like that?

Samwise: No, not necessarily on the story but artistically I will. Like when we had one of our artists, Steve, making the deaths for the Zerg buildings, he was blowing them up and I’m thinking, you know, the Zerg buildings blow up. So, I’m thinking there’ll be some blood and bits of flesh and all that. And on a lot of them, when they blow up you see the actual structure *is a creature*. You knew the buildings were living but I never actually thought that some of them were actual creatures. It would die and the area was just like a nasty pulsating kind of sack; had a skull in it, reared up and died and fell over. I’m like ‘oh my God! That’s so frigging killer!’ so artistically especially with the Zerg you can just get away with soooo much.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): Right.

Samwise: You know, when a machine blows up you’re going to expect certain things. But when something organic dies, it’s not your normal organic biped walking around or a quadruped. It’s a building and you go ‘oh; its whole infrastructure was actually a gigantic creature curled over in a fetal position’. And when it died it’s like it sort of stood up for a minute, to say ‘ugh!’ – well done.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about that. There’s only so many things ways a building or a spaceship can blow up, right? But when it comes to an organic creature that has gone through whatever sort of evolution it needs to go through the sky’s the limit.

Samwise: Yeah.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): That must be pretty refreshing then.

Samwise: Yeah. The Zerg are probably the most fun because they’re the less structured. Aside from a few things that multi-player units need to be highly iconic and recognizable; a lot of their buildings are just a fun mass of tentacles and flesh. It’s almost like cracking out some Cthulhu mythos like everything is just all really organic and just either disgusting or sinister. They’re sleek and spiny. They’re fat and undulating. They’re efficient with their design and just the right amount of claws or sometimes they have too many claws. They’re fun. It’s fun creating little nightmares.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): All right. We’re going to go straight to the lightning round.

Samwise: Okay.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): What made Dragonlance one of your favorite book series? It happens to be one of mine.

Samwise: I just loved the characters they did. You know Caramon and Raistlin.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): Yeah, there you go!

Samwise: Sturm, Fizban, Tasselhoff I mean you name it. They took the most boring race in the world … half elves … and they made me want to play one.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): The bastard half elf. Yes.

Samwise: Every character was just fantastic.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): Are you an Game of Thrones fan?

Samwise: Oh Yeah! I actually read all the books.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): I just finished book five.

Samwise: Oh fantastic.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): I am … trying not to be a horrible spoiler here… but I am morbidly depressed over the ending of book five and who died there.

Samwise: Well…

Gaming Illustrated (SG): But I don’t think he’s dead.

Samwise: So, reading any of his books, when someone dies …

Gaming Illustrated (SG): Sometimes they come back in the future chapters right? Sometimes …

Samwise: Do they?

Gaming Illustrated (SG): I mean, it felt like certain characters died five times before.

Samwise: I remember when Ned Stark … have you read the book or seen it?

Gaming Illustrated (SG): Both.

Samwise: He gets greased and I’m like oh, they just probably substituted him. Made a dude that looked like him go up there and Varys somehow put a melon to fool everyone…

Bob C. (Blizzard PR): That’s what I thought too.

Samwise: And I’m like hit me back, hit me back, come on – stay. He’s dead! You know the Red Wedding?

Gaming Illustrated (SG): I’m really looking forward to that in Season Three.

Samwise: I knew then that as soon as you get attached to someone, they’re going to die, and the book becomes easy to read.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): Yeah.

Samwise: So then the people that you don’t like; it’s like oh they live for another couple books.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): Yeah, great series. That was actually one of my favorites as well.

Samwise: Awesome.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): I guess if there was a game genre that Blizzard hasn’t done what do you think you guys should be looking at? Something like an Action RPG like Skyrim? Or GTA or … if you could just wish something into existence?

Samwise: You know I’ve always had the [idea for a] classic Blizzard meets Street Fighter.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): Hmm.

Samwise: I would love to see a fighting game like that. Part of the dream is getting fulfilled with our latest game we’re working on, the Blizzard All Stars stuff so … it’s not exactly one to one but it’s scratching that itch. Let’s see, other than that you could put “World” up in front of any of our titles and it would be fantastic. You could take any one of our titles and drop it in a future or past setting and it would be frigging awesome. [Let me] think of the genres that we haven’t done yet. It’s like oh well … sports, no don’t care about that. Some kind of post-apocalyptic? Awesome. You know what I mean like … any of the things that you can apply to Blizzard, titles to or new ones to, it would be awesome. It’s fun working on the games but we’ve been doing Starcraft for a while now. We’ve been doing Warcraft for a while, yeah.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): Maybe it’s time for something new? Some new IP?

Samwise: I’m looking forward to it.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): All right, so I have to get the ‘no comment’ from you and Bob might throw something at my head but that’s fine …

Samwise: When’s Heart of the Swarm coming out? That’s easy! (laughing)

Gaming Illustrated (SG): (laughing) Any comment of Project Titan? How that’s coming? Does it even exist? Will you acknowledge anything? I’m getting blank stares…. No comment?

Samwise: What is this Project Titan he keeps talking about? (said to Bob) Isn’t it a soft j? Pro-yect Teetan?

Bob C. (Blizzard PR Guy): Next Question!

Gaming Illustrated (SG): I appreciate you indulging me. (laughing) Last question I got for you though and this is something I asked Ray Cobo (Executive Producer of Mists of Pandaria). I have a WoW buddy named Will Hartung; he’s a huge World of Warcraft fan and he told me about his analogy that World of Warcraft is actually Disneyland and you guys have set something up that maybe we might have thought originally was going to live five years, eight years … But actually WoW might a have 30, 40, or even a 50 year lifespan. For example, when you go to Disneyland and you don’t like a ride they take the ride out and put in something new and then they expand something on. He thinks that you guys might have actually created the next digital Disneyland in the form of World of Warcraft and it might have a ridiculously long lifespan. How does that hit you?

Samwise: I think that as long as the game is still fun to play … I mean how many years has it been out now? Since 2004 right? And are we allowed to say how many people are playing? Everyone knows right?

Gaming Illustrated (SG): The last press release said ten million.

Samwise: Okay so how many years later? Almost ten years and ten million people are still playing it? I don’t know any game people are playing [after] ten years except for chess and checkers …

Gaming Illustrated (SG): Right.

Samwise: You know I think that Warcraft [is a] super fun game but I think a lot of the art, and I’m going to be bragging on the Blizzard artists here; We made a really cool art style here that is in my opinion, similar to some of the old Disney movies where it may not be the highest technical quality or its not pushing the most polygons but it’s just a fun style, you know? Mickey Mouse is still popular around the world and he’s not the most technically evolved character around. Characters like Popeye are still around. Characters like Scooby Doo … if you just make something that’s cool and people enjoy playing it, that’s the first thing right? And if you can make an art style that can still hold up over the years… you know you see some of those 3D movies from the older days where it’s like wow that looks like really bad 3D.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): Yeah.

Samwise: You look at Warcraft and you don’t go … ’that’s really bad 3D’ you know? Those characters look cool. It still looks fantastic. And I hope that our games are like that. Starcraft was still being played up until Wings of Liberty and I mean, that was really dated. The Marine was eight pixels. But it sounded cool and his little portrait showed you what he looked like. I think that as long as the game play is there and the game is fun … the art is definitely secondary but the art also helps sell the game if it’s a good art style.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): Nice. All right thanks. I really appreciate it.

Samwise: Yeah, you had some great questions dude. Good job on that. Those were cool.

Gaming Illustrated (SG): Thanks, Samwise.

Gaming Illustrated would like to thank Samwise Didier and the entire Blizzard PR team for coordinating and participating in this interview.

Sean Gibson

Sean Gibson

Founder, Featured Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
Sean Gibson was the founder of Gaming Illustrated and served as Executive Editor and lead reviewer from 2002 to 2014. He no longer is affiliated with Gaming Illustrated, but remembers his time with the site fondly.
Sean Gibson
Sean Gibson
Sean Gibson

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