Behind The Scenes With Blizzard

Behind The Scenes With Blizzard

On November 1st, I got the chance to attend a behind-the-scenes event with the campus game developer club (Texas Aggie Game Developers) where artists from Blizzard gave an inside look at the life and culture of the World of Warcraft team.  Jeff Parrott (Art Manager) and Steve Nelson (Senior 3D Artist) connected with us through a conference call.  Here are some of the notes and highlights from the presentation.

Blizzard Culture

One of the artists has assimilated a collection of art reference books over the years into a library that many people on the WoW art team use during their weekly sketch meetup.  This is really similar to what I’ve been doing for a while now — collecting games as references not just for their raw entertainment value, but also as references for things I want to experiment with in the future.  I also like the idea of a weekly meetup.  TAGD has bi-weekly jams that serve much the same purpose.

Another cool thing is the mentorship pipeline at Blizzard.  I would love the chance to work closely with an experienced game developer.  Blizzard has a really positive attitude towards continuing education and often brings in teachers for the artists.  They have classes ranging from Anatomy to Color Theory.

As a side note, Steve Nelson got his job working at Blizzard by working on FX on another MMO in the style that Blizzard was looking for.  I suppose the lesson is to work on projects you’re passionate about so people who might hire you know what you want to do.

Artistic Process

  1. Quick ink sketches
  2. Develop sketches further, this time adding in value and lighting
  3. Create “postcard” images to communicate overall look and theme and color palette.
  4. 3D Models

Sketches are used to communicate broad strokes like architectural styles or reoccurring motifs, and aren’t necessarily a final representation of what an asset will look like in the game.  Textures are treated like an oil painting — slowly refined over time.  Character artists on the WoW team often work from concept to completion, which I’m told is an abnormal thing in the industry.  Artists have a lot of creative input and aren’t restricted to closely following the concept art.

Portfolio Do’s And Don’ts

  • Keep it simple
  • Focus on art (or in my case, development)
  • Be apparent what you want to do
  • Customize your portfolio for the job you’re applying for
  • Show your passion for the job you want
  • Limit your portfolio to only your great pieces (like 3-5 of them)

They really emphasized this idea of focusing down on what you’re trying to represent yourself as.  Character artists make characters.  FX artists make explosions.  Anything else is distraction during the hiring process.

Another thing they hit home with is the idea that we should be putting in the practice hours now while we have time, before we can’t.  Reverse engineer things that you love and try to re-create it.  Do studies.  Explore and experiment, but also know your lane.  Try different things but excel at one thing.  Blizzard is clearly looking for people who know exactly what they want to do.


Blizzard internships are live now!  I plan on applying soon.  For those interested, the deadline to apply is December 10th.  You must be studying at a university/college in the United States and returning to school to be eligible.  More information available at

Full Time Employment

Submit job applications 60-90 days prior to graduation at  You can also sign up for email alerts there.



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