From one realm to another, the mystical realm of Ardenweald is serene realm in Shadowlands founded by the Winter Queen. The Night Fae Covenant also inhabits this enchanted realm where Wild Gods and other nature spirits travel upon their death.
Compared to Revendreth, Ardenweald presents a soothing environment that welcomes each mortal soul upon arrival. Based on these concepts, nature lovers will definitely feel some semblance of serenity in this realm. Let’s take a closer look at the Heart of the Forest, the concept art of Ardenweald, and what went through the artists of Shadowlands while conceptualizing the environment.
An early concept for the approach to the Winter Queen’s Court, beyond which only her most trusted subjects would gain entrance. At the base of this massive, magical tree, we wanted to suggest architectural features like windows and columns that swirled up into the natural rhythms of the bark and branches.
Matt OConnor – Senior Concept Artist
From the beginning, we pictured Ardenweald as a cosmic space that combined the celestial look of galaxies and the natural canopy of trees. We pictured huge pillar-like trees that held up the firmament and whose canopy became a nebulous mass of magic. With that idea in mind, I wanted to create something that would feel very iconic to Ardenweald, had some movement, and incorporated the symbolism of life and rebirth in nature. I landed on the idea of an enormous tree whose branches twisted in an elegant way to create a celestial net of sorts, which gave a slight nod to things we have seen from Emerald Dream. I pictured the tree capturing anima from around Ardenweald and serving as a foundational mechanism for the storytelling in Ardenweald.
Gabriel Gonzalez – Environment Artist
Servando Lupini – Environment Artist
Faeries were one of the first creatures I designed for this zone. My goal was to pull from classic fantasy depictions of fairies and use the celestial illumination of Ardenweald’s environment to create a unique, otherworldly fairy that fit in the World of Warcraft aesthetic. I looked at a lot of moths when designing the faeries; I drew inspiration from their wings’ shape and their fluffy features. We knew these were going to be playful creatures, so it was important to give them a little bit of a mischievous look.
Ariel Fain – Character Artist
The vorkai were interesting to design. We have a lot of creatures with similar centaur anatomy in the game already, so establishing a fresh look for the vorkai was a fun challenge. Early in the design phase, we knew we wanted a lot of the creatures in Ardenweald to have a wild feel to them. It was important to distinguish them from what we did in the past, so we leaned into more animalistic features. A huge inspiration for this design was the ibex; they have these interesting horn shapes that almost encompass their entire bodies. Adding the large horns to the design broke up the silhouette and added a sense of power.
Ariel Fain – Character Artist
Designing a creature whose purpose is decomposition may seem simple on the surface, but a lot of thought went into how to approach it. The gorm in Ardenweald have to give off real and familiar vibes, but at the same time feel mystical and new—that’s the Ardenweald of my imagination. So I decided to combine parts from different real bugs to create something that felt new. For example, the gorm’s antennae are derived from moths, while the horn is from a deer bug. I chose dreamy colors so that people can infer what they eat and how they grow. I enjoyed the process of exploring just how dynamic and diverse the creatures of Ardenweald can be.
Jay Nam – Character Artist
Ardenweald is a gorgeous zone, and it was a lot of fun to design and model this creature for it. We wanted a creature that would instantly read as a stag, but it needed to feel different from anything we have seen on Azeroth so far. The runestag needed to feel both elegant and powerful. I incorporated leaves into the coat and tail, as well as glowing organic anima shapes along the body to show that this creature is truly a part of the forest. I also made three distinct antler variations so there would be a lot of variety among the stags throughout the zone.
This creature also needed to serve as a mount with two tiers of armor. To echo the overall look and theme of Ardenweald, I used leaf-like shapes and organic designs in the armor. The materials needed to match what the other denizens of Ardenweald use, so this mount’s armor would feel like it was crafted by the night fae for the player. To be consistent with the covenant, I stuck with leather as my main material and then used sap glass, leaves, and a very small amount of metal as accents. I had so much fun making this creature and its mount versions—I’m so excited for players to see them in Shadowlands.
Natacha Nielsen – Character Artist
Although we’ve created lots of cool forest zones in the past like Val’sharah, Ashenvale, and Hyjal, Ardenweald is higher concept, more unreal world than we’ve explored so far. I tried to keep that in mind and meld this idea into the Night Fae Covenant’s armor set design. Part of that was to rule out metallic material in any of the armor pieces. It was very challenging decision, considering how often we used metal on the armor we’ve created in the past, even for cloth sets. That’s how we came up with a plate set covered with wood that was reinforced and hardened with anima power. It was a great opportunity to give our players a unique armor set appearance, and I’m very happy how it turned out.
Sukjoo Choi – Character Artist
I really wanted to establish the idea of a branch-like lattice as a defining shape for Ardenweald. I thought a good way of doing this was by exploring a free-standing anima lattice. We wanted them to have some heft, but also wanted to capture the elegant way in which they grew, to convey the magical way in which the inhabitants of Ardenweald transformed the environment around them. These explorations were inspired by Art Nouveau jewelry and The Dark Crystal.
Gabriel Gonzalez – Environment Artist
Designing the back attachments for Ardenweald was a blast. I love organic designs, and the entire zone has so many cool creatures and great environments to pull inspiration from. For these back attachments, I wanted each one to be unique. The wings are heavily inspired by the wood and floral lattice all around Ardenweald, and I wanted the glowing wispy parts on the wings to be reminiscent of the “eyes” you might see on moth wings. For the second back attachment, I thought it would be fun to have a lantern on the player’s back with moths from the zone sitting on it. Occasionally the wings would open and create a look of the player having moth wings from the front view. For the final attachment, I wanted to create a bag I think you could have if you were an herbalist collecting and studying all the fascinating new plants in this zone.
Natacha Nielsen – Character Artist
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands will be released Q4 2020! You can opt-in on the beta here.
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