Students from the Academy’s School of Game Development have a strong track record in Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft (WoW) student art contest. Academy candidates have been awarded prizes in five the contest’s seven annual rounds, including this year’s, in which MFA student Zhuoyang Liu was honored in the Environment Art category.
Liu is the 14th Academy student to take home an award in the contest and third to win in Environment Art.
In October 2017, competition entries were opened by the WoW development team for original artworks for the game’s vast universe and various story arcs. In addition to Environment, contest categories included Character, FX and Animation. Winners were selected mid-March.
“I’m a huge WoW fan and I do a similar style,” says Liu, “so I knew I could create something that fits within that world. I learned a lot from trying to make these scenes, so it was exciting to find out they chose me.”
According to Blizzard's WoW Art Manager Jeff Parrott, Liu’s entry effectively evoked the visual style of the PC game.
“It was really clear that Zhuoyang studied [the] World of Warcraft art style and created a piece that looks like it could live within the world,” Parrott says. “[He] created an environment with a clear focal point and nice focus on storytelling.”
Liu’s submission, titled “Yang’s Moving Bar,” features a small building sporting a barrel much larger than its roof. The story behind the piece, Liu says, is about a Pandaren (WoW’s humanoid panda race) escaping the war, taking with him an alcohol supply to support his Pandaren predispositions.
According to Liu, story is just as important as execution when creating such scenes. As part of the prize pack, Liu was sent to Southern California along with the other contest winners to meet with Blizzard’s WoW teams and participate in one-on-one mentor sessions and portfolio reviews with senior artists. Liu said special emphasis was placed on composition.