This article is a copy of "Anatomy of a Monster: Thaddius", an official article from the World of Warcraft Community Site as part of an interview with WoW Insider. It overviewed the fight against Thaddius in Naxxramas present in World of Warcraft. The original article is no longer available, but it can still be viewed through online archives (see below).


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The Insider recently interviewed the World of Warcraft designers about Thaddius, one of their latest monstrosities (er, creations). This twisted, Frankenstein-like boss haunts the halls of the new dungeon Naxxrammas - introduced in upcoming Patch 1.11. Read on to find out how Thaddius was created...

Sometimes they come back (on the right side)

For years, the gargantuan fortress known as the Hellfire Citadel was thought to be abandoned... Until recently. Perhaps the most unsettling news to come from Outland are the accounts of thunderous, savage cries issuing from somewhere deep beneath the citadel. Many have begun to wonder if these unearthly outbursts are somehow connected to the corrupted fel orcs and their growing numbers.

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One of the expansion's boss monsters currently in development will be a familiar face to players of Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Lying in wait within Hellfire Citadel is none other than the dreaded pit lord Magtheridon. The final victory that assured Illidan's dominion over Outland was won during the siege of the Black Citadel, when the Betrayer and his army took the citadel and vanquished Magtheridon. Though the pit lord was defeated, he apparently still serves some yet undiscovered purpose in the dark designs of the new lord of Outland...

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Just like Thaddius, Magtheridon is another monster that will build and expand on previous Warcraft games both in terms of artwork and game design. The team is already hard at work taking the concept art and cinematic assets created for Warcraft III and turning them into a raid boss worthy of the pit lord concept. In Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, players already got a glimpse of the awesome might of the pit lords in one of the game's cinematics. One of the main goals for Magtheridon is to really capture the essence of what makes a pit lord so terrifying and let players feel the unbridled wrath of this creature. The Warcraft III pit lord neutral hero unit serves as a great basis for this boss, but you can expect that Magtheridon will rise above and beyond that with some brand new tricks up his sleeve. Prepare to face him and many other terrible and fierce new monsters in World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade.

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Aisle 5: Kitchen Appliances, Rugs and Furniture, Crazy Undead Killing Machines

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Somewhere deep inside the cursed necropolis Naxxramas... Your raid cleared out the last group of monsters, and the only thing left are the two gates at the very end of the room. While the rest of your group drinks, heals up, and resurrects any players who fell during the last skirmish, you carefully approach the sealed doors. Suddenly the mighty gates fly open. A vast laboratory filled with all kinds of strange machinery lies before you, electric discharges and lightning painting the walls with jagged shadows. In the center of the room, you behold a gigantic creature unlike anything you (or any other player) has ever seen before. Even though you know you should be trying to rally your raid you can't help but stare at this monstrosity. As your group falls into disarray and scatters, caught unaware and slaughtered one by one by the two gruesome wights that descended from platforms higher up in the room, you wonder to yourself what kind of twisted nightmare spawned this monster. How do they come up with these things?

Let's go on a journey to find out about how the monsters you encounter in World of Warcraft are created. In this article, you'll learn more about some of the methods used to come up with monster ideas and how these rough ideas are then transformed into character concepts. Later, you'll get to see what early 3D models look like and what needs to be taken into consideration when modeling, texturing, and animating a creature, and finally we'll talk about how the monsters are finally brought to life by creating a cool and challenging encounter that ties all the previous work together.

Let's hear what the design team had to say about their work and the many steps involved in making a truly epic and fun boss encounter for World of Warcraft!

The Sleep of Reason

At first, all we knew was that we wanted one of the boss monsters of Naxxramas to be either some kind of abomination or at least something that related to the general abomination theme. Naxxramas consists of several separate wings, and each wing has its own theme and of course its own boss monster. The wing we will be talking about in this article centers around one of the Scourge's favorite tools for causing carnage and destruction on a massive scale: the enormous, near unstoppable abominations.

Usually we have a lot of sources of inspiration to draw on. For example, in Ahn'Qiraj we were aiming for a kind of Egyptian setting, and this theme is reflected in the level design as well as in the creatures that lurk in the ruins and the temple of Ahn'Qiraj. Our main sources of inspiration for Naxxramas have been the previous Warcraft games and the concepts we've done for the Scourge in Reign of Chaos and The Frozen Throne. Only this time, players will have the chance to see familiar elements and settings from a much, much closer perspective. So the general art direction was pretty clear from the start of the project. We also had a pretty good understanding of what we wanted to achieve with this particular boss in terms of gameplay and how the boss encounter should work, but we still needed to determine exactly what kind of monster the boss called "Thaddius" would be.

Something just clicked when we saw some of the objects that the level designers were putting into the abomination wing of Naxxramas: huge Tesla coils, laboratory tables, all sorts of weird scientific equipment... It didn't take much to convince everyone that the most perfect boss encounter for this section of the dungeon would be an almost classic Frankenstein monster waiting at the end of the abomination wing.

Can I get the monster in cornflower blue?

one of the most valuable assets during the creation of a new monster is concept art. Concept art can take many different forms. Even in the age of advanced 3D computer graphics, architects still use plastic, wood, and paper miniatures of their projects, while clay models are quite popular for Hollywood-style movie productions. Yet by far the most common variety of concept art are still concept drawings. The main purpose of concept art is to provide the creative team with something to give their vision one tangible, coherent form, to get everyone on the same page, and to create a reference that the artists can work with.

Thaddius Concept

Usually, several artists work together on a single creature. They pitch their creature ideas and sketches and bounce their concepts off of each other until their work coalesces into a solid piece of art that can then be used for the next steps in the monster creation process. This was no different for Thaddius. The idea of having a truly frightening Frankensteinian monster in Naxxramas gave us some exciting opportunities to take existing monster concepts in an entirely new direction.

Initial concept pieces for Thaddius were very dark, focusing mostly on the blending of flesh and metal and accenting the unnatural, inhuman nature of the creature with dark brown and red color tones, dried blood, and festering stitches. The early Thaddius presented a truly chilling monster, but we felt that this version still needed some work to better fit with the general art direction of Naxxramas and the Warcraft universe. Later iterations to this effect included a few changes to the monster's color scheme, making it a little brighter, as well as some small improvements to Thaddius' armor. We also wanted his face to be easily recognizable, to set him apart from other humanoid monsters. Adding a huge metal jaw to his face achieved just that, and slowly but surely, this baddie was finally developing a really unique feel to his character.

Thaddius Face Concepts

It's alive! IT'S ALIVE!

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Work on a three dimensional computer model for a monster starts as soon as we feel comfortable with the way the creature concept is developing. While it is important to have strong concept pieces before starting the model, the creative work is still far from finished at this point. As we were creating the model for Thaddius, we still kept going back and forth between the 3D model and our concept drawings. Once your creature starts taking a more physically real shape before your eyes, you really get a much better understanding of what you're dealing with and how you can bring your vision to life.

Texturing Thaddius was a lot of fun. We didn't really have a monster like him in the game before, such an abominable tangle of meat and machine, so this was a chance to do something completely new for World of Warcraft. The texturing phase had a significant influence on the monster's look, as it allowed us to experiment beyond our initial concept drawings. As the modeling and texturing work was nearing completion, it was now time... to infuse our creature with the spark of life! *mad laughter, bursts of lightning and thunder*

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How does a reanimated corpse move? What about a creature that's actually pieced together from several different corpses which may not fit together all that well? Our goal with the animation was to really convince the players that the ground shakes beneath the monster's feet and that nothing short of a small army (or perhaps, say, a raid group?) could stop this behemoth. Thaddius' standard "damage" animation for example is a short flinch, as if that pyroblast you just threw at him didn't even hurt. We also decided to make the creature move almost ponderously slow in a kind of "Frankenwalk" to provide players with a visual clue about the monster's incredible weight and strength.

Finally, we had a mean-looking creature with a serious presence on our hands. All that was left now was to prepare the stage where our unholy creation would wreak havoc on any adventurers foolish enough to confront the mighty Thaddius.

It is in the nature of Man to make monsters...

It would be the easiest thing for us to create an undefeatable boss. The real effort, though, lies in designing an encounter that is challenging but still fun, that provides players with a good way of gauging their level of success, and that remains entertaining even after you have figured out how to beat the boss. Striking that careful balance between challenge and frustration is no easy achievement. With Thaddius, we want to present players with a fight unlike anything they have mastered before, surprising them with new combat mechanics that require them to come up with some brand new tactics of their own.

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We approached the encounter design with some very simple ideas, one of which was the idea to have the raid split up in some way. We took that concept and ran with it, and over the course of the design cycle the idea of dividing the raid group evolved and took a more concrete shape. At the start of the encounter, the players don't fight Thaddius himself; they battle two wights that are in the same room on two separate platforms. These platforms are not directly connected, so to fight them the raid has to split up and attack both wights at the same time. But it gets worse... the wights have the ability to snatch a player from one platform and pull him to the other, which again is a way to split up the raid and divide their forces. We're pretty happy with the carnage and confusion the wights will cause unsuspecting raiders during this first stage of the fight.

One central part of the whole Frankenstein myth is the way the monster was brought to life using lightning and electricity. We wanted to include the symbolism of that plot point and turn it into a fitting, cool gameplay mechanic for our boss encounter. When we thought about how we could make an "electric" element work in this fight, one thing that immediately came to mind was positive and negative charge. Voltage is created when electric charges are separated; when the charges are brought together, the stored energy is released in an electrostatic discharge - your basic electric shock. This principle seemed like a perfect fit for this fight, so when players finally go up against Thaddius, he will "polarize" the raid group by making half the raid positive and the other half negative. When positive and negative raid members get too close to each other... Well, let's just say that you want to get as far away from players with an opposite charge as possible, which again plays into the idea of separating the raid.

We are still playtesting the encounter, but right now our focus is mostly on adjusting the numbers and bugfixing. We're happy with how Thaddius turned out. The look and feel of the boss is just like we imagined it would be, and it matches the theme we aimed for with the abomination wing very well. Also, the fight has some cool new elements and will definitely challenge our players' creativity, adding some great variety to the general raid gameplay of World of Warcraft.

...and it is in the nature of monsters to destroy their makers.

Your raid cleared out the last group of monsters, and the only thing left are the two gates at the very end of the room. All of a sudden, the mighty gates fly open. A vast laboratory filled with all kinds of strange machinery lies before you, electric discharges and lightning painting the walls with jagged shadows. Even though you know you should be trying to rally your raid you can't help but stare at the monstrosity in the center of the room. At the last second you snap out of it and barely escape a fierce blow by of one of the two gruesome wights that descended from platforms higher up in the room. As your raid forms up and mounts a first organized attack on the creatures, you can't help but wonder what other nightmares lie in wait in the cursed depths of Naxxramas.

You get the feeling you'll find out soon enough.

This concludes our tour behind the scenes of creature design at Blizzard. We hope you enjoyed the reading as much as we did the telling.