Visualizing VanCleef

Edwin VanCleef holds an interesting place in World of Warcraft – not only one of the more developed villains, but also one of the few acting on his own volition: no one held his hand and dragged him into villainy – he chose his own path. This in combination with a few other factors leaves him one of the memorable foes, and ensured that I ended up spending a fair bit of time thinking just how I would present and characterize him.

From the moment Deadmines entered the plan (years ago), the question was always what to do with him – what purpose does he serve, why should the group fight him, what’s the fight really about. It became even more of a question when – still over a year ago – I decided the group doesn’t really enter the Deadmines to get to him, and that they ultimately don’t know him; if they have no idea who the guy even is, why should they care? Why should he matter? How is he important or even noteworthy? And in the end.. who is he?

There’s not really that much to go on – a few letters, some comments, three spoken lines.. Baros Alexston describes him as an idealist and a romantic, and by large that’s about it. Since I wanted – to a point even needed – some degree of performance out of him, I decided I needed to flesh that out, turn into something more. Starting with Alextons’ description of him.. I ultimately decided to make him effectively the dark side of swashbucklers – a dashing rogue with a hint of aristocracy and a helpful serving of arrogance and a sinister edge to it.

The visual design actually started with my looking at the icon for the achievement linked to him; the icon made him look far more sinister than the game model did, and the edges of his shoulderpads struck me as looking far more like a collar than actual shoulderpads. That combined with the Stormshroud-based outfit he wears looking very stylized and elegant.. I figured why not try making the pads into a collar and see how it turned out. I found it gave him a fairly unique sort of look that looked a little like a hardened top part of some sort of duster or trench coat. That in turn spurred me on to thinking that – if possible – he really should have some sort of cloak coming out of that to help complete the look.

While the collar does restrict his arm and shoulder movement somewhat (the cloak even more so) and in spite of the cloak having some rather troublesome posing and clipping issues.. it felt like it gave him the aristocratic touch I wanted – a sort of mix between a sneaky thief, a swashbuckling pirate and a refined musketeer. While the cloak is something that I realized I’d essentially have to ditch the moment the fighting get started due to the sheer amount of issues it causes with posing and the like, it still seemed like a good way to initially sell his character and get the impression across.

Overall, his model isn’t entirely as complex as that of the main cast – with his facial mask especially he didn’t need to have a mouth cavity or a too expressive face beyond the eyes, and he naturally won’t stay around as long as they will. Still, it’s been touched up a fair bit, with some tweaks and changes in places to either emphasize on some elements or better match the idea I had. I changed the boot shape to better match the overall theme.. added a belt that the weapons could be attached to and then the changes in the shoulderpads/collor and the cape.. which is actually the cape from Maiev Shadowsong’s model, though I changed the texture to the cape VanCleef drops (thought it would be fitting) and tried best I could to match it up to the collar.

It’s always a balancing act between how much performance do I want out of the model versus how much work is feasable depending on how long a character can be expected to be around. It’s still a few days of work that’s gone into him, so hopefully it’ll be work well worth it.

And, in closing, for the larger render people wanted, pick which aspect better suits below:


18 Responses to “Visualizing VanCleef”

  1. 1 Piastol
    July 30, 2010 at 13:26

    He looks great with that suit :> Hani should totally loot it!

  2. July 30, 2010 at 13:26

    I think you did a fine job with this one, it also gives Vancleef a bit more ominous feel every villain gives the audience when they wear a cape.

    Like I said in the comic earlier (page 212), Vancleef reminded me of Darth Vader the moment he entered the Tantive IV after the smoke cleared, exactly like in that panel. The pose is even the same come to think of it.

    They show a certain sense of authority, Vader because he is the Emperor’s right hand and Vancleef because of his noble family line, and of course both are ‘tragic’ villains as they were driven to the dark/evil side indirectly by events out of their control.

  3. 3 Fokker
    July 30, 2010 at 15:32

    Now he makes me think of Maiev everytime I look at him.

  4. 4 TheNic
    July 30, 2010 at 18:07

    I like the cloak, it makes him look more powerful, and more special. And that is needed for the leader of such a powerful order as the Defias actually is.

  5. 5 Noriam
    July 31, 2010 at 04:36

    I want to see him do some serious arsekicking.

    That is all.

  6. 6 Martinus Ursius
    July 31, 2010 at 09:40

    Is it just me, or is he really getting an “Ezio Auditore’s cape of awesomeness” visual?

    • 7 Nhani
      July 31, 2010 at 12:34

      Ezio is quite a bit different for visual design, though I think it’d be fair to say that with him, Ubisoft effectively took Altaïr and injected the same sort of aristocracy that I tried to put into VanCleef. So to a point they independently moved towards similar goals.

      Of course, their artists are infinitely more talented. And do it for a living.

  7. 8 saila AKS Wester
    July 31, 2010 at 19:06

    hmm If blizzard haven´t mailed you Nhani for the model so that they can replace the in-game one whit this one then something is wrong up there, “you heard that Blizzard you heard that!”

  8. 9 Larsey
    August 2, 2010 at 15:02

    That cloak made him look even more badass

  9. 10 TheNic
    August 3, 2010 at 09:46

    it’s funny really, how such a simple thing like a cloak can make such a big difference in a character.

  10. 11 Frostsaben
    August 5, 2010 at 10:14

    Like I said before, he looks great how you made him.

    However I do have something to comment. He did not choose to become a villan, or maybe that’s how I see it.

    It was the Stormwind nobles that pushed him to want revenge, and I understand him, for if same happened to me, I’d probably do the same, only difference is that I’d try to have more people in the actual capital that oppose the nobles, not in Westfall since in Westfall there are many people who had no interaction with nobles.

    • 12 Nhani
      August 5, 2010 at 10:53

      Don’t mistake VanCleef for a Robin Hood-like figure – no matter how much he might claim his cause is righteous and how he’s up against a corrupted government.. there’s no altruism to his actions – he doesn’t care who gets hurt in the crossfire, he just wants revenge. At any cost.

      To paraphrase Joel Schumacher on Batman & Robin – VanCleef was an adult, he was perfectly capable of making his own choices and no one put a gun to his head and said he had to amass a bandit army, terrorize (and sometimes outright murder) the citizens of the nation and seek vengeance above all else. He was, and is, fully capable of weighing the repercussions of his actions and still chose to undertake them. Every single innocent who have lost all their possessions, were driven from their homes or lost their lives to the Defias Brotherhood did so because he chose that to be an acceptable cost for his own, personal vengeance.

      • August 10, 2010 at 22:28

        You just compared Batman and Robin with the Defias?
        Wow….you got balls Nhani.

        • 14 Nhani
          August 10, 2010 at 22:49

          Well more specifically, I compared Joel Schumacher to Edwin VanCleef in the context that both of them made their choices and can’t really blame anyone but themselves regardless of any possible outside pressure. (Schumacher actually admitting this via extra material increased my respect for the man significantly)

          That said, I actually don’t think Batman & Robin is nearly as cataclysmically horrible as people tend to hyperbole it – it’s obviously not a fantastic work of cinematographic genius, but I think it can actually be quite entertaining, much like the 1960’s Batman the movie with Adam West and Burt Ward.

          Besides, if I’m to be honest, I actually think George Clooney did a better Bruce Wayne than Val Kilmer. (Though Keaton still comes first, in that regard)

          • 15 Sarista
            June 11, 2011 at 06:04

            From what i have read Vancleef and many other forces where all apparently being manipulated by onyxia and her brother including the nobles refusal to pay the stone masons or what every they where called. Though i myself often ignore this because really it is not like humans need help to be bad people it always seems to happen in wow someone is being evil dumb etc and oh of course they where being manipulated by a demon or dragon or necromancer the whole time, pah i prefer the older version where the nobles just happened to be jerks and refused to pay them. Sorry for the rant just felt it was somewhat relevant.

            I adored your version of Vancleef by the way his personality his outfit his fighting style which was a lot more what i would expect of a rouge rather than just being a fast twin dagger warrior like they are so often portrayed as in other stories.

  11. 16 Landusk
    August 19, 2010 at 06:38

    One word…. EPIC!

  12. 17 ikeelbunnies
    February 26, 2014 at 07:43

    It’s hilarious how you gave Edwin an aristocratic touch when he absolutely DESPISES Nobility of all kinds.
    He’s a revolutionary who let his rebellion get corrupted by mercenaries. That’s it.

    Ugh learn2lore.

    • 18 Nhani
      February 26, 2014 at 12:10

      Despising a group for what they – to you – represent does not in any way prevent you from being or becoming a little bit like them. In fact, the whole phenomenon of projection just deepens the resentment in such situations where one projects ones own traits or flaws onto ones enemies to avoid cognitive dissonance.

      He’s a former mason who in his desire for vengeance was every bit as nonchalant about those who got in the way of his goals as those by who he felt wronged. An idealist and romantic who styles himself as fighting for justice who do not for a second pause to consider those that might get caught in between, even those who may be sympathetic, nor that his actual success would mean him visiting the same kind of betrayal upon countless masses that was visited upon him to get his defiance started.

      Ugh learn2lore & psychology. 😉

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