Warcraft borrows a lot from various sources, just as modern fantasy has done for decades. But one of the franchise’s most iconic creations almost didn’t see the light of day. Night Elves are one of the most recognisable bits of Warcraft, with their wild skin colours and lanky silhouettes, but they were a tough sell within Blizzard at the time – if not for a good picture, we might’ve be logging into the WoW Classic beta and rolling up new wood elves.
“We wanted to make Night Elves,” longtime Warcraft artist Samwise Didier tells us at a recent Warcraft summit. “Night Elves had never been, to my knowledge, seen before, ever in fantasy. We came up with them. They’re purple skinned, they’re seven-plus feet tall, with long blue and green hair. All we really did is go, ‘what if we combined a wood elf and a dark elf?’”
Take the darkness and moon themes of D&D’s dark elves, put it with the nature reverence of Tolkien-esque wood elves, and Didier says “Boom, we had Night Elves. And then we made them purple for some reason.”
But within Blizzard, “that was a really hard sell. The world accepted Night Elves better than most members of the team did. Because people were used to the Legolas types, the elves that are your typical elves – blondish, brownish hair, while we were going blues and greens and purple. That’s radically different, but it really took was a picture to help sell that.”
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Didier adds that “if you have a good picture, you can sell almost anything. If we had a bad picture for it, we probably would have just had wood elves.”
With the WoW Classic release date on the horizon, and Warcraft 3: Reforged due later this year, you’ll have plenty of chances to relive the glory days with your Night Elves of choice. Spare a thought for Mr. T and his Night Elf Mohawk while you’re at it.