How Blizzard (Probably) Makes Hearthstone's Golden Cards

Ever stared lovingly at one of Hearthstone's animated golden cards and wondered "How did they make them look so darn special?" There's the obvious (the card is shiny!) and the subtle (how'd they get the leaves to blow like that?), but no one's really broken them down in detail. Well, until now that is.

A new YouTube channel for game developers called "Makin' Stuff Look Good" has a video covering the creation of Hearthstone's golden cards from a technical point of view. As you might expect, the author doesn't have direct access to the game's assets, so he had to analyse the effect and reverse-engineer it.

In the author's favour, he's able to use Unity, the same engine that powers Hearthstone. And the final effect looks pretty close to the real deal.

What's fascinating from a developer's perspective is how one could create alternate art for each card in the most efficient way possible. For instance, it's shown in the video that pumping out multiple layers of textures — such as the Timber Wolf featured in the clip — so that animated wind effects can flow "around" the subject would be time consuming and wasteful.

Instead, extra information on the image's "depth" can be stored in the texture itself, saving space and removing the requirement for individual sprites.

I'll admit the explanation gets a little technical at times, but it's still a good watch if you're at all curious about how these effects work.

Shaders Case Study - Hearthstone Golden Cards [YouTube, via Reddit]


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