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The skies of Azeroth are full of Dragons after three DigiPen seniors in the BFA in Digital Art and Animation program won big at the 2021 World of Warcraft Student Art Contest. Hwa Min Jung’s “Quilboar Spear Fisher” and Joe Rouverol’s “Bogglefin the Odious” respectively won first place and runner up in the character art category, while Annie Hanson’s “Soul Shiver” animation earned her first place in the FX category. The winning entries were selected by World of Warcraft’s art team based on a call to U.S. and Canadian college students for original work that would fit within the game’s expansive universe.

Students Joe Rouverol and Annie Hanson sit on concrete steps in front of DigiPen’s main building.
Character art runner-up Joe Rouverol and FX winner Annie Hanson.

For Jung, the win was a full-circle return to the very beginning of his craft. “I first got into game art at a very young age when I dabbled in making custom textures and models for Warcraft 3,” Jung says. “When I found out about the contest, I thought it was a good opportunity to reconnect with my childhood.” Jung’s Quilboar Spear Fisher character was conceptualized after one particular bit of World of Warcraft lore caught his eye during research. “The Quilboars’ land used to be a barren desert, but it had flooded during a big event in the game,” Jung says. “That was when I had the idea for this character who was tired of constant fighting and war and decided he would provide for his tribe in more peaceful ways.” That idea drove Jung’s design — a Quilboar with a strong, menacing physique from the warring days he’d since left behind, dressed in humble clothing and carrying a simple fishing spear. “I wanted to show he had no desire for power or glory anymore,” Jung says. The contest results were a huge confidence booster for Jung. “Honestly, when I got the call that I had won, a lot of the doubts I had as an artist and about my career path washed away,” Jung says.

Hanson had wanted to submit work to the World of Warcraft Student Art Contest ever since she was a freshman at DigiPen. “WoW has a lot of immersive qualities, and I’ve definitely pulled my fair share of all-nighters just to continue playing,” she says. It wasn’t until her senior year that she decided to shoot her shot, thanks in part to one particular DigiPen assignment for a visual effects class that served as the basis for her entry. “Originally, I wanted to have an eerie, bioluminescent ocean type of effect with a charge, a shot, and a hit,” Hanson says. “But as I messed with it more in Unity, it started to look more like shadow magic, which I rolled with.” Hanson’s contest-winning Soul Shiver ability is even more impressive given that it was made near the start of her own visual effects journey. “I was happy to hear that I had won, but surprised because the effect I submitted was from when I only had a few months of experience in VFX,” Hanson says. “I have a year-and-a-half’s worth of VFX experience in both Unity and Unreal Engine now, and wish I could have submitted something new!”

A model sheet of Joe Rouverol’s catfish wizard character Bogglefin the Odious.
Joe Rouverol’s “Bogglefin the Odious” was crafted using ZBrush, Marvelous Designer, and Substance Painter.

Rouverol’s runner-up character art entry was born from a curious question that came to his mind one summer morning. “I woke up and thought, ‘Why has no one ever made a catfish wizard?’” Rouverol says. “I mean, they have long whiskers like a wizard!” Rouverol took the idea and placed it within World of Warcraft’s dense lore, conceiving of Bogglefin the Odious as a former human from Theramore, mutated into his magical fish form by a mana bomb that villain Garrosh Hellscream dropped on the island. A WoW player since high school, Rouverol decided to develop the concept in DigiPen senior lecturer Randy Briley’s Advanced Character Creation class. “Throughout the semester, I got invaluable feedback about simplifying his design from DigiPen staff and students alike,” Rouverol says. “I took it all in. By the end of the semester, I had a 3D piece I was truly proud of.” The contest results elicited a very vocal response from Rouverol. “I was excited. I screamed in the quiet lab,” he says. “My little catfish made someone turn their head — incredible!”

Jung and Hanson’s winning entries earned them a Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 pen display, a one-hour virtual mentorship session with a senior Blizzard artist, and of course, a free one-year subscription to World of Warcraft.