WoW wallpaper sites come, and WoW wallpaper sites go. You can always download a fresh look for your screen directly from Blizzard. But as satisfying as it is to set a novel desktop wallpaper that truly delights, I enjoy the process of poking around to find wallpapers from people who are passionate about WoW -- like WoWScapes, the passion project of a former raider and amateur photographer who's become fascinated with taking and sharing high-quality screenshots that showcase the striking beauty of Azeroth.
WoWScapes creator Jeremy (aka Rotted of Sen'jin-US) specializes in bringing eye-popping images to players who don't have the hardware or haven't slowed down enough to savor Azeroth's splendor. "In a way, I feel sorry for people who use low-end hardware and cannot thoroughly enjoy the beauty this game displays," he notes. "So with that being said, I have turned many heads and had many people say, 'Is that really what WoW looks like on max settings? All this time, I have been playing and have never seen blades of grass on the ground or bark on the trees.' It's responses like this that make me happy about sharing my 'photos.'"
Jeremy is currently adding two screenshots per week to WoWScapes. "I never had intentions to make money off of the website," he says. "It is strictly something I enjoy doing in my free time -- usually while my wife is raiding. Every wallpaper is free to download."
Main character Rotted, undead discipline priest
Guild PVP Lords
Realm Sen'jin (US-Horde)
WoW Insider: Jeremy, these are gorgeous, gorgeous shots -- but then again, you've found some gorgeous areas of the game to work with. What do you find to be WoW's most photogenic area in general?
Jeremy: Pandaria zones are the easiest and most photogenic areas. When shooting my in-game "photos," I like to use my real life composition and field of view techniques to help capture the focus point of the subject. I want to make people say, "Wow, I never looked at that area like this before. I never knew it looked so amazing!" I think I have achieved this on both my website and Instagram.
You would be surprised at the amount of people that do not take time to relish the surroundings and beauty of the game especially in today's "rush and get it done" society.
What zone is your favorite to take shots in? What keeps you coming back?
My favorite zone to take shots in has to be Jade Forest, hands down. The design and effort that went into the buildings with the Asian architecture is amazing. There is just so much detail and very vibrant colors. The foliage (trees and grass) not only in Jade Forest but in all of Pandaria is a huge improvement compared to previous expansion worlds and just looks great on screenshots.
Is there an area you find more or less attractive to screenshot based on Blizzard's design or technical parameters?
Not everything I have to say about the game graphics is all lemon drops and gumdrops. There aren't specific areas that are difficult per se, but more of an object. Specifically, Blizzard's tree and leaf graphics from its first four WoW expansions (vanilla, BC, Wrath, and Cata) are among the worst in the game. Usually this is why I will not shoot some screenshots with a lot of trees in Cataclysm or prior areas. They can be a real detriment to my shots, and in a lot of cases I end up deleting a shot because of them.
In Mists of Pandaria, however, this has changed dramatically. Trees in MoP are more realistic then they have ever been in World of Warcraft. The detail on the leaves and branches is phenomenal for a game, and I am very impressed with the development and how far Blizzard has come in all aspects of the game with Pandaria.
Let's talk about the tech -- the graphics hardware and the game settings -- behind your HD shots.
Graphics settings and hardware play a vital part in how my images turn out. I run all of my WoW settings on Ultra.
Surprisingly, I don't have the latest and greatest graphics card. I am using a GeForce GTX 660 Ti graphics card, which is still more than enough for max performance and high-quality graphics. I use this paired with a monitor at 1920 x 1200 resolution.
And you've discovered quite a few console commands that increase the beauty of screenshots, isn't that right?
Let's be honest, these commands have been around for a long time! These are commands that any player can type in to the WoW chat box and they can help a lot with things like making the foliage stand out more, extending view distance so I can see further, and even changing the density of the clouds in the sky.
These commands can be found on my website on the Console Commands page. Keep in mind I only listed the ones I use.
Do you spend time specifically scouting for potential screenshots, or do you shoot more serendipitously as you come across places in game?
I usually take screenshots as I am leveling toons or flying around doing things throughout the world. Sometimes in the evenings I will take time to scout for places specifically for my Instagram, because people are hungry for more images and always asking for more! I want to keep them happy, but at the same time I want to maintain a quality collection of images without rushing and forgetting about quality rather than quantity.
What qualities do you look for when composing a screenshot in WoW?
I am pretty picky when it comes to small details in my shots, as most photographers and designers are. I pay close attention to lighting, color and point of view when capturing a shot. I also look at the trees and buildings to see how "rough" the edges are, such as leaves or the edge of a building surface, because this greatly effects the quality of a shot.
I do not enhance my images at all or smooth any edges, to make it appear as if it were really like that in game. All of my images are as-is before and after I share them on my website.
It's an incredible start for WoWScapes. Where is the project headed? Do you have any plans to expand or monetize the project, or is this simply something you see humming along happily as long as you enjoy it and World of Warcraft?
As of right now I make absolutely no revenue from WoWScapes, and I have no money invested in the project, only time. I do this completely out of enjoyment of both the game and photography in my spare time.
I am always trying to think of new ideas for the site, such as maybe cropping the images so people can use them as phone wallpapers. But I am not sure if the demand is there for me to sink time into that idea. Overall, I am enjoying this project, and that is why I do it
Tell us about your photography hobby. What do you like to shoot?
I started out shooting events for family and friends, and then it took off from there. I enjoy shooting anything I feel would make a lasting impression, and I like capturing emotions of people because a photo like that can tell a really good story.
As an example, I had the camera out at a Labor Day party a few years back and caught my little cousin splashing at the end of a Slip'N Slide. That one, I submitted to our local paper for a photo contest and ended up winning. Seeing my photo in color on the front page of our county newspaper sent a chill up my spine and drove me deeper into my passion for photography.
Is there an artistic angle to what you do professionally, as well?
I wouldn't say that I am entirely in the creative field in real life. I do freelance web design and marketing for a variety of companies. So I guess there is an aspect of creativity in that graphics and functionality have to come together to make a great site and public image for a company. I also do a lot of IT support as part of all of that, so really it often feels more technical than creative. That's part of why I love photography and graphics so much!
Note: Images in this article are cropped versions of the complete HD wallpapers. For Jeremy's complete HD visions of Azeroth, visit WoWScapes.
"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn), or a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.