The Guild Wars 2 trailer from Axis is an animated painting

Scottish CG studio Axis has created a painterly glimpse into the next instalment of the Guild Wars MMO franchise.


If you're a fan of the Guild Wars game franchise you'll recognise the sweeping brush strokes and visceral animation in the latest game trailer from Glasgow-based Axis.

The CG studio and director Stephen Donnelly have created an intense glimpse into ArenaNet’s massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG), teasing the upcoming Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns.

The franchise has established a strong visual identity through concept art and it is this that proved the inspiration for the Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns trailer.

Axis director Stephen Donnelly worked with the creative team at ArenaNet to explore how to bring the concept art to life in a way that felt like the audience were moving through a three dimensional world filled with bold brush strokes.


“What has made the Guild Wars concept art so incredible over time is its ability to capture the fantasy world’s emotion and dynamic action with as few brush strokes as possible” said Stephen Donnelly. “This illustrative approach has become synonymous with the Guild Wars brand and I wanted to ensure we created a film that people instantly recognised as the Guild Wars style.”

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The trailer begins on black with only a few palette-knife paint strokes describing a fiery dragon’s eye. From here the trailer seamlessly flows through lands and time, shifting perspective, location and travelling in three dimensional space. The sequence unfolds throughout using this blend of visual storytelling and a powerful voice over and soundtrack before finishing on the final rallying cry to the players.


The Axis team built on approaches they had used on other stylised and illustrative projects. The team created 3D characters that were rendered with brush stroke style shaders that not only defined the shape and colour but also broke up the silhouettes creating a much more organic painted feel.


“Creating a 3D dimensional painted feel is not easy.” said Axis executive producer Debbie Ross. “Stephen felt strongly that the film shouldn’t feel like painted textures projected on to three dimensional shapes or 2D artwork split up into layers."

"So the team, led by CG supervisor Drew Robertson, mixed 2D artwork, 2D animation, 3D models, 3D projections and 3D FX to bring Stephen’s vision together. We are very proud of the visually stunning results”

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The trailer was initially embedded at the end of the game’s Living World season 2 finale, where it teased the next chapter in the game’s ongoing saga and set the stage for a formal unveiling of the expansion at PAX South.