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Blizzard explains why it took 15 years to add ethnic diversity to World of Warcraft

Fifteen years after launch, World of Warcraft players will finally have the opportunity to create characters whose skin color matches their own.

Blizzard Entertainment shared the new customization options at BlizzCon over the weekend. The overhaul—which affects all World of Warcraft races—will roll out as part of the Shadowlands expansion. Though a welcome change, it begs the question: why did adding ethnic diversity to character creation take over a decade?

Senior producer Michael Bybee attributed the delay to resource allocation. "One of the things that's just a reality of making video games is we have to figure out exactly where we spend our resources," Bybee divulged. "We have time that we can spend on characters and art, and we have to make decisions about that."

"What we really didn't want to do is just slap a new skin color on there and say: 'Yep, done, we've got diversity.' Instead what we're doing is we're actually remodeling the faces of these characters to match what might actually make sense for that particular ethnic background. Which takes time – but we wanted to do it right. The biggest piece there is we wanted to make sure this actually made sense in our game."

Lead gameplay engineer Patrick Magruder confirmed Bybee's explanation. "[We're] recompositing the faces so they reflect the ethnicities. And it's not just for humans: it's for all of the races. We're adding customization choices across the board. The amount of art- it's just amazing. This is actually, frankly, one of my favorite features I'm looking forward to. I'm so, so happy we're putting this in and people are finally able to say, 'That's me,' in the game."

Blizzard unveiled World of Warcraft: Shadowlands during the convention. As the name suggests, Shadowlands will transport players to the land of the dead where "an ancient force of death threatens to break its bonds and unravel reality." The expansion will release sometime next year.