Methodical Rigor: Revisiting Valve’s Game Design

In 2012, I broke down Valve’s rendering techniques. Five years later, I’m on an adventure to briefly peel back a few more layers.

DotA2’s Warlock / dA

Illustrative Rendering: Real Recognize Real

Silhouettes tell a story all their own. / dA
Oren-nayar sphere shading —we’ll come back to this. / CU

Color Theory: How It Affects You

Radiant (bottom), Dire (top) / Map
Simple, yet effective. / Them Games
DotA2’s Slardar / dA

Illustrative Rendering: The Confusing Stuff

Starting Dazzle / Andrea Orioli
Finalizing Dazzle / Andrea Orioli

DotA2 Workshop: Know Yourself, Know Your Worth

For the beginner; some advice to get started.
An incredible time-lapse of hair and horns. Professional level.

Dynamic Adaptation Is Necessary

The International 6 / Photo by Daniel Najarian

Coming Up

The capabilities of the tools Valve has given us (for free) are endless. / Animator Steve


  • illustrative rendering is cool, like a cucumber, so don’t sleep on it
  • silhouettes are important; it initializes character identity and branding
  • Valve truly cares about its players; this is evident through foundation-level design philosophy and technique
  • direction is important literally and figuratively
  • color is important, not cheesy; respect it, and utilize its power efficiently
  • Valve uses reflectance models, albedo textures, shading models, and efficient programming to achieve extremely humbling results in design
  • be confident; anyone can create anything with free tools given to us by Valve; utilize them
  • to succeed as a large (immense) video game community, constant change and adaptation is the key to happiness; big up Valve for excellent work



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