Ever wondered about Overwatch’s new playable character Zarya? Blizzard has revealed that she’s based on one of their own artists, Tamara Bakhlycheva. But who is Tamara? Who is the woman behind the image?
— Sebastien Defrance (@Velvetshadow) March 15, 2015
Tamara has been a 3D artist since 2006, specializing in low-polygon characters with painted textures. It’s a popular look for games that aren't going for a hyper-realistic aesthetic but don’t want to resort to a cartoonish style.
Her work is popular on sites like DeviantArt, CGHub, and Polycount. While Tamara studied art and sculpture in Saint Petersburg’s Art College, she says that she is mostly self-taught in CG graphics, with the help of the Internet and asking other artists for advise. She is known in many of these sites as First Keeper, and has made tutorials of her own, as you can see here.
Tamara has only been working with Blizzard for the past three years, but before that she worked on many PC games for other studios, mostly MMOs.
Physical resemblance aside, Blizzard seems to have also taken her Russian nationality and drawn an otherwise stereotypical character out of Zarya. As the new tank character joining Overwatch, she’s a Russian athlete, purportedly a product of the country's rigorous (80s era?) bodybuilding programs. She is also loyal to her family and country, and raised with a heroic mindset after growing up in a warzone.
It’s certainly fun to know that Zarya is likely based on one of her own creators. In the same way that the real life Tamara is admired for her amazing art skills in real life, Zarya also seems set to impress players when they get the chance to play as her in Overwatch.
Overwatch is planned for release in 2016 on Windows and Mac OS.