Azeroth; Mapping a World

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Maps are bloody Amazing things, allowing everybody from your first explorers who first mapped the worlds continents, to your everyday Joe’s use of a GPS device to map a way to the nearest coffee shop, but what if the map was wrong and in someway completely missed out the large crater in front of you?

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Well that sounds ridiculous in the real world, but nonetheless the general map of the world doesn’t change, more likely than not a new road is built to the coffee shop and the crater is a building site where the old one used to be.

In World of Warcraft, mapping the world of Azeroth is something that was present in the minds of the artists at Blizzard from the offset, with images cropping up in all sorts of art in the ‘Vanilla’ game. From Dwarves and their wooden globes over in Ironforge’s Hall of Explorers, wowscrnshot053010195221to the very logo for World of Warcraft itself featuring a spinning globe of Azeroth. Much later, in the time of the Ulduar patch introduced half way through the Wrath of The Lich King expansion, other globes re-appeared in game.

Featuring as set pieces to the Titan legend and mythology around the curse of flesh that created mortal life on Azeroth, the globe set pieces were used in both the Halls of Lightning dungeon and inside the Ulduar raid instance itself, just before the junction between Kologarn, Iron Council and Algalon the Observer.

Ulduar-Antechamber-hall-to-Planetarium-Azeroth-MaelstromWhy is this a problem you may ask? Why is it that globes introduced that supposedly show the mapping of the world before the curse of flesh would be a bad idea?

Simple. The crater before the coffee shop, or rather the giant series of mistakes in their own timeline as well as obvious flaws for future content, that’s the main reason putting a map you cannot easily change into the game is generally a bad idea.

A foresight that would prevent Blizzard from including Pandaria on the globe for example, which I’m actually fine with, because I don’t think Pandaria was a confirmed decision for a future expansion at that point, and putting it on there would obviously cause hints at what future places there actually could be in the game.

The only confusion I have with the globe just before Algalon’s room is that it doesn’t keep true to the story of how the world was when the Titan’s were last here. Ulduar itself is a Titan built prison to lock away Yog Sarron, one of the planets former inhabitants, way before the Pantheon sent forces to Azeroth, and way before the curse of flesh.

If that IS the case, then why would the globe show a divided world into separate continents? Would it not be correct to assume that the sundering during the War of The Ancients which separated the world into continents (See ‘War of The Ancients’ book by Richard A. Knaak), would actually be hundreds, maybe thousands of years past Ulduar even being built on Azeroth, and way past the Titans departure from the planet after their re-origination, and leaving Ulduar a ruin of it’s former self, and thus allowing for Yog Sarron’s reach to break free of the Titan-made bonds that imprisoned him, allowing him to reach to those around the Storm Peaks such as Thorim, etc who serve him, possessed by his powerful mental control.

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At this point I’ll be honest, my lore is somewhat rusty in places, im sure I’ve made a mistake here or there, a feature of such an immersive array of content which I’m sure you can all forgive, but the real point comes down to mapmaking. I think you’re going to expect me to say it’s bad, or that I don’t like it because of the flaws it uncovers, well actually you’d be wrong in thinking that.

I really appreciate the art that go’s into this game. I feel that it is something that isn’t present, like many things in the other games of the MMORPG genre out there. It’s the mistakes and potential flaws in games, or any fiction that make a world more immersive to play in.

The books bring up fantastic ideas and write them into canon before even thinking about how it would affect the game world, but that is down to creative instincts. Imagine if you sat down and watched the Lord of The Rings films and compared them to the books. I’m pretty sure that your list of differences, albeit present in the exact same story and exact same world, would be completely different and make the list unfathomably large.

I for one love the imperfections in minor details, it allows people like me, who love every single crevice of lore in a topic to go nuts and write articles, make machinima, and draw amazing pieces of artwork. Such amazing works of fan-art and community integration come from World of Warcraft, would it be the same if the story was perfect, and predictable?

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In many ways what I’m trying to say is this; the game world is so immersive, so vast that even those who forge new content for it get confused sometimes. If that’s not a good example of how much time, energy and effort go’s on behind the scenes, then im not sure what would be. The idea that whatever they develop next for the game is completely up in the air, brings excitement and allows people to think and try and guess what’s coming next off of silly things like art assets of globes in old content, and statues of celestial dragons on the walls (Elegon in Ulduar), etc.

 

Warlord’s of Draenor is the next expansion, coming later this year. The expansion focuses on lore that is written in books, present in quest lines, hinted at in main storylines of expansions, but it’s very unlikely it will be anything like is mentioned in those stories. It’s essentially a ‘what-if’ expansion, following the exploits of time travel and Garrosh Hellscream. A simple change here and there makes the timeline different, but only in this now-separate parallel universe. The events that happen cannot, and I repeat that, cannot and will not affect the timeline of the Azeroth and Outland we know in the normal timeline. (This was confirmed on the Q&A section of the Lore panel at Blizzcon 2013)

maxresdefault So, what can we expect? Is there a mythical globe somewhere? Well no, the footage we were shown at Blizzcon 2013 showed off the majority of the areas in Draenor and the over world map, which fits in line with what Draenor looked like before Ner’zhul’s portal devastation during the time of the first War on Azeroth.

The map design fits perfectly with where you would expect the zones to be, many of which similar to how they are in Outland, yet jungle where there is dessert in the future, water where there would be the Twisting Nether, things like that.

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I cannot wait to see which stories and lore the Blizzard team focuses on in each area of the expansion, and for one won’t be disappointed if it’s completely different to how I’ve read or speculated based on in game assets. As long as it’s as compelling and immersive as their past work, which is almost impossible not to achieve with the new technologies and work they are putting in, then I’m pretty sure I will be spending more time logged in and exploring than I will be trying to find a coffee shop in the real world!

 

Thank you kindly for reading my article, if you feel you have anything to add to this discussion, please head over to the forums where we are continuing this and many more topics we write about with you guys.

 

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