Azeroth: A Small Problem

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I realize this is probably already known but Blizzard has stated several times over the years that World of Warcraft's version of Azeroth is not "drawn to scale". It should technically take weeks at the earliest to travel through the barrens, for instance.
This is the best General forum post I have ever read.
Hold on just a second. who says the laws of physics in Azeroth work the same as in Earth? For all we know, it could rain upwards somewhere. It's a game. While an entertaining exercise, trying to understand the physics of a place that was never meant to have Earth-like properties is an exercise in futility.

It was a nice read though.
I make nautical charts for a living. I appreciate you acknowledging that any projection distorts the area projected. The maps we have seen (you call them globes, but they are flat circular maps) are much like some very ancient maps we have that are mostly guesswork or intended to display conceptually what is not known factually.

I've often pondered the size of Azeroth based on how fast I can run a zone, but never bothered with the math. I was a physics undergrad, so I suppose this is a common affliction.

If we accept that the maps we have seen are conceptual, and therefore not properly to scale, the world can be taken to be larger. If the world really only has a circumference of 50 miles, it makes much of the nautical lore farcical. A strong swimmer could swim from Northrend to the Eastern Kingdoms.

After the First War, the humans of Stormwind fled "across the Great Sea" to Lordaeron. The orcs built a great fleet to follow. We now see that this wasn't a new continent, simply the fastest way for them to move north past the mountains of Khaz Modan. It wasn't until after the Horde was pushed back through the portal and the remainder rounded up and put in camps following the Second War that Thrall led the Horde truly across the Great Sea. This is seen as an impressive voyage, and is tantamount to Columbus' voyage in the history of Azeroth. Columbus' voyage took over 2 months.

Further evidence for the size of the oceans being much greater than the land is that our mounts get fatigued if they fly too far out to sea, but can fly the full length of the continents without issue or landing.

If we assume that the cartographers of Azeroth took some artistic license and emphasized the landmasses that they considered important over the "irrelevant" stretches of water, we can expand the size of the world considerably.

Once a ship pulls away from the pier, it quickly outpaces even an epic mount and you cannot catch it as it heads out to sea. You could attempt to estimate the speed by noting the route, and then timing how long it took to go between two markers. For argument, I will call it roughly double an epic mount once up to sea-speed, or a truly astounding 120 knots under sail. This raises all sorts of concerns about the winds and safety of uncontained flight, and also begs the question of how many of these mounts can maintain the same speed regardless of direction.

Setting those aside, if we concede that the ships do 120 knots, it would take about 15 hours to cross the Atlantic Ocean (~1770 miles). We know that the seas are too large for flying mounts to traverse, and are wide enough that until the Horde had to flee in search of a new home (with success promised by Medivh), no ship had attempted it. If the ship maintained 120 kts for a full month, which is, remember, half the time of Columbus' voyage, the Great Sea would be 86400 nautical miles across. This almost exactly four times the circumference of the earth, and about a quarter of the distance between Earth and the Moon.

This suggests that either the mariners of Azeroth are rather cowardly and lack an explorer's spirit, our estimates are considerably off, our base assumptions are in error, or Azeroth is both smaller than Rhode Island and as large as the Earth/Moon system. Or perhaps, just maybe, speeds and distances in this game are not to scale and are adjusted for playability.

In hindsight, it's probably the latter.
01/11/2011 10:09 PMPosted by Daelyn
I haven't flown Outlands to check, but I'm pretty sure it's about as long as Northrend on each side of the 'triangle' it roughly forms. That would give it a side length of roughly 10 miles and an area (including the bits of twisting nether between the islands of Netherstorm and between Hellfire and the surrounding zones to the north and south) of about 86 sq miles.

This also means that given that the curvature of Outlands is rather slight, Draenor was significantly larger than Azeroth appears to be in-game.


Id suggest that this supports the exaggeration of the land/ocean ration on images of Azeroth. Since orcs seem to show no odd effects due to significant changes in gravity, air pressure, or atmospheric composition, it is safe to assume that Draenor and Azeroth were very similar in all of their physical attributes. We see the orcs come through the Dark Portal in the Black Morass instance, and they show no ill effects as they cross over.
saying you're a physics student is irrelevant, way to brag
I'm suprised nobody has brought zone climate into this yet.
I was just considering alternate ways to attempt to relate these distance to the real world.

Note that it is always midday. There is no night or sleep period. There is no dawn or dusk (except in duskwood, where it is always dusk...). From this, let us assume that we see only 1/3 of the day. Note that his makes warriors run in full plate at the much more reasonable 12 minute mile. Still impressive considering the weight of the armor, but far more reasonable than a 4.2 minute mile.

If we also assume that horses in Azeroth have similar limitations to horses on Earth, a horse can travel 20-30 miles per day, less with a heavy load. Ignoring weight on the assumption that all creatures on Azeroth are insanely buff, we will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume 30 miles per day of travel, which we are calling 8 hours, for an average pace of 3.75mph.

Using the speeds of 451% with your flight bonus, and adjusting it down to a an epic land mount speed of +100, this trip would take 21minutes 46 seconds. Using the assumption that we see only 1/3 of the time in game, this becomes one hour, and our distance becomes 3.75 miles.

Note that 3.75 miles is considerably shorter than the 10 miles you estimated. So making adjustments to approach the real world actually makes Azeroth smaller.

One option is to keep the time compression assumption, but use the speeds reported by GetUnitSpeed. In this case we are going 65mph, but the distance becomes three times as large. This is a far cry from the size of the real world, as a 150 mile circumference is not much different from a 50 mile one when compared to a "correct" answer of 24,900.
How much free time do you have again? Haha I'm kidding. This is really a nice post, but let's all be happy Blizzard didn't make Azeroth to scale. It would take a good hour going from the Trade District to Old Town in Stormwind. Lore Wise, Azeroth is roughly equal to the size of earth. Compressed and game scale ready, its now really damn tiny, but its better that way. Or the Achievement coming down the mountain (Hyjal quests) would take about roughly the same time coming down Mt. Everest, a good week or two. Thatd be scary my friends, quite scary indeed.
It's magic.
Every two months, some individual makes a post like this.

And EVERY TWO MONTHS, some other individual tells them that their calculations are moot because the in-game world is just a microcosm for convenience and not to accurate scale. In lore, the distance between Lordaran's Capital and Booty Bay is the same as the distance between Paris and the tip of South Africa.
01/12/2011 10:20 AMPosted by Sicarus
How much free time do you have again? Haha I'm kidding. This is really a nice post, but let's all be happy Blizzard didn't make Azeroth to scale. It would take a good hour going from the Trade District to Old Town in Stormwind. Lore Wise, Azeroth is roughly equal to the size of earth. Compressed and game scale ready, its now really damn tiny, but its better that way. Or the Achievement coming down the mountain (Hyjal quests) would take about roughly the same time coming down Mt. Everest, a good week or two. Thatd be scary my friends, quite scary indeed.


So very true.

Does anyone remember EQ? I think they added mounts and stuff later, but I didn't play it that long. When it first came out (like 13 years ago!) the world was huge, and you had to walk. If you made the mistake of making your character start on the wrong side of the world from your friends, you got the joy of running for nearly a day of REAL TIME to get to them.

This was not a fun mechanic.

WoW's time/distance compression is far better for playability.
01/12/2011 10:30 AMPosted by Areh
Every two months, some individual makes a post like this.

And EVERY TWO MONTHS, some other individual tells them that their calculations are moot because the in-game world is just a microcosm for convenience and not to accurate scale. In lore, the distance between Lordaran's Capital and Booty Bay is the same as the distance between Paris and the tip of South Africa.


And EVERY TWO MONTHS someone insists new people can't have fun with an old concept because it isn't unique and new?
You must have been really, really bored, lol.

Hold on just a second. who says the laws of physics in Azeroth work the same as in Earth? For all we know, it could rain upwards somewhere. It's a game. While an entertaining exercise, trying to understand the physics of a place that was never meant to have Earth-like properties is an exercise in futility.

Azeroth doesn't necessarily comply with the same physics standards we expect from the real world, but that doesn't mean attempting to understand the physics laws it was designed under a futile.

you call them globes, but they are flat circular maps

I was actually referring to the 3d psuedo-spherical 'globes' present in many titan instances. These are in fact 3 dimensional structures, even if their polygon count is too low to be truly called spheres, so there's little projection distortion compared to a map-style 2d projection.

The again, we also have more issues than just the size inconsistancies. If the world is 50 miles in circumference, there should be close to a 15 degree curvature between IF and SW, which doesn't seem to be the case. Even on the moon, one is capable of seeing the curvature of the horizon. On an 8-mile radius globe, the 'horizon' from a 2-metre tall eye-height would only be about a quarter-kilometre, or somewhere around a sixth of a mile. That's incredibly close, only about 10 seconds of flight time on an epic flying mount, which obviously is not the case.

How much free time do you have again?

It's only the second day of the semester, don't really have enough to keep me busy yet >.>


On a more direct note, it would be interesting to see what the game engine's official meters are for terminal velocity, acceleration while falling, and maybe the yard length of the continents as they exist in-game. Maybe we can summon up Bashiok or something...
01/12/2011 8:26 AMPosted by Elrith
How is this a problem? Seriously, stop patting yourself on the back for this "discovery". The world WoW is based on is in fact a full sized world. Barely anyone would play a game to scale with a real world. It's clear the maps and world is a microcosm of the actual place. It's a condensed and abbreviated experience, akin to a Disney World ride of sorts, designed to be entertaining and immersive. What exactly is the "small problem" here? This forum is killing my soul.


Its not really a problem, just an interesting thought. The title was just an attempt at a pun

01/12/2011 10:09 AMPosted by Välatari
yeah the game world is too small, rpgs should be bigger.


We're not saying that at all, just that if that was the world we all lived (played) in then it would be tiny. And we wanted to find out exactly how tiny which turned out to be the amusing part and why the post was made in the first place. Apparently math and physics can turn some hilarious results :P

01/12/2011 10:39 AMPosted by Daelyn
Maybe we can summon up Bashiok or something...


That would be awesome, to me it would seem that this would be something that would be up his alley :P
Posted by Daelyn
Maybe we can summon up Bashiok or something...


That would be awesome, to me it would seem that this would be something that would be up his alley :P


eh bashiok won't show up, the cm's have more pressing matters to attend to

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