The text that made up my Interesting 08 talk ‘Brave n00b World’ was part of a much longer document that I’ve been working on for a while. I’m not sure it’s ready for primetime—I’m not sure it’s ready for anything—but to catch the tide of interest in the video, here’s the first part of it. This one repeats a lot of the material in the talk but bear with me: it gets better, and there’s a lot of new stuff still to come.
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I have spent the last few months on sabbatical, visiting a persistent fantasy world known as ‘Of Warcraft’. During this time I have made some preliminary observations about the nature of the world, which I am going to publish here in a series of short papers. It is my hope that this work may lead to further examination of this curious habitat, and the foundation of the academic field of Azerothian Studies, with a nice chair and honorarium for myself, &tc. &tc.
BRAVE N00B WORLD
A PRELIMINARY SCIENTIFIC REPORT IN SEVERAL PARTS
The Physical World of Warcraft
The world of Warcraft, called Azeroth by those of its inhabitants who care about such things, is supposedly one of a handful of small spatial bodies in an area of space referred to as the Great Dark. It is comprised of three main landmasses: Kalimdor; the so-far-unexplored Northrend; and the Eastern Kingdoms. This consists of two continents, Lordaeron and Azeroth, the latter of which is made up of two countries: Khaz Modan and Azeroth. This confusing situation is analogous to the continent of America, which consists of the regions of South America, Central America and North America, the latter of which contains the country usually called America. One might think this indicates that there may be other interesting parallels between Azeroth and Earth. One would be mistaken.
Even though it has an advanced civilization capable of creating flying machines and an astonishingly advanced postal service—of which more later—Azeroth has no local system of measurement. The idea of lengths or distances are alien to its inhabitants, which makes them annoyingly bad at giving directions. Occasionally ‘yards’ are mentioned but nobody can ever point at an item or a distance in the world and say that it is N yards long; and there is no way of knowing if this ‘yard’ is equivalent in any way to the terrestrial yard.
Despite all this, it is still possible to determine the size of the World of Warcraft with a reasonable degree of accuracy.
The longest straight, flat line that an adult human can walk in Azeroth without being interrupted by obstacles, mobs or the Horde stretches from the eastern end of the north parapet of the bridge into Westfall, across Elwynn Forest to the southernmost of the Three Corners in Lakeshire. An adult human walking at a steady pace will cover this distance in 18 minutes and 15 seconds. Humans walk at an average speed of 5.6 kilometres (3.5 miles) per hour, and therefore this route is roughly 1.7 kms (1.05 miles) long.
Extrapolating this to the whole of the Eastern Kingdoms, and using the best maps available, the continent is 5.8 kms by 14.25 kms (3.6 x 8.85 miles) and Kalimdor is Kalimdor is 7.3 kms x 14.75 kms. Taken together, the two main continents have a combined area of approximately 113 square kilometres. In terrestrial terms that’s about the same size as the city of Newcastle, or the London Borough of Hillingdon.
And if we assume that the world-maps produced by Blizzard Entertainment show approximately the entire surface area of Azeroth then we can wrap it around an imaginary sphere and calculate the diameter of the hypothetical ‘planetoid’ of Azeroth at 12 kilometres.
To a subjective observer, gravity on Azeroth seems to be lower than on Earth. Once again it’s hard to given an exact measurement, but given the existence of giants (whose hipbones would shatter as soon as they took a step under terrestrial gravity), plus the fact that a typical adult human can make a standing jump approximately 90% of their height into the air, and most adult humanoids can not only survive a fall of over fifty metres but can land on their feet and walk away, it appears to be less than 1G. This is not quite as expected: though small celestial bodies typically have low gravity, for a planetoid of the size of Azeroth one would expect to see gravity of about 0.003 m/s or, in the vernacular, buggerall.
We can calculate Azeroth’s gravity to a reasonable degree of precision. As noted, scales of measurement are rare on Azeroth but a chart on page 66 of one of the only authoritative works of Azerothian Studies to date (World of Warcraft Game Manual; Hutchens, Catalan et al, 2005) shows the heights of various humanoid races against a series of regular lines, allowing exact comparisons. Assuming that an average human on Azeroth is the same height as an average human on Earth, then a typical female Tauren is almost exactly two metres tall. We can therefore use a female Tauren—let’s call her Rula—as a measuring-stick to calculate the height of buildings, towers, cliffs and other tall things that can be fallen off.
According to the Rula scale, a drop from a measured point on the flight tower in Thunder Bluff is 33.5 metres. According to tests conducted by myself and members of my research group, the guild <unassigned variable>, it takes a given body—Rula—an average of 2.5 seconds to fall that distance. An equivalent fall under 1G would take 2.61 seconds. We will blame the difference on the approximate nature of the measuring processes and cheap stopwatches, and assume that Azeroth’s gravity is the same as Earth’s.
This means, if Azeroth really is a spherical planetoid with a diameter of 12 kms, that the planet must have an average density of roughly 5850 grammes per cubic centimetre. That makes its average density more than 500 times greater than lead. (I am indebted to Dave Morris for his assistance with these calculations.)
The extreme density of Azeroth would explain why it is impossible to pick up many objects from the ground, including ones that you have just dropped. As soon as a discarded object hits the earth we theorize that it picks up a thin coating of superheavy dirt, making it impossible to lift. Living creatures avoid the effects of this dirt sticking to their extremities by having evolved frictionless pads on the soles of their feet. This observable phenomenon, endemic to Azeroth, is known to virtual-world scientists and animators as ‘foot slide’.
Rare soils that do not possess this extreme density (pieces of coal, elemental earth, Un’goro soil) are prized by the locals and can fetch high prices at the auction houses. In addition, pressure within the superheavy crust of the planetoid causes deposits of comparatively lighter elements like copper, tin, iron, gold and mithril to be extruded through fissures in the surface, where they form regenerating nodes that can be mined. It also explains why, though many locals are seen toiling at rock-faces with picks and shovels, they never seem to get anywhere, and why there are never any root vegetables for sale.
More interestingly, the existence of such a small, dense planet has implications for the relativistic flow of local spacetime. Einstein’s theory of general relativity states that time runs at different speeds under different gravitational strengths, and the Pound-Rebka experiment has proved that clocks at high altitudes run slightly faster than those at low altitudes. On a small body with a very high density these effects will be much more noticeable over comparatively short distances. We believe that these effects of time-dilation and compression can explain the well-known Azeroth temporal phenomenon of ‘lag’, although we are trying to form a theoretical model to show how zeppelins can cross an ocean in the time it takes to draw a line across a map.
However, all this assumes that Azeroth is a standard astronomical body, and it isn’t. Despite the existence of in-world globes depicting its surface as a sphere, and that anyone standing at the Black Temple in Outland can see a small round planet in the sky that appears to be Azeroth, the world of Warcraft is in fact flat. There is no visible curvature of the world, which is unusual given its small size. Stars do not move across the night sky, indicating that Azeroth is static in relation to the rest of its universe. What’s more, dawn happens simultaneously wherever the observer is in the world, and sunset works the same way. Ergo it’s flat, albeit populated by a number of misguided ’round-earthers’. Berks.
Conclusive proof on the matter comes from the research of the Canadian Dr T. Paypayaso (I’m assuming from the quality of his research that he has a PhD, plus frankly they’re easier to get hold of than parking tickets these days), who has demonstrated by swimming to its edge and jumping around like a prat that Azeroth is (a) flat, (b) finite and (c) rectangular.
I will examine the implications of this extraordinary discovery in my next post in this series. Meanwhile I need your essays, a thousand words on ‘How can Azeroth be said to have a food chain when nothing ever eats anything else?’ on my desk by Thursday.