James Wallis levels with you

n00b World Reorder, part 2

(This is a continuation of the essay started here and synopsised on video here.)

I note that my previous post has sparked some academic debate in certain circles relating to the validity of my research techniques and data. Therefore before we embark into a new area of discussion, I must address some of the comments addressed to my previous data. Specifically these relate to two areas: (1) is Azeroth, the World of Warcraft, spherical or flat? And (2) if it’s spherical, how can we accurately gauge how large a sphere it is?

To address point (2) first: there are two existing illustrations of Azeroth as a sphere: the globes that can be seen at various locations in the World of Warcraft, including in Dire Maul and Moonglade:

and the view of a planet assumed to be Azeroth that can be seen from Shadowmoon Valley in Outland:

...or is it?

Both give an equivalent view of Azeroth-as-sphere: the known continents occupy a roughly 180-degree arc of the surface, with the remaining area (in the Moonglade globe) filled with ocean and occasional small islands. That is the premise that underlay my initial observations and measurements.

But all this is moot. Other empirical evidence demonstrates clearly that the world of Azeroth is flat, the maps and globes are wrong, and the view from Shadowmoon Valley is an optical illusion. To illustrate this, here is a picture of a troll standing on a thin pathway that divides the Great Sea from the edge of the world. If the existing maps of the World of Warcraft are to be believed, this should be somewhere off the eastern coast of Dustswallow Marsh, between Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms, and well south of the Maelstrom.

Since no sphere can have an edge with an apparently bottomless drop, this means the World of Warcraft is fucking flat, all right?

The pathway at the edge of the world shown above does not run around the entire perimeter of the world or even around Kalimdor, or we could have used the walking-measure described in part 1 to work out the size of the rectangle around the continent. But from visual observation, we have to report that Azeroth seems to exist on the end of a very tall pillar; possibly two or even three very tall pillars, one for each continent. In other words, please disregard pretty much everything I wrote in Part 1 because it’s balls.

We can make no firm statements about the length or breadth of the World of Warcraft, or its density, which leaves too many variables unknown to calculate the height of these pillars. We are not sure why the sea doesn’t fall through the side of the pillar, since it does not seem to be solid. We are also not sure what the bottom of the pillar is resting on, but it may well be a turtle. This is all so improbable that you should ignore the last three sentences of this paragraph, including this one.

However, we still have to accept that Azeroth (a) is flat, (b) is quite small, and (c) does not rotate relative to the stars around it. Point (d) is that its sun and moon behave in a manner that makes no gravitational sense. Azeroth has a single sun that rises in the north-west and sets some hours later, also in the north-west. Shadows cast by it point persistently south-east, though this does not seem to affect vegetation that grows in this perpetual shade. Azeroth also has a single moon, which also rises in the north-west and sets in the north-west. If it has phases and eclipses then none have been reported.

It is hard to explain this movement of Azeroth’s celestial bodies unless we assume that they are acting under the influence of gravity itself—rising above the horizon, reaching a zenith, and falling back below the horizon, where something reverses their momentum and propels them back upwards, once every day. Our personal theory is that beneath the level of the horizon is a very large giant juggling very slowly, but we have no hard evidence to support this.

(The cosmic physicist Doctor Myles Corcoran suggests that Azeroth could be an Alderson Disk, a large or infinite plane with holes of sufficient size through which the sun and moon oscillate back and forth endlessly. This implies two things: that at some point the plane of Azeroth, if such it is, loses its atmosphere and becomes frictionless vacuum; and the deity, intelligent designer(s), Old Gods, Titans or whatever other beings may have been involved in the creation of Azeroth are massive SF geeks. Frankly we prefer our theory with the giant.)

Despite the comparatively low surface gravity, it is clear that the atmosphere of Azeroth is much thicker than Earth’s. Without this density of gas the various giant insects and spiders would not be able to breathe, and the dragons, wyverns, hippogriffs, other large flying creatures and surprisingly small zeppelins would never get airborne, let alone carry large passengers. The ratio of gases in the atmosphere is unclear: the same flame that can set a massive stone creature or water elemental ablaze in an instant is unable to make the slightest impact on a tree, wooden building or field of dry grass. Ordinary fires will also burn underwater, which implies something very interesting but I’m not sure what.

The apparent density of the atmosphere also explains one of Azeroth’s more puzzling features: the fact that it is difficult to see clearly for more than a few hundred metres in any direction. While visibility over short distances is clear, large objects such as buildings and geographical features are either indistinct or completely invisible at distances of more than a few hundred metres. At closer range objects, mostly other living beings, come into sharper relief as the viewer approaches in a manner that suggests that either every inhabitant of Azeroth is strongly myopic, or there is something in the air that causes this effect. I will return to this subject in the third part of this paper, on the ecology of Azeroth.

Meanwhile my esteemed colleague Professor Sulka Haro of the University of Habbo has observed that the majority of the zones of Azeroth have no wind. In fact only one zone experiences wind, the desert region Tanaris, and that only sporadically, which may be due to factors other than climate. This must indicate, he hypothesises, that there is absolute thermic entropy in Azeroth. This is supported by the fact the lava one sees coming out of the volcanoes is so that characters can could safely walk on it (though this may be an artefact of the frictionless pads on their feet—see above). It may also go some way to explain how zones of intense volcanic activity can sit a few hundred metres from zones of perpetual snow without the former turning the latter to slush.

(Prof. Haro expands his thesis to cover insect life—”I haven’t seen any pollinators around, yet people are able to farm. The Azerothians crop must hence all be self-pollinating. But how is this, with no wind? Most baffling”—and the small animal life—“I’ve also come to the conclusion that the Azerothian rabbits are either herbivores that reproduce by seeds, or are parasites” but here we begin to impinge on the subject of the third part of this paper, the ecology of Azeroth, and we should hold back to let your minds digest the meat of this instalment, in much the way that the stomachs of WoW’s wildlife don’t.)

I am disappointed at the small number of essays I have received so far. More application and less fieldwork, class!

(Part 3 of the ‘n00b World Reorder’ series is now online here.)

Categorised as: fiction | game design | geophysics | mmorpg | Uncategorized | world of warcraft


  1. […] (You can find part 2 of this essay here.) […]

  2. Peter K. says:

    I don’t know much about Azeroth except what you’ve written, but the details mentioned suggest a couple other possibilities that were not mentioned. Unfortunately my physics is poor enough to fail at evaluating the validity of these ideas, but maybe your team will have better luck

    1) Bobbing sun and moon – An alternate hypothesis is that the sun and moon orbit a mutual center of gravity somewhere between them, circling each other like two ninjas looking for a weak spot. Azeroth orbits further and is tidally locked with regard to their center of gravity, but it’s locked at an angle such that the two celestial bodies only come over the horizon throughout part of their mutual orbit.

    But Azeroth can’t orbit because that would mean the stars in the sky should gradually move though. My only response to this would be to postulate the existence of some sort of star-speckled celestial sphere (ie. Dyson sphere) with a rate of spin matching Azeroth’s own. Or simply to suggest that Azeroth’s orbit is a very slow one (though this probably wouldn’t mesh with conventional understandings of planetary orbital mechanics) and the stars simply haven’t moved noticeably in the time-frame of the game.

    2) Sphericality – If the bounds of Azeroth are comprised of an uncrossable rectangular wall, then there’s not much I can do to defend the position of the “round Azeroth” berks. The appearance of the sun and moon also tend to argue for a flat world pretty strongly.

    But if these obstacle is overlooked there is one possible route of apology for the round world theory (or at least a slightly round world): The bending of light.

    First of all there’s sheer gravity. Can’t remember how dense you need to be to form a black hole, but dense enough and light tend to bend a bit more near an object. This bending of light along paths more closely parallel to the world’s surface might assist the optical illusion that the world is flat when it is in fact round.

    Also, if the atmosphere is so noticeably thicker near the surface of the planet then light might bend differently than at higher altitudes vs. lower ones. This unusual bending of light, combined with unusual optical density of the atmosphere might produce odd distorting effects that might augment the “flat world” perception.

    Again though: This is all armchair speculation on my part. I’d be interested to hear how it stacks up against empirical observation and experimentation.

  3. Polivn says:

    So using the assumption that we are relatively certain of the dimensions of earth and a human being living upon it, and that the “measurements” provided by the walk through Elwynn, we can graphically represent the planets and occupants.

    Here is a image of Earth to Azeroth:

    And here is one showing a average human female to the “Rula” female tauren:


  4. Brian says:

    Interesting continued work, however, a couple of points:

    First off, Tanaris is not the only area with wind. The depressing and horrible place known as Desolace has howling winds that can be very distracting. There are also other areas where flags can be seen to move without any motive force, this may be a kind of wind that only affects patterned fabric of some kind?

    It should also be noted that in various places lava appears to be perfectly safe to walk on, but a metre away the lava may be extremely harmful.

  5. […] физический анализ мира Азерот и выложил его в свой блог, по его подсчётам площадь мира World of Warcraft включающий в […]

  6. Solidstate says:

    @Peter K., if you’re interested in reading an excellent discussion of the physical and optical effects of a high-gravity planet, you should read “A Mission of Gravity” (

    @Brian, good catch about Desolace. Another area with frequent winds is the desert area of Silithus, as seen in the many small whirlewinds that can be seen.

    Finally, I have frequently noticed my robes flapping in the wind caused by the movement of my flying mount (or flying taxi in Azeroth) through the air.

  7. james says:

    Nobody’s disputing that there’s air, Solidstate, but the passage of a winged manticore through it will set up turbulence that would cause robes to flap.

    Brian, I’ve never experienced howling winds in Desolace but then I spend as little time as possible in that godsforsaken realm as possible. I personally believe that these sporadic and locatised ‘winds’ can be explained by a local biological phenomenon which I will describe once I’ve kicked part 3 into shape. I don’t want to give too much away, so for now I’ll just say “airborne symbiotic microplankton mating-frenzy” and leave it at that.

  8. Cliff says:

    The best theory I can offer in regards to the rising/setting sun and moon is that those celestial bodies orbit each other, far off from where Azeroth lies stationary, positioned at the edge of their rotation. This would give the impression that the sun and the moon are just bobbing up and down when, in fact, they are in a circular orbit.

    I don’t believe that Azeroth’s moon orbits Azeroth at all, but may just merely be claimed by it’s inhabitants becuase of its proximity, and Night Elf beliefs.

  9. Enade says:

    lol If there is no wind where do all the Wind Elementals come from? and the shaman’s Air Totems would be completely null and void as well.

    Blade’s Edge
    Human Mage

  10. Stefan Persson says:

    I have a theory regarding the sun rising and setting both in the north-west.

    As you have stated in this research document, Azeroth is placed upon giant pillars. What are these pillars made of? My theory is that Azeroth is placed upon giant pillars made of *jelly*, that wiggle back and forth, very, very slowly, but still keeping gravity fully functional.

    However, this leaves many questions regarding the moon, but I believe to have a valid hypothesis. How does the moon rise and set in the very same location as the sun?
    Well, my theory is as following:
    When Azeroth wiggles away from the sun, the pillars hit a switch, causing the sun (Which in fact is a giant light bulb) to turn off. When Azeroth wiggles back, the sun has become a moon. Why the moon still emits a weak light, I can not yet explain, but it might have to do with backup energy stored in giant capacitors, slowly leaking power to the moon. After this, Azeroth once again wiggles and hits the switch, causing the sun to light up again, and repeat.

  11. William Holmes says:

    Although a nice theory Stefan, unfortunately it fails when you consider that at certain times of day the full moon can be seen quite clearly almost directly alongside the sun.

    This observation also breaks Cliff’s theory.

    As, however, the Moon is apparantly the phsyical incarnation of the Goddess Elune, it seems entirely possible that it obeys no known physical laws and simply bums around the sky at the whim of it’s female personality. This could explain why it sometimes appears next to the sun, it’s probably that time of the month and Elune just wants to piss everyone off by acting stupid.

    Wind Elementals, also being supernatural creatures, clearly create their own wind around them, and thus do not require wind to be there in the first place to form. Possibly they’re even a result of these airborne symbiotic microplankton James will explain in part 3.

  12. wolfman says:

    Plants don’t need wind to self pollinate. If it needs wind, it’s wind-pollination (and thus it’s cross-pollinating with other plants), not self-pollination (which involves no genetic exchange with any other plants).

    Note also that all those plants could simply be clonal colonies, that is a group of genetically identical plants that spread by vegetative reproduction and simply pop off junior versions of themselves by laying out runners (underground roots) and budding up new versions of themselves further away from the main plant (Bamboo can do this).

    This means that clones in the shade would be supplied with food by attached clones in the sun. The advantage to the sunbathing clones could be mineral deposits absorbed by the shaded clones that are passed back along the clonal connections to the sunny clones.

  13. wolfman says:

    Sigh, typo: for “underground roots” read “underground stems”. Sorry. =(

  14. james says:

    William–can the sun and the moon be seen at the same time in Azeroth? Screenshot?

    Wolfman: interesting points. Clonal colonies and/or underground stem-systems would explain why the vegetation is so similar. Do you have any answers as to why even the deciduous trees appear to be evergreen, and why so many plants are hexagonal?

  15. xd says:

    Have you ever considered the possibility of a the world being in two separate land masses sides with a black hole at their joining section. The highly dense material at the core of the planet could have unusual properties that resists absorbtion by the black hole. In theory someone viewing from space would indeed get the warped impression that the planet is round due to the distortion caused by the black hole.

    Not only that, this theory would explain why a zepplin can travel so quickly between the two sides of the world and explain a lot of how magic and science can operate on the same world.

    I’d like to point you to the reference material of Piers Anthony in the Apprentice adept series of novels that goes into more detail on how this time of planet could have evolved.

  16. Eleanor says:

    Regarding the ecological dilemma of crop propagation, I propose the hypothesis that the druids of the Cenarion Circle play a much greater role in botanical stewardship than previously recognised.

    To wit, those druids who don’t turn into bears or trees(1) are clearly responsible for keeping Azerothian flora happily pollinated by means of their ability to control Insect Swarms. This weighty responsibility would also explain their near-total absence from social activities and the belief held by many Azerothians that these particular kinds of druids /don’t actually exist/.

    1 – which is, itself, a biological issue that merits some analysis – I’m uncertain of how elves and cowpeople viably sustain themselves via photosynthesis. I realise that many elves display green hair and skin pigmentation indicative of the presence of chlorophyll, but the Tauren are largely brown, so lord knows how they’re not all starving to death.

  17. InspiredOgre says:

    I belive cosmic radiation is the key to a great many of our questions, please refer to my paper, published below under the auspices of the Azerothian Science Society.

  18. wolfman says:

    Quote: “Do you have any answers as to why even the deciduous trees appear to be evergreen, and why so many plants are hexagonal?”

    1) Just because they LOOK like deciduous species of tree doesn’t mean they actually are deciduous species. There are types of grass (on earth) that have two almost identical subspecies, but each subspecies uses a completely different type of photosynthesis. Besides, any passing resemblance to known deciduous plants on earth is probably incidental. Also, they might simply have evolved to lose their deciduousness (it’s a response to changing seasons and temperatures. I’m assuming there are no major changes in climate or precipitation. Losing all your leaves and then growing them back again is energetically expensive,so why do it if you don’t have to).

    2) Adaptation to local predation/browsing? Or it could be evidence of changes to structural enhancments to deal with different gravity levels. It could simply be selective breeding by geometry obsessed druids. =)

  19. LittleRickyFeynman says:

    Perhaps the biggest supposition to all this is that Azeroth exists within the same time-space dimension as our Earth. Some superstring theories suggest that alternate dimensions may exist, possibly up to 19. A particular combination of dimensions may cause Newtonian AND Einsteinian physics to be nonapplicable.

    Then there is the radical quantum theory of multiple realities, i.e., that each change of state in our world causes the creation of a new universe. It is entirely possible for Azeroth to inhabit one of these universes in which physics, on the surface, may seem similar to those in our own but differ radically in detail.

    The existence of other “reality doors,” such as Second Life, etc., lends strong support to this theory. If one takes a broader look at the history of the discovery of these alternate universes, one can extrapolate a progression of sophistication. The first alternate realities discovered in the 1970s by many of our esteemed colleagues were very simplistic compared to our own. Universes in which monocolored parallelogram entities existed in an apparent vast ether, some consisting of a mere two dimensions.

    Later, in the 1980s, advances in our own technology allowed us to see more complex alternate realities, but still simplistic to our own. The majority of universes discovered during that period consisted of realities in which the entire electromagnetic spectra could be expressed as 256 discreet wavelenghths, roughly paralleling our own human visible spectrum in gamut. But these realities still appeared roughly two-dimensional, though many could be likened to Mobius strips where one dimension appeared infinite.

    The 1990s saw a vast rise in technology and, thus, more sophisticated scientific instruments to discover more sophisticated realities, with three and four dimensions and EM spectrum that could be quantified into 16 and then 32 million discreet wavelengths–oddly, again paralleling basically our human visible spectra.

    So we can see this definite progression of discovery of more sophisticated realities, year after year, as technology allows us greater access to both our own reality and others. No longer are swarms of scientists studying realities where large, roughly ape-like creatures exist in constant struggle with short, stout hominids for possession of hominid females. Instead, we find much more sophisticated realities such as Azeroth, which appear more and more like our own and yet different. The aforementioned “Second Life” universe appears an almost exact copy of our reality, startlingly like our own, and yet the “human” inhabitants there are capable of self-sustained flight, are almost always comely in appearance, and are much more promiscuous than any human in our current universe.

    Only the advancement of time, more sophisticated instruments, and continued scientific research–made much more collaborative via the Internet–will tell what discovered realities lie ahead.

  20. […] as “of Warcraft”. Here we move on from geophysics to study the ecology. Part 1 and Part 2 of the series are still […]

  21. […] known as ‘of Warcraft’. This will probably be gibberish unless you have read part 1, part 2 and part 3 […]

  22. Abranca says:

    I observed that the seas of Azeroth know no tides. The absence of tidal changes means that the moon of Azeroth, no matter if it rotates around the world or hops up and down, has apparently no mass. (Or, maybe, it might have a very limited mass negligible compared to Azeroths strong density and extraordinary gravity, so it causes no visible tidal changes.) If the moon has no mass, its movements can not be explained by gravity, nor by a juggling giant.

    Also, the seas have no currents. On Earth the sea currents are mainly powered by the Earth’s rotation (if I am correct, that is). Seen from the North Pole, our globe rotates counter-clockwise. This makes the fluid oceans around the equator moving clockwise. (Various patterns in sea currents are caused by the continents blocking a simple clockwise equatorial drift.) As Azeroth has no currents, that means it does not rotate. One more circumstantial piece of evidence to suggest Azeroth is flat.

    I am amazed beings on Azeroth can jump out of the water while swimming, in fact lifting their entire body about a feet above the water surface. I know of no being not 100% adapted to an aquatic life that can do this on Earth. Dolhpins can, sea lions can, but even for Michael Phelps this seems a bridge too far. What is the explanation for this phenomena?

  23. Вот что-то подобное у меня уже месяц из головы не выходит!

  24. Ed says:

    The reason for this is because the game masters could not keep such a huge area on a single server. So in game the world is not technicly round, or even complete. But Lore-wise it would still be round, and obviously complete.

  25. Jane says:

    These theories seem to be with intelligible thought and consideration behind them.

    However, we must not forget that Azeroth was made by designers using a computer, and that Azeroth is nothing more than a fantasy world.
    Azeroth is flat because the designers made it flat. They made it flat because they might not have had the time or resource to make an expansive ocean. Because what player would want to spend their time trying to cross the ocean instead of taking a boat/Zepplin?
    As for stone/water elementals being set ablaze, and flammable inanimate objects being unaffected, that’s another designer thing. In Final Fantasy Unlimited anime, the waters of Wonderland have an amount of flammable mineral in them, causing the water to be flammable. This could be used for the normally flammable things found on earth, there could be certain minerals in Azeroth that dramatically affect the flammability of things.
    Though I find it hard to believe that there could be so many different alternate realities/universes that are derivatives or coexistences of Earth, I must admit that I’ve been wrong before and think that such a thing just might be able to exist.

  26. CHRIS says:

    in azeroth the bending of light is not creating an optical ilusion. i dc/ed my self and atm is runing from northerned to as far south as i could and fell into a giant whole were the malstrom was suposed to exist i am atm below kalmindor and if infact was a ilusion i should be on the contenet and not below it as i am. it apears that on my charicter once below it there is no friction slowing my decent for i have been falling in a stright path to kalimdor and about in a 45 degree angle. from gravity that exsist below azeroth. wich is then implying that there is a large body of mass below azeroth that carys most of the gravity for such a thin world.

    AND we under stand its just a game but it is very interesting trying to creat some scientific philosithy for somthing fake as it is and creat an understanding of how the game runs in uision with the laws of our phisic’s

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