Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Lich King and the Alpha Map

Last week I posted pictures of each of the world maps showing the changes with each expansion. (By the way, the source for the Wrath of the Lich King Map is the Artwork on the Official Expansion Website.)

Then keen eyes at WoWInsider noticed changes to the continents. (Check out their post to see the outlined comparison.) Next, a few other sites around the world picked up the link and little ol' CasualWoW was visited by thousands of readers who wanted to see the map comparison.

But some astute responses to those links recognized that the differences resembled the old Alpha Map of WoW. (Examples in the Insider comments.)

So, let's see how those maps compare (please ignore the color change in the Burning Crusade iteration, that's due to my system):

The Eastern Kingdoms:


The end result indicates that those readers were right. The Wrath of the Lich King map is a modification of the Alpha map and not the Burning Crusade map. (I would particularly note the penciled in mountain ridges.)

So is it just the result of sloppy map making... the old copy/paste mistake? Or could it actually be insight into future content? I think it's a both. Here's why:

It's a mistake:
  • I haven't read a single Wrath of the Lich King Preview that mentions any new areas except within Northrend.
  • If it's related to new content, all the edits should be adds. However, there are two Kalimdor bumps that are missing (~Silithus & ~Stonetalon areas).
  • One commenter on the WoW Insider post identified the two islands by Stranglethorn Vale as joke islands - one named "Gillijim's Isle."
  • Blizzard does not give a lot of attention to keeping maps up to date.
    Even today if you visit the official World of Warcraft website to see map information you'll see the old map.

  • And I mean the old old map. It's the Alpha Map the commenters pointed out in the WoW Insider post comments.... still on the official website. Take a look:

    Similarly, 7 months after the release of the Burning Crusade expansion, the official flash map site still says, "This map hasn't been updated for the Burning Crusade. We hope to update it soon."
    So I feel confident in saying that keeping-up-to-date-maps has not been a Blizzard priority.

    "Hey, intern-in-charge-of-map-making..."
    "Yes, sir, Mr. senior Blizzard employee?"
    "After you make the Lich King map just go ahead and load that baby onto the website."
    "Don't you want to check it first? I mean it's the same map they're going to use at Blizzcon?"
    "No, no, young intern, I'm sure it's fine as long as it has the new areas from the Burning Crusade and the Lich King expansions. No quality checking needed. If anybody has a problem, we'll just call it an 'artist's rendition.'"

    Copy/Paste issue aside, it may still relate to unreleased content:
    ... just much later than Lich King.

    If this were Lich King content the conversation would have gone like this:

    "Hey intern-in-charge-of-map-making..."
    "Yes, sir, Mr. senior Blizzard employee?"
    "When you make the Lich King map, save yourself some time by updating the Alpha map instead of the Burning Crusade map. Then you won't have to add back in all those pesky new islands and shorelines, which we totally intend on releasing on or before the Lich King expansion."

    Unlikely, but some of those Alpha Map features do look like they're part of the lore, particularly the islands.

    Blizzplanet discusses the Islands on the map using information they learned from Warcraft Role Playing books like Warcraft Lands Of Mystery.

    Another BlizzPlanet post has a screencaptured map from the behind the scenes DVD:

    The World of Warcraft Collector's Edition Behind the Scenes DVD shows within the Art and Design section, a series of slideshows while the Developers talked about their work.

    And in one screen shot?.... a map. Check out their post to see it. Note - There are significant areas in their map (aka Undermine) that will likely show up in much later expansions. However, you do see some less significant areas, such as the small islands off of Stranglethorn Vale that might show up in future content, as Northrend apparently will.

    For a map that shows these smaller islands in more detail check out wowwiki's South Seas map; just make sure you compare it to the the map of the joke islands.


    Callil said...

    Great summary, its a little surprising how little attention blizzard pays to its maps. But i guess they're doing the right thing, I mean I never noticed anything lol.

    Leiandra said...

    Excellent point on the "no old world content" comment. While it's interesting to speculate, even if they were making changes, their comments would probably be "it's too early to have anything concrete" or something like that. Why do I imagine that in blue text with Nethaera's sig attached?