Realm and Faction For the sake of this project I used a high-activity Our world is increasingly virtual, a collage of Twitter updates and Facebook statuses, Instagram photos and cellphone images. It allows us to embrace the nontraditional, and, in some cases, be someone completely different. World of Waarcraft (WoW), a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), is one of the places that allows people to be someone else, if only for a few hours while in front of a computer. Players create a character (or ten or twenty, etc.) and explore,
people you will encounter at any given time. The server I played on for this was Kel'Thuzad. Kel'Thuzad is my regular server, where all my characters
group) are located. I choose to eschew
battle, and role-play, crafting their own stories while making friends, enemies, and exploring the
because I knew this one would suit
world of Azeroth: A world of fantasy creatures, large-scale battles, and beautiful scenery—not to
my purposes perfectly. I kept to the
mention hundreds of places to explore and map.
same faction I normally play for much the same reasons: It was a
Like Dennis Wood mapping the real-world Boylan Heights, I undertook the quest of
combination of wanting familiarity
mapping Elwynn Forest, part of the Kingdom of Stormwind and starting area for many players in
while undertaking this project, and
World of Warcraft. In Elwynn Forest, those who choose to play the human race spend the first
locales tend to be more lush with
ten or eleven levels (out of ninety) exploring and getting used to this vast world. But beyond
visually interesting features and
being a low-level player zone, it's also host to Stormwind City: The largest city for Alliance 1
overall less barren. It is also easier
players, and a gathering-area for players of all levels. It also means it's often a host to invasions from the Horde (see footnote 1), large (and often dramatic) chats, and a vast amount of action 1 In WoW you select to play for one of two warring factions: Alliance or Horde.
equivalent zone, Durotar.
at any time of the day. My goal of this project was to capture what life was like for a new player in WoW: That first starting area can make or break one's relationship with the game, his or her character(s), and how he or she decides to play. It can also be a time full of unfortunate deaths, confusion, and getting used to playing a game as a single person in a large player-base that is more often than not in one's face at all times: From constant requests to join a guild, to getting tired of seeing the same quest-givers run you through the â€œnewbieâ€? gauntlet, these ten levels are often a buffer between getting in the game and starting the real fun. This mapping experience was especially raw for me because I never start in Elwynn Forest, preferring non-human raced ingame: Meaning this was the first time I've run these quests in over five years, many of which did not even exist the last time I played. This gave me a unique experience, letting me play as both a seasoned WoW veteran and a confused new-player, getting lost and making mistakes. It also let me reflect on Everything Sings, where Dennis Wood captures everyday expressions in the path of a newspaper boy and the barking of dogs: I sought to do the same thing, but with a digital space. Log in and see:
This map provides an overview of my character's movement path, starting from where my character “spawned” in the north-most area of the world, to the last quest in the completed in the Elwynn Forest starting area (where the dotted line trails off to the far left). Roads are dictated by the darkest gray areas, and the path itself by black dashed lines. Red arrowed lines denote where my character respawned post-character-death as a ghost, and follows through where she met up with her body to become fully corporeal again, so to speak. The yellow dots along the path denote where my character “leveled up” throughout this play-through, and call back to the brief yellow glow that overtakes the character upon reaching a new level.
This map primarily relies on the viewer's ability to associate dashed lined with movement paths already. In the manner we may recognize Elvis by his hair stay in Sean Hall's This Means This This Means That, viewers are assumed to know that these lines denote movement, and that red means death (harkening back to the image of blood, anger, fights) (58). It also relies on the viewer to understand the passing of time as shown through both movement and rewards for going through the game (this being in the form of leveling up). In many ways, it is the most basic way of showing a character passing time, because you see where she is going, where she has been, and where she will be (108).
In your first few levels of WoW, questing will be a vastly important part of the leveling-up process, especially since you cannot access areas such as Dungeons until later levels. Questing is a primarily solo action, and quests are given by questgivers. This map locates every quest-giver in the Elwynn Forest starting area for low-level characters. The size of the circle shows how many quests the one quest-giver has to offer a player: The larger the circle, the more quests throughout the game.
Peter Turchi discussed the concept that maps often contain “Cultural Information,” which for those of us in the real world means highways, rest stops, and the like (88). In WoW, the locale of quest-givers is very much Cultural Information, just as important as pathways—more important, even, because in-game you can ride your ride almost anywhere—there's no keeping cars on the road here (it should be noted WoW does not have cars, but instead horses and other “mounts”).
When you look at the map of quest-givers, their locations are often grouped together: Very rarely do you see a single questgiver, and if you do it is often because it is a quest you find due to picking up on object to discover something. This can give you a false view of where you might be traveling in the world. In order to fully understand the idea of quests, you have to look past the characters offering them to you, and into the quests themselves. These often have you traveling around the area, searching for object, villains, or animals. This map shows these areas. It should also be noted that, for the most part, the areas in which the quest-givers are located is not the area in which one must preform the quest itself.
When Denis Wood speaks of the “Ten Cartographic Codes” that all maps have he mentions the iconic: “... the code of inventory, of the world's fragmentation: into urban hierarchies, into hypsometric layers, into wet and dry” (“Interest” 106). While this map—like all maps, contains more than one code, one idea, one concept, it is firmly rooted in the iconic: This is where the quests are done. This is where they are not.
When you join World of Warcraft and create your character you often want to ally yourself with a guild: This makes leveling up easier, finding people to run through more difficult parts of the game with easier, and can overall improve your enjoyment of the game. And when you're on a highly active server and do not have a guild, people will invite you into one: Often and regularly. Since I choose to remain without a guild through the creation of this project, I was privy to an onslaught of invites. Each symbol shows where I was issued a guild invite.
The concept of representation was also at play when I created this map: Although it will not be an obvious one to non- or new players. The symbol used mimics the â€œguildâ€? symbol in WoW, although instead of featuring a guild image, it features the symbol used throughout the game for the Alliance faction.
A final concept addressed in these maps is the idea of community and disrupted community. There are two symbols at play in this map: The lion-looking Alliance symbol, and the tribal-looking Horde symbol. Each Alliance denotes areas where large groups of Alliance players often reside. Each Horde symbol denotes the frequency with which Horde characters invade to fight players and kill off quest-giving non-player characters.
The semiotic (and mapping) concept of the signifier is largely at play here, although this is less through my doing, but the game's (Hall 24). It just happened that these symbols fit in perfectly with this map. The Alliance symbol is a lion: An image that calls forth loyalty, honor, royalty, and respect. It is something you would want in a community, which is what is demonstrated in this map through the use of this symbol. The colors blue and gold also echos these ideas. In contrast, the Horde symbol is violent red, and edged: It is a disruptive symbol, and while we could argue who the true â€œgood guysâ€? of WoW are, when you're playing Alliance the Horde are your enemy: And what better symbol for such an idea?
Characters The following characters are the While I have explained each map, and noted one or two concepts related to their form, there are overarching themes in every map that will be addressed here: When I first began mapping these concepts, I had the idea that each map would be stylistically different, but in the end I found that by making that choice I took away from the ideas of the map itself. Instead, I thought back to Denis Wood's assertion in “The Interest is Embodied in the Map in Signs and Math” chapter of The Power of Maps. He considers the ocean on the North Carolina map he is looking at: Why is it blue? There is certainly no rules that say oceans should be blue (10). With that in mind, I mad a simple, almost abstract, background of Elwynn Forest that I used for each of these maps, varying it only in color with each version. The colors have no meaning in and of themselves, but the shades do: The lightest shade is water, the next lightest the land of Elwynn Forest, the next are mountains, and the darkest are other zones, while the lines breaking up the middle of the map are roads. It shows that there are topological differences at play, but that they are mostly unimportant with regards to the information presented. I wanted, in the words of Turchi, to “minimize distortion” by limited the importance of the land itself (77). The maps are also textured, with cursive headings. Style with these maps—as with this document in general—is highly important to me. It is not just about presenting information, but
throughs while collecting data for this project, all located on the Kel'Thuzad server:
about presenting the feel of the game. The wrinkled texture of each map is there to harken back
to the idea of old things: It mimics a less intense version of WoW's own in-game maps. This is a fantasy world where paper is parchment, and ink lines all the maps. Which is also why the lines
Hall, Sean. This Means This This Means That. 2nd ed. London:
I use for the roads are calligraphic in nature. The map titles are done in cursive, mimicking
Laurence King, 2012. Print.
handwriting done with a calligraphy pen (the font itself, Alex Brush, can be found on Font
Squirrel). In contrast, the symbols for the data I found are cleaner, less organic: Because this is
data, these maps are presenting facts. As both Wood and Turchi warn us: All maps are not within intention. And it was my
Imagination. San Antonio: Trinity UP, 2004. 73-89. Print. Wood,
intention to show what a player's first levels in a vast MMORPG can be like, from the confusing
Embodied in the Map in Signs and
movement paths, to the vast amount of quests, players, and enemies you can encounter. It
Myths." The Power of Maps. N.p.:
also, in some ways, wants to make one final point: This is a vast world you can enter at the click
n.p., 1992. 95-142. Print. World
of the button, and it's also a fun one.
February 2014. Video game.