Sunday, 4 July 2010

A Question of Geography

Tomorrow is the last day of the Midsummer Fire Festival.  I managed to get Flame Keeper for Aefa, and visited some of the fires on Balindah as well, but all that travel is quite time consuming so I didn't get to do much more.

As I was riding and flying around, I started to wonder whether it is really midsummer all over Azeroth. It occurred to me because where I live it's the middle of winter at the moment. While my characters are traveling around the world celebrating summer, I'm sitting here wrapped in a blanket trying to stay warm.

Does Azeroth have different climates in its northern and southern hemispheres? I mean, Dun Morogh has been deep in midwinter for five years now. If this is really Dun Morogh at midsummer, I feel sorry for the poor inhabitants!  No wonder Ironforge has a huge lava pit in the middle of it.

Then I started to wonder what the game would be like if the zones changed with seasons, if the leaves fell in the forests and the snow melted in the more elevated regions. I'll write more about that idea tomorrow, but for now - Geography!

World View

A short natural history first. Before the Sundering, the land masses of Azeroth were all joined together, with the Well of Eternity at the centre. For more information on how the world looked at that time, I suggest checking out Azeroth, Pre-Sundering on Shades of Grey. Amazing (and very detailed) stuff.

The post-sundering land masses are Northrend, Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms (made up of the continents of Lordaeron in the north and Azeroth and Khaz Modan in the south).

I couldn't find any mention of Lore that definitively states that Kalimdor, Eastern Kingdoms and Northrend are the only land masses on this planet. If you sail west from Revantusk Village across the Forbidding Sea, do you end up arriving in Shadowprey Village?  The ocean is called The Veiled Sea on that side.  Is there another continent on the "dark" side of Azeroth waiting for some Christopher Columbus to "discover"?

Wowwiki seems to think so: 
The world of Azeroth also has lands located at the other side, beyond the Veiled Sea to the west of Kalimdor, and beyond the Forbidding Sea to the east of the Eastern Kingdoms. No one is sure or has knowledge of what kind of creatures, lands, cultures, life, and sentient being lives in the other side of Azeroth. It is clear though that it is very dangerous.

"A handful of ships have ventured from Kalimdor away from the Maelstrom — to the north, west, and south. None have yet returned." From Warcraft RPG Source book.
The lack of knowledge about the other side of Azeroth seems widespread. There is a globe in the Halls of Lightning that shows Eastern Kingdoms on one side and Kalimdor on the other. The Great Sea can be identified by the presence of the Maelstrom, but the sea on the other side of the globe is empty.

The globe seems to indicate that the continents are balanced fairly evenly north and south of the equator, and that the continents are positioned in the same orientation that we see on the World Map.  However, the climate of each zone does not line up with these views of the planet. The globe could have been made by someone who was unaware of the existence of extra land masses, or of the actual position of the land masses around the planet.

It can be assumed that the in-game World Map is not to scale. For starters, Northrend is too close to the other continents.

If we also assume that the climate on Azeroth behaves the same way as that of Earth, in that it has ice-caps at either pole and gets hot around the equator, it seems that Northrend it should be a lot further north of the other two land masses than it looks on the World Map, considering the amount of snow and ice present in its zones.

Secondly, the northern lights are visible in the southern zones of Northrend - but not in Teldrassil or Eversong Woods. The Isle of Quel'Danas is certainly not as cold as the Storm Peaks, either.

The southern zones of Azeroth are desert or jungle (Silithus, Tanaris, Stranglethorn Vale and Ungoro Crater), while the northern and central parts of Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms are mild and temperate.  This suggests that the land masses are north or mostly north of Azeroth's equator. 

If all of the three known land masses are north of the equator, that means it really is midsummer at the moment and should be celebrated all over Azeroth!  But then, on Earth we all celebrate Christmas on the same date - a festival that was originally (depending on your beliefs, of course) designed to line up with a pagan celebration that's aim was to to cheer people up at midwinter. I can tell you, Christmas where I live is anything but wintery.

Planet Spin
There is one possibility for why the globe in Halls of Lightning could be accurate.

The only reason Earth is cold at the north and south poles is that they are always further away from the sun than the rest of the planet. The band around the equator is always closest to the sun, so it is the hottest (generally speaking). Seasons themselves only happen because of a slight wiggle in the orbit around the sun, that causes the planet to tilt over time so that north or south are closer to the sun.

What if the planet of Azeroth was tilted permanently in its orbit, so that the "southern" half of the planet was always closer to the sun?  It would always be summer in the south, and Northrend would be stuck in eternal winter.

It's a theory, anyway.

I hope you've enjoyed the Midsummer festival this year!

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