Experiments in Azeroth: Map Design

My newbie character Erifana is making levels quite nicely now. The Feral line of Druid is surprisingly easy to play with only a few buttons and a basic resource building system, puts out decent dps too which is nice so the quests get completed a bit quicker. I’m guessing I’m doing the right thing with my stats right now by going dex and stamina but who knows, just going on what I  kind of know a dps class should be. I’m just a cute but dangerous kitty…


I ended up in the second zone now, forgot the name but the one after Orgrimmar that’s like a logging camp plus an ocean area and while I am still surprised by how dated the zones feels. You can really see in these maps just how old the game is as the ground, objects, background and monsters are. rather washed out colours and textures but that really is to be expected.

The actual Design of the maps though is pretty good tough. They are much larger than I thought they would be, rather spacious which makes it all feel a lot less claustrophobic than the usual mmo leveling. It’s all still the same thing, collecting quests, kill stuff and turn in. Back and forth being directed around but with the distance you have to travel between points and just the space around what your doing well, it’s a nice change. Even the path you take around the zones isn’t exactly linear at times. you go back and forth a lot and crossing over a previously visited path a couple times. I know that’s not terrible optimised and made to waste time in a way but, the haphazard nature stops me from feeling so controlled… even though I am. Weird right?

The pathing around the map is part of this approach as it gives you multiple ways to traverse and area. Heaps of really large open spaces too rather than walls and hills and all that.  There are some nice places in between that break this up but not in a restrictive manor, just structures to explore or complete the aesthetic rather than break the flow.

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Playing in the new Draenor zone it’s good to see how they’ve taken these elements and kept improving on them, refining the map design to be more intuitive and interesting. The zones are large and it seems the flow of questing is the same but there are a lot of extras to find now while going about too which makes exploration, and just the usual traveling more exciting. They’ve also drastically improved the look although it’s still limited by the tech.

I do get rather bored doing it all but it’s that comfortable kind of boredom that lets your actions be almost completely instinctive while your mind wanders. I like that and yeh, sure I want action occasionally but all the time and I find it tiring. It’s a themepark, and the type of design I’ve become increasingly annoyed with all the time but it’s hard to to see how this is still maybe an improvement over more modern mmo’s

Those of recent times have made it all more of a science now. A whole heap of metrics go into designing the quests, the mobs and everything to make them refined, accessible and without frustration. This means linear questing, perfected pathing routes, overt stimulation methods and of course the removal of anything that runs counter to this yet this results in something rather souless. It’s playing numbers more than a game, it’s being more a puppet and while World of Warcraft is that to an extent it still maintains that raw feeling, some personality.


One thought on “Experiments in Azeroth: Map Design

  1. Yeah, it’s funny leveling in WoW because each expansion feels so radically different in some aspects. This one is definitely a lot more open and “free”. I liked it a lot for that. I think the larger outdoors areas helps a ton!

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