Moonwell Dancers
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Moonwell Dancers

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Moonwell Dancers

1. The chicken and the old man

Did you ever wonder how many miles long Kalimdor was, or how high above sea level Darnassus is, or how many miles per hour you were running? Or, for those exploration fanatics like me, where all of those interesting, out of the way tourist spots are, like the farm on the east coast of the Arathi Highlands, or Newman’s Landing on the coast to the southwest of Ironforge, or even the Tauren outpost to the south of Silithus? Well, after playing WoW for a bit I became intrigued and I discovered that the minimap holds the answers to all these questions and more. So, if like me you are interested in this kind of stuff, the first step is to actually assemble the entire minimap. While this is not hard to do, it is a bit tedious, so I've include the details of minimap assembly in appendix II. Basically, the minimap is stored in your WoW folder in the common.MPQ file as a set of 128x128 bitmaps in blp format. Roughly 1200 of these bitmaps are used to make the Kalimdor minimap, 800 for the Eastern Kingdom, and nearly 500 for the Outland. By extracting the minimaps from the common.MPQ file, converting them to a Photoshop readable format, and then using Photoshop to arrange them in proper order, the entire minimap for each area can be assembled. These final assembled Photoshop files are large, about 200MB for Kalimdor, 125MB for the Eastern Kingdoms, and 35MB for the Outland. I've included below a composite view of these three minimaps slimmed down to 5% of their original size, side by side and at the same scale, for reference.

Here you can see the relative size of each area. For example, Nagrand in the Outlands is roughly comparable in size with Tanaris in Kalimdor, and Dun Morogh in the Eastern Kingdoms. Also of interest are the large number of unfinished areas in Azeroth. If you manage to discover a way into these unfinished areas you’ll find that they are characterized by vast empty landscapes. For example, one is easily seen just to the north of the Eastern Plaguelands and another to the southwest of Dun Morogh. This type of unfinished area is absent from the Outlands and the effort required to fix these areas in Azeroth is just one of the diffuculties posed by flying mounts in Kalmindor and the Eastern Kingdoms.

Photoshop comes with a set of rulers that you can use to measure the size of your image. If these images of Kalimdor, the Eastern Kingdoms, and the Outland minimaps were printed using the standard screen resolution of 72 pixels/inch, they would be approximately 14 feet by 8 feet, 12 feet by 6 feet, and 6 feet by 6 feet respectively in size. You can use the + and – buttons to adjust the resolution of your minimap and two clicks in from the least magnified setting will display your minimap at approximately the same scale as 72 pixels/inch. With this setting, the circular window will then give you a tiny 2" in diameter peek of these much larger minimaps. Here are, the Eastern Kingdoms, Kalimdor, and Outland minimaps in pdf format. While the *.pdf file size of the minimps is smaller that the size of the Photoshop files, they are still quite large, so if you don't want to download them there is an online version at mapwow.com that uses a handy Google Map interface.

So now you ask, why the chicken and the old man? Well, if you squint your eyes and think of large cumulus clouds on a summer day, Kalimdor looks like a chicken, with Azshara for a squawking beak, Durotar as its wattle, and the Stonetalon Mountains as its tiny little stubby wings. The Eastern Kingdoms looks like an old man, with Fenris Isle as his eye and the bay to the west of the Thandol Span as his mouth, wide open and yelling at the chicken in response to some obscure offense. And Stranglethorn Vale is the old man’s tiny little Capser the ghost tail.