Measuring Azeroth: Bright Lights, Big Cities?

A while ago, I took a shot at measuring the size of Azeroth, WoW’s homeworld consisting of two continents. In this post, I take a shot at measuring the size of each of the three original Alliance cities, Stormwind, Ironforge and Darnassus and seeing what comes out of that.

The Method

For this exercise, I’m using the coordinates provided by TitanBar to determine approximate boundaries of each of the cities. Then, I approximate the shape of each city and calculate the area. Stormwind and Darnassus are pretty much rectangular which Ironforge is almost a pure circle.

Next, based on my previous calculations I translate those to a range of “real” dimensions. I use two different run speed assumptions, a Marathoner and a Hiker, to estimate the size of a unit expressed in the coordinate system. Again, I’ll apply the Heroic Fantasy Distortion Factor or “HFDF” (a fudge factor that represents a certain amount of dimensional distortion to keep a game playable) to the calculations to give a range of fantasy-equivalent dimensions. In this case, I only used and HFDF of 1 and 10.

Its hard to dial into “real” numbers for these sorts of measurements. In MMOs, about the only thing you can count on dimensionally that the devs can’t play with is time. So time is like the speed of light in an MMO– a universal constant. A game “yard” or “meter” may or may not be what it says and may vary from place to place unbeknowst to us, but if it takes me X minutes to do something, it takes me X minutes to do something, period. Tell me its 500 yards or 500 miles, I don’t care. If it takes me 5 minutes, that’s my reality.

Just for a preliminary reality check, you can run across Stormwind in about 2-2.5 minutes. Without getting out your slide rule, that would make it feel like something a good deal less than a ½ mile at a full run. Just to let you know I’m not completely nuts, my raw “Marathoner” estimate of this distance is about 2,600 feet/800 meters, so I think the raw data is in the ball park before taking any kind of creative license or HFDF into account.



For a Marathoner, the area of Stormwind is about 277 acres/95 hectares.
For a Hiker, 6 acres/2.5 hectares.

For a Marathoner, the area of Stormwind is about 35 square miles/95 square km.
For a Hiker, 1 square mile/2.5 square km.



For a Marathoner, the area of Ironforge is about 213 acres/89 hectares.
For a Hiker, 6 acres/2.5 hectares.

For a Marathoner, the area of Ironforge is about 33 square miles/89 square km.
For a Hiker, 1 square mile/2.5 square km.



For a Marathoner, the area of Darnassus is about 157 acres/65 hectares.
For a Hiker, 6 acres/2.5 hectares.

For a Marathoner, the area of Darnassus is about 24 square miles/65 square km.
For a Hiker, 0.70 square mile/1.75 square km.


For reference, the area of Manhattan is about 20 square miles/51 square km; San Francisco about 47 square miles/122 square km and the historic core City of London, about 1 square mile/2.6 square km. On the Marathoner scale, Azerothian cities are somewhere between Manhattan and San Francisco (Marathoner, HFDF=10). On the Hiker scale, they’re barely the City of London (Hiker, HFDF=10).  Without distortion, a trip across town could literally be a walk in the park.

Not surprisingly, each of these cities, by whatever measure, are all about the same size with Darnassus being a bit smaller.

Here’s a big surprise though: compared to all of Azeroth (381 square miles/977 square km; Marathon standard), each of the principal cities represents nearly 10% of the entire surface area of both continents combined!

Again, so you don’t think I’m completely nuts, it takes about 5 minutes to run from the gates of Stormwind (where you just click in to Elwynn Forest) to the zone boundary with Redridge Mountains. Lets think about that. If Stormwind were overlayed on Elwynn Forest, it would probably cover at least ½ of the zone.


Take that a step weirder. It took me about 5 minutes to walk the Deep Run Tram end to end. Yes, under the train, the whole way, and BTW what IS that body of water that’s supposedly somewhere between IF and SW? Lets think about this. About 2 Stormwinds laid next to each other gets you all the way to IF!

I suspect that if I walked it on the surface all the way from Elwynn through Redridge, Burning Steppes, through BRD, Searing Gorge, Loch Modan and finally, Dun Morogh, to IF the total North-South distance would be substantially greater.


So what does this all mean? Not much really, other than when I’m bored and my mind wanders, I’m prone to whip out an excel spreadsheet. But seriously, it does illustrate some of the interesting distortions that game devs can employ to both give an MMO universe a sense of immensity while also accommodating reasonable gameplay goals.

For cities to feel like cities, there needs to be a good amount of detail in them and that takes a certain amount of space. Wilderness zones, on the other hand, generally have a lower density of game matter and they don’t feel as busy as a city. As I’ve pointed out, even when the zones aren’t that big relative to major cities, players still balk at crossing “vast” expanses in the wilderness. As an enchanter, I’ve always hated that “endless” run across Elwynn Forest from SW to the Tower of Azora to train—a run that is effectively as long as running from the gates of SW to the Park or the Tram which I seldom complain about.

A hallmark of good game design (IMHO) is the way game devs can alter our sense of scale from zone to zone to right size the play space to its purpose without our being overly conscious of it. Its all about balancing immersion and playability for your target audience. And if that takes breaking a few laws of physics, well, who’s gonna call the Einstein police?

4 thoughts on “Measuring Azeroth: Bright Lights, Big Cities?”

  1. Nice work potshot, but can you translate all those HDHF’s and square miles into units we can actually gauge by? Maybe the number of Starbucks that would be in each city. You know, something we can use.

  2. For reference, In Stormwind, I think there would be no less than 8 Starbucks in the Trade District alone(with a Tully’s immediately across the street from each one).

    There would only be 2 Peet’s in all of Stormwind and whereever you were, you wouldn’t be close enough to one. ;)

    All assuming a RCDF=1 (Realistic Coffeebar Distortion Factor) of course. ;)

    It would cost you $45 + toll and tip for a cab ride from the Tram to the Trade District.

  3. Great funny article. BTW that water in the tram is a left over for when there was a tram to Darnassus as well. If you look at the panels int he station you’ll clearly see a red and a blue line.

    The darn tram never got out of alpha if i recall.

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