Friday, June 19, 2020

Wait a Sec... Just HOW Long?

One thing I've discovered about writing fiction that I've never much thought of before was that it focuses me on just how long it takes to perform certain actions.

I don't mean how long it takes to cast a spell, for instance, or even how long it takes to travel across land or sea. The first is completely arbitrary, and the second is configured this way to make the game practical.* But I mean something a bit different, and the older I get the more ridiculous it sounds.

I mean just how long between events in the Warcraft universe versus what we're seeing in game.


The reason why I'm picking on the Warcraft universe as opposed to other MMOs I've played is because it's the one MMO whose game release schedule matches the MMO world's real time environment. Other MMOs don't try to tie down in game changes from expac to expac to a specific timeline like WoW (and Warcraft before it) does, so that creates issues of believability.

Okay, look, I know we're talking about a fantasy game that includes Orcs, Tauren, Elves, Spellcasting, Undead, Dragons, and Male Humans who look like they're all Arnold Schwarzenegger clones with a steroid problem.

And yes, the Warcraft story frequently devolves into plotlines that would do a soap opera proud. You don't think so? Go read up on the Lo'gosh plotline from the WoW comics, and try to explain to me why the two Varians story doesn't make for a perfect WWE or soap opera plotline.

But the thing is, the more I've delved into timelines the more I look at the game world and say "this is simply NOT possible."


For starters, let's use the 'unofficial' WoW timelines found on various places like WoWWiki and WoWpedia.

Now, there are variances between the unofficial WoW timelines, and the "official" one that used to be on the World of Warcraft website was taken down years ago when Blizz moved to, but there's enough overlap to make it usable.

For starters, let's see the "official" one that WowWiki preserved, and I'll focus on the big items:

0      Warcraft: Orcs & Humans (PC game)
6      Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness (PC game)
8      Warcraft 2X: Beyond the Dark Portal (PC game)

20     Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos (PC game)
21     Warcraft 3X: The Frozen Throne (PC game)
25     World of Warcraft (PC game)
26     World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade (PC game)
27     World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King (PC game)

Now, the official result of Warcraft 1 was that the Kingdom of Stormwind (and Stormwind itself) was destroyed. It was only at the end of Warcraft 2 were the Kingdom and City of Stormwind re-established and then Stormwind was rebuilt.

I'll be charitable and say that Warcraft 2 ended around year 7.5, giving WC2 about 1.5 years worth of fighting instead of 2. But what that means is that WC2 effectively ended and people could return to Stormwind around Year 7.5.

Putting that into more important terms, the time between Stormwind's reestablishment and the beginning of WoW Classic/Vanilla is 17.5 years, and that's being generous.

So what that means is that if a Human player was 18 years old when they left home and began adventuring, then you were one of the first kids born after Stormwind was reestablished. If a Human character started at 21 years old, then you likely have vague memories of being a refugee. Your older brothers and sisters were all refugees and likely had bad memories of this. Your parents were refugees and/or veterans of the First/Second War, and were likely scarred by the conflict. On top of it, either date is not enough to get Elwynn Forest back to a pristine condition, Redridge to seem so wonderful (as if it were Autumn), or even Westfall or Duskwood to be as alive (or undead as in Western Duskwood) as all that.

However, if you read quest text in the Human areas, you don't get those impressions at all. The area around Elwynn Forest, and even Duskwood and Redridge, are filled with quest text about "normal" things, not "boy, am I glad that we survived the Wars!"

It's as if there's collective amnesia about WC1 and WC2.

And believe me, people in Westfall would absolutely remember the Horde invasion, because based on the timeline they would have just gotten back on their feet when the Defias cut their legs out from under them.

If you thought that timeline might be off, here's the one from WoWpedia**:

0      First War
4      Second War

8      Warcraft 2x: Tides of Darkness
20     Third War

23     Warcraft 3x: The Frozen Throne
25     World of Warcraft
26     The Burning Crusade
27     Wrath of the Lich King

As you can see, the dates are pretty similar except for WoWpedia moving the Second War back two years.


You might look at that timeline and think "yeah, that seems about right."

But you know what I see?

The Thirty Years War.

It was one of the most destructive conflicts in history, went from 1618 - 1648, and was responsible for the death of 1 in every 5 German language speakers*** in Europe. Wikipedia puts the number of European deaths at 8 million, and although I'm not completely certain it's accurate, it's good enough for me.

The sheer brutality of the conflict made the Thirty Years' War one of the first that you could arguably call "total war", where entire regions were laid waste and depopulated, and entire nations mobilized.

You know what I don't see?

Evidence of the Thirty Years War --Warcraft Style-- in WoW Classic.
Bucolic. That's a good word for this, and there's nary
a sign that a short time ago this was supposedly
all devastation. Those certainly don't look like 15-20 year
old trees, even if you have rapidly growing ones such as silver maple.

And before you say Burning Steppes, Searing Gorge, or Desolace, all three happened prior to the timeline above. The only regions that you could safely say fall under the "entire region laid waste" designation are the Blasted Lands (home of Ye Olde Dark Portal), the Plaguelands, Tirisfal Glades, Felwood, and the southernmost part of Winterspring, where the Burning Legion is still present along the border with Hyjal. And of those, only the Blasted Lands stretches back to the Second War; all the others happened only a few years before Classic, in the Third War.

Azshara? Been that way since the War of the Ancients.

Silithus? Been that way for thousands of years, since the Kaldorei and their allies shut the Qiraji inside their prison.

Stonetalon Mountains? It's not so much as laid waste as an ecological disaster brought on by the Venture Company.

I find it hard to believe that the Cataclysm expac had a greater impact on the Eastern Continent than the Wars between Orcs and Humans.


And don't get me started on the buildings.

I knew that castle building was a huge endeavor that drained the coffers of more than one monarchy (Edward I of England for one), so the reconstruction of Stormwind being hugely expensive doesn't shock me. But building a castle in Medieval times took anywhere from 2 to 10 years, depending on the size and complexity of the job.

But an entire city?

A decent comparison is how long it took to rebuild London after the Great Fire of 1666, and it took about 50 years.****

And that's with mainly wooden structures, not stone.

Compare that with Stormwind's less than 17.5 years --probably more like 10 given it takes time for the Defias afterward to take root-- and you're left scratching your head.
10 years? Yeah, but if you had far larger population
than what the ravaged Human lands --Stormwind +
Lordaeron + the rest-- have.  It took a far larger English
population 50 years to rebuild London after the Great Fire.

And don't forget that on top of that, there's places such as Menethil Harbor, Lakeshire, Goldshire, Darkshire, Sentinel Hill, Theramore, and the (now abandoned) areas of Raven Hill and Moonbrook. Oh, and the towers scattered throughout the area.

Don't forget that Dalaran was rebuilding within its bubble too.

And somewhere in all that Nethergarde Keep was built, manned, and then was the staging area for the invasion of Draenor.


Speaking of buildings, let's talk about the Horde cities too.

The Undercity, well, that was always there underneath Lordaeron, so let's just assume it was made (un)livable with minimal effort.

But Thunder Bluff and Orgrimmar? They just sprang out of the ground within 2 years? Looking like that? And while the Tauren encampments around Kalimdor were built (and designed) for a nomadic, Native American asthetic --which are believable-- but the size and scope of constructing Orgrimmar alone, particularly while the newly reformed Horde with the Frostwolves in charge were constantly under threat, makes me raise my eyebrows.
I don't have an active Horde toon, so this one is from
Blizzard Watch. BTW, if you want info on all things
Blizz, they're the one to to go check out.

I could see this in 2 years, but that's only if Thrall and Co.
weren't constantly fending for their lives.

So yeah, call me skeptical, but I look at that timeline and think "Nah, not happening." Even if you enlist the help of Mages to build all of this, the sheer volume of activity might require every single Mage found in Azeroth to get it done properly in such a short timeline. And believe me, any Mage worth their salt would make sure that YOU NEVER FORGOT THAT.

And remember, all this construction had to be completed early enough so that it feels like all of these buildings have been there for quite a while, because nobody surely talks about the "before times". Hell, there are quests in Elwynn Forest that imply that people grew up and grew old on the farm. (It's the lover's questline.)


The only difference in the timelines that makes any sort of sense is the time between the end of the Third War and WoW Classic/Vanilla. Everything else, well, it doesn't really make sense.

If you extend the time between the end of the 2nd War and the beginning of the 3rd War to about 30 years, that makes the reconstruction and fading memories more realistic, but it then proceeds to throw off the personal timeline of major NPCs, particularly Thrall, Jaina, Vol'jin, Arthas, and others.

I can see why Blizz would want to keep the timeline intact for the NPCs' sake, but they could have easily altered the world they built in WoW to reflect the true state of affairs rather than present a bucolic countryside that they did in the starting zones for Tauren, Orcs, Trolls, Humans, Gnomes, and Dwarves.

And I'll be frank, I'd never have noticed how off the timeline really was until I went and looked up the timeline because I was writing fiction. When I figured out the true timeline based on what was found on the original WoW website, I blurted out "Bullshit! That is not what is presented in game!"

Oh, hey, Kira. Card says 'hi'.

*Movement at the speed of plot and all that.

**I removed every little detail that was provided in the Wowpedia version and instead matched the major events with the "official" version.

***You can't really say Germans, since Germany as a state didn't exist until the 19th Century.

****The Museum of London has a great pdf file on the Great Fire, which I won't link to because of potential security risks. However, if you type in "how long did it take to rebuild london after the great fire" it'll pop up as being one of the first hits.

EtA: Corrected a few grammar issues. That's what I get for changing my mind on how to present something and forgetting about the grammar leading up to those changes.

EtA: Forgot Felwood in the list of regions affected by the WC1 through WC3, but my premise still stands, as Felwood happened during WC3.


  1. Eh, I'm pretty sure a handful of peons can build Stormwind in about half an hour if you micromanage and click fast enough.

  2. I feel the same sense of disconnect and cognitive dissonance when I try to think about the official WoW timeline in connection with creating stories for my characters, too. I also look at everything that happens in a typical expansion plot and feel like it would be logistically impossible for all of those things to happen at the rate of the official timeline. I have a personal headcanon that the events of each expansion occur over at least the amount of time that the expansion is current for players -- so, two year spacings between the start of each expansion's content, rather than the one year of the official timeline. That still doesn't make it fully realistic, but it's a little better, maybe.

    1. I think that the root of the problem stems from the original Warcraft RTS games, because when you've got objectives that imply building a city/settlement and other items that we --in real life-- know they take so much longer than in a game, the timeline becomes unreasonable.

      I've just basically come to the conclusion that there's things that the timeline won't mesh well with, and that the ages of the major players are simply going to have to be older that what they are presented in game. Or, in the case of Jaina/Arthas/Garosh, they're going to have to have been born later than the timeline expects, because in my mind the WC2 to WC3 timeline is going to have to be about 30-35 years or so. At least.

      By my internal logic, Card is about 18, Linna 19, Jas 22, and Kira 23. My thinking then is that Mona and Daryn probably started having kids about 7-10 years after the Second War, and they fought in the war in their early 20s. That'd make them having kids in their early 30s, which means that they're in their mid-upper 50s.

      By comparison, that meshes fairly well with my grandparents' experience after WW2, with the only major difference was that they started having kids immediately. Mona and Daryn had to rebuild a farm first and make it viable, just so they could start raising a family.

      As for WoW itself, I personally look at WoW as although it's "officially" 2 years between expacs, the actual time is much longer. There's no way that any society (outside of the Forsaken, IMHO) can handle this many shocks to the system without crumbling into barbarism.