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The design evolution of home life in the starting zones


The starting zones form a player's formative thoughts about how the denizens of Azeroth actually live their lives. These first glimpses of life-as-our-characters-know-it are key to defining what it would be like to "really" live as our characters do. When you're in a starting area, you get to see the "common dwarf" in his natural habitat. (Or human, orc, troll, and sundry other races.) Of course, there have certainly been technical limitations over the years that restrict the number of widgets and sprites available to designers. But it's interesting to see how the home life of Azeroth natives have been improved over the existence of WoW.

The above picture is from Elwynn Forest. It's the home of Donni Anthania, the Crazy Cat Lady. The domicile of Ms. Anthania includes a chair, table, a couple chests, and a wardrobe. It also has a small herd of cats wandering around the floor. Interestingly, Donni is wielding a cleaver. It's unlikely that the cleaver was intended to mean Donna is hostile; instead, it's probably because she's supposed to be cooking or something. But the Crazy Cat Lady has been in the game since before there were any expansions. Technical design was a little more limited then. Let's compare this to how the blood elves lived come Burning Crusade.
By comparison, the blood elf starting zone doesn't have much in the way of single family dwellings. The above is the palatial Sunspire, which seems to double as a barracks. The decor is very exotic. While the Sunspire has seating and shelves, it has been upgraded beyond Donni's home with the addition of pillows and indoor shrubbery. Multiple soldiers and people of interest dwell in and around the Sunspire, as well as dozens of containers for weapons and potions. This definitely conveys a sense of community and organization to the Sindorei; this is a culture whose sense of being a unit far surpasses Donni's lonely cottage.

Like Donni, though, the Sunspire also has cats darting around. I guess the blood elves and humans have that in common, at least.
Farshire isn't technically a starting zone. It is, however, the first glimpse of normal human life you get in Northrend, so we'll use it for our example. You can see how the widgets and decorations for a living space have vastly improved since the creation of Donni's home.

The walls have purely decorative features now. A massive bear skin hangs on one wall while a stuffed boar's head is mounted on another. The writing desk has books; this is a purely cosmetic feature that speaks volumes about this space. It isn't just an area taking up space in a game world. This home in Farshire is used by people to do things, like writing letters and reading books. The orange globe is another nice touch in the otherwise bleak Northrend landscape.

All this, of course, brings us to our furry friends in Gilneas.
This is a home early in the worgen starting experience. It features food, buckets, decorations, and an entire second floor that player characters can't even reach. The coloration of the walls and fireplace are deeper and more complex than what we've seen in previous years. There is a bed against one wall, clothing hung to dry near the rafters, and a dangling lantern to provide the room some light.

This Gilnean home is someplace you could absolutely live. It feels virtually "real," accepting that it's of course all merely pixels. Note the portrait hanging across the fireplace; this is a subtle, human touch that helps bring a sense of history to the home.

In Cataclysm, we're seeing more than just game updates. There have been huge leaps and bounds in the setting design that help make the World of Warcraft that much more vivid and amazing.


World of Warcraft: Cataclysm has destroyed Azeroth as we know it; nothing is the same! In WoW Insider's Guide to Cataclysm, you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion, from brand new races to revamped quests and zones. Visit our Cataclysm news category for the most recent posts having to do with the Cataclysm expansion.

Filed under: Cataclysm

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