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12 Things You Might Not Know About World of Warcraft

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Last month, Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft turned 8—which means that kids who started playing it when they were in middle school are now graduating from college. (Excluding the serious players, who will probably need a couple of extra years to catch up on their classwork.) In that time, a lot of weird things have happened in Azeroth (the game’s world) and on Earth (our world) as a result of the game’s enduring popularity. Here are a few of them.

1. Azeroth, USA

Azeroth is operated from multiple AT&T data centers around the globe. This means if you’re going to build a mysterious cupboard in order to crawl into a magical world, San Diego, California or Dallas, Texas are good places to start. (Don’t expect Mr. Tumnus to be waiting, though.) Other real-world locations for Azeroth include Frankfurt, Germany; Paris, France; and Stockholm, Sweden.

2. Blizzard is not impressed with your l33t gaming system.

Performance on the backend is essential to a player’s enjoyment in slaying such delights as Archimonde the Defiler, left hand of Sargeras, the Great Enemy of All Life. As one representative of AT&T said, “A couple hundred milliseconds can make a big difference in the performance of a game.” To accommodate major updates to the game, Blizzard contracts AT&T to implement Synaptic Hosting, which doubles available bandwidth to compensate for increased traffic.

What kind of hardware are we talking about? It’s always changing, obviously, but Data Center Knowledge, a trade journal that covers such things, reported that as of 2009, World of Warcraft required 13,250 server blades, 75,000 cores, 112.5 terabytes of memory, and 1.2 petabytes of storage.

3. “You tell Stockholm I’m coming, and the Twisting Nether’s comin’ with me!”

Following the release of its fourth expansion pack, World of Warcraft’s subscriber base climbed over the 10 million mark. Earlier this year, the game “only” had 9.1 million subscribers. At its peak, it had 12 million paying customers, and today holds the Guinness World Record for most subscribers to a massively multiplayer online role playing game. Its present numbers place Azeroth’s population on par with Sweden, so they had better watch themselves.

4. Celebrities are addicted, too.

It’s possible (though let’s face it, highly unlikely) that the dwarf standing next to you has an entry in the Internet Movie Database. Celebrities who have spent some time delivering Scalding Mornbrew to Durnan Furcutter in Anvilmar include: Aubrey Plaza; Vin Diesel; Aron Eisenberg (Nog from Deep Space Nine!); Yao Ming; Mila Kunis; Felicia Day; Curt Shilling; and Drew Curtis, who should consider throwing a link to this article.

5. “The chair recognizes the distinguished gentleorc from Orgrimmar.”

World of Warcraft players are also ascending to positions of power, which might one day prevent the great Azeroth-Sweden War. In 2012, Colleen Lachowicz ran for state senate in Maine. Her political opposition ran a campaign to discredit her. The reason? Ms. Lachowicz plays World of Warcraft. They even created a website specifically to warn unsuspecting voters of her double life. Printed in italics (!) next to an image of Ms. Lachowicz’s face morphing into an orc is the line: “Maine needs a State Senator that lives in the real world, not in Colleen’s fantasy world.” It might be the best site on the Internet.

Today, that’s Senator Lachowicz to you.

5. 'Twas the feast of Great-Winter / And all through the land / All the races were running / With snowballs in hand.

Like most civilizations, the residents of Azeroth have holidays and important historical events to celebrate and commemorate. They are totally different from our own, however, and players often need time to adjust. On Noblegarden, for example, painted eggs are hidden around cities. They contain various treats. At the close of the Midsummer Fire Festival, great fireworks are set off all across Azeroth. Headless Horsemen gallop through towns during Hallow’s End. (Slay one and you’ll find his carved pumpkin head.) Candy buckets also dot the cities, and warriors can reach in to find either a trick or a treat. A few weeks after Pilgrim’s Bounty, when food is shared and turkeys are hunted, is the Feast of Winter Veil, when holiday cheer spreads across the land, gifts appear under under trees, and the Abominable Greench is up to no good.

6. Well of course someone had to die from playing it.

In 2005, a Beijing man playing under the name “Snowly” geared up for a particularly challenging quest, and proceeded to play for several days straight. He was found dead not long after. In New Taipei City, Taiwan, a 23 year old died after playing for 23 hours straight in an Internet cafe. According to one report, “He fell on the table to sleep several times, but woke up again to continue playing the game.” Until he didn’t.

7. The inevitable foreign knockoff.

As a rule, if you make something good, someone is going to make a shameless, shoddy, uh, homage to it. When it premiered, I’m sure some denied that Chinese game World of Fight had any interest in World of Warcraft’s traffic. And its website? It’s a quirk of fate that wofchina.com so resembled wowchina.com. There are only so many words, after all. Coincidences happen.

8. “Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you what you are.” - Brillat-Savarin

If memory serves me right, slaying liches can leave a warrior with a healthy appetite. Azeroth is like a giant cooking arena known for its culinary delights and ingredients of the finest quality. Avid players with culinary skill have gathered, and managed to realize those recipes on Earth. Baked salmon. Soft banana bread. Ogri'la Chicken Fingers. Which cuisine will reign supreme? The heat will be on!

9. It’s good to be the king of Azeroth.

Blizzard has done well for itself with World of Warcraft. At its height in 2010, the game took in $1.23 billion. In 2009, it took in $1.24 billion; 2008 was a slow year, banking a pittance of $1.15 billion. The game costs quite a bit to operate—$240 million—but the company still pockets a cool billion dollars on a good year.

10. The day the plague wiped out Ironforge.

Apparently, people in Azeroth behave a lot like they behave in the real world. That’s why the “Corrupted Blood” outbreak in World of Warcraft is so interesting to researchers. In 2005, a monster named Hakkar the Soulflayer, Blood God of the Gurubashi Trolls (what was his mother thinking?) infected a player with a spell called Corrupted Blood, which both drains characters of life, and is highly contagious. The idea was to weaken and ultimately kill everyone fighting in the dungeon. After someone was infected and teleported to the populous over-world, however, the disease went nova and a pandemic ensued. Try as they might, Blizzard couldn’t quite stop the plague, and characters were wiped out on a massive scale. Players went into a strange and interesting survivalist mode.

Apparently, when the SARS epidemic broke out, people behaved in much the same way, leading researchers to study the sociological effects of Corrupted Blood. Likewise, scientists presented game developers with plans for how better to manage a virtual epidemic in the future.

11. Maybe that’s why the Tin Man wanted an oilcan.

The Chinese government is not going to stand idly by while unsanitary skeletons and animal bones festoon Azeroth. When World of Warcraft was updated for China, all such items were either removed from the game, or given a nice meaty wrapper. Players mounted a “Save the Bones” campaign, but it didn’t go anywhere. Additionally, blood was recolored black (consequently, no Vulcans are allowed in Azeroth) and some of the scarier monster icons were replaced with wooden boxes.

12. World of Warcraft by the numbers.

According to MMORPG Realm, it took 150 developers four years to write the game’s 5.5 million lines of code; create its 30,000 items; design and build its 1400 locations; plan and implement its 7600 missions; and give life to 5300 non-player characters.

Only 22% of players are located in the United States; Asia is where the action is, comprising 48% of the game’s subscriber base. 80% of players are male, and they’re most likely to play as humans, the most popular race in the game.

For 12-12-12, we’ll be posting twenty-four '12 lists' throughout the day. Check back 12 minutes after every hour for the latest installment, or see them all here.

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Take a Look Inside the 1987 Consumer Electronics Show
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Since June 1967, the Consumer Electronics Show has provided a venue for tech companies to show off their hottest products for the upcoming year. It’s also become a way to measure the progression of technology over recent decades, as the video below shows.

According to Sploid, the footage was filmed by Art Vuolo at the Consumer Electronics Show held in Chicago in the summer of 1987. The 30-year-old tape chronicles a time when camcorders, VCRs, and “portable” TVs were considered cutting-edge gadgetry. As we know, it would only be a few decades until those items served more of a purpose as kitschy craft supplies than actual hardware.

After watching part one of Vuolo’s series, check out the other three videos from the event which include a Casio synth guitar and an early video phone.

[h/t Sploid]

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Wisconsin Software Company Will Microchip Its Employees
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Typically, pets—not people—are microchipped. But as NBC News reports, one Wisconsin-based company plans to become the first business in the country to offer the tiny implants to its employees.

Three Square Market (32M), a software design firm in River Falls, Wisconsin, will begin providing the chips starting August 1. The rice-sized implants—which cost around $300 each—will be implanted in the hands of staffers between the thumb and the forefinger, and will allow them to purchase vending-machine snacks, open secured doors, or log into their computers with the wave of a hand. The company says the chips are optional.

32M is partnering with Swedish-based BioHax International to install the chips, which were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2004. The chips utilize electromagnetic fields to identify electronically stored data, and near-field communications, a technology that's used in contactless credit cards.

Fifty company members—including CEO Todd Westby—are expected to volunteer to receive the implants, according to a company statement. The company will foot the bill for the implants.

32M's microchipping program may sound unconventional, but the company—which owns machines that can use microchips—says it's simply riding the wave of the future.

"We see chip technology as the next evolution in payment systems, much like micro markets have steadily replaced vending machines," 32M's Westby said in the statement. "As a leader in micro market technology, it is important that 32M continues leading the way with advancements such as chip implants."

As microchipping becomes more common, Westby added, people will use the technology to shop, travel, and ride public transit.

The company says the chips are easily removable and can't be hacked or used to track recipients. However, some experts have argued the technology is an invasion of privacy, and that it could lead to heightened employee scrutiny.

"If most employees agree, it may become a workplace expectation," Vincent Conitzer, a computer science professor at Duke University, told NBC News. "Then, the next iteration of the technology allows some additional tracking functionality. And so it goes until employees are expected to implant something that allows them to be constantly monitored, even outside of work."

[h/t NBC News]

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