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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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The Library of Congress Wants Your Help Identifying World War I-Era Political Cartoons
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The U.S. government’s official library wants your help. And it involves cartoons.

The Library of Congress just debuted its new digital innovation lab, an initiative that aims to improve upon its massive archives and use them in creative ways. Its first project is Beyond Words, a digitization effort designed to make the research library’s historical newspaper collection more search-friendly. It aims to classify and tag historical images from World War I-era newspapers, identifying political cartoons, comics, illustrations, and photos within old news archives. The images come from newspapers included in Chronicling America, the library’s existing newspaper digitization project.

The tasks involved in Beyond Words are simple, even if you know nothing about the illustrations involved going into it. The Library of Congress just needs people to help mark all the illustrations and cartoons in the scanned newspaper pages, a task that only involves drawing boxes to differentiate the image from the articles around it.

Then there’s transcription, involving typing in the title of the image, the caption, the author, and whether it’s an editorial cartoon, an illustration, a photo, a map, or a comic. The library also needs people to verify the work of others, since it’s a crowd-sourced effort—you just need to make sure the images have been transcribed consistently and accurately.

A pop-up window below an early 20th century newspaper illustration prompts the user to pick the most accurate caption.

Screenshot via labs.loc.gov

The data will eventually be available for download by researchers, and you can explore the already-transcribed images on the Beyond Words site. Everything is in the public domain, so you can remix and use it however you want.

With the new labs.loc.gov, “we are inviting explorers to help crack open digital discoveries and share the collections in new and innovative ways,” Carla Hayden, the library’s head, said in a press release.

Other government archives regularly look to ordinary people to help with the monstrous task of digitizing and categorizing their collections. The National Archives and Records Administration, for instance, has recently crowd-sourced data entry and transcription for vintage photos of life on Native American reservations and declassified government documents to help make their collections more accessible online.

Want to contribute to the Library of Congress’s latest effort? Visit labs.loc.gov.

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Slow Wi-Fi? It Could Be Your Neighbor's Fault
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If your Wi-Fi connection remains interminably slow no matter how many times you restart it, you can probably blame your neighbor. It could be that there are too many people using Wi-Fi connections on the same channel, even if you're all on different networks. But, as Tech Insider teaches us in the video below, there is a way to circumvent this, returning you to the prime TV-streaming Wi-Fi speeds of your dreams. (These instructions apply to Mac users, but if you've got Windows, How-To Geek recommends a tool called the Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector to do the same job.) It seems like a lot of steps at first, but it'll be worth it—we promise.

If you’ve got a Mac, hold the Option key while clicking the Wi-Fi symbol in your top menu bar. Go to “Open Wireless Diagnostics,” then when that opens, go up to the top left menu bar and click the drop-down menu “Window > Scan.” That will open up a window with all the nearby Wi-Fi networks. Click the “Scan Now” button on the bottom right, and your computer should recommend the best channels for you to use—say, you’re on Channel No. 1, but the best 2.4GHz channel is No. 3. Tech Insider recommends writing those down (there are options for both 2.4GHz channels and 5GHz channels).

Now, you’ll need to break out your iPhone. Download the AirPort Utility app, and go to your phone’s settings. Scroll down to the AirPort Utility app in your app list, and enable “WiFi Scanner.” Use the app to scan your house for Wi-Fi networks and note which channels are commonly used by your neighbors’ networks. (If you don’t have an iPhone, you can also use Acrylic Wi-Fi for Android or Windows phones.) This will help you avoid the most congested networks.

Then, log onto your router on your computer by typing your router’s IP address into your browser, just like you would any web address. From there, go into Wireless Settings, and change the channel your network operates on to one of the recommended options that you wrote down from your computer's diagnostics window earlier. And don’t forget to save!

This should help you get a faster internet connection by minimizing the amount of interference from other networks around you. Because the best neighbors are the ones who don't slow down Game of Thrones for you.

See the process step-by-step in the video below.

[h/t Tech Insider]

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