World of Warcraft

Darwin's nightmare: The absurd zoology of WoW

"And therefore, my fellow students, I conclude that the gentle whale shark must be saved from extinction at all costs." The aging professor adjusts his monocle and nods sagely to his audience. "Thank you for attending this lecture from the University at Stormwind. There will be a champagne reception afterwards in the auditorium next door. I will join them shortly."

The room rises to general murmurs and muted applause. There is a smell of old paper in the air and amber sunbeams glow in powdery dust clouds that dance up and down in the air of the auditorium. Just as the professor is about to leave the hall and enjoy a well-deserved glass of sparkling wine, a squat figure steps out from the shadows of a rutted wooden beam. The professor falters and involuntarily backs away: facing him is a dwarf carrying an old shotgun the size of an infantry gun on his shoulder.

His grizzled pith helmet, shows claw marks that continue on his face in three thumb-thick scars. His clothes smell of old meat bait. The little finger on his left hand is missing. One of his eyes is blind. Ignoring his growing fear, the professor clears his throat, "Ahem, can I help you? I ... I believe the servants' entrance is in the south wing dear sir." "Humbug!" The professor blinks. "Excuse me?" A growl rolls up from the dwarf's barrel-like chest.

"Humbug I say! The whole talk was kodo-dung!" "All right, I think this talk has gone on long enough-" A gnarled dwarf finger appears in a flash under the professor's nose, who can only respond with a bemused squint. "Whale sharks are not gentle giants-they are monsters! MONSTERS I SAY!" The dwarf's gruff voice draws the first glances of more students, and the professor waves his hands frantically. "We can discuss that more quietly, but they're wrong anyway. Whale sharks couldn't attack anyone even if they wanted to. They feed on krill and other microorganisms that they filter out of the water with their gills." The dwarf is positively vibrating with indignation.
Look at him, the swimming war criminal: the monstrous whale shark resembles his peaceful Earth cousin in appearance only! Source: buffed
"You fool! If you're not careful, the whale shark will gill your arms and legs one by one!" "That's not how gills work-" "HE WILL FILTER YOUR SOUL OUT OF YOUR BODY!" By now balancing on the edge of panic, the professor fends off his perplexed colleagues with a convulsive smile as he heaves the incessantly chattering dwarf out of the hall with maximum physical effort.

As the heavy wooden door slams shut, a fading voice can still be heard outside the auditorium, bellowing something about "horned horses" and "tentacled cats." Shaking his head, the professor turns to his colleagues, grabs one of the champagne glasses as he passes, and downs it. After a quick tug on his suit, the world looks a lot better. After all, it would be even nicer if the spotless white academic world were stained by the insights of practitioners. He smiles at his colleagues. "Where were we?"


Sometimes it's important to rejoice in your own "willful suspension of disbelief": the whole thing is an automatic mental acrobatics that lets you block out illogical or inappropriate things in video games and "rationalize away" any blanks. You can eat first aid kits in one gulp and your wounds close up? Video Game. You reload your half-empty gun and keep the rest of the ammo in the magazine? Also a classic video game. Shooting guns without reloading? Yep. Video game. No bowel movements?

Definitely video game. In Azeroth, the whole thing comes pretty easily, too, because at the latest after the first honeymoon with a new MMORPG has passed, you're no longer seeing your character anyway, but a bunch of numbers hitting other numbers to make their own numbers grow. So far, so familiar. But if we put our video game logic on standby for a moment and use our real world logic instead, the motley wildlife of Azeroth suddenly becomes a nightmare parade, the kind of thing that would look good in Salvador Dali's paintings. For example, there are no predators without saber teeth, almost no one in the animal kingdom can close their own mouth, and horns grow everywhere where there shouldn't be horns.
Darwin's Nightmare: The Absurd Zoology of WoW (3) Source: buffed
To take the whole thing to the extreme, the unwritten fantasy rules are also suspended, because next to striders, crocolics and zhevras is the homicidal "cow". We take a not-so-serious look at the animal kingdom of WoW (buy now €14.99 ) and the ecological niches its inhabitants occupy. After all, there must be a reason why the Titans obviously rolled the dice when they distributed the various animal species across the continents! So put on your monocle, because we're now walking in the footsteps of David Attenborough - and those of Nesingwary. It's WoW, so of course your shotgun can't be missing.


In the real world, whale shark is the definition of a gentle giant: The largest fish in the world (it's not a whale), it feeds on krill and other microorganisms, which it filters from the water using its gills. The colossus's huge mouth looks scary, but even divers who get in its way are, at most, gently pushed out of the way. In fact, in protected areas, whale sharks have been known to "play" with divers by chasing and nudging them or letting them "ride" on their backs for a while. The coolest thing: Whale sharks have skin that is 15 cm (!) thick, so they are protected from virtually all predators. However, the thing that makes its rounds in Vashj'ir bears no resemblance to the loving colossi of the real world; on the contrary.

While the titanic killers resemble their terrestrial counterparts to a tee, keen observers will discover a small but subtle difference: the whale sharks of Azeroth possess teeth! To make matters worse, the biters are crooked and stubby, while the rest of the maw remains unchanged and is obviously used to suck in large amounts of water and slurp microorganisms through its gills. Unlike the real world whale sharks, which are a maximum of twelve meters long, the murder whale shark is as big as a small town and as unstoppable as death.

WoW TBC Classic: The release trailer for Lords of Outland is here!

Woe betide anyone who makes the mistake of venturing into Vashj'ir with Chromie Time activated. Blizzard tried to recapture the magic of the Devil's Bane back in Cataclysm days, unleashing something that could no longer be controlled. At the time, entire raids perished before the vicious boss fish's beastly gills. If the whale shark hit you, it would murder your avatar, delete your character, uninstall WoW, and personally ring your front doorbell to kick your dog. We mean it: stay away from the whale shark! Now that we've given you fair warning, let's next consider what ecological niche the whale shark occupies in Azeroth, and the answer is as simple as can be: murder. Its niche is murder.

Think about it for a moment: Everything about the whale shark resembles its Earth brother exactly, from its build to its jaw and the visible filter-blades in its maw. The only differences are its enormous size, its aggression, and a full eleven useless teeth (we counted). The solution to the mystery is that the teeth are only there to ward off enemies and sow fear among the playerbase!

Also, it has no attack animation - the mere presence of this monster sucks your life right out of your body. So the dwarf in the intro was right: it filters your soul until there's nothing left of you and then, despising your suffering, floats away like a fat, mass-murdering zeppelin with the only animation it possesses. The whale shark has no niche. It is an absolute incarnation of death that makes even our arch-super-villain enemy Sargeras leave the room shaking his head at the sight of it.

The Bird Helicopter
Hunter players are probably nodding in exasperation now: almost all birds in WoW suffer from an incurable case of "helicopter wing." The moment you tame them, they fly beside you on the spot like a Harrier fighter jet. Confessed golden eagles flap their wings like berserkers to keep their weight in place three feet off the ground. To cut a long story short, it doesn't work.
The poor eagles may never land in your company again. We say let the poor flutterers sit on our shoulder! Source: buffed
There are indeed birds of prey like the aforementioned Harrier that can hover at one point with the so-called "shaking flight" - but this is primarily for finding food and not as a standby mode for "air parking". To really hover for long periods of time, the body must be designed from the ground up to do so, and the best example of this is the nimble little hummingbird. There's a reason hummingbirds are so small, of course: Their mass is low enough that they can hover in place longer, aided by a special wingbeat and their machine-gun circuitry. Yet the solution to this plight is so simple: NPC birds can sit down in the wild without a problem! Give us a "falconer animation" where the birds sit on our glove or even shoulder. It looks cool and solves the problem at the same time.


Speaking of whales: Have you ever noticed that virtually all predators in WoW have a terrible lockjaw? Whether it's wolves, bears, or felines, no carnivore is capable of closing its mouth for more than a second. Perhaps bears on Azeroth, for example, function like whales in the sea: they wander through the forest with their mouths open, feeding on the things that stumble into their gullets. Perhaps they possess a cartilaginous filter in their maws that they use to filter mosquitoes and other insects from the air in order to thrive despite their lockjaw? Sound like nonsense?
Darwin's Nightmare: The Absurd Zoology of WoW (1) Source: buffed
True! But you know us, when in doubt, we rely on the wisdom of the great philosopher Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park: "Life makes its way, it conquers new territories, it overcomes all barriers, whether painful or dangerous." Nature is a wonderful thing. If we had to debunk this theory, we would point to the chewing tools of the average WoW predator or omnivore. All roughnecks possess saber teeth. All wolves possess saber teeth. All NILPFERDE possess saber teeth and also thick rock armor.The horns of the Zhevras
horse-horns are superfluous
There are no large herds of Zhevras to defend against predators, both sexes wear horns, and they are fast enough to simply run away from danger - so why the horns?

Anything that comes anywhere near meat and isn't a bear has huge, completely unnecessary saber teeth! Birds randomly flying into the jaws would bounce off these murder tools. To explain, saber-toothed tigers of our world not only possessed huge fangs, but also jaws that could open extremely wide and, derived from skeletal evidence, massive neck muscles with which to support their bite. On primeval worlds like Draenor, huge fangs make sense, because somehow predators have to get at the soft tissue of the neck and abdomen when all the herbivores around them (and the plants themselves) have armor plates and absurdly thick skin.
On Draenor, the omnipresent giant teeth make the most sense. Everything here is armored in some way; you have to crack the thick skin somehow. Source: buffed
On Azeroth, on the other hand, the development of saber teeth is not useful, because there are enough "normal" prey animals running around to be able to do without sabers that are thirty centimeters long. But hey, tell that to a troll! Orcs have the excuse of being from Draenor, but trolls have tusks that would be comparable to wild boars - if wild boars had teeth so big that they couldn't bite properly, fend off enemies, or even pull a sweater over their heads. Seriously, imagine a troll putting chainmail over his head. When Animal Control frees him an hour later, it becomes clear why most trolls are leatherworkers.


The danger of the qiraj becomes much less when you consider that the insects would probably collapse under their weight Source: buffed
Everyone knows the situation: you're just grabbing a carton of milk from the corner general store, and an old god attacks, pelting you with fists full of giant insects and other creepy-crawlies. The problem is so widespread that it's not just insects that are affected. Arachnids like spiders and scorpions also roam Azeroth in absolutely ridiculous size and variety! Not only does this make phobics like to throw big, heavy rocks at their screen - it's also illogical.

The problem with giant insects is that it can't be waved through with the explanation "it's just fantasy" if you look into it a bit. The reason for this is because of the physical structure of insects and the gravity that prevails on Azeroth. We'll explain why, let's just break out our smart-ass glasses for a moment. Here we go. Point 1: We assume that Azeroth has Earth-like gravity. Our characters fall in a similar fashion, possessing a similar build and humanoid form. Azeroth is earth-like. Point 2: Insects have what are called exoskeletons, which function simultaneously as structural stabilization and defensive apparatus.

The larger the insect, the thicker the exoskeleton. However, for insects that grow larger than a cat or small dog, the exoskeleton becomes out of proportion between evolutionary cost and benefit, as it simply becomes too heavy to support its form, protect it, and allow it to move at the same time. "But what about Japanese spider crabs?" we hear your objection. Good question!

The spider crabs (phobics are hereby warned against a Google search) are so large that they seem like creatures out of a Lovecraftian nightmare - and can explicitly only support their size because they live underwater, offsetting some of the gravitational pull through natural buoyancy. There's also the growth process of creatures that use exoskeletons: To grow, they must shed their skin and replace their old skeleton with a new one. The new skeleton must first harden, and during this time they must do completely without the support of an exoskeleton. The answer to the riddle: maybe we're all just tiny! That would explain the giant insects and the silly giant swords at the same time! Source: buffed

... And the answer!

As a final death blow towards giant fantasy insects, we cite the need for a circulatory system that can cope with the new size. To explain, when a creature grows, its surface area increases more slowly than its volume. Small insects, therefore, do not need a complicated circulatory system because they can easily oxygenate their tissues through their skin. If the insect grows to the size of a typical WoW monster, it will also need a correspondingly more complex circulatory system, which would most likely be based on one or more pairs of lungs.

The Tauren and the lovely critters
Be honest, you've also thought about this: Tauren are native to Kalimdor - cows, on the other hand, are native to the Eastern Kingdoms. The affinity is obvious, so how did the humanoid version of Bos taurus completely change continents without leaving behind even the smallest remnant of its kind?

The simplest explanation: tarurs are not descended from cows. But then we have a "Missing Ancestor" situation, in which Tauren have no direct ancestor. Another explanation: maybe one day the horde hornbearers just moved with their husband, wife, and child because they like to eat steak but don't want to look their ancestors in the eye while doing so.

The proof is in the BBQ hut in Thunderbluff - a complete move including a dietary change to poultry is rather unlikely, but we've seen crazier things in WoW. So we conclude: the Tauren are the result of a culinary migration and a species-wide refusal to adopt a vegan lifestyle. Thank you, you're welcome to mail us our PhD.

So, to recap: Imagine an unsteady Qiraj armored drone stumbling around, rolling out of its exoskeleton like a bag of wet cement, and subsequently only being able to emit a low asthmatic whistle as it waits for days to be able to move again. Not particularly impressive. But wait. Maybe there is a way this could all work after all? If you read our article "Alu Helmets Ahead: The Best WoW Conspiracy Theories," then you'll know there's a variant that makes giant insects work: We're all just ten centimeters tall!

This simultaneously explains how giant insects can exist and how we can wield swords the size of a park bench. You can fall 100 feet without dying? Sure - because your mass is not the same as that of a normal-sized human! Boom, we're dropping the mic. Next time someone comes at you with "giant insects don't work," give them this explanation. Grandpa Alfons, is that you?! We're not sure why Tauren evolved on Kalimdor when their apparent ancestor in the Eastern Kingdoms Source: buffed


And poof, we turn our "willful suspension of disbelief" back on: Hardly anything in WoW makes evolutionary sense. Of course, it doesn't have to. Unlike the game's plot, the animal world doesn't necessarily need internal consistency because it's merely the backdrop against which we save worlds, beat up gods, and occasionally collect twenty bear butts. Even if we have to wait a long time for predators to close their mouths or birds to land, we really like the dented biodiversity of Azeroth.

Because let's face it, an ecosystem that can best be summed up as "gronn, hydra, river beast, skunk" is a lot of fun after all - if only because you're regularly tearing your hair out and pointing fingers. So grab your shotgun and break down some evolutionary dead ends into their component parts. Nesingwary would be proud of you.

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