Behind the stage curtain.

Sometimes, be it through error or happenstance, we players get to see behind the stage presented to us by the game we are playing. Sometimes it’s a very literal behind the scenes look, and other times it’s less obvious or impressive. Nevertheless, these opportunities can give the curious a sneak peek at some of the game mechanics that are otherwise hidden from view.

One such mechanic that I run across in WoW more frequently these days is per-area mob (de)spawn. Basically there are areas where, given no traffic for some time, the mobs in the area are despawned, and they dynamically respawn whenever a player enters the area. It’s hard to determine if this is a general mechanic or only for specific areas, for obvious reasons: the amount of time Goldshire isn’t populated with “Oh thee verily thy forsooth methinks” types or bouncing PvP lolbots is probably close to zero, whereas other areas rarely see much traffic.

One of these places is in a starter area, it’s a little out the way within the starter area itself, and when I tell you that the starter area is Bloodmyst Isle, backwater birthing zone for the Draenei race, an area which itself is tedious and unnecessary to journey to for any character who doesn’t have a specific reason to go there, you’ll understand why this place has little to no traffic for large spans of server up-time.

Blacksilt Shore is a small area tucked away in the far south west of Bloodmyst Isle; there is only one quest that ever sends you to the area, although there is another quest to be picked up from a frequently spawning named mob, another mechanic that Blizzard seemed to get especially excited about and used frequently in the starter areas released in the Burning Crusade expansion, but never seemed to take much further than that. Anyway, if you approach Blacksilt Shore from Kessel’s Crossing by swimming across the small expanse of water that separates them and then run along the shoreline, if no other players have been there for a while (which seems fairly common on my server) then you’ll notice the phenomenon that huge clumps of Blacksilt murlocs suddenly spawn out of nowhere at single points in the water as you run past, and then all move off in different directions, generally populating the area which was otherwise empty a few moments before.

Not terribly impressive I grant you, but one of those things that – if you happen to be the sort of person who is looking for it and is curious about such things – can probably be considered QI, if nothing else.

Next week: The little known but more mundane bug where an oiled-up Jaina Proudmoore can be found naked pole dancing for Thrall.

4 thoughts on “Behind the stage curtain.

  1. pjharvey

    I always took that to be an artefact of the mob-drawing distance, but your explanation makes much more sense.

    It’s more dynamic and fun when the mobs spawn within their aggro range of you, so that a peaceful stroll through the woods is interrupted by decloaking doom of multiple threats.

  2. Melmoth Post author

    I think drawing distance would be a more sensible bet, and something I’d be inclined to go with, if I hadn’t seen five or six of them all appear in exactly the same spot at the same time and then move off in different directions. My guess is that this is used to reduce load on the zone server by ‘turning off’ a bunch of mobs that aren’t being used. I’d certainly be interested to know if this assumption is correct.

    Ah, so you’ve experience it too? Can you share which zone it was in if you can remember, I’d be interested to see where else it happens. I’ve only managed to see it in Blacksilt Shore and one other area which I now forget, up until now.

  3. pjharvey

    Yep, same experience as you. A handful or more mobs all get drawn at the same time then wander off in different directions. Saving server load is the obvious conclusion to draw, which is why I didn’t get close to deducing it.

    I can’t remember specific areas as such, but I know I’ve seen murlocs multi-spawn, maybe in Westfall. It’s funny that players stay away from murloc areas. I’m sure I’ve seen it in multiple areas, though, and I’ll try to make note of further occurrences. For SCIENCE.

  4. Capn John

    Now that you mention that, I do recall witnessing that exact same phenomenon before. Same location, too. I’d wandered down onto the beach when a pack of Murlocs suddenly spawned almost on top of me. As if a larger-than-normal Aggro Radius, a fierce desire to help their mortally wounded kin, and Garglagalagalaga!!! wasn’t already reason enough to fear the little buggers.

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