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Exploring the World of Warcraft? Better Bring a Map!
World of Warcraft isn't the largest MMO ever in terms of sheer size, but it certainly is one of the most elaborate and requires players to move around a great deal. In fact, Blizzard's development of the game very specifically directs players to visit different parts of the world as they level up. World of Warcraft is good about giving players the proper directions, but even so you might sometimes become lost, and there are always additional details which are left out.
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What would happen if you took World of Warcraft into a Google map? You'd have MapWoW, a basic map website.
MapWOW is a great utility for getting a general overview of the layout of zones in World of Warcraft. The map lets you zoom out so that you can see the entire world of WoW at once, or you can zoom in to see specific areas of a map with great detail. All portions of the world are included, which means that you can see content from the latest World of Warcraft expansions as well as the original game.
There is also some basic data which can be placed over top of the MapWOW website, making it a great utility for some players. You can add Hoard and Alliance travel paths and you can also display locations of various trade resources, like ores and herbs. If you're a crafter the MapWoW website is a good way of finding zones which have the resources which you need to gather.
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Speaking of trade resources, while you're using MapWOW to find resources and exploit them you'll also probably want to use Gatherer to keep track of the resources you've found. Gatherer is an add-on for World of Warcraft. It is not a map, but it is a utility which remembers where you were when you mined a certain resource. By keeping track of this information, the Gatherer add-on can create a in-game map over time which provides you with data about where you need to mine. This data is more accessible and generally more up-to-date than information gathered by a static map which has to be regularly updated by its creator.
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The state of in-game map add-ons for World of Warcraft hasn't been pretty lately. Two popular add-ons, Atlas and Cartographer, have run into issues because the people who created them are no longer able to keep them updated. This has left a gap open for other add-ons to fill, and one of the new add-ons looking to take up the job of providing a high-quality map add-on is Mapster.
Mapster is fairly simple. The creator of Mapster notes that it isn't supposed to be a one-stop-shop for keeping track of gathering data, waypoints, quests and all sorts of other information. It is simply meant to be a very good, simple map which can be used in conjunction with other utilities to add or reduce functionality as needed. So far, Mapster seems to be on the right track with this approach. Mapster is one of the easiest to use and best looking World of Warcraft maps available, and the creator is updating it every few months.
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While Mapster takes the keep-it-simple approach, Car bonite is a full-blown attempt to re-work the interface of World of Warcraft. It is much more that just a map, but everything in Carbonite works together so that trying to take the map away as a single element would be pointless. Carbonite changes the look of the interface, includes an extensive quest database, including resource gathering functionality and lets you browse all of your equipment in all of your bank and bag slots from a single screen.
The map itself is arguably the most full-featured map you can possibly find in World of Warcraft. Quests, resources, and locations are all overlaid with easy-to-identify icons. You'll be able to access the advanced battle map, which is for use in player versus player battlegrounds. This map lets you keep track of teammates, view objective timers and analyze the battlefield situation.
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Maps are very useful in World of Warcraft. A good World of Warcraft map can make it ten times easier to get around the world and complete quests. However, there is still a problem - the difference between the map and the territory. A map is great, but ultimately it isn't the place you're really exploring. Sometimes the map is out of date, wrong, or is hard to read.
The TomTom add-on solves this by creating a GPS-like interface for World of Warcraft which helps you navigate to where you need to go with greater accuracy than any map. This accomplished through the use of what is called a "crazy arrow" - a three dimensional arrow which points you in the direction which you need to go to reach whatever it is you're looking for. You can set waypoints by clicking on quest objectives or by using the world map. You can also use TomTom to easily find your corpse.
Ideally, TomTom should be used in conjunction with something like Mapster. The combination of a good map and a virtual GPS device for World of Warcraft will make it, very, very easy to get around with minimal chance that you'll end up getting lost in surrounding by elite monsters!
Check out this article series for guides to maps and some of the best locations in World of Warcraft.