How Many More Must Die? (Until I level?)

  By Shamus   Sep 28, 2009   46 comments

Some friends and I had an interesting conversation about kills in MMO games. Lets us begin with:

  1. Eleven million World of Warcraft players. I’m never sure if the “number of players” is the total number of active and inactive accounts, or the number of currently active players. Let’s stay way on the safe side and assume no more than eleven million players, ever.
  2. Assume four characters per account. (Real characters with a few levels under their belt. Let’s just ignore the characters which are created and deleted before they turn ten.) Again, this is a very conservative estimate. Some players might have just one, but other players will have a dozen or more spread out over multiple servers.
  3. Assume each character kills an average of 1,000 boars during their career. This is also conservative, I think, given the fact that you fight various types of boars throughout the game. From the starting areas to the end game, most zones have one or two varieties of boar in them.

Final boar death toll: 44,000,000,000. Forty-four Billion. More than seven times the number of human beings in the world. And that’s just boars.

I’d love to know the final death toll for the game, all monsters, NPCs, and players combined. I’ll bet it’s enough to extinguish all mammalian life on Earth.

No point to this, really. I’m just saying.

20206Feeling chatty? There are 46 comments.


  1. Robert says:

    WOW is a plot by the pork industry to desensitize us to the deaths of these gentle creatures for our dinner tables.

    I would join PETA if bacon didn’t taste so good. (And if they weren’t a–holes.)

  2. Randy Johnson says:

    I still feel like 1000 is way to low, considering I killed roughly 200 just trying to get the boar intestines for that westfall stew

  3. Kojiro says:

    Genocide is one of the many things that can be justified in the pursuit if improving ones character. Rampant kleptomania is another, as is (in games where such drinks provide bonuses) unchecked alcoholism.

    Wow, though. That is a lot of dead boars. It’s a wonder they aren’t an endangered species by now.

  4. Heron says:

    It’s not quite that bad. Those 44 billion boars are spread across several servers. If for convenience we say there are 11 servers, that’s “only” 4 billion boars per world…

    In more real-world terms, it might be more like trying to track the worldwide ant death toll due to human activities. That’s sure to be in the billions, if not higher, but they’re still going strong.

    A more interesting question would be, where are all these fully-grown boars coming from? :)

  5. vede says:

    I can proudly say I have not contributed at all to this horrific, mindless slaughter.

    (Although… I have killed a few zombies. That would be an interesting statistic to compute seeing how you need people to make zombies, and I’m sure there have been more games with zombies than with boars.)

  6. Sean says:

    Why not check inside WoW itself for some numbers? The achievement system has a statistics tab that gives you some real numbers. My level 78 Rouge has killed 6,888 creatures to date. I’m not sure what the total boars would be, but it’s got to be less than 1,000 for this character because the most killed creature type of mine is Humanoid which has 2,537 kills. That only leaves 4,351 for the other 9 types of creatures that I’ve killed so I find it hard to imagine I’ve killed 1,000+ boars yet.

  7. Jeremiah says:

    Just think. If boars are reproducing fast enough to keep up with that death toll, just imagine what the rabbits must be doing.

  8. Stormcaller says:

    Since they introduced the statistics counter in wow… – a little over a year ago? i have killed 72,820 things on my main character… probably close to 200k on all characters but i didnt bother checking all the others :) and thats only on one server :).

    Also there are around 200 servers i think (counting EU, US, LA, CH, AU and KR).

    So average 55,000 players per server… rough average 100k kills per account, its only 5.5 Billion kills per year :)

  9. Sean says:

    @Stormcaller: Whoa.. that’s a lot of kills! I just checked my 36 Paladin who’s had 3,250 creature kills total. It would seem that I somehow level up without killing nearly as many things as you do. :P I’m pretty much a pure quester, though. I never run instances. I don’t know if that’d have something to do with it or not. I’ve not spent any time grinding for anything, either – just playing. Maybe I’m a bad example case. :)

  10. Jeff says:

    Let’s assume the 11 million are active accounts – they’re paying their monthly fees.
    At the cheapest (with the half year plan), it’s $12.95USD (iirc).
    That’s $142,450,000 a month, $1,709,400,000 annually.

    The 1.7 billion annual figure agrees with the “over 1 billion in revenue” figures from WoW, so I think the number provided is just “active accounts”.

  11. Stormcaller says:

    That might have something to do with it… That char is a raiding one, so lots of things do die quickly… – also trying to get it loremaster… :/

    Will check one of the less active chars :)

    [edit]
    Ok checked my second most active char… only 11503 kills.

    so lets lower the average :)

    Im guessing it is probably close to 2-5k pre 80 and 10k post 80… Assuming that once level capped most activity on a char will be raids or instances.

  12. Heron says:

    Yeah, Blizzard is making disgusting amounts of money off of WoW. Personally I think that’s why they’re focusing less on “how can we make gamers love us for StarCraft 2″ and more on “how can we squeeze every last sale out of gamers for StarCraft 2 – those dirty pirates!” The money has corrupted them :( I also don’t understand why they sold out to Activision. It’s not like they needed the money.

  13. Sean says:

    Here’s a great article about some of the WoW internal details and the insane scale they operate at: An Inside Look At The Universe Of Warcraft

    Summary: As an organization, World of Warcraft utilizes 20,000 computer systems, 1.3 petabytes of storage, and more than 4600 people.

  14. AR says:

    On the subject of random amusing things, I found this image that reminded me of Shamus’ posts on the difficulty of working with customers as a programmer. Read right-to-left.

  15. Sheer_FALACY says:

    It’s 11 million active accounts, but it’s counting accounts in Asia, where they don’t pay monthly fees – they pay per hour or something silly like that, and supposedly end up paying significantly less per account.

    …and that little comic’s dialogue appears entirely in a Dilbert strip. Which, I am guessing, is the original source.

  16. Cooked Auto says:

    Gamers have always been masters at genocide. I mean the number of kills in all the Halo 3 co-op campaigns that have been played is a couple of million I think. Can’t seem to find the exact numbers though despite my attempts.

    But 44 billion boars. That’s rather impressive in a grim way.

  17. krellen says:

    Heron said: Yeah, Blizzard is making disgusting amounts of money off of WoW.
    Actually, Vivendi is making disgusting amounts of money off WoW. That’s why they bought Blizzard in the first place. Vivendi was a horrible company with relatively little actual content to their name (Crash Bandicoot was their biggest hit) until they bought Sierra and Blizzard. Blizzard alone brought Vivendi out of the red in a single year of WoW.

    Blizzard’s business decisions since slightly before the launch of WoW have been heavily influenced by Vivendi, which is why you’re seeing the slow leeching of the “good quality” mentality and the rise of the “more money” mentality.

    Blizzard is literally not the same company it was when it made Starcraft ten years ago.

  18. Alux says:

    WoW stats are interesting and all, but I’m interested in the total number of Infected killed in Left 4 Dead.

    Quick math: let’s assume 1 000 per game, average total. Probably several hundred thousand games have been played – we’ll say one million, conservatively. One thousand million or about one billion zombies.

    Hm, someone should make a stats page like this for games.

  19. Jazmeister says:

    There was a great article in PC Gamer UK that used a lot of logic to work out the shape of Azeroth and the mass of the planet and so on. I can’t find it, but it was awesome.

  20. Alan De Smet says:

    @AR: People might find the original Dilbert cartoon that the text was taken from easier to read, since English readers are more comfortable with a left-to-right, then top-to-bottom reading order instead of top-to-bottom, then right-to-left.

  21. Galenor says:

    The Bungie Stat Tracker is great for little tidbits like this – they give the official stats on all the goings-on in Halo 3, and also in ODST which was just released.

    A few pulled from the page:

    14,681,805,489 enemies have died in Halo 3 + ODST’s campaign mode.
    4,250,964,062 of these were Grunts. (Yes, they have stats for each enemy.)
    150,240,985 enemies have been killed today.

    2,388,856,148 Friendlies have also died thoughout the history of Halo 3 + ODST.

    1,373,584,917 total Halo 3 games have been played to occupy the 15,110,231 players.

    Can’t seem to find anything based on players killed on Online Multiplayer. I imagine that number is sky high!

    http://www.bungie.net/online/default.aspx

  22. Factoid says:

    Forget WoW….I think the true genocide is Star Wars games. How many times have we all blown up the death star? That’s a million or so right there.

    Then there’s star destroyers…tens of thousands more each.

    Not to mention all the shuttles, land bases, tie fighters, transports, etc…

    I’m pretty much convinced that I’ve personally been responsible for the digital deaths of tens of millions of imperials.

    The only group that probably comes even close is Nazis, followed most likely by Zombies and non star-wars aliens.

  23. AR says:

    @Alan De Smet

    Yeah, probably. I don’t read Dilbert so I didn’t get the reference.

  24. Pickly says:

    On the “blizzard’s business decisions”, Blizzard has been a part of vivendi for awhile, even when making D2 and such.

    On the “why did blizzard merge with activision?” question, The back of my mind is telling me that the merge was more to help activision, though I may just be imaging this details from some impressions.

    I do think the money and popularity may be going too their heads, though.

  25. Pickly says:

    As for Genocide, and mass killing, by numbers MMOs might be more, but by percentage RTS games have to be pretty high (It seems most units created in these games get killed, compare to how armies nowadays seem to have higher success rates.)

    Galactic Civilizations 2 also ends up quite genocidal (with billions killed when invading a planet, and unless information warfare is used, the assumption seems to be that you must eliminate all citizens of a planet in order to conquer it (Merely most if using information warfare). than go to the implications when conquering another civilization…

  26. Neko says:

    With the WoW stats tab, you have to remember that they only started tracking some of these stats and achievements since the expansion came out. I estimate my character has killed several thousand boars as a minimum.

  27. lebkin says:

    Heron: Blizzard is literally not the same company it was when it made Starcraft ten years ago.

    While I understand that the actual ownership of Blizzard has changed hands quite a bit (Davidson & Associates > Cendant > Havas > Vivendi > Activision), I do not see how Blizzard is literally a different company. Two of its founders, Michael Morhaime and Frank Pearce are still president and vice-president respectively (the third founder, Allen Adham, left in 2004). As far as I can tell, the culture and games coming out of Blizzard look and feel just as they always have.

    Nor I have not noticed a major decrease in quality. You cite Vivendi as a problem. But under their ownership, Blizzard brought us Diablo 2, which is my favorite Blizzard game. StarCraft 2 and Diablo 3 look to continue their predecessors’ legacy despite the company being now part of Activision.

    But there could be something I am missing. What exactly do you see that bothers you so?

  28. toasty says:

    “But there could be something I am missing. What exactly do you see that bothers you so?”

    The crap they’re pulling in regards to DRMs and multiplayer. Stuff like “no LAN” in Starcraft II when they are the guys that FRIKKIN invented LAN play for RTS games (okay, not invented, but made popular) with Starcraft. Its idiotic. It might not change much (cuz Starcraft II will get hacks that allow LAN or something) but its still not good form.

    On the boars: That is a LOT of boars. I never thought of it that way.

    And yes, I’m probably responsible for the deaths of thousands, if not millions, (how many people die when you conquer a City in Civilization?) of virtual people.

  29. MichaelG says:

    23,577 “creatures killed” in WoW for me. And (Lord forgive me for wasting my life) 84 days, 22 hours /played.

  30. Dev Null says:

    Actually, I love the idea of an MMO with a realistic ecosystem. Like, if you don’t leave enough boars alive then there are no baby boars to form the next generation. The ecosystem would crash in minutes, and the world would become a lifeless wasteland.

    Hey, I didn’t say it’d be fun to _play_, I just said I loved the idea…

  31. RPharazon says:

    Galenor (21): I love Bungie’s obsession with metadata and easy access of said metadata. It does it better than any nearest competitor (which would be a Valve game, I guess).

    In a single run-through of ODST, I’ve killed 485 grunts, 122 brute leaders, 177 brute infantrybrutes, 176 jackals, and interestingly enough, I’ve killed more people with melee than I have with a tank. And I’ve killed a lot of people with a tank.

    Shame people can’t see past the atrocious community, though. There’s a goldmine of great data and services that Bungie offers to those who scratch below the surface.

  32. MelTorefas says:

    @Dev Null: Saga of Ryzom, while not going that far, still managed to impress me with their living world. Seasons changed (dramatically changing the look of the world), herbivore type animals would travel in actual herds, and predatory animals would form small groups and literally separate an herbivore or two to kill and eat. Animals were looted by “quartering” them which always yielded animal parts.

    Now, if only they could have made it engaging to actually play…

  33. RE: the WoW stats – those stats are only since a patch put them there, and don’t have data from before then on several things. So using them would only bring to mind recently slaughtered boars and mask the tragedy

  34. John Tomorrow says:

    crikey. thats a buttload of critters.

    It brings a valid point, however. much like what Dev_Null said, if these worlds were real their ecosystems would be completely wiped out within months, perhaps even weeks.

    But then, they wouldnt have a nigh-endless spawning area of humans/orcs/elves/whatever. it would be an interesting concept to allow you to play as an infant first, learning about the rules of the game and the controls as a child, before receiving a weapon at a certain age…

    …hmmm. sounds familiar. might cop some fallout for that…

  35. Jabor says:

    A fair few of the browser-based MMO’s use that sort of thing.

    Usually it’s to do with abstract “resource harvesting” rather than specifically “killing animals”, but the principle is the same – the amount of resource in a particular sector increases proportionally to the amount of resource that’s already there (up to some limit).

    Overharvesting in a particular sector gives decreasing yields, and it takes the sector quite some time to recover from it.

    Honestly I think the “decreasing yields” part is important in order to keep this thing working – suddenly going from full-production to nothing-at-all would just result in exploiting resources until they’re gone and then moving on, while diminishing returns encourages players to move on before then and leave it to recover.

  36. Jeff says:

    Given that the Alliance/Horde populations never decrease, since there’s some 11 billion “people” that die and just pop back up in a graveyard, a realistic ecosystem would fail rather spectacular.

    Of course, it could just be that the world is littered with graveyards for various creatures, and the boars’ squeals all translate to “OMG, griefer!”

  37. Stringycustard says:

    I’ve always wondered about how much horror characters in games bring to the world. Death tolls are extreme. I thought about it again while recently playing The Witcher – at one point an entire village is wasted. And at no time (well, I’m only in the next bit after that so maybe it happens later) does anyone seem to mention this afterwards. And I thought it was atrocious. What about the surviving families? I expected to walk into the town next door to see groups of people mourning.

    Instead (in the nearby town) I found a place that generated around 3-4 assassins each evening who then attacked the dwarves (mostly) and elves nearby. Each night there would be multiple deaths. And the town I was in couldn’t have been that big so I keep expecting to see a nearly devoid town, bodies strewn about, people crying and leaving as whole families had been wiped out. Instead it seems that the dwarf/half-elf/assassin(human) population is nigh-on infinite.

    The game exceeds in bringing you into its world and then does this. It seems to be the standard thing to do (npc generators) and it’s easy to see why (dev time is reduced), but surely one could tie these generators into a more realistic system wherein which the more that die, the fewer are born. For WoW, that would obviously suck as then nobody could go out and level and in some other games this needs to be the case in order to “have fun”. But it sort of makes you feel inadequate in some way.

    I don’t know, but I think I’m feeling what you are Shamus.

  38. xdahnx says:

    @Shamus (and everyone else)

    Your numbers shock you, but the truth of the matter is that those figures of virtual deaths are not so far off from the annual death toll for animals in the ‘real world';

    The worldwide number of animals killed for food in 2000 was 45 billion, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. This included 306 million cattle, buffalo, and calves, 1.2 billion pigs, 795 million sheep and goats, and 42.7 billion chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese. The figures exclude some small countries and ‘non-slaughter’ deaths, which are generally not reported. These Figures Do Not Include Fish.

    http://faostat.fao.org/

  39. Drue says:

    When I was playing WoW way back in the day and I had my first character near level 60 I got sick of questing and wanted to rush to the end. I found a place devoid of players but full of high level mobs and started grinding out the last level. Since the game told me how much experience I needed and how much I was getting from each kill I did the math and found I needed something like 1,600 kills (on those particular mobs) to finish out the level. It seems like alot for only one level but this is before the leveling adjustments, so it took really long to hit 60 from scratch. I think it might have taken even longer than it would to hit 80 from scratch now, but I don’t play anymore so I wouldn’t know.

    I don’t know how much difference it made without quests but 1,600 mobs just for one level is alot.

  40. LintMan says:

    @Pickly: The “casual genocide” in Galactic Civilizations 2 is one of things I really dislike about it. You ship billions off your planets to kill the billions on their planets. MOO2 handled this vastly better 10 years earlier.

  41. Chuk says:

    I can’t believe no one’s made any comments about the Boar War.

  42. kmc says:

    About the 11 million figure, I heard (pure hearsay) that many of the Asian accounts that fill out that number are non-playing accounts, and that WoW is also marketed as a screensaver over there. Sounds pretty crazy to me, but can anybody back that up or shoot it down? I don’t think it’s going to bring down your estimate, though. Also, I think that’d be an insanely expensive screensaver, especially when there’s Pixel City! BTW, I still have co-workers come into my office and say, “Hey, what’s that? It’s really cool.”

  43. guy says:

    I’ve probably killed trillions with my GalCiv invasions and sword of the stars world burner attacks.

  44. D4 says:

    Frankly, I assume they’re all dead already. We’re all just wandering around an afterlife–that’s the reason we can come back from being “dead” so easily, the reason mobs just keep spawning over and over, and even the specific named folks we kill come back in a few minutes.

    Very rarely, someone transcends the limits of this afterlife, either moving onward and upward or finally being wiped out of existence, but generally, the most one can expect is an extended period of quiescence.

  45. krellen says:

    @lebkin: In addition to the stuff Toasty listed, there’s also the lore question. WoW has managed to ignore much of the lore from the earlier Warcraft titles, down to a rather infamous moment wherein Chris Metzen admits to forgetting a vital piece of lore he himself wrote for the manual to Warcraft 2. This piece of lore makes the entire “Draenei” race as it exists in WoW a massive retcon.

    It’s a large part of why I quit the game.

  46. Deoxy says:

    surely one could tie these generators into a more realistic system wherein which the more that die, the fewer are born.

    There are entire sites and hobby-developers groups built around this concept. It’s not nearly as easy as it seems. It’s actually pretty neat stuff, and if I weren’t completely consumed with small children and no money, I’d probably be spending ridiculous amounts of time being involved with it…

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