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WoW Archivist: Gadgetzan

Blizzard began teasing Hearthstone players about Gadgetzan this fall. First we got a billboard/postcard-ish image that read “Greetings from Gadgetzan. It’s as clean as it is safe!” The design mirrors a famous billboard at the Atlantic City boardwalk in New Jersey. Given the New York/New Jersey accents and mobster motifs of the Goblin race, there’s no doubt that this was 100% intentional. Few at the time believed that Gadgetzan could be the theme of an entire Hearthstone expansion. There just wasn’t enough content to base 130+ cards on.

Then we saw issues of the “Gadgetzan Gazette” newspaper. It seemed to portray a much bigger and more elaborate version of the goblin-run town than players had ever seen in WoW. A post popped up on Reddit with an in-game screenshot of Gadgetzan to remind everyone how small it actually is. People began to suspect that Hearthstone‘s Gadgetzan would be Team 5’s own invention. Finally, at BlizzCon, we learned that the next Hearthstone expansion was, in fact, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, with a completely re-imagined, bustling metropolis in place of a dusty frontier settlement noticeably lacking in streets.

Let’s take a look at what Gadgetzan was like during the classic era and how it has evolved over the years.

bartertown in mad max

Bartertown

Beyond Thunderdrome

Blizzard loves to use pop culture references in WoW. Gadgetzan was an homage to the post-apocalyptic desert settlement of Bartertown, from 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Tina Turner played the warlord who ran Bartertown, and she also sang the theme song for the film. Criminals and outsiders were punished by fighting to the death in a giant metal dome.

Gadgetzan had its own metal dome, and appropriately, it was a PVP-friendly area. Guards would not attack you if you initiated combat there, as long as the fight didn’t spill out into the town. During classic, Gadgetzan became a popular world PVP area. The flight masters outside the walls were dead more than they were alive on some realms. In classic, the dome was called The Cage. Now it has a far more on-the-nose name: The Thunderdrome.

During Burning Crusade, Blizzard added an NPC to Gadgetzan called “Katrina Turner.” She’s dressed in silver chain mail just like Tina Turner’s character in the movie.

chicken escort quest

Chickens and deadly potions

In classic, Tanaris was a neutral 40-50 leveling zone. NPCs in Gagdetzan provided most of the zone’s quests. WoW Archivist recently covered the most famous quest line — to unlock the uncanny Noggenfogger Elixir — as we looked at the history of Legion‘s class hall champions. From Gadgetzan, you could also investigate the looming Silithid threat, combat the Sandfury trolls, assemble fragments of a pirate’s treasure map, and rescue a lost mechanical chicken belonging to one Oglethorpe Obnoticus.

The latter was a rather notorious and lengthy escort quest. The chicken was low level and aggro’ed everything in sight, especially in the dense Wastewander bandit areas. It couldn’t be directly healed. The scorpids in its path would poison it, and the poisons couldn’t be dispelled. The poisons fell off if the chicken was out of combat for a while, but it was rarely out of combat in this gauntlet of mobs. You’d also get ambushed by multiple enemies at once as part of the escort itself.

During classic, taking on multiple mobs like that was actually dangerous while leveling. It was recommended to bring a friend along to complete this quest. Blizzard made this (and the other chicken escort quests) easier in patch 3.2. The chicken now engages its rocket boosters and flies back to safety after a short walk.

Another memorable classic quest brought you to Gadgetzan’s graveyard. During the continent-spanning Legend of Zelda-esque Linken quest line, players had to visit the graveyard and drink a potion. The questgiver warned you that “You may be quite surprised at the results…” When you drank the potion, you dropped dead on the spot. As a ghost, you then had to confer with another ghost who wandered the hills north of town.

gadgetzan_auction_house

A neutral faction and Auction House

Gadgetzan was run by a neutral faction called the Steamwheedle Cartel. They also ran the port on the east coast of Tanaris. You could gain reputation with the cartel by completing certain quests and killing certain enemies, mostly pirates and Venture Co. mercenaries. However, there was never a reputation vendor to reward you for it. Steamwheedle Cartel later became lumped in with other obscure classic reputations for the Insane in the Membrane Feat of Strength.

The town was also one of very few locations during classic that provided access to both a bank and an Auction House. Back then, every Auction House was its own market. They weren’t linked. Horde players in Orgrimmar, for example, could only sell to Horde players in Orgrimmar, and likewise for the Alliance. The Gadgetzan Auction House was its own, neutral market. Selling items at a neutral Auction House was the only way to move them from one faction to the other.

Players often tried to “send” items to their alts in the other faction by placing them for sale at the Gadgetzan Auction House for a few copper. Then they’d quickly log over to buy them. True to the town’s goblin ideals, other players would camp the neutral Auction Houses and try to snipe these auctions before the seller could switch characters. Blizzard finally linked all Auction Houses together in patch 6.0. Gadgetzan’s Auctioneer Beardo (promoted to Auctionmaster) is one of few Mean Streets cards based on an existing NPC in WoW.

gadgetzan after the shattering

Ocean-front property

Gadgetzan and Tanaris have come a long way since classic. During Burning Crusade, Blizzard added the Caverns of Time just east of Gadgetzan, with all of their dungeons and raid zones. In Cataclysm, Blizzard narrowed the level range of Tanaris to 45-50. New quest lines were added to the zone, including a series of challenges at the Thunderdrome. The quest giver even tacitly admits that they stole the design of Gadgetzan from Mad Max. He tells you, “Hey, friend, you interested in excitement? Adventure? Money? Violence? Well, you’d better like violence, because they just reopened the Thunderdrome in Gadgetzan. It was sad to see it unused for so long, what with the injury lawsuits, and the racketeering charges, and the copyright infringement… But it’s back.”

After the Shattering, a huge chunk of Tanaris was flooded by rising ocean levels. For better or worse, Gadgetzan is now right on the water. The premise of the Mean Streets expansion is that the Shattering turned Gadgetzan from a landlocked outpost to a thriving port. One thing hasn’t changed, though: it’s still a hotbed for corruption, greed, violence, and alchemical innovation.

We’ve already seen Blizzard incorporate some ideas from Hearthstone back into WoW, such as Sir Finley Mrrgglton’s appearance in Legion. Will Gadgetzan ever resemble the sprawling metropolis imagined in Mean Streets? Suramar proves that Blizzard is capable of designing a complex urban environment. I think the developers would need a very good reason to revisit Gadgetzan. However, if Blizzard has proven one thing over the past 12 years when it comes to World of Warcraft, it’s never say never.

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