The story of World of Warcraft's Corrupted Blood plague, and its real-world parallels

"I woke up and there were skeletons in the room, which is not normal. Unless you've had a really big night." So says Paul F. Verhoeven, who describes himself as having been a full-blown World of Warcraft addict back in 2005 when the Corrupted Blood plague hit Azeroth. Those skeletons were some of the plague's early victims. It would eventually spread to more than four million players.

On September 13, 2005, the Zul'Gurub raid went live. Corrupted Blood was intended to be a mechanic solely for its climactic boss fight, causing 263 to 337 damage every two seconds and spreading to nearby allies. Those allies included pets, and since nobody wanted to see their pets die, players dismissed them when they caught the debuff. Though nobody realized it at the time, the consequences of that would be disastrous.

Though Corrupted Blood was cleared from player-characters exiting the raid, it wasn't cleared from their dismissed pets. Resummoned back in town, those pets were still infected. Unbeknownst to their owners, these beloved companions were the Typhoid Marys of the Blood Plague—not so much a bird flu as a raptor, crocolisk, and wind serpent flu. It would take until October 10 before Blizzard's rolling restarts and patches fully prevented its spread.

Tales on Snapchat

Tales from the HDD QR code

Here's one way to watch Tales from the Hard Drive: catch the episode on Snapchat by following this link, or scanning the below QR code.

This is Tales from the Hard Drive: PC Gamer's documentary series about the kinds of stories that take on life outside the games that birthed them. Each episode is focused on a real story that has become enshrined as gaming folklore, told and retold across decades on message boards and Discord servers and skeptical Reddit threads. These tall tales represent what we love most about PC gaming: the ways truly passionate players can imprint their own personalities on our shared virtual worlds.

Tales from the Hard Drive, narrated by Lenval Brown

Tales from the Hard Drive demanded a a world-class voice, which is why we brought on Lenval Brown, the incredible narrator of Disco Elysium: The Final Cut to help us tell them.

In Episode 1 we told the story of Angwe, also known as the Terror of Menethil Harbor. Angwe was World of Warcraft's infamous serial killer: an unstoppable rogue who went on a months-long ganking spree that became the stuff of forum legend. 

In Episode 2 we met the Fuel Rats, players of Elite Dangerous who help out pilots who run out of fuel in the deep dark. And given that it's set in a replica of the Milky Way 100,000 light years across, in Elite Dangerous the dark gets real deep.

In Episode 3 we spoke to Dr. Wasteland, the heroic healer who became a legend in DayZ's early days, proving that even a grim post-apocalyptic survival sim had space for altruism.

Make sure to subscribe to PC Gamer's YouTube channel to catch the rest of Tales From the Hard Drive rolling out this summer. 

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.