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I've faced The Goblin Army and The Pirates a few times now. But the most recent time I faced them, I noticed that they only appear to be in the centre of world. I was in the Crimson farming for a key mold, and thought the invasion would help to get it.

When I spawned the Pirates, a few came but no more seemed to spawn. Later on when I went back home, there they where. I fought them and defeated them. The exact same thing happened with The Goblin Army.

So do they just spawn in the centre of world, or was I just doing something wrong?

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When you first summon the Pirate or Goblin invasion, the message appears saying:

The Goblin Army/Pirates are approaching from the East/West!

The initial wave of enemies enter from the edge of the world, the direction is specified in the message. These enemies will then begin to move towards the middle of the world.

When the following message appears:

The Goblin Army/Pirates have arrived!

This means that enemies will begin spawning in the middle of the world.

Hence, only the initial wave of Goblins/Pirates spawn away from the centre of the map, the rest of them spawn in the centre of the world only.

Wiki pages for reference:

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    Note that "west" means left and "east" means right, despite this making the sun and moon move from west to east. – Michaellogg Feb 25 '16 at 16:58
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From what I remember, the enemies always spawn off-screen. In case of the Goblins (I assume it's the same for Pirates), they are sent towards the center of the map so as to come across your settlement.

Which means that if you're out and about, they could spawn offscreen and walk away from you (but in the direction of the center of the map).

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    This is in fact incorrect. While enemies can only spawn offscreen near the player, they are not sent towards the center of the map. The area in which you can be for them to be eligible to spawn offscreen travels from one edge towards the center of the map. – Nick Feb 25 '16 at 17:26

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