Archive for October 17, 2009

“Halloween Horrors” or “Nothing Rhymes With Orange”

October 17, 2009 2 comments

halloween-horrors-or-nothing-rhymes-with-orangeHalloween is fast approaching. In the U.S., if you are a kid, it is a time for tricks and treats. If you are a young woman, it is a time to dress up in the sluttiest outfits imaginable and go wild. If you are a young man, you are glad for the young women.

Being an MMO-player gives Halloween a different flavor altogether. It is the time of the year when you inevitably engage in digital activities and events designed around October 31st. These activities may range from fluff achievements, titles or items to complete encounters, epic lewt, and complex new threads of a unique scenario etched into the fabric of the existing lore framework. Let’s take a look at some of the upcoming Halloween events in some of the most popular MMOs. And yes, we will continue my obsession with the number seven in this list as well.

Fallen Earth – Days of the Dead – October 23 onwards

George Romero would be proud. If you can look past the extremely creative event title, indie-hit Fallen Earth plans to use throngs of the wandering undead to melt your faces. The developers have chosen not to blatantly incorporate Halloween-related elements to the game play. Instead, they came up with a cool side-story, weaved the threads into the existing world, and created an event that would allow players to fight off an emergent zombie menace.  The zombies are clones that, in a manner of speaking, ‘went bad’, and now carry nanites that may be harmful to humans or other cloning facilities.

I’m sold.

There is nothing I enjoy more than a developer’s ability to use a real-world event and give it the game’s own special flavor, without breaking the lore. That was until I realized that one of the consumable items you obtain during the event is the “Pumpkin of Extraordinary Merit”. Well, at least the overarching concept is fresh and engaging.

Runes of Magic – Halloween Bundle – October 16 to November 1

Herein lies the problem with mircotransactions. While it sounds like a good idea to only pay for what you may be playing/interested in, seasons like Halloween are largely neglected. The only thought given to any semblance of an in-game connection is buried in another microtransaction. Runes of Magic offers a Halloween Bundle, filled with fluff and largely decorative items. As far as I can tell, there are no in-game events or encounters specific to Halloween. A part of me wants to commend them for not jumping on the seemingly inevitable themed-content band wagon, but they did put up a post about microtransaction-based Halloween items. And that, somehow, is much worse.

Age of Conan – Night of Lost Souls – Unknown

While Fallen Earth does a decent job of masking the event in the lore and giving it the game’s own personal flavor, Age of Conan goes a step further and creates a well-constructed mythology around the events of their seasonal content. Here is a short excerpt:

“As the day slowly but inevitably gives way to the longer nights as the year wanes, there is a time when the thin veil between the night as we know it and the true darkness of the worlds beyond the realm of mortal men is pulled back.”

Players will have three new quests, two solo and one group, and several in-game items to acquire. Most significantly, the game promises to take you to familiar places transformed by the recent taint of the Lost Souls. Sign me up!

halloween-horrors-or-nothing-rhymes-with-orange2Warhammer Online – Daemon Moon Rising – October 23 to November 2

There may be a pattern here, I just can’t seem to put my finger on it. Could it be… zombies? Originality, this season in MMOs, seems to have taken a back-seat to convenience. With Left 4 Dead rallying the masses around the zombie extermination cause, America’s obsession with blasting the undead has grown to unhealthy proportions. I suppose it’s only natural that literally every MMO in-game event is related to zombies. In Warhammer, there is a public quest requiring the Daemon’s Cradle, a major PvP scenario in the Highpass Cemetary, and of course, a ton of Halloween masks.

Champions Online – Blood Moon – October 27 onwards

The superhero simulator will see its first content release with Blood Moon. The content patch will introduce – you might want to sit down here because the shock may be too much – zombies! What’s the twist? The souls of the superheroes (the game’s versions of Batman, Superman etc.) have been trapped by the undying Takophanes. What sets this game apart from the crowd is that aside from new items, encounters and gameplay mechanics, the patch will also introduce a brand new Celestial power set.

Oh and there are werewolves.

Aion – Harvest Revel – October 25 to October 31

There is an eclipse. It brings out zombies. End of story.

World of Warcraft – Hallow’s End – October 18 to November 1

Making no attempts to mask the season with significant lore underpinnings, or simply releasing demonic armies for players to fight against, World of Warcraft will again feature Hallow’s End this year. Masks, brooms that double as flying mounts of all varieties, stat-boosting candy, and magical transformation wands are just some of the fluff ietms you will have access to. In addition, the event will see the return of the Headless Horseman, his dancing pumpkins, and another chance to score some of the 87 bajillion trinkets he carries.

Hallow’s Originality” or “Lore Whore”

Seasonal events are a great way to connect with your player base in a novel and interesting fashion. For MMOs that have been out for several years, seasonal events can also create a sense of  familiarity over the course of time, but it also runs the risk of being monotonous year after year. Regardless of your level of comfort, these events do allow players to break away from their daily grinds in the game.

The real juxtaposition, for me, lies between the level of realism in every aspect of MMOs, and the amount of fun said content can be. On any day of the week (and twice on Sunday), I will take lore-saturated, well crafted in-game experiences over events that have a blatant connection to the season at hand. For instance, I am very excited about Age of Conan’s Night of the Lost Souls, but Hallow’s End will be a boring, repetitive and shallow experience. I mean “Hallow’s End”. They didn’t even try with that one!

What are your feelings on seasonal events? Is realism more important to you, or does something else float your boat entirely?