[WoW] The mastery curve, holidays, and it came from the PUG

wow_hallowsend

Hallow’s End is my favourite of the WoW holiday events. This isn’t just because the Headless Horseman talks in rhyme like a pantomine villain, but because it’s the only event which feels more meaningful in the game world than in real life.

In real life, Halloween in the UK is a  hodge podge which is currently drawing hugely on American customs. It is kind of taking off, but I think we have a much softer spot for the home grown Guy Fawkes Day with its fireworks, anti government themes and politically incorrect  history. It may not be the world’s greatest festival but it’s all ours, dammit.  In game, Hallow’s End is the holiday on which the Forsaken celebrate their freedom from the Scourge. (A fairly brilliant concept from Blizzard which keeps the spooky feel but fits nicely with the lore.) So as my main is Forsaken, it is quite meaningful to me. This screenshot shows the daily ceremony in the Undercity where Sylvanas walks out and gives a speech/ pep talk in front of the Wicker Man. You can see that there are a few other players standing around, even though I don’t think you get any buffs from watching the event. They just wanted to come and see.

As players, we are probably all used to seeing thinly veiled lore-based excuses for having Xmas events. Players like them. But I much prefer the approach that imagines what type of holidays the in game races might have, what events might they celebrate? LOTRO does a good job with these, tying their holidays to the seasons and harvests. Anyone else have favourite events with game-specific lore that just really works for you?

Yesterday you were the noob, today you are the master

In any MMO, you can imagine a kind of learning curve where you begin as an inexperienced player and end up achieving the sort  of mastery where random strangers ask you for tips about your gear/ playing style in PUGs. OK, in my dreams maybe, but every player takes a journey from feeling new and awkward and unconfident to feeling comfortable with the content, confident, and capable in their role. This includes collecting gear, exploring the zones and instances, learning the fights and learning the class.

In particular if you want to take part in group content at max level, there is a trial by fire where you start queuing for PUGs as a nervous, barely geared level 90. Then as you get more experience and better gear, you don’t feel so nervous any more. Your tanking/healing/dps is fine and you know it.

That learning curve seems to get shorter with each expansion, but I suspect that is partly my being generally familiar with the game. It is, however, one of my absolute most favourite parts of WoW. That sense that every dungeon run is exciting because you can still make daft mistakes, help your group narrowly avoid a wipe, or just barely heal a fight and keep everyone alive. And more than that, the sense that you are still learning something with every run, still hoping for that cool drop, still engaged with the content.

I know not everyone likes excitement or that skin of the teeth feeling, but I do enjoy the learning curve. I feel that with Spinks I’m pretty much at the end of it now, she’s geared for the next LFR when it turns up, is generally top dps in instances, and I have most of the gear I really wanted.  When I run heroics now, I feel far more laid back about it. DPS warriors hinge on the very basic fun of hitting stuff with big weapons and putting up big numbers and that never really pales.

The main alt this expansion is a priest and I’ve ended up taking her down the Holy (healing) path. This was initially because queue times were so short, but I also really enjoy it as a spec. It feels like a spec with a lot of depth, and though I can heal competently, I still feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface which is pretty cool.

Undergeared healers can be challenging to play because they tend to run out of mana very fast. I think the priest has particular issues with this, but since I don’t plan on raiding with her, I am reflecting that this actually makes the instance learning curve rather more fun for me. Or rather, it’s more fun because sometimes I have really struggled with healing an encounter, which makes it so much more rewarding when I can go back later to the same instance with better gear/more experience/better group and see that I’ve improved. I will almost be sad to be over geared on her.

But there are still Challenge modes ahead. I look forwards to more exciting razor edge victories/failures.

It came from the PUG

A couple of positive examples this week, both from instances where I was healing.

I had struggled to heal Shado-Pan Heroic, there are encounters where the group can end up taking a lot of damage without much warning. But I am getting better with practice, and also noticing how much of a difference it makes when players can keep out of the avoidable damage. This is something Blizzard are really pushing with the MoP heroics, and I think healers are in a good place to notice it. I realised I was getting more confident as a healer when after one of the boss fights in Shado-Pan, one of the dps who had died during the fight said “pay attention healer.”  And my kneejerk response was to say “no, you pay attention and keep out of the bad stuff.” And no one in the group complained, I like to think this was because I was right.

Another, similar, healing moment was in Jade Temple Heroic. One of the (dead) dps said to me “where were the heals” and I said “you need to keep yourself out of the bad stuff”. There was a pause, and he said “yeah sorry.” THIS NEVER HAPPENS (i.e. people apologising), BUT IT HAPPENED IN MY GROUP!! Cognitive dissonance follows.

I imagine that once I am overgeared I’ll be better able to heal people who stand in the fire, but I quite like the playing style where it’s just not possible to do that and  healing decisions have to be made based on keeping enough people alive to beat the boss, which means triage on people who just take too much damage.

[Question of the Day] What is your favourite live event/ holiday event in an MMO?

The rakghoul plague continues, with additional daily quests being unlocked as time goes by. We hung out in guild groups last night and headed out to complete the quest that gives the crimson rakghoul pet, which was a lot of fun. Mostly for the company and jokes on voice chat.

Because you get rakghoul DNA when you die of the plague and there is also a daily quest to infect other people, large infection ‘parties’ have been rolling on the fleet. This basically involves everyone standing around in a group for long periods of time, waiting to be infected/ explode, and then repeat ad infinitum. I wouldn’t exactly call this fun, but if you just want to keep the game window open while you do something else online, it’s a very easy way to get the tokens.

Anyhow, this has all been making me think about other live events or holiday events that I have enjoyed in other games. Here are some of my favourites:

LOTRO: The Yule Festival Theatre

LOTRO has tended to go with hobbit/shire type of themes for holiday quests, with the local equivalent of maypole dancing, apple bobbing and foot races featuring strongly. Some of these themed mini-games are more fun than others, and then there are elements like this theatre which are like nothing I have ever seen in any other game.

The theatrical event involves an NPC theatre company putting on a play. If you are in the audience, you may get a chance to participate as one of the actors.  This involves being given a role and at certain points in the play, you’ll be given a chance to do an emote – you can get titles for picking appropriate ones. If you are in the audience and not selected to act, you can also take part by throwing flower petals or rotten fruit at actors who perform well or badly; doing this appropriately also gives you tokens.

I love this because it’s so completely bonkers, doesn’t involve killing random mobs, encourages players to have fun and interact,  and is still somehow completely thematic. More of this kind of thing please!

 

WoW: Hallow’s End

WoW has some great holiday events, although they press you far too hard to be a completionist (this is probably a bonus if you are a completionist anyway) and tend to get dull after you have seen them once. I had to think quite hard to pick my favourite, which came down to either Brewfest  (which probably has the best minigames) or Hallow’s End but the manically rhyming headless horseman pipped this one for me. Also as a Forsaken player I love this quest because it is so thematic and actually plays a real role in the game world (ie. festival for forsaken to celebrate their freedom from the lich king) other than just being a standin for a real life holiday.

There is plenty to do during Hallow’s End, including saving the poor starter towns from the headless horseman’s wrath once an hour, heading into the Scarlet Monastery graveyard with a high level group to lay him to rest and try to win cool pets and mounts, playing trick or treat on your guildmaster and other notables, collecting wacky masks, and so on. This was actually the first holiday event in which WoW included a holiday boss, if I remember rightly, which is something they have started adding to other holidays also.

So it’s the well themed holiday along with the vast amount of cool stuff to do for everyone from newbies to endgame players that makes this one a winner for me. I think it’s generally one of the more popular holidays.

 

WoW: Gates of Ahn’Quiraj

This was possibly the most epic event that ever took place on WoW servers, involving everyone in helping to unlock the new raid and daily quests associated with Ahn Quiraj. It also crashed a lot of servers when the gates opened, and Blizzard decided never to do anything like it again.

But I remember it fondly, and some of the hardcore guilds got involved with organising and rewarding more casual players to get them to help out. There was a time when every server had to have at least one player who had completed the questline (which included raid kills and crazy grinds so they would have been a member of a hardcore guild) in order for those zones to become available. Back in the day before server transfers, this was a much bigger deal than it is now.

 

DaoC: The Poetry Contest

When I played Dark Age of Camelot, I don’t remember holiday events being much of a thing so if we wanted events on our servers, they were either organised by players or by GMs. The poetry contest was a genuine live event, and was organised by GMs on our server in the Hibernia realm (I guess they felt it was thematic for mythic ireland to have poetry contests).

So they advertised the event on forums and encouraged guilds to submit entries. When the event itself happened, GM characters took on the role of storytellers and marshalled the competitors, and then led everyone off to hear a story and kill a boss mob (I think). What made this event stand out is that players really got involved. We had a good crowd of players at the contest, people were enthusiastic about cheering the poets who they found most entertaining, and everyone was generally playing along happily and not griefing.

For me and Arb, this one is particularly memorable because we had formed a newish guild for alts on the realm and our guild was broke and the prize from the poetry competition (which was about 1000g I think) would have let us do some stuff we really wanted to with guild banks. One of our guildies entered the content, and the player was a 15 year old who was   very nervous about this. As soon as he stepped up on his little lurikeen with his poem about how much he liked blowing things up (which was in contrast to the more po-faced earlier poems), the audience  went wild and everyone was bouncing up and down and casting buffs on him to show that they loved it.

He won the contest. It’s one of my favourite memories from that game.

I recall Warhammer Online also had some good holiday events, I think Witching Night was one of our favourites there. And sandbox games can spawn some fun live/ player-driven events too if you happen to be in at the right time.

Do you like live/ holiday events, and which are your favourites?