Two recent events in WoW have heralded the November release of Wrath of the Lich King. The first was the implementation of Patch 3.0.2, which among other things, drastically altered the class talent trees and decreased raid bosses’ health — two changes to the game that made players (particularly ret paladins) feel extraordinarily powerful.
The second event, however, left many people feeling extraordinarily powerless, namely the zombie plague that tore through Azeroth over the course of the past week.
Mysterious crates first appeared in Booty Bay on October 22. By clicking on a crate, a player became infected with a disease that if not cured within ten minutes turned her/him into a zombie. As a zombie, a player gained several new skills, including the ability to “retch!” — an AOE that spread the disease to nearby players and NPCs alike. Although Argent Healers were stationed throughout the cities and although paladins, priests, and shamans could cure the disease, the plague spread rapidly. Within days, the incubation time had shrunk to five minutes, then to only one. The Argent Healers seemed to all but abandon the cities, which were inevitably and incessantly overrun with zombies (both players-as-zombies and NPCs).
As an article in Anti-Aliased argues, this (along with other world events that are still ongoing in-game) was “the perfect reason” for the Horde and Alliance to feel compelled to venture to the new zones that will open in WotLK: “What could Arthas possibly do to make everyone simultaneously angry and want to journey to Northrend?”
The answer: Zombies ate the auctioneers.
Personally, I think the zombie infestation was the best world- and pre-launch event I have ever experienced in an MMO. After all, in the last game I played, on release day it was just “click on the bell and hey! a whole new world!”
But the wrath of the Lich King and his mighty zombie army was perhaps matched by the wrath of those players (let’s use the correct gaming lingo, shall we?) — the QQers — who filled the trade channel in-game and the WoW forums out-of-game with their complaints that the zombies made the game “unplayable.”
Well, no shit. As the legions of zombies movies should have taught us, zombies are synonymous with the apocalypse, and when “the End is here!”, it does get a bit difficult to shop or travel.
As the plague crescendoed, “business as usual” was disrupted in WoW. But the game was never unplayable. One just had to adapt to the new circumstances, and as all video games do warn us: “experience may change during online play.”
My priest, loathe as she is to leave shadow form, furiously cured all around her who’d been infected. (Note to Blizzard: please let us cure disease while in shadow form.) She did purposefully get sick once in Shattrath, only so as to port to Thunder Bluffs to infect the Tauren. But primarily she fought, rather than succumbed to or whined about the plague.
My druid, unable to cure herself or others, was zombified far more frequently, sometimes intentionally, sometimes as she was trying to (ZOMGStarfall!) hold back a Zombie invasion. On the last night of the plague, when the infection was instantaneously turning people to Zombies, she, along with all of the Stormwind Trade District, found herself overrun by a forty-plus zombie “raid.” (For the record, zombies hit the orphanage first, long before they targeted the King. Bad zombies. Bad bad.)
To be part of the spontaneity and power of that force of destruction was exhilarating. In an email to K- the next morning, I wrote
Last night was so fun. I knew it was late but I wanted so badly to call you and get you out of bed to participate in it. 😛 But the thing is, it was over in probably less than 5 minutes, and by the time we’d returned to Stormwind to get our bodies, all the NPCs had respawned. Also, I was able to unequip all my gear, so I didn’t take any durability damage at all.
It was so damn cool… and isn’t that why we plan MMOs? — an online experience that is always changing and that is unpredictable? I mean, any PVE content is scripted to a certain extent, and that’s what makes PVP, I think, so much fun — you can’t have Deadly Boss Mods telling you that the mage you’re fighting, for example, is about to AOE.
But even if you abhor PVP and even if you prefer to play in a controlled environment, at the very end of an expansion and on the cusp of a new one, what better thing to happen than something that shakes up gameplay — for a weekend.