Tobold's Blog
Monday, October 19, 2009
Fire! A WoW Halloween event

Halloween started already yesterday in World of Warcraft. Many people were most interested in the Headless Horseman event boss in Scarlet Monastery, as he has been upgraded to level 80, and drops iLevel 200 epic loot, mostly rings. I was lucky enough to get his mount, a broom, but unlike last year's version, the 2009 version of the broom isn't permanent any more. It doesn't go onto your mount page, has an "requires Halloween" label, and will most probably disappear at the end of the event. The broom does however fly at epic flying mount speed of 280%, if you have the epic flying mount skill, and rides at epic ground mount speed in zones you can't fly in. Well, at least its a lot better than the Rickety Magic Broom you can get from other even quests, because that one apparently moves only at walking speed.

But for me the most interesting part of the WoW Halloween event is the one that happens in villages like Brill or Goldshire, where the Headless Horseman rides over the village and sets fire to several buildings. Players need to grab water buckets and extinguish the fire. The interesting aspect of that is most visible when there aren't all that many players doing the event: The fire uses a very life-like 3D simulation of heat transfer, making the fire spread in a very realistic way, and react in a physically accurate manner to the buckets of water. There is an extremely sophisticated virtual world physics simulation on display here.

Of course from a game design point of view the fire is a dud, because it is too realistic, and doesn't scale. Thus success or failure in extinguishing the fire is very much a question of how many players are throwing buckets of water at it. If you try this event in the early morning hours with few people around, it simply can't be done. Do it during prime time, and the fire is out before you even noticed. There aren't all that many cases in which the number of players is just right to extinguish the fire only if they play well, which is probably better this way, as players tend to not communicate and plan at all during that event.

But I do think that extinguishing a fire could make for an interesting raid encounter, as there the number of players is fixed. With some fine-tuning the fire could be made in a way that it would take planning and skill to extinguish it within a certain time-limit. As the physics engine for it already exists, that shouldn't be much of a problem to implement. And it would be, in the words of Monthy Python, something completely different.
I always wanted to be... a firefighter!

Sounds a bit like the zone quests in WAR. You need a few guys to do those quests.

Any nice rewards for extinguishing the fire? If there are it shouldn't be hard to organize it with a few guildies.
Indeed, using 'fun/comic relief' content as a testing ground for new mechanics is not unheard of. Magic: the Gathering and its Unglued/Unhinged card sets are a good example of this.
Buckets can be thrown to other players, allowing a bucket-brigade style chain to put out the fires more quickly. You think I can get a single person to do this? Nope, they all just run back and forth like mindless lemmings.
Well, there is an achievement called Firefighter. Mimiron hard mode. Apart from enrage timer, this event forces you to deal with fire slowly engulfing the room, and various boss fire-related abilities, such as small robotik firefighters, spheres and such.
So this idea is already implemented.
i'm pretty sure that the brooms function exactly the same as last year, scaling to the caster's riding skill and flying if the zone permits.

the "headless horseman's mount" proper is his horse (the one with the green flaming hooves) which also scales to the owner's riding skill and flies in allowed zones but is, of course, far cooler.

the brooms are not at all rare, seeming to drop in about a third or quarter of kills, while the horse is a very rare drop. my medium size guild saw only one mount drop last year.
I also thought you might write about the point Bri has mentioned :)

Apart from that:
Pleeease no more gimmic special fights. please!
It would be cool if the fire scaled with people nearby, preferably with a bias towards slower than faster.

@Bri: I did not know that, but it is awesome.
The broom mount also dropped for me yesterday. I won the roll. Some other guy in the group said he really wanted it, and offered me 600g for it. Thank you sir!
I have always liked the events in WoW. They were always fun, and something you always wanted for your characters.
Is there really a physics model? It may be a model of heat transfer, but I believe it is only so on the same level that WoW combat models real-world combat.

My memory from last year is that they modeled it by creating some invisible entities on the roofs of the houses. When the event starts, some of these basically get a stacking buff set. When you hit one with water, it removes a stack of the debuff. Over time they gain the debuff back. They also pulse and occasionally add a stack to nearby fires. The size of the fire in each area is the size of the debuff.

I think you can verify this, because if you throw water on a patch of fire at the wrong time it can immediately return to a higher state, where a more accurate model of heat transfer would have it go up in intensity at a rate proportional to the proximity and number of other fires.

However, it's good enough, and I might just be confused by the Zul'Drak quests with the fire, because those are the most recent ones I've done.
I love the guy(s) and guild on the Mammoth that griefed the quest giver for the first 45 minutes on our server.

Guess I'll come back later.
There is a similar quest in Zul'drak. (I forgot the name) but's similar with putting the fire out, although i think that the HH version is more fleshed out. I could be wrong, it's been awhile ;)

I've had a few people on my realm more than willing to let me throw buckets at them. It helps.

Conveniently, the Falconwing Square fire's are soloable, simply make sure to put out the fires at the building to the left first, as it requires running back and forth. Usually by then the other building is fully alight, but can be quickly doused by minimal movement and lots of bucket spamming. Felt a bit wierd to do it alone, but its nice to know one can.
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