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.