Game Events: Asking for Trouble or Triumph?

Not long ago I stumbled on an article regarding a remarkable event in “World of Warcraft”  in September 2005.

Well, really, it wasn’t a planned world event, but their worlds were apparently quite shaken by it.

The backstory goes like this. A new raid was added to WoW at that time. The end boss of the raid had a special infectious attack called “Corrupted Blood,” which is similar to debuffing and disease spells or effects in DDO that damage your CON and lower your hit points. The closest counterpart is the dreaded “Mummy Rot.,” only, imagine a version of this that would hit your whole party if someone infected was close enough to you.

This boss debuff was meant only for the raid. But somehow, a handful of players managed to leave the raid with the effect still within their character. These players intentionally walked through public areas such as towns, spreading the infection. As this was a raid level infection that hit for several hundred or more points of damage and was persistent, many low-level characters were struck dead instantly.

Watch the video above. Imagine that’s the Marketplace. You’re just shopping when your HP meter drops nearly to zero, and others around you drop dead. Many, many players are just dropping. You got to get away, but from what?

The WoW servers, predictably, went chaotic. Interestingly, people behaved as people would behave in real life. Clerical characters began to aid others. Many ran for their virtual lives, into the virtual countryside and out of the plague-ridden towns. Many died. A few more  tried to use their infection to spread it to others.

Eventually the WoW developers managed to isolate and scrub the disease from all characters and summoned pets that players purposely infected so as to continue the assault. But by then the damage was done. Not enough to cause WoW to close up shop, but enough to bring a cautionary tale to the virtual world.

The Corrupted Blood incident became quite popular in the scientific community. These epidemiologists studied the sociology of the players, comparing it to what people do in actual pandemics. Not to be outdone, the anti-terrorism community also turned an eye to the incident as a model for how terrorists become opportunists, causing the most harm to the most people in the most time possible.

Despite the fact that this was an exploit, it did something that’s missing in DDO. It caused a human reaction that required you to act, now.

Are Game Events a Thing of the Past?

I’ve never played WoW and don’t plan to do so. That’s because it took years of Neverwinter Nights gameplay to shake me from years of my Diablo II “crack habit,” so I knew that any other Blizzard game (yes, that includes Diablo III) would ruin my life. (Not that DDO is as light a habit for me as my obligations would want that to be, but that’s another tale.)

I wasn’t around as well for a DDO game event of 2008, where a game module update introduced a Shavarath invasion of Stormreach, the eventual destruction of the central Marketplace, and several quests for players to gather ingredients needed to beat back the invading hordes.

Sound familiar? It’s because the events seen in the Level 6 raid, “The Chronoscope,” allows players to relive that module, specifically a more wider invasion of the Marketplace as a whole, including the original Marketplace tent’s destruction.

Today, all we seem to have for game events in a more public sphere is a passive but quite prominent and repetitive drop-in of a white dragon near the Argonessen representatives (all dragons in human form) near the House Kundarak Marketplace bank. Occasionally, some special merchants appear and contests to gather coins or other items will activate in public spaces, such as the Risia Ice Games or Festivult. However, these are quite passive in that they don’t affect everybody and are totally optional to use.

So, why isn’t there a larger, more game-encompassing event going on in DDO? Something that would effect all players and (per their level or game account) strongly encourage them, perhaps require them, to marshal their efforts to the event’s goals?

Perhaps such events are dangerous to the game’s overall stability. Perhaps world events such as these would discourage general game play and turn away the free-to-play community and upset VIP subscriptions.

It’s not as if we players or the developers couldn’t think of possible storylines. I brought up a thread in the Suggestions & Ideas subforum on a Drow war, where Eberron Drow, tired of being butt monkeys to the Faerun Drow as they attempt a move on Xen’drik itself, decide to fight back. The replies generally didn’t meet with high praise. Most people seemed burned out by the Drow, with the new Menace of the Underdark expansion.

What world events we experience today are often challenges that haven’t one bit of urgency or need at all.

Some Suggestions

With the MoTU expansion, Eberron itself is being threatened with total destruction by the Demonweb. Not that anyone who just created a new character is aware of this.

And the Quori, the race that hides within the false religion of the Path of Inspiration and are known as the Dreaming Dark, have failed to invade Xen’drik long ago and are threatening to do so again, this time without the giants of old from stopping them as before. What? You didn’t know of this invasion?

And the land of Drooam has landed a massive invasion army on the outskirts, have burned down one Stormreach district, heavily damaged Lordsmarch Plaza and planned to take over Stormreach as well. Did you miss this news while you were reading the latest posts on Feydsbook on your DRUID smart-ansible by Cannith, Inc.?

I also think there’s some evil cleric that’s raising an undead horde in the Necropolis that wants to make all of Xen’drik part of his new empire, too.

I guess my point is that there are many, many world events already in play. What is lacking in the public instances is an urgency, an appearance of desperation, of fire raining down. Of some NPCs occasionally running in fear in the Marketplace while a small group of invaders slam through the city and a world event message calls out for heroes to quickly dispatch them. Of the city sky turning red and adventurers called to be alert for a Shavarath invasion–right now. Low-level players are guided to protect NPCs at their level and fight off appropriately low-level Shavarath invaders that sneak past the more fortified Epic adventurers.

And none of these events should be telegraphed or announced by Turbine. They should just show up.

These events could be tied into the quests they relate to in-game. They could form a motivation to play by leading the players to the new Sagas NPCs. I haven’t gotten into completing any of the sagas because nothing is compelling me to do so. Not loot, or experience, or even a requirement to save myself or others from harm.

The world of DDO should have a more “live” feel to it. There are limits to how much a live event can and should do, and careful attention is required to keep low level players from getting way, way over their heads and for high-level players from becoming virtual gods by giving them a serious challenge that requires more cooperation and team play. Live events should have a compulsory hold on players without fully requiring them to do them. They shouldn’t be isolated as Mabar or Crystal Cove.

World events could also be done with great subtlety and intrigue. I would love to just log in one day to find mail message that tells me to go to an NPC that wants you and others to do this and that, unlocking a chain of events that (amidst all the other work to do) requires me to save Stormreach and to guide others to do so or to safety.

C’mon. Do you think a week where a zombie plague threatens all of Stormreach wouldn’t put a spring in your step as you run to stock up on potions? In such an event there’s a chance of griefing if a live player were infected, so it would be better for NPCs to be running about doing the deed. That is, a zombiefied NPC version of you. You get infected, your character is logged out and you must log in to another character (or specially granted character given to all players) to do a specific quest to remove the affliction (with substantial rewards, of course). Players that don’t opt to play can watch the spectacle but aren’t infected.

A horde of Quori pouring out of House Cannith would make all that ghostbane weaponry useful.

The WoW Corrupted Blood event was a totally unplanned event that shook that game at its roots by its urgency. What if that Argonessen dragon suddenly started stomping down a ramp into the Bazaar? Would you call out to some guildies to try to head it off? What would or should the lower level players do? What if some evil Drow genius had weaponized Mummy Rot and was infecting the public instances? Would a world event ask others to seek out the cure? How would this Rot effect overall play? Should it?

I’m all for bringing the immediacy of adventure to DDO. It needn’t be as “oh crap” as the WoW plague. But something out of left field that all could enjoy wouldn’t be a bad thing if you just tie it in to existing adventures.

It Is Inevitable, Teacher Syncletica

It's not cheating if you're allowed to have several partners to enjoy. Gaming is like that.

It’s not cheating if you’re allowed to have several partners to enjoy. Gaming is like that.

Empress Mizzaroo’s recent post on her enjoyment of WoW got me to thinking more about something that’s been on my mind for several months.

She pens her new pastime in joining World of Warcraft as if she’s cheating on Turbine and DDO. Can’t say I blame her. Her sentiment is like my own and should be appreciated by the Turbine staff.

I’ve never enjoyed a game as much as I have DDO, not because they have Monks (albeit their existence was my primary motivation to try it out) but, as I learned later, the friendships you gain through guilds help out a lot in play and adds to the fun. That said, the virtual world of DDO has become…real to me.

Not everyone enjoys this sentimentality with MMO games…or cannot do so for long.

With the recent introduction of Neverwinter Online, yet another D&D-flavored world competes for the attention of the gaming faithful. That game’s introduction has impacted my guild on Ghallanda, which now has a guild formed in the NWO while still supporting its original DDO guild.

But one cannot serve two masters without compromise. My guild’s overall active players per day has dropped noticeably.

Despite the allusion of cheating, it’s not fair to say to guildies that you can only play one game. Many of my guildies have played DDO since it’s introduction in 2006. That’s a very long time to play one game world, even if new content is introduced regularly. I must be clear here in stating that I don’t blame my game pals one damned bit for playing elsewhere. DDO is a game, not a religion. Eventually your attention wanders for recreation.

Yet, change is here. I’ve been in the DDO world for about 3 years now and I’m not done with the fun. But my guild’s primary leadership are often away on NWO, with maybe less than two hours of DDO gameplay per week. For many other reasons outside of gaming elsewhere, our overall attendance is lower.

It’s also possible that the recent updates (including the demise of MyDDO blogging as well as the controversial use of gaming logins for forum logins) as well as planned updates such as a total rewrite of the enhancement scheme is causing people to find somewhere else to play.

So what’s a Monk to do when his friends are partying elsewhere?

It comes down to a few tough choices, although there’s not always a dichotomy that forces me to choose one over the other.

  1. Hold the fort: As a guild officer, continue to post quests and raids to keep guild interest up, since our guild leader doesn’t restrict this action only to the guild leader.
  2. Suck it up: Continue to play solo but join up on guild runs and (shudder) PUGs if I want some company.
  3. Give in: Create a new account on Neverwinter Online and find my guild friends there.
  4. Resist.

Holding the Fort

I’ve been trying to manage my toons so that I can lead parties from many levels for quest chains and raids. It’s not easy: Monks level fast. But my real-life comes first, as our guild charter states, so I can’t post something for everyday and not be able to attend it myself. I’ve had my share of family outings and weekend plans lately.

So I need to continue to encourage others in the guild to post and participate, too. This has worked with limited success since our overall numbers online per night are lower and overall attendance per week is scarily low. I will continue to schedule and run things but there’s only so much one person can do with limited numbers and time.

Suck It Up

Playing solo is often my way. I’m not a particularly sociable person in real life so the virtual life of a monastic, often solitary and contemplative, translates into my gameplay. Paradoxically, playing with guildies breaks me out of this and I prize it highly as it takes a group of good friends to pull me out of my shell.

I’ve joined up with a few stalwart guildies every few nights to run something, so that’s something. As with many, I loathe PUG gameplay. From personalities to zerging to people who are too new to the game or ignorant of gameplay, their game roles or common courtesy, PUGs make my hands chafe.

But often when there isn’t anyone at my level in the guild that is playing anything I can join with the character I’m training, this option is a ping-pong of solo and limited guild play that feels like you’re managing a long-distance relationship. Badly.

Give in to Neverwinter

A few of you might say, “Why not the best of  both worlds? Go join NWO and roll up a free toon?”

I say, “So…how long have you been reading my blog? You don’t know me too well, I guess.” 

The answer here is clear. NWO is very new and appears to have a rather on-rails gameplay. My wife complains enough on how much time I spend on DDO, so adding a second game world is like offering new drugs to an addict on the mend.

Most importantly, there are no Monks in NWO (yet). Not that I play Monks all the time, just almost all of the time. The most attractive classes there are Rangers, Clerics and Rogues–and I give limited play to those classes on DDO as it is.

I can rewind the game clock and install any of my classic Neverwinter Nights games or even the all-martial arts world of Jade Empire if I needed a second respite. I don’t. I like DDO and I’m still learning everything this world can do. As well, I’d only add to the guild decline already in play on Ghallanda by spending time in that version of Neverwinter.

Resist

Once in awhile I’d organize my guild to do something a little different, such as running “The Shroud” with almost all Monks and one or two healers. That raid was a complete curb-stomping of Harry with all the DPS generated by that raid party. Similarly, we’ve had a Mostly-Arcane Archer raid, too.

I’ve toyed and joked with the idea of creating my own guild whose membership would be limited to characters with no fewer than two Monk levels. “The Order of Syncletica” would be a fitting name for it (reflecting the tradition of monastic order names such as the Order of St. Benedict), but I’d likely name it something less similar so as not to conflict with the blog name or Turbine’s fansite rules (I’ve since added the blog to the DDO fansites list).

A guild of Monks would be as true of a dojo as I could make it. We can share resources and tips, organize all kinds of  quests and stomp the living hell out of this game. I would have complete responsibility for the guild’s growth and maintaining player interest with what the game quests provide me.

The downsides are obvious. A guild takes time to grow and requires much time and resources to maintain. In a real sense, I’d be doing what I see others are doing; playing less and less in my current guild in favor of something more shiny and new. I’d just be doing that within the game itself. Further, I’d likely create the guild on a new server.

Based on the DDO Wiki articles on creating a guild and building an airship, this would be a formidable task that would likely sap most of my game time on my original server since I will need to either sink lots of real-world cash to buy Astral Shards to buy a ship and its amenities, or create a new character, play solo and in PUGs to generate the in-game platinum needed to kickstart the guild. I haven’t even thought of the hassle of recruiting.

It is Inevitable, Smith Says

Like Smith, the games are many. I can fight against assimilation for so long before I'm overcome.

Like Smith, the games are many. I can fight against assimilation only for so long before I’m overcome. But I will fight.

Sooner or later, forming a all-Monk guild or joining an existing one is probable for me if I stay in DDO. All the information I’ve collected through experience and comments from readers like you have made the Book of Syncletica what it is. The new enhancements (love them or hate them) will also alter the game significantly that might be of great interest to people who’ve felt that DDO is a little long in the tooth.

Agent Smith was right when he told Neo that he would eventually die. He just didn’t anticipate that Neo would take Smith down with him. Same was true with the deaths of other major characters in The Matrix Trilogy.

The cycle of game life means that, eventually, a game must be reloaded–whether it be by technology, the developers, or the players themselves. Mind you, it can be the same game code played, or you load in new code.

For now, I’m in “Screw Destiny” mode. I’m staying, and will fight in and for Xen’drik until it or I cease to exist.

If I ever form that all-Monk guild, you’ll be the first to know. For now, I’ll hold the fort and suck it up until it sucks too much.