Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bring Out Your Dead!

The great zombie invasion of Azeroth is over and for the most part the wails and gnashing of teeth from frustrated players has ended. For those unfamiliar, the zombie invasion was part of a World of Warcaft world event leading up to the release of the Wrath of the Lich King expansions, in which the central antagonist of the later, the lich king Arthas, unleased a zombie plague on the unwitting players and denzines of Azeroth. Players who caught the plague would, with increasingly short amounts of time, transform into zombies who could then infect other players and npcs in the game.

This topic has already been beaten to death in the blogging world and even caught the attention of mainstream media so I'll keep this post short with just a couple of observations. The event was disruptive by design, forcing players to change their usual habits or adapt to the new chaotic environment. Those who wished to isolate themselves from the event could attempt to do so by traveling to the far corners of the world but the mere fact of their temporary asylum was the event manifesting its indirect influence. The most problematic aspect of the event to me was that it was far more disruptive in both a mental and practical capacity for lower leveled players who quickly became the targets of other players. Higher leveled players at least had means to escape and most likely the knowledge of areas of the world or things to do which would isolate them from the event if they wished. A level 10 player who just started and sees the npc she is trying to turn a quest into repeatedly murdered in front of her as zombies chase her around the Barrens sounds exciting; so long as one does not imagine the lower level player's perspective.

How could have Blizzard approached this differently while still keeping the spirit of the event? One way would have been to make the zombies themselves far more fragile, both by slowing them down even more and by lowering their total hitpoints to something on the order of 3000. Secondly zombies should have been autoflagged for pvp, targetable by an and all players who could then attack them regardless of and without changing their pvp status. Lastly, to discourage lower level ganking, the "kill others to live longer" mechanic whereby the zombies had to continue infecting others to maintain their xp could have been tied to a player/npc's level. Infect or kill a player half your level? No brain food for you. Only players of a roughly comparable level would have the grey matter you're interested in.

Overall, I hope this signals a willingness from Blizzard for creating more world wide events. These sorts of short term events provide not only new content but a lot of oppurtunities for emergent gameplay that are only possible in the MMO sphere.

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