An MMOs place in history is largely defined not by the day-to-day grind, but by its memorable events. Be it the emergence of a particularly brutal boss, a player-driven community foray, or the creative exploitation of a feature that fails to work as intended, MMOs thrive when players feel that their experience on any given day may differ from the last.
Occasionally, something so significant happens that it is forever etched in the annals of MMORPG lore. It is these most memorable moments in MMO history that will be our topic for discussion for today.
#5 World of Warcraft: Corrupted Blood Plague
Plagues have a way of spreading like the…plague. Little did Blizzard know back in 2005 that one little QA oversight would cause unparalleled levels of devastation; in mere minutes transforming thriving populations into corpse ridden wastelands.
Allow me to elaborate:
Patch 1.7 introduced a new 20-man raid dungeon – Zul’Gurub. Its final boss, a nasty troll God that went by the seemingly innocuous name of Hakkar the Soulflayer (pun intended), unleashed a powerful debuff called “Corrupted Blood.” Players inflicted by the disease would periodically lose a portion of their life. Compounding matters further, those who stood within proximity of a diseased player would catch the virus.
The good news was that the disease was confined to the instance – or so we were led to believe. Unfortunately, Hunter and Warlock pets could carry the malady outside.
And where does a raid member typically teleport to after downing a boss? If you guessed “a major city,” award yourself a cookie.
Due to their high player densities, cities like Orgrimmar and Ironforge were particularly vulnerable to the ill-effects of Corrupted Blood. Suddenly low level characters scouring the auction house for their next upgrade or checking their mail from [insert medieval sounding name here] were meeting their maker. Worse still, higher level players would stay alive long enough just to pass along the disease to their comrades.
Interestingly enough, some players thought the plague was a manifestation of the Blizzard creative machine, citing it as a “fantastic world event.” So, was Blizzard pulling the strings all along? I wouldn’t necessarily put it past them, but in this case it’s highly unlikely.
Inevitably, Blizzard patched the bug, but the Corrupted Blood incident will be remembered as one of the most historic events in MMO history – and, I would imagine, as a testament to the value of quality control.
#4 Lineage I: Level 88 Attained
Anyone who has languished through Lineage II long enough knows that it can be a maddening game. Featuring a leveling curve that would make even the most committed MMO aficionado cringe, Lineage II’s brutality was only usurped by that of its predecessor, Lineage.
Conceived in the pre-WoW age when MMO’s catered strictly to a hardcore audience, Lineage – which is no longer available in North America – featured a leveling curve that bordered on sadistic. Things start off easy enough, but once a player reaches level 65 the curve takes a decidedly drastic turn. To illustrate, after level 80, xp gains are 1/64th of what they were 20 levels prior – and with every subsequent level things just keep getting worse. So much so, that no one in the world has ever reached the game’s level cap of 90.
Compare that to WoW, where returning players with a Scroll of Resurrection had a chance to start at level 80. And even if they didn’t, comparatively speaking, leveling from 1 – 90 is a cakewalk.
But someone is coming close to conquering Lineage once and for all.
In November 2013, it was reported that a Korean gamer finally reached level 88. This after first dinging level 86 two years prior. Two, years, prior.
I fear for his health.
#3 Star Wars Galaxies: Virtual Sit-in
More often than not, MMO developers do their best to address, or at least placate, unsatisfied customers. But occasionally they go the opposite route – punishing players in-game for having the gall to question their processes.
Of the ones that favor the “if you don’t like it, then screw you” mentality, there is perhaps not a single developer in the MMO arena more nefarious than Sony Online Entertainment.
Back in 2003, SOE-produced MMO Star Wars Galaxies found itself desperately trying to carve out a space in the sci-fi MMO niche. But by most accounts, the much maligned game was failing miserably. Bugs, a dearth of quest content and class imbalance hindered the initial release. Not helping matters was the list of “unknown criteria” players would have to first satisfy before unlocking a Jedi slot. Yes friends, in a game that was supposed to be based in the Star Wars universe, it took four months for the first Jedi to appear.
About a year after release, an alleged currency scandal caused an influx of players to be banned. While we’re generally in support of banning players that break the ToS, some of the players using the counterfeit currency had no clue that it was a cheap knockoff.
In the aftermath, a wealth of outraged players took to the message board, with some participating in a virtual sit-in. And how did SOE react? Not by reconsidering its overly aggressive stance, but by teleporting players into outer space.
#2 World of Warcraft: Massacre in Winterspring
It’s relatively common knowledge that World of Warcraft’s PvP servers attract an assortment of jerks. The Illidan server, in particular, was known for its swatch of player killers (pk), griefers and other players that reveled in the misery of others.
In the pkers defense, players who create an account on such a server should be aware of what they’re getting to. But few would have thought that one guild would go so far as to disrupt a memorial service, especially after specifically being asked not to.
In 2006, a Horde guild planned an in-game funeral for an ally who abruptly died of a stroke in real-life. Fayejin – the name of the character that was to be memorialized – was known to be an avid fan of fishing and lover of snow. Thus, it was decided upon that the service be held at the Frostfire Hot Springs in Winterspring – a contested zone.
The ritual was proceeding smoothly until a small gathering of members from the ironically named Alliance guild Serenity Now showed up and decimated all Horde members in attendance. They then posted a video glorifying their “victory” over the unarmed legion. The video is prefaced with statements from outraged members of the community, effectively patronizing those who didn’t find Serenity Now’s horrifying act uproariously amusing.
Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, there’s some players of the mind that Fayejin would have found the memorial and subsequent massacre as the perfect sendoff, as it solidified her place in MMO lore. Others found it borderline inhumane.
But regardless of which side of the proverbial fence you reside on, one thing is certain: Fayejin’s legacy will live on.
#1 EverQuest: Launch
By no means the first MMO, and in many respects little more than a visually realized version of a MUD, EverQuest launched with the pithiest of expectations. But it quickly gathered steam, surpassing 200,000 subscribers by November, 1999 – 8 months after release. And by 2003 nearly half-a-million players would be roaming its seemingly innumerable zones.
What EverQuest did that no MMO did before was immerse players in a fantastical world ripe with life. As the first of its kind to break the isometric mold and release in 3D, Everquest was able to break down boundaries that up until then, stifled the growth of the industry. To that effect, it’s just as memorable as a direct predecessor to games like World of Warcraft, then it is a stand-alone entity.
To this very day, players recount logging into EverqQest for the first time and being absolutely blown away by a sense of wonderment. By placing less emphasis on PvP and more on dungeon crawling, Everquest attracted a whole new demographic to the MMO genre – the middle-aged male – who preferred to play without the fear of being ganked. Later games would solve the PvP/PvE dilemma by incorporating both.
Furthermore, because players intimately relied on one another – EverQuest bolstered a sense of community that few games have been able to replicate since.
EverQuest’s publisher – which ironically is the same company (SOE) that teleported disgruntled SW Galaxies players to outer space – has managed to keep its crown jewel online for more than 15 years. This is largely due to its adherence to a two-a-year expansion model. Now, to be fair, each expansion lines Sony’s pockets with more money – but give them credit, it’s rare that a persistent world actually stay persistent for such an elongated length of time.Related: MMO, Top List, Top MMOs, World of Warcraft