Holiday events make for poor achievements, and a couple of neat quests

4th March 2009 – 10.17 am

I've been rather scathing of World of Warcraft's Northrend content recently, although it was partly owing to trudging through the quagmire of achievement-orientated and otherwise-pointless holiday events. Just as Winter Veil ends the Lunar Festival turns up, swiftly followed by Valentine's weekend. With so many holidays I need a, well, hmm, let's call it a break.

The achievement system is an interesting addition to the game, most of the time motivating players to complete tasks that enrich the gaming experience, and holiday events are an amusing distraction to complement other activities. But combining the two puts too much emphasis on the holiday events, giving the illusion of accomplishment and progress instead of the random chance against a deadline that they are. Dark Legacy Comics once again manages to capture the absurd side of World of Warcraft, which it does so well, in showing how holiday events and achievements make for meaningless encounters.

Moving out of the abundance of holiday events I was rightfully encouraged to persevere through the Northrend doldrums and pointed towards an interesting goal by Melmoth. My quests with the Wyrmrest Accord send me out to the four corners of Dragonblight and my excitement for discovering the world is reinvigorated. It is not only the different landscapes and creatures I encounter that thrills me but the quests, and a couple in particular are worthy of mention.

My wanderings through Dragonblight for the Wyrmrest Accord let me stumble on a small group of humans unrelated to the faction. I apparently picked up a quest a little while back to find them so I take a bit of time to see what they would like me to do. One of the quests is to find and eliminate the leader of some kobolds. The leader can be found, I am told, by flushing out the kobolds in a valley and chase them until they reach the leader. I mount up and ride to the valley, at which point a couple of kobolds are spotted and they start running away from me. Rather than try to fight them I remember the instructions and give chase, whereupon more kobolds appear from twists and turns and soon I am chasing a dozen or so of them, right to the point where I come face to face with their leader.

This is such a simple idea but the execution is brilliant! The leader is a simple mob wandering the valley but the kobolds are all specially scripted for the quest. Even though the player is essentially passive in the chase the way the kobolds appear and flee directly away from the PC gives it an interactive feel. And, of course, once the leader is engaged the running kobolds are forgotten about and can despawn out of sight. The clever bit is that the player doesn't need to find the quest mob, he is led to it.

It isn't nifty scripting that impresses me about the other notable quest, but the thought that went in to it. In a grove to the south of Dragonblight I meet up with a druid who despairs at the corruption of the once-beautiful birds in the area. Typically, my heroic quest is to slaughter a number of these birds to bring balance to nature again. Having a druid ask me to kill wildlife has long ago stopped amazing me, but the nifty aspect is what happens to the birds once killed: they reincarnate. Some of the birds return as similar birds cleansed of corruption and some come back as spirits. But it was when a bird I had just killed returned to life as a bunny rabbit hopping around that I sat back from my keyboard and simply enjoyed the virtual world for a minute.

World of Warcraft still has some secrets to share with me, it seems.

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