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The Holiday Season in MMO-land

The Holiday Season in MMO-land
By Michael Lafferty

Some massively multiplayer titles offer content to keep step with real-world themes

His face bore the lines of a man who had seen too much and forgotten too little.

Snow crowned the hood of the heavy winter coat and draped on the shoulders – not so subtle reminders of the chill of the winter’s night that was just beyond the door of the inn. Icy waters splattered those nearby as the coat was cast off. He dropped into an overstuffed chair by the fireplace of the inn, warming his hands quickly in the orange-yellow glow. The innkeep brought a noggin of ale, an unlikely supplicant on such a cold winter’s night. He took a drink, the foam thick upon his mustache dribbled down into his beard. Dark eyes darted around, taking in the faces of the audience sitting and waiting on him.

“So,” his bass voice betrayed no hurry, “ye have come to hear a tale, have ye? Well, then, me ladies and laddies, for the price of this pint – and yet another one or three – I will regale you with the adventures of my life.”

And so it began. For those who indulge in the role-playing elements of massively multiplayer online games, the richness of the tableau – created by developers through characters, stories and settings – does wonders to separate gamers from the real world and helps immerse them in fantasy realms. But even though the worlds are completely different in many regards, some traditions seep in. Take the holiday season, for example. Many MMOs celebrate something – albeit named differently – that approximates the holiday season.

After contacting several publishers for a list of the celebrations held in their games, this is an overview of what some MMOs do. It is, by no means, a complete listing.

EverQuest II runs from Dec. 10 to January 7th: The celebration is called Frostfell and it is an amalgam of themed events and quests that enable players to gain level experience quickly. From collecting frozen toes on the ice and snowdrifted islands of Frostfell Village – accessible through both Qeynos and Freeport – to quests that parody the Christmas Carol and feature a character named McScroogle, the game has events that touch on the fantasy that is Norrath, while infusing some holiday joy into the proceedings. Some newer quests, like the one that involves an elf named Gardy, will have players adventuring to Antonica, while others point in other directions in the vast realm. There are snowballs to throw, as well as fruitcake, presents to make and receive, and a lot of holiday spirit to experience.

Warhammer Online’s 2nd Annual Keg End Live Event runs from December 16th – January 4th: During the celebration of the Dwarf New Year, players can earn exclusive in-game rewards, including the titles "Brew Hound" (Order) and "Broo Dawg" (Destruction), a deployable Party Keg allies may interact with to increase their morale gain rate, and a Keg Tap with career-specific stats. Rare world drop items include the Battlebrew Backpack (one for each tier in which they are found) and your own personal keg toting servant - the Dwarf Keg Handler (Order) or Goblin Bar-Back (Destruction)!

Dark Age of Camelot’s Midwinter Festival kicks off December 17th and runs through January 14th: During the festival, tavern keepers will decorate their buildings with holiday adornments while the citizens of each Realm set up decorated evergreens and offer them as gifts to those who provide them with assistance.  The Realms will also be visited by four special guests: Olibar the Midwinter Tomte (all Realms), Santa Nicholas (Albion), Lucia of the Light (Hibernia), and Jack Frost (Midgard), each who come to bring Midwinter cheer and gifts.  Players may also participate in the Trinkets for Tots quest to round out this season of giving. 

Ultima Online’s Festival of the White Hart will take place from December 15th through January 4th: White Hart, a holiday white stag, will appear on each shard to give out Christmas goodies, including holiday cookies, Rum Balls, Angel Food Cake and Naughty Switches to all the bad boys and girls. All current players who have characters 30 days or older may choose from a collection of gifts for their homes, including a nutcracker, four statues (Mermaid, Pegasus, Seahorse, or  Griffin), or icicles. There are also new holiday gift box containers.

Free Realms’ Snow Days has transformed Snowhill into a winter wonderland filled with food, fun, and of course – presents! Visit Candi Ivy near the Gifting Tree in Snowhill to help protect the presents from a wicked gang of Robgoblins and the abominable snowmen!  Follow the holiday quest line and players might just get a chance to try all of her neat holiday sweets. Pelt your friends with snowballs as you duck behind ice barriers in the Snowhill snowball fighting area.

EVE Online has a holiday celebration running from December 18 to January 6th: The EVE development crew has managed to thaw out it‘s frozen asteroid heart and give a little something back its community in the form of the Zephyr. The Zephyr is a unique starship design, relying almost entirely on solar winds for sublight propulsion. Super-light sails allow it to ride the torrents of photons streaming through space, and its barebones construction gives it a tiny sensor footprint and almost negligible mass. This gift is available to one character on the account.

World of Warcraft offers the Feast of Winter Veil, which began December 25 and runs until Jan. 2: There are quests that will have players finding Metzen the Reindeer, or tracking the missing Smokeywood Pasture’s shipment, there is gift giving, and the bosses of Northrend will drop holiday attire. For more fun you can get into a snowball fight, or find the snowmen wandering about Ironforge and Orgrimmar.

Lord of the Rings Online’s Yule Festival: The inn in Thorin’s Hall is the site  of the Glorious Beer Fight that involves a short supply of rare ale, and a bat; special Yule steeds are part of the revamped Horse Races; and, of course, there are Yule quests to make the season bright.

TLBB’s Winter Legends runs from Dec. 16 to Jan. 15: From a blizzard that blankets the world to a chess game involving snowmen, TLBB offers several different takes on some traditional holiday events. Throw snowballs at a snowman, forcing it to give up presents, or players can engage in a snowball fight or even build their own snowmen.

City of Heroes/Villains’ Winter Event runs from Dec. 15 to Jan. 5: Battle Lord Winter or help out Father Time with quests of heroic proportions. There are also ski challenges and holiday auras, candy canes and Gamester’s gifts, as well as a Winter Gift enhancement that works with travel powers. Holiday Spirit and Holiday Cheer are temporary powers players can get just for logging into Paragon City, and there is a Festive Badge that is new for 2009.

Aion celebrates the Solorius Festival: Included are seasonal baked goods, holiday decorations and the ability to team up to create a musical holiday masterpiece on really big instruments.

* * *

Now while there are other titles that offer holiday fare for their game players, this is just a cross-section of what some titles are doing to keep players active and involved while keeping an eye on the holiday season.

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