Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas In My Virtual Worlds

I'm not a big fan of Christmas appearing in my video games.  Unless I absolutely stumble across the events in-game I don't take part.  Okay, that's not quite true.  If the event drops crafting items and I can make special items then I'm interested.  But if a game doesn't have holiday events I'm not upset.

In 2012 I played four MMORPGs and purchased three of them this year.  So this being the Christmas season I thought I'd just take a quick tour of the games I've played, Eve Online, Guild Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic and The Secret World.

Going slightly out of order, I think that fantasy games have the easiest time of incorporating Christmas into their lore.  Humans have instituted celebrations around the winter solstice since pre-historic times so having some sort of celebration in-game makes sense.  Also, unless the game uses an established IP like Lord of the Rings Online, the developers have the freedom to establish their own lore.  In this tradition Guild Wars 2's Wintersday fits right in.

I'm not sure how immersion breaking Wintersday is hardcore GW2 players but it does seem an out of the way bit of fun as Lion's Arch is transformed into a winter wonderland.  Okay, maybe not that idyllic, but I think the place looks prettier.

Entering Lion's Arch

GW2 does have a substantial cash shop and ArenaNet has populated the store with holiday product for those interested.  I actually don't plan on buying anything although the ear-muffs are pretty cute.  The interface does allow players to preview what their purchases look like on their characters which is nice.  While I'm not interested in the weapons skins available for sale I am intrigued by the crafted skins I can make.  Turn my short bow into a sling shot?  Who could resist.

I should also add that even though ArenaNet has a cash shop the company has also given out gifts this Wintersday.  The one I really like is the 15-slot gift box.  Even though I'm level 52 and am a leatherworker I still had an 8-slot bag.  Seven extra slots means I can use the materials I gather for leveling instead of for adding more carrying capacity.

Moving away from fantasy, next on my list is Funcom's The Secret World.  If any game is going to portray Christmas as a holiday in-game, The Secret World is the mostly likely candidate.  Set in an alternative universe where all conspiracies are real, I saw no sign of the holiday even in the cash shop.  That doesn't mean that Funcom didn't put anything in players' Christmas stockings.  Given that TSW also falls into the horror genre, what better gift could Funcom give players that a portrayal of the Mayan prediction of the end of the world?  And since the Mayans were not too specific, Funcom took the liberty to make it a zombie apocalypse.  A zombie apocalypse?  What better gift could players receive for Christmas than that?

Next I jump 22,000 years into the future into my main game, Eve Online.  Icelandic developer CCP sticks to the lore and since Earth is just a vaguely remembered myth no official Christmas, or any holiday celebration for players.  Of course, Eve being Eve the players usually organize events here and there, holding Secret Santas and such.  But CCP also gives out presents during the season.  This year the developers have incorporated an Icelandic tradition, the "Yule Lads", to get players into the holiday spirit.


So far on my two main accounts I've received 2 Inner Zone Shipping Imicus faction exploration frigates, a set of Genolution Core Augmentation implants, 7 New Eden Open trading cards and perhaps most importantly, 2 Festival Launchers and 1200 snowballs.  CCP actually provided players a second set of snowballs due to all the fun everyone had launching snowballs at each other.  We still are due to receive a set of fireworks on the 30th to use to kick-off the new year.  They should add some sparkle to the light shows players usually organize around New Year's Eve.

The last MMORPG I played this year also takes place in a galaxy far, far away.  I have to give credit to EA/Bioware for not putting an in-game holiday event into the game.  The developers promised not to violate the IP like that and they kept their word.  Well, for free anyway.  But look in the cash shop and one finds this mount.

Czerka LD-1 Celebrator - From DarthHater.com

That's right, a snowblower with Christmas lights on it.  Did I mention the price is $18?  The other items for the Wookie holiday Life Day had what I thought was a Star Wars feel.  But this mount?  Ugh.

When the subject is what is in the cash shop, EA/Bioware is doing the same thing as ArenaNet is doing.  Both GW2 and SW:TOR have a lot of holiday items for sale.  The difference is what the two companies are giving their players.  GW2 players do get a bunch of gifts to go along with all the items in the cash shop.  SW:TOR players, even subscribers, receive nothing.  EA/Bioware should have either followed GW2's lead or should have followed Funcom's practice in The Secret World of just ignoring the holiday season altogether.

I never thought that holiday events, and especially Christmas, would influence what games I play.  I've played MMORPGs for seven years and this is the first time I've felt differently.  I still want to play SW:TOR and this little money grab won't deter me from eventually returning.  The one thing holding me back was eliminated with the raising of the character slot limit for F2P players from two to six.  But I probably will wait until I've completed The Secret World now since that game is not only engaging but the Funcom actually seems to like their player base.  EA/Bioware?  I'm not so sure.

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