April 23, 2012

Sick and Social

This past week was school vacation week, which is always a tough time to sneak in some gaming, because the kids are home. We actually had a fantastic week at the beach, and even though it was April in Connecticut, the air was warm enough for them to don swimsuits and tromp around in the ocean for brief stints (think pint-sized polar bear club). I, on the other hand, was on the tail end of a nasty bug that I caught the week before, and I was still coughing and snorting in a futile attempt to clear my head.

So it seemed appropriate that there was a plague going on in SWTOR, and I got home in time to catch the tail end of it. I headed over to Tatooine to do some of the dailies, but was disappointed to learn that you can’t do the next orange armor daily unless you completed the one the day before. Since the event is due to end on the 24th, it appears I’m screwed and won’t be able to get many of the armor pieces.

I’ve endured in game plagues before, in EQII and in WoW, and there’s something inherently fun about catching and then intentionally passing along illness and death to in-game peers. In EQII, I actually snagged the plague on a toon that I camped, with the idea that I could log it in years later and start the plague up again (It didn’t work). The SWTOR plague is different though, because by catching it and passing it along, you can complete the daily quest and also get DNA when you self-destruct, and it turns out to be a very easy and relatively quick way to build up DNA. So over at the bank in the fleet on my server, there’s a tightly-packed crowd standing around giving the plague to each other and summarily blowing up after it runs its course. It’s pretty gross actually, because every few minutes someone will turn green, start hurling, and then explode, covering everyone in a green fog.

There are a few really neat things about this event. The first is that people somehow found each other and collectively designated the bank at the fleet to be “Plague Central.” I always love in MMOs when people choose social hubs, like the EC tunnel in EQ, because it just sort of happens — there’s no official declaration or vote or anything. Bioware didn’t put in the patch notes anything about meeting at the bank if you want to join a plague party, so how did so many find their way there, and how did word get out?

But another thing that struck me is that we’re willing to do pretty much anything for the proverbial cheese, including standing around absorbing green hurl and fog. I have only three days to get enough DNA to get that black and green lightsaber crystal that I want, so my little jedi ooched into the crowd and joined the plague party so I could play catch up with DNA farming. I’m currently tabbed out as I write this, so I’m playing SWTOR, only I’m not. I’m going to get the crystal purely because I was able to log in and leave my toon afk in the fleet for extended periods of time. If the kids’ school vacation week were longer, I wouldn’t be able to get the crystal. It has nothing to do with my skill, or my values, or my abilities as a player, it only has to do with my ability to log in (and stand near green puking people). Likewise, my lack of ability to log in the past week has caused me to fall short of being able to do all the armor dailies.

Lastly, how did we get to the point in MMOs where being “social” meant standing in a crowd with orange eyes and a green hue? The crowd by the bank is one of the largest gathering of players in SWTOR that I’ve seen since launch, and yet it’s not really social at all. Don’t get me wrong, I like the plague event, and I love the fact that it’s taking place on Tatooine (yes, I love that zone), but there’s something odd about standing around with dozens of others doing pretty much nothing. Makes me want to start inviting to form up a raid and go tackle, well, something!

In the meantime, I’ll be inhaling germs and auctioning my plague-filled DNA to the highest bidder. Get it while it’s green!

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