15 June 2011

Holidays in Azeroth II

Last time I compared Azerothian holidays to those of some WoW playing nations. Today I'd like to talk about the in game celebrations, specifically the months that are particularly uneventful. I personally love the long holiday events. For me, the perfect holiday has dailies, rewards, plenty of XP or gold, achievements, a boss fight, and cool vanity pets or mounts. Currently, that makes my all-time favorite a tie between Hallow's End and the Midsummer Fire Festival.

However, that sort of holiday is a pretty big commitment, especially if you have multiple alts to take through. That's why it's also important to have downtime, so players can work on their own projects instead of dedicating an evening to Trick or Treating the entirety of Kalimdor. That sort of commitment is typical of long holidays - that's why they last so long. You get, say, 14 opportunities to defeat a daily boss, 14 days of dailies, and 14 days to take all your alts to all of the bonfires. Involved holidays need a long grace period, and enough activities to keep them busy. (That's why I don't really like the Lunar Festival.) Short holidays, on the other hand, don't have enough time for involved quests, but their lack of quests makes them less fun to participate in. Take the Fireworks Extravaganza for instance: without a quest or reward, it's unlikely that I'll travel to Booty Bay just to see in-game fireworks.

Looking at the calendar, there are some big gaps without any holiday fun to speak of: After Love is in the Air ends, there is a two month break for the entire month of March and until the end of April when Noblegarden begins. Then, there is a month and a half break from the beginning of April after Children's Week till the end of June when the Fire Festival starts. At the beginning of July, there is another two month break until Harvest Festival in early September.

A good break between holidays is 2 to 3 weeks, and a good length for a holiday is 1 to 2 weeks. (I'll give Winter Veil a free pass, seeing as that time of year is extremely busy in my culture and the game provides ample time to participate without having too many available activities.) With this guideline for length, the above-mentioned dry periods offer enough time for at least 5 week-long holidays! The current criteria for What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been includes 8 week-long epic holiday achievement sets. It does not include Pilgrim's Bounty or any of the day-long holiday achievements. Filling in the free months with new holidays and achievements could lend itself to another mega meta-achievement (a Longer, Stranger Trip if you will) and drake, made up of at least 6 holidays. Heck, while I'm pipe-dreaming, maybe they could throw in another handful of one-day-only holiday achievements and award a ground mount or pet for that.

Now, I can't very well ask for change without making a few suggestions. So I have some ideas for what we might could add to fill up those listless, unexciting months. The holidays now generally have some sort of connection to one or two races, and I'd like to see that any new holidays can be applied to under-represented races. I have broken it up like so:

Tauren: Winter Veil, Lunar Festival
Trolls: Brewfest (sort of?)
Forsaken: Hallow's End
Orcs: Harvest Festival
Blood elves and goblins have no current holidays. (I am not including the Fireworks Spectacular because it's short)

Humans: Noblegarden, Harvest Festival
Night Elves: Lunar Festival
Dwarves: Winter Veil, Brewfest
Gnomes: Brewfest (again...sort of?)
Draenei and worgen have no current holidays.

I'm not hugely against a race having yet another holiday associated with it, but in particular I'd like to find a way to explore cultural traditions of blood elves, goblins, trolls, draenei, worgen, and gnomes. It's a tall order, but parallels can be drawn in many cross-faction races so I think it would not be too hard to come up with reasons why multiple races or factions might celebrate. In fact, any new holiday should somehow be made accessible to all races. Even Noblegarden, arguably the most insular holiday as a human celebration solely for nobles entertaining children, was fun enough that not only the rest of the Alliance but the Horde as well adopted the practice. With that as precedent, any proposed holiday can theoretically be adapted as a universal event.

For the filler holidays, I want to draw both on any influences we might gain from earthly celebrations and any Azerothian holidays that could be extrapolated from what we know about the different cultures. Despite the prevalence of memorializing veterans and battles on Earth, I am not particularly eager for more of the same in Azeroth. I would like to see more religious or cultural events.

I brainstormed some incomplete lists of things I think each race might celebrate:
Tauren: festivals for the Earthmother, the hunt, and seasonal change; Cairne's death; battling the centaur; joining the Horde
Trolls: loa worship and related festivals; retaking the Echo Isles
Blood elves: any event related to the Sunwell; mana appreciation day
Forsaken: defeating the Lich King; Sylvanas' birthday (?)
Goblins: explosions; commerce and gold-making
Orcs: anything glorifying Thrall; adopted/remembered Mag'hari practices

Humans: planting and harvesting; fertility and marriage; unions made or broken with other nations; Varian's birthday (he would totally do this)
Night Elves: festivals celebrating Elune or nature; honoring and remembering those gone to sleep in the Emerald Dream
Gnomes: new inventions and engineering discoveries; retaking Gnomeragon
Dwarves: anything and everything to do with Brann Bronzebeard; other (lesser) explorers and archaeologists; festivals for forging or training gryphons
Worgen: many holdover human festivals; worgen-specific events like celebrating a pack; Prince Liam's death
Draenei: Naaru worship; the light; reaching Draenor/Azeroth

A while back, the podcast All Things Azeroth held a contest to design an April Fool's Day holiday. Unfortunately, I can't find any text related to the submissions but it certainly fits nicely into one of the holes in our calendar! I would love for the goblins and gnomes to host a holiday together that features their competing engineering endeavors, and this whimsical holiday could be a good opportunity to work in that story. Plus, it would take out 2 of the unrepresented races! If not April Fool's, I could easily see a different joint holiday: an Engineering Extravaganza featuring stock car racing, new engineering patterns, parts & schematics delivery quests, and engineered mounts or pets as rewards. Similar to Brewfest, they could be menaced by a boss - either a member of the opposing faction or a mutual enemy.

The April Fool's Day holiday would of course occur at the beginning of April, but March could do with a week of fun as well. In March we have Mardi Gras, St. Patty's Day, and the Longtaitou Festival on Earth, and the orcish gathering at Oshu'gun known as the Kosh'harg Festival. I'm going to bench St. Patty's for the simple fact that we already have a drinking festival and it is called Brewfest. Mardi Gras and the Longtaitou Festival are far enough apart that we could squeeze in both with ambition and a little elbow grease!

Mardi Gras seems to me to be a great activity for blood elves to participate in, and it probably wouldn't take too much explanation (or retconning) to come up with a reason for everyone to wear fabulous costumes and get trashed. What was I saying about not having another drinking festival? But more importantly, this holiday can feature costumes, fanciful masks, gaudy necklaces, parades, and as much Canal Street culture as you can handle. I'm not sure if it needs a boss or other conflict, but I'll leave that to the writers. The one thing I can't see is it being a precursor to any period of...austerity. Maybe it can refer to how the blood elves were having a great time getting high at the Sunwell (mega partying) and then suddenly were cut off (forced austerity?).

The Kosh'harg Festival is unfortunately an orc-specific holiday, but never underestimate the power of retconning! Draenei probably have some sort of related holiday around the spring equinox, and they need something to celebrate! This holiday would have to be mostly centered in Outland, I'm thinking Oshu'gun in Nagrand and Auchindoun in Terokkar Forest. That might present too many obstacles for lowbies or people who don't own BC, but maybe there could be some sort of phasing for lowbies. For orcs, the event was a way to get together for discussion, but it mostly turned into a big party. For draenei, seeing as they love the Naaru and stuff, they might have a week-long bash to get their worship on. The holiday could begin in Azuremyst/Durotar, and port players to their respective faction locations to visit with ancestors, feast, quest to put spirits to rest, or show their devotion to the light. Aside from the reference to seasonal change, neither of these can relate to the Longtaitou Festival [Dragon Raising its Head], but ideas for food, dress, or other decorations could take inspiration from that.

May and the first half of June are pretty empty in WoW, with the "Double Fifth" (5/5 on a traditional calendar) occurring in China and Korea. The Chinese Duanwu [Dragon Boat Festival] has origins referring to everything from famous people's deaths to celebrating dragons, associated with masculinity and the height of summer. It is celebrated by eating special food and racing dragon boats, and many traditions like wearing medicine bags or writing spells are to prevent disease or sickness. The Korean Dano marks the end of sowing season and the end of hibernation in northern regions. Popular events include eating rice cakes and wrestling. I feel like this might be a good event for worgen to participate in, both for agriculture and health as a holdover of their human roots, and also for worgen waking from their feral madness. Of course, my Gilnean/worgen history is not so good so this probably needs to be tweaked. To extend this to the Horde, it could be a "druid thing" that carries it across factions. We could quest in Moonglade, battle some still-feral druids, collect/make medicine bags and give them as gifts, and cook up some special food. Then we can race our dragon boats in the Lake of Elune'ara!

Last is the depressing month of August, which has no holidays! In China, the Qixi Festival (7/7 on the traditional calendar) is celebrated in August and influences the Korean Chilseok and the Japanese Tanabata, which I am personally very fond of. The story of the Weaver (the star Vega) and the Cowherd (the stair Altair) can be summarized as a weaver (sometimes a princess) meets a cowherd. They fall so deeply in love that they neglect their duties, and as punishment are separated by the Milky Way. Once a year (this holiday) they are allowed to meet. I think this romantic holiday could be adapted for troll use based on constellations visible from Kalimdor. Perhaps a common troll worships a loa so much he falls in love, and as a "reward" he is placed in the sky to keep her company. To extend this to the Alliance, since the night elves also live on Kalimdor they might have a similar story about the constellation. Activities include making wishes and tailoring, and quests for bringing love letters and tokens between smitten NPCs.

That brings us to the last quarter of the year, which is pretty evenly spaced with holidays. I'm really looking forward to that season this year because in addition to providing daily sources of gold and XP for my alts, the festive atmosphere makes me feel like I have something to celebrate too!

What do you think about the frequency and execution of holidays currently in game? Would you like to see more or less of them? I didn't flesh out my proposed holidays as deeply as those proposed on the podcast, but do you think they could work? Would you change them or choose entirely different inspirations for new holidays?


  1. Those are a lot of fun ideas! I particularly like your ideas for a revamp/expansion of the Engineers' Explosive Extravaganza and the troll/kaldorei constellation festival.

    I don't know if we need holidays with quite such clockwork regularity, though. The holiday season in the real world gets pretty tiring by then end, and having a longish gap between holidays allows a little anticipatory excitement to build up for the next one. Speaking for myself alone, one of *my* bad habits concerning WoW is that when it's an Azeroth holiday week, I tend to drop everything else -- including my RL responsibilities, at times -- to do holiday stuff in WoW all day. I'd never get anything done if there were holidays all the time!

  2. Hehe, I admit this is a pretty aggressive proposal for holiday activity. Like you, I also tend to get bogged down in completing all the holiday quests and achievements. However, as much as I may rag on the Lunar Festival, it's the perfect example of a low maintenance holiday. Although it lasts for two weeks, it has very minimal quests, and although the achievement portion can be time consuming, it isn't repeatable. So now when that holiday rolls around, I get my alts summoned to Moonglade and spend the rest of the period enjoying the decorations and fireworks. So we may not need all of the holidays I proposed (although more than a month of downtime and I am a sad Beko!!), but to further alleviate holiday stress, the associated activities can be low key.