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The Zombiepocalypse, One Year On

This time last year in WoW, we were fighting for our lives.  Or, maybe running for our lives might’ve been more appropriate.  Our towns and cities were overrun by gigantic hordes of shambling, terrifying zombies, and they only wanted one thing…braaaaaiiiinnnnss.

Yep.  Last year, in the runup to Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard decided to give us a world event we’d never forget.  Forget the 2008 recycle of the 2006 Naxxramas opening event, where you got to go out to various zones and then get camps of undead stolen from you so you couldn’t get those l33t [Jockstraps of Undead Slaying].  No, Arthas had a little more in mind this time than sitting there and waiting for us to smash up some crystals and scream at people for jacking our mobs.

Remember how it started?  Boxes of tainted food started appearing, mysteriously, in towns.  And then came the zombies…well, OK, ghouls, but they were called zombies, because zombies are cooler than ghouls.  If a zombie bit you, or you messed with a food box, or you splattered a tainted bug or rat, you got cooties.  If you didn’t get cured by the time the cootie timer ran out, you became a zombie, with a whole new set of abilities…including having to fight nearly-constantly or your health would drain away and you’d die.  Zombies aren’t exactly known for just standing around and chillaxin’, y’know?  They feel the need…the need to feed.

At first, the disease timer was 10 minutes and it was easy to cure…no worries.  Then the disease timer dropped to 5 minutes, and then two minutes, and then one minute.  By that time, it was World War Z time, baby.  There were zombies everyfrickinwhere, man.  Cities became deathtraps as guards and NPCs got zombified by the dozens.  Death and undeath were spread across Azeroth and Outland.

And just like that, it was over.  Grand Apothecary Putress came up with the cure, and the Argent Dawn delivered it…and all that was left was to clean up the streets of Orgrimmar and Stormwind, burn the bodies, and count the cost.

There’s no doubt that Blizzard absolutely swung for the fences with what we’ve termed the “Zombiepocalypse.”  This was not just another holiday, or some optional event for certain levels.  This was specifically designed to get the point across that the Lich King wants your ass dead.  Yes, you.  And he doesn’t much care about your daily quest grind or your current assignment to retrieve eight [Bear Asses] for some idiot in Thelsamar.  This is total war, son.

There’s also no doubt that the Zombiepocalypse was the most contentious and divisive world event Blizzard’s ever done.  It affected almost everyone who played during that week last October, whether you wanted to be affected or not.  The only way to “opt out” was not to play.  The potency of the disease in the last few days, plus the ease of catching and spreading it, made Hakkar’s old Corrupted Blood look like a minor sniffle.  You either loved the Zombie Invasion of 2008, or you hated it.  There was no in between.

Well, except for me.  I can find the in-between on anything.  (Yes, I am the world’s only wishy-washy tank.)

Let’s take a look at the bad, and then the good, that came out of the Zombiepocalypse, and what lessons Blizzard can hopefully take away from it for any world-shattering–literally–events they may want to try for Cataclysm’s ramp-up.  First, the bad:

– Griefing.  The Zombiepocalypse proved that there’s a population of people on every server who are nothing but raving assholes who get a good laugh out of ruining other people’s fun…but can’t handle it when their own plans get thwarted.  Stories ran rife of groups of level 70 player zombies tearing a swath through newbie towns, infecting the guards, causing level 1-5 characters to get one-shotted again and again.  Questgivers and flightmasters were dead or undead for extended periods.  Auction house bombing (run into an AH and zombie-explode, thus infecting everyone around) became an art form.  Protests from the affected parties brought forth streams of “lololol cry more noob.”  And yet, when a paladin or priest would “fight back” by actually, y’know, cleansing the disease off the zombie, oh, the four- and five- and twelve-letter bombs that flew from the newly de-zombified!  Newsflash, Griefer Boy:  If you get to run around and make life miserable for level 10s, then we get to cure you back from zombie form into douchebag form, even though your spelling and grammar is better when you’re screaming “braaaaiiiinnnnsss lol.”  Yes, I know the event was designed to force people out of a comfort zone–I get that (see below).  But like every other thing that griefers get a hold of, many times, zombiedom was turned into nothing more than an excuse to be a dong.

– Non-consensual PvP.  Here you are, Joe Noob, level 11 mage, rolling around Westfall wondering why the hell Old Blanchy can’t just graze her own oats and HAY WTF LEVEL 70 ZOMBIE ZOMG I’M DED.  Zombies, see, know not of your PvP flags.  A zombie could attack, and be attacked by, anybody, anytime.  They were, effectively, their own faction…and you were always flagged to them.  Don’t want to PvP?  Tough toenails.  If a player zombie wants to PvP with you, you can outrun him, yeah, because he’s a zombie, but other than that, you’re PvPing regardless.

– Shattrath.  Nowhere did the problems with the event loom larger than Shattrath City.  Shattrath, of course, is a Sanctuary–no PvP combat allowed.  This included zombies.  Which means that once a player turned into a zombie, they were, for all intents, immune from attack from other players.  Similarly, player zombies could not infect other players directly…but they could chain the infection among the hordes of Aldor and Scryer and refugee NPCs running around, and those NPC zombie swarms could zombify or kill a player in short order, because of the additive nature of zombie bites–the more you get hit, the more it cuts the timer down.  As long as the player zombies could find the occasional NPC to nomnomnom, there wasn’t a damned thing zombie-fighters could do to stop the root cause of the problem.  It was a gaping hole in the “ruleset” for Zombiepocalypse, if you will, and it was exploited to the utmost.

– Melee need not apply.  That week was an awesome time to be a priest, or especially a paladin.  Everybody snuggled up close to you because, hey, hordes of undead are what you live for, right?  You can heal the sick, or you can protect the innocent, or you can just ret up and kick massive zombie ass.  Well, conversely, trust me, it was a shitty time to be a warrior.  The last couple days of the plague, the infection timer was a mere one minute…and each zombie bite cut it down by something like ten seconds.  Just a few nibbles and you were a zombie, whether you wanted to be or not.  There was no place for warriors in particular (although I’m not sure shamans could clear it off themselves, or if rogues could CoS out of it).  Even if I had a paladin behind me spamming cleansing on me while fighting a zombie horde, all it’d take is one resist or one lag spike, and poof, Zombiepanzercow.  I had really wanted to play Linedan through the end of the Zombie Invasion, but it quickly became so obviously pointless that my fearless Panzercow ended up not logging on for the last two days of the fight.  Beltar, my dwarf hunter, became my primary character, and I had a much better time.

Now, all that said, do I think Zombiepocalypse was a failure?  Hell no.  Here’s the good stuff:

– Arthas wants to eat your face.  Nothing drives home the fact that Arthas is the Big Bad like having your entire city overrun by brain-eating zombies.  We, as players of WoW (especially if we never played any of the Warcraft RTS games, as I didn’t), will never really feel the despair and desperation of the Third War, of the loss of Lordaeron and Stratholme and Darrowshire, the scouring of the Ghostlands and Eversong and the desperate stand at the gates of Silvermoon.  That one week, a week of increasing disruption and violence and vicious fighting in the streets, is the closest we’ll get.  If you’re a bit of a lore nerd like I am, that alone makes putting up with the negatives a ton easier.

– The RP was awesome.  Since I ended up on my dwarf for most of the latter half of the Zombiepocalypse, I ended up fighting in Stormwind along with his guild, the Wildfire Riders.  And there was crazy fighting going on.  The zombie-lovers were constantly infecting the Trade District and Old Town.  There were pitched battles in the streets all that last night, literally for hours.  Zombies were popping out of every building as vendors got infected.  The “front” shifted constantly, from the Trade District to the Harbor to Old Town and back to the Trade District.  We gave it a name…”The Longest Night.”  And the roleplay and stories that came out of the last night of the event still resonate among us to this day, so much that we’re having a little in-game get-together soon to remember the night that the Pig and Whistle became Old Town’s last redoubt against the forces of undeath.

– You got to be a zombie!  I had a rule of thumb.  I’d fight like hell against any zombie I saw, but if they got me, they got me fair, and I proceeded to go all-out as a zombie.  (My exception was Shattrath…the situation was so screwed up there thanks to the Sanctuary rules, I’d just go off in a corner and suicide.)  Why not?  Being a zombie, if you’re reasonable about it, is hella fun.  You can control NPC zombies, you can lurch around yelling “BRAAAAAIIIIINS,” you eat tasty human fase to regain health.  What’s not to like about it?

– Beltar got to pretend he was Bruce Campbell.  Sort of.  Shooting zombies in the middle of the Trade District while ripping off one-liners in /say?  Hell yeah.

I really hope that Blizzard has something as epic as the Zombiepocalypse planned for the Cataclysm rollout.  I just hope that if they do, they take a hard look at what went wrong last year (and there was a lot) and don’t just dismiss the legitimate complaints as “a bunch of noob carebear whiners,” like a lot of the forum idiots do.  Obviously you can’t have something like this without disrupting people’s play, at least some.  But with some thought, they should be able to at least mitigate some of the griefing and make it more enjoyable for more people, of all levels.

35 responses

  1. Another great post. Thanks for the memories. Geesh, hard to believe that was just a year ago. I loved the zombie event and was actually disappointed when it ended seemingly with the flip of a switch. But while it lasted, it was somethign different, something new, something *completely* Immersive. Yeah, parts of it sucked, but geez, it was temporary. I’m glad I experienced it to the fullest rather than logging out in disgust for a week like some people I know did.

    October 27, 2009 at 16:43

  2. The period of time between this zombie nomming and the purging of Elerlissa were what solidified my love for the the Prophecy of Light.

    The night Dorri and Kel spent trying to purge Booty bay against the ever increasing hordes after their guild leader was slaughtered was incredible.

    October 27, 2009 at 17:40

    • Molto interessante se ti serve qualche cosa chiedi, ho fatto molte ricerche sul complotto lunare e mi sono scaricato tutto il database della NASA sulle missioni Apollo (qualche decina di giga).Il massimo che sono riuscito a fare è qualche pessima simulazione 3D utilizzando selctipemenme carta e colla -_-.

      May 9, 2017 at 16:17

  3. Verdus

    I tried to enjoy it. I really, truly did. I was even a zombie for a while. But the griefing was just so incredibly pervasive, it was impossible for me to look past it to everything else that was happening. It’s one thing to be shoved out of your comfort zone, it’s something else entirely for the developers to give tacit approval for every douchebag on the realm to ruin your entire week with absolutely no recourse.

    October 27, 2009 at 18:54

  4. All the cons you’ve listed? That’s why I hated the event, haha. I tried out being a zombie for a few times, then Anea’s battlecry was more along the lines of “FU ZOMBIES!” and she logged out.

    It never once occurred to me that there would be RP opportunities. Probably the server and my naïveté, but there you go.

    October 28, 2009 at 09:12

  5. This is where playing in the offhours helped me out. Although things did get progressively worse, I managed to avoid the worst of it, and still play my characters normally. Well, except when we went on a rampage in Westfall/Duskwood, which was a lot of fun… but hey, I went on my lvl 30 Alliance mage, so I wasn’t griefing! (The fact I was coordinating on vent with my lvl 70 Horde guildmates had nothing to do with it, of course!)

    October 28, 2009 at 11:16

    • No, nothing at all, of course not! 🙂

      See, I don’t mind lowbie areas getting occasionally torn up in something like this, because honestly, NOBODY should’ve been completely insulated. This is, after all, the Lich King we’re talking about here–he’s not playing tiddlywinks, he’s playing for keeps. But as always, there’s the people who are The Reason We Can’t Have Good Things. Those were the ones that took it to an extreme and did things like destroy Sentinel Hill for four hours straight, knowing that nobody could quest or do anything, corpse-camping people 50 levels under them for extended periods, etc.

      Honestly, what got me worse than the disruption and sporadic griefing were the comments of some of those who loved the event. “STFU noob” and “lololol crai more” just showed that they were probably the ones crapping all over the lowbies. And some people overreacted the other way and flipped out at the slightest disruption to their play. All in all, the Zombie event didn’t show the playerbase at their best, I think that’s a fair summary.

      October 28, 2009 at 11:27

      • We had a lot of debate over it, as I recall. I also remember saying that I enjoyed as much as I did only because I knew it was going to end.

        If I thought there was no end in sight for the thing, that would have pissed me off. But we knew it was an event. And, well, there was also RP to be made of it.

        And I was pretty okay with it, until those jerks, Residue and Ahrfantis came and nommed my face.

        October 28, 2009 at 11:48

  6. Pingback: The Zombiepocalypse, One Year On « Joel's Scattered Thoughts

  7. archaica

    non-consentual pvp. that is exactly what it was. oh the memories…

    thank you for posting this very insightful recap. it has earned you another subscriber. /cheers.

    October 29, 2009 at 20:51

  8. kahalm

    I really liked building zombi raids and overtaking whole cities hell even cities of the opposite fraction weren’t safe, this was the first time I really saw all the Horde capitals as I never played Horde

    October 31, 2009 at 08:46

    • kahalm

      hmmm couldn’t find the edit menu, warrior-zombis were uber-zombies, we could use our charge in zombiform

      October 31, 2009 at 10:08

  9. Jez

    My guild leader went down to the Isle of Quel’Danas and managed to infect all the baby murlocs.

    Half an hour later, the place had gone completely to hell.

    November 1, 2009 at 15:49

    • …that is so full of win, mere English cannot express it.

      November 1, 2009 at 15:58

  10. Pennelope Pennebaker

    I loved every minute of it. My shammy & guildies priest & pally would fight like hell to cleanse areas, but when we got infected we fought like hell to infect everyone we could find. Questing? Gold making? No. This was a once in the game event, it would all return to the same old grind soon enough, too soon.

    Those who didn’t like it? I hope you have something else to do before Cataclysm comes out – I foresee armies of Naga coming your way.

    November 1, 2009 at 16:20

    • Glaras

      Well, as long as the Naga don’t infect players with an ever-more-potent disease that allows them to turn the game to a steaming pile of non-con PVP, bring ’em on. My opinion: if anyone thinks the game is an old grind, log off, find something else to do. That person’s “boredom” is not reason enough to give them the ability to turn everyone else upsidedown, particularly when escape is increasingly impossible.

      This would have cured everything wrong with the Invasion event: Have a rez timer, every time you die as a zombie, that starts on 1 minute and doubles with each death. After the 6th death, our would-be-zombie general will be cooling his heels for 32 minutes, having already sacrificed 31 minutes to his newfound hobby. *That* would have given folks an incentive to really avoid infection… just like a “real” plague.

      November 2, 2009 at 01:03

      • DarkWalker

        Better yet, make it so that dying as a zombie gave you an undispeleable debuff that made you invulnerable to the plague for 30 – 60 minutes.
        It would make the game way more bearable to those that didn’t want to turn into zombies, and the prospect of fighting back the zombies at least possible.

        November 2, 2009 at 16:32

  11. Tash

    I loved it as well. Never got much into being a zombie, but single-handedly purging the gnome town in Blade’s Edge Mountains was (although not as epic as any of the capital cities) still quite fun and satisfying.

    November 1, 2009 at 16:37

    • Ã… ja, Silje ('Ulekker' var nick'et hennes da vi drev med datascrapping – kan du tenke deg et verre nick!) er en av verdens beste &#unima9;p3latorer' – innen data, selvfølgelig… 🙂 og en aldeles fantastisk fotograf! Du og henne sammen er jo bare dømt til Ã¥ bli bra!!Har du det bra?klem

      May 9, 2017 at 16:30

  12. On Destromath, we had a group of Paladins and Priests secure the Stormwind Cathedral as the last bastion against the zombie hordes. There was literally a carpet of bones leading up to the steps from where the paladins holy wrathed pretty much the whole city to the ground.

    November 1, 2009 at 18:07

  13. I have to say I agree with your points here, the RP aspect in particular is an interesting point. However, not everyone cares about RPing. IE, I’m not on an RP server … and with reason. All in all, I share your sentiment, it could’ve been truly great if not for some glaring oversights.

    I will say this though, at the time I was five boxing a Protadin and 4 Elemental Shamans, the day it all started I made a Druid and was ripped apart by a level 70 zombie when I hit Crossroads. Of course, I thought wtf. Then I saw what was going on … that’s when I logged on my five box crew. The griefers called me all sorts of names, for “ruining their fun”. Which to this day has stuck with me, the event gave the griefers license to ruin other peoples fun with utter impunity … until some focused pew pew was sent their way, then they began crying louder than any carebear has ever cried before…

    November 1, 2009 at 18:14

    • See, that’s fantastic. One common thread through the thing was hearing from friends (on many servers, of all types) that the people who were being the most disruptive and telling people to “stfu noob” were the ones who screamed the loudest when people actually fought back, as they should’ve, against the zombies. I suppose it’s the same as the d-bags who trash level 1 towns being the most likely to log on an alt on your faction and cuss you out when you take the time to actually pound them into the ground.

      I understand what you’re saying about the RP angle…had I been on a straight PvE server and not into roleplay on an RP server, I probably wouldn’t even have logged on at all the last two days of the event. It would’ve been worthless to do so had I not been able to hook up with my A-side buds in Stormwind and turn the Pig and Whistle in Old Town into our own version of the Winchester from Shaun of the Dead.

      The one thing I really rip Blizzard about over the event was Shattrath. Clearly, the people there did not think through the repercussions of having the Sanctuary rules in effect when you had, in effect, a third faction running around that could infect the other two using the hundreds of NPCs in the city as a vector. The griefing and non-consensual PvP were serious problems too, but that’s more on the players who took the “disruptive” part of the event to extremes. I’m hoping that if we get some sort of disrupting Cataclysm event, that they work on it and think it through a little more beforehand. Because personally, I didn’t mind the whole concept of turning Azeroth (and Outland) on its ear for four or five days, not in the least. It was just the holes in the execution that bothered me a bit.

      November 1, 2009 at 19:19

      • One of the interesting things about it, to me anyway is that as it worsened people stopped logging on entirely. Which, I’ve always thought was an odd way of getting people excited about an expansion.

        Looking back, I think it would’ve been interesting to have seen small pockets and isolated incidents over a longer period, rather than nearly a week of giving up and playing something else. Even that might not have been the perfect answer, but I think it might have softened the blow.

        November 1, 2009 at 19:30

      • Another oversight in Blizzrd’s execution was to do with the flagging rules – if you attacked a zombie, and it happened to be the other faction, you were then flagged for pvp. Getting attacked by zombs was fine, but getting flagged was a flaw.

        At crossroads, one lowbie ally would run around zombed, baiting horde to attack them … and then a gang of non-zomb allies would jump the now-flagged horde.

        What should have happened was that you could attack the zombies, and the zombies can attack you, and that’s all. No flagging.

        Zombies vs players I wouldn’t really call “non-consensual pvp” – more like player-controlled mobs. I also wonder what the reaction would be if there were waves of NPC zombies rushing into towns, infecting vendors, bankers, and auctioneers? I suppose if the NPCs didn’t smack talk it would go down better.

        November 2, 2009 at 07:35

      • DarkWalker

        I DO mind very much they turning the game I pay to play into something I found unbearable, since I hate zombies, non-consensual PvP, and losing control over basic aspects of my character (i.e., turning into a zombie).
        This event has left me so distrustful of WoW’s events I think I will cancel my account a few months before Cataclysm ships, and either renew my subscription when/if I discover the launch event is at least bearable, or the expansion finally ships.

        November 2, 2009 at 16:40

    • &m;otddiWow, lovely images, Simon! Really refreshing. I like best the Vortex, it’s so delicate. Spirits is very nice too. Was definitely worth the wait to see them!

      May 9, 2017 at 14:47

  14. Aemi

    As a PvE raiding guild priest I spent my pre-raid time every night cleansing lowbie places after the griefers left. I despise griefers intensely. WOW is a hobby for all of us and its the worst of human behaviour to deliberately and consistently cause emotional distress to others for your own amusement. Playing a computer game does not absolve people of their responsibility for the emotional wellbeing of others. In my school or workplace that would be termed bullying and would be dealt with seriously. why is doing it online make it ok??

    As for the RP, I loved the concept, If it looked hopeless I was into self preservation and I just hearthed out. No way I was going to be a zombie, I’m fighting that traitor Arthas tooth and nail.
    The funniest thing was then starting our raids up and summoning in guildies who had been bitten but weren’t yet zombies. depending on who it was and if they could cope with it, we would either cleanse them or let them go zombie then gank them.

    November 2, 2009 at 01:09

  15. Kaelgrim

    The idea of the event was good.

    The execution of the event was flawed.

    And many of the human beings involved were more interested in their own personal idea of “fun” than in what other players might have considered “fun”.

    I saw a lot of ugly behavior during the event.

    And I haven’t forgotten or forgiven any of it.

    November 2, 2009 at 02:09

  16. Pingback: The Zombiepocalypse: One year later |

  17. FormerlyARogue

    You know, I hated this event the first 2-3 days. I saw it as an interruption of my PvE-centric gaming, and hated being, essentially, forced to PvP.

    Around day 3-4 though, my opinion changed when I saw people actually fighting back. The first 2 days were nothing but people griefing and no one doing anything, but by the 3rd day, literal factions had formed in the Zombies Vs. Everyone still living.

    The most epic encounter for me was in Stormwind when the timer got down to 2 or 3 minutes. A shaman (and known zombie-enthusiast/griefer) was mad about being constantly cleansed, and managed to get infected and run from the trade district. I shcased them out through trade and out to the canals. At this point the Waterwalked and jumped into the water to get away. Being on my rogue, I jumped in, sprinted, and gave chase. As I caught up, I counted the seconds ticking away, waiting to fall in the water. I caught up to them, still in the water and giving chase and my sprint timer ticked off.

    Still chasing though, somehow I didn’t fall in. Don’t know if it glitched or if another likeminded shaman buffed me with WW, but I followed them back to terra firma, and nuked them with a complete stunlock as they transformed into a zombie, using all my stunlocking abilities to kill them before they got off a single move.

    That chase was one of my most epic moments in WoW ever. It felt like for just a few moments I was the star of my very own action movie. 🙂

    November 2, 2009 at 18:19

    • I hated it the first few days too. Now that I’ve read all the books, I would love for an invasion of Arthas’ army. Let me fall in battle and become a DK or something. The griefers sucked, but what made it truly awesome is when people started really understanding that lone wolfing it wouldn’t work. Then I stood in Org, near where Ony’s head goes and just beat back waves and waves of zombies on my paladin. In fact, when they put the Argent folks who could help cleanse, it made it easier to escape the griefing.

      December 8, 2009 at 13:50

    • En weet je wat nou zo leuk is? Frank is ook heel gezellig met zo’n meeting. En hij doet precies net zo als op dit blog de meest onverwachte dingen.Zeg nou zelf, wie fooergaftert er nou de gids van een rondleiding op nog geen meter afstand terwijl die man eigenlijk nog aan z’n verhaal moet beginnen? Niemand toch?

      May 9, 2017 at 15:40

  18. The only thing I didn’t like was the sanctuary thing in Shattrath. There was constanly mobs of zombies around the flight master and people would fly in and be instantly turned. Everything else I loved. I loved pissing off griefers by cleansing/dispelling or just plain killing them before they could do anything.

    I loved the feeling of fighting for my right to live. I’m not an RPer and I’m not on an RP server but those nights were the most immersed I have ever been in the game. Rallying with small bands of survivors to retake different parts of the cities was awesome. The whole thing really gave a reason to hate Arthas.

    Unfortunately the outcry of those whose daily life’s were disturbed for a week will insure we won’t see another event like that. I can see them doing things right though… have some of the major cities invaded but then a small camp outside where there is a banker/auctioneer.

    November 12, 2009 at 13:09

  19. Pingback: The Longest Night (Beltar RP) « Achtung Panzercow

  20. Pingback: Favorite RP Moment – Parallel Tangents Blog

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