Thursday, September 10, 2009

Darkmoon Faire should be more than a trinket shop

“Darkmoon Faire Cancelled”.

I stared at the headline at WoW.com in disbelief, until I realized I had gotten it wrong. It wasn’t the ingame faire, which was about to open in Elwynn Forest this week, that all of a sudden had shut the gates. The whole article was about some marketing event in Paris for the card game version of WoW. Nothing that concerned me.

Reasons to cancel
Still, I couldn’t help thinking about the consequences if the real Darkmoon Faire actually had been cancelled. My first thought was that they really would have good reasons to do it. After making the same route in Azeroth year after year, you could expect the poor crew to crave for a vacation, or maybe they just wanted to slip away to investigate new market opportunities. After all they have the whole Northrend continent to exploit! Another possibility was that the swine flue had started to spread in Azeroth. They could very well cancel it as a safety measure.

The most likely reason to shut down the business however would be lack of customers. This became apparent to me as decided to pay the faire a visit the other night. I don’t do this very often, once a year at the most, but I felt in a pensive mood after some wiping in Ulduar hardmodes, and thought that this could be a way to cheer me up a bit.

The sight I met was rather sad. The NPCs did their best to provide the right atmosphere – entertainment, wonders, amusing tricks that tickle your imagination. But how could they possibly succeed when the grounds were void of real people? Apart from some stray player who just rushed in to get over with their card-and-trinket-exchange-business, to instantly take off once it was done, I was on my own.

So what was a lonely gnome to do? For the first time ever, I spoke to every single character at the faire. And it became apparent to me how desperate this institution is for a facelift.

A huge part of the content of the market consists of the task to turn in obscure items in exchange for tickets, the Darkmoon Faire currency. Once you get enough of them, you can trade them for items. Some of those items were surely fine and useful in vanilla wow – I remember how I myself grinded harpies for hours and hours to get 50 vibrant feathers so I could trade them for a bag at the fair, strictly following the advice from Jame’s levelling guide. Today, with gold, gear and levelling xp overflowing Azeroth, it’s just a complete waste of time to do it. The only ones who bother about it are the crazy people who are heading for the “Insane in the Membrane” achievement. Ordinary players lack incentives to visit Darkmoon Faire. It's more or less a dead area; this content was deserted long time ago.

Fun things to do
In my investigations I managed to find a few fun things that you still can do at the faire. They didn't give me any huge laugh, bat at least some giggles, since I hadn't done those things before. Believe it or not, but it took me 2.5 years of playing before I let myself being launched by the cannon, taking the flight over Elwynn Forrest!

The reason for it puts me in a rather bad light, but I’ll share the story with you anyway:

The thing is that I was scared by the faire as a very young gnome. I remember how I hesitatingly approached the market, so long ago. At this point I was still clueless about most things in the game, I was obsessively afraid of clicking on unknown things, since thought they would have some permanent damaging effect on me. In spite of this, my curiosity took over and I managed to start one of the tonk controls. But at that point I didn’t know what it was about. What I saw on the screen was that my character got stuck and knocked unconscious. I couldn’t control her anymore and I was convinced that it was an evil trap, which was put there to teach gnomes who put their nose into things that didn’t concern them a lesson. I had no idea about how to get out of it, so I waited for it to wear off, which took 5 minutes. I swore never to try such a thing again and always kept a safety distance to the faire after that, never interacting more than necessary with it.

It wasn’t until this night that I realized that the trap I imagined actually was a tonk controller. How strange that I never even noticed the toy car before! But I guess it says something about the horror I felt, being “stuck”. Considering this, it's no wonder that I never dared to try the cannon launcher or talk a bit with the fortune teller about my future. Who knew what evil deeds they were planning to me?

A waste of a great idea
Last night I finally did all those things. They were pretty funk but they didn't last for long. I coudn't even prolonge the entertainment doing the quest for the Jubling pet, since I already had it.

I couldn’t help feeling a bit unfulfilled when I left the premises. Was this all there was? In the glorious age of phasing, of holiday events, of thrilling vehicle rides, of dailies and currency grinds for all sorts of vanity items, couldn’t they come up with something more than this?

The truth is that Darkmoon Faire has turned into a godforsaken place, a shadow of its former glory, which just is an annoying extra journey and waiting time to obtain epic trinkets. It’s probably only a matter of time before they open a filial store in Dalaran.

I think it’s sad since it's a waste of a great idea, which would fit nicely into the fantasy theme of Azeroth. Darkmoon Faire could be one of those changing, temporal events, which keep the game fun and makes the world come alive. It could increase our apetite for adventures.

But in it's current shape it's in desparate need for some attention and love from the developers. Yeah, they’ve added a few Northrend items to the assortment of the vendors of exotic goods, but that isn’t enough. Where is the entertainment for the modern inhabitants of Azeroth?

The question is: will they bother to rewamp together with everything else in Cataclysm? Or will the faire succumb in a natural disaster, never ever to be heard of again? Cancelled for good? I wouldn’t be surprised to be honest.

12 comments:

Klepsacovic said...

New trinkets in Cataclysm I bet. Woo! Oh. That is kinda boring.

Achievements! But that just attracts the irritable achievement whores who complain that it is crowded for a week and then all finish and leave.

Are we the problem? Is it that we won't do anything that doesn't give epics or achievements?

Zekta Chan said...

I was pretty excited on my first time (It's already deserted, as it's middle TBC), seeing the tent being setup and things to play around.

I really amused by the tank thing...
But well, when I introduce to my girlfriend, seems not so exciting at all.

Some Goblin will still camp the vendor for the cheap goods, and low level alts will come by getting the buff

But well, Not much fun either.
I am pretty sad about that as well...

Kestrel said...

You never fail to amaze me, my dear. I confess, I don't even use DMF for card exchanges; I rely on the AH.

But once again, you've shown some acute insight into a WoW institution that isn't quite so much, anymore. After all, does anyone collect the stacks of junk to turn in for tickets, anymore?

Other than the trinkets, what is there, there? You're right: A facelift, in fact, a whole-body makeover, is needed.

gnomeaggedon said...

Ha!

The Darkmoon Faire is truly a reflection of the same RL faires we see 1/2 abandoned at the end of wharves in many major cities around the world.

Freak shows...
Shooting games that cost more to play than the trinket you might win of the game wasn't rigged...
Those funny mirrors that make you look Gnome short or Tauren tall.

If I was a developer, I think I would leave it as the archaic monument to time gone by that it is...

Rem said...

Slightly off-topic maybe, but I would say that your tonk incident (and subsequent hesitation) was maybe one of the better experiences one can have in the game. Because it is one of the invaluable cases, when the connection between the player and the game reaches beyond spell rotations and barter formulas.

Carra said...

I also remember getting my Jubling pet. And neglecting Fames advice to get the feathers as bags weren't hard to get when you had a main.

But you do it all once (cannon shot, little cars, get the epic necklace for my warlock) and then there is no point in doing it again. The novelty wears off, the same will happen with all the seasonals.

I returned twice after TBC. Once to get the TBC trinket for my warlock. The second time to get the LK trinket for my deathknight. Quick turn in and gone.

Larísa said...

@Klepsacovic: Sadly enough I think you're spot on. Players just don't appreciate the non-epic-rewarding activities, the things we do just for the amusement, enough to make it worthwhile investing dev time into it. :(

@Zekta Chan: Actually I can't help still getting a little excited when I see them putting up the camp. I love to see a place transforming over time, even though this perticular thing is so predictable and repetitive. But it's nice to see it happening. Just as I liked to see sunwell island and simular institutions being built and changed over time.

@Kestrel: well, it's probably not any new and revolutionary insight I'm presenting. But since no one ever seems to mention the place anymore I thought it was about time that we reminded ourselves of its existense, now that Blizzard seems to have forgotten about it altogether.

@Gnomeaggedon: I only agree partly about your description of faires. some medieval faires I've been to have been truly entertaining experiences, with musicians, jugglers, actors and all sorts of people creating interesting performing arts events. I wish Darkmoon Faire could reflect at least a pinch of that. Now it's just... sad.

@Rem: not at all off topic! Yes, you're right. My horror experiences at the faire in my first, innocent days of WoW playing had a certain quality that will never come back. Oh, my, how big the world was... In that aspect Darkmoon Faire really was exciting, bringing a sample of something unknown in a far distance. This feeling and immersion is lost and gone since long. I wonder if I could ever get it back without switching to another game. But will I even find it then? Or will I just look through everything, wondering about the game mechanisms, evaluating it with my MMO-eyes in stead of just throwing myself into the adventure?

@Carra: yeah, you do it once... I guess I was just a little bit odd waiting for 2.5 years before trying everything out.

seriouslycasual said...

The DMF needs achievements to get players out there. There are tons of Tonk related ones they could do. Get your fortune read. Turn in a deck of cards. Eat the special food that they have. Watching people faceplant and die while trying to get the cannon related achievement would be enjoyable.

They could even add a few quests in that can only be repeated once a faire.

Some more mini-games wouldn’t hurt.

Daraia said...

Something to think about is, while for all of us this is "old hat" if you have a young child (my 5 and 6 year old for example) who LOVE to watch me play WoW but really can not handle the more advanced aspects of the game absolutely LOVE the Darkmoon Faire and it is the HIGHLIGHT for them.

The Tonk Controllers, the Cannon, getting Tickets. Just like with a county fair...those "junky, overprice prizes we parents revile...to a child, they are magic and treasured. My boys LOVE their Jublings.

The next expansion is completely reworking Vanilla WOW, and this is a good thing. At the same time, not EVERYTHING in the game should be focused on just the "adults entertainment". We know that the age bracket of this market is wide though the MAJORITY is in the Teen and adult. Is it to much for one small faire to really appeal more to the younger crowd? I mean look at where the faire is located? Right next to the Starting zones where all of THEM hang out.

Cap'n John said...

I grinded everything I had to in order to get the Epic Necklace for my Hunter, then ended up buying the last few items on the AH when I still didn't haven't enough, and yes, I got gouged as you do when you buy off the AH at Faire time.

Rem said...

Larísa, regarding that pristine feeling, I wrote on my blog back in April:

No feeling in an MMO compares to levelling your first character. When you're not shooting for perfection. Not preparing for the next raid. When every little hop feels like a giant leap. And every mob you defeat - like a significant victory. When your quantum of achievement is a quest, rather than a quest-hub or a zone. [...]

It depends on the person of course, but for most of us, I think that feeling can never be reproduced. Not even in a new game. That game might be (will be) exciting in its own right, but you'll be sitting there, with a knowing smile, like when watching a magician doing tricks. You might not know how this particular act works yet, but you already know it's a trick, and thus can't lose yourself as much in its magic, won't believe that you might run into a gnome trap.

But immersion? Immersion never needs to die. It needs to transform and take new forms, as we ourselves change and explore new forms of playing a game. We just need to allow ourselves to look into the game world, no matter what we're doing in that game world, now and again, for a few moments. We can't expect to be awed and overwhelmed the way we used to be, but a lot of immersion comes from within.

The magician might not be able to fool us any more, but we can still be enchanted by his mastery!

G-Rebel said...

I was disappointed the first time I checked it out, to be honest. I was expecting games, rides, entertainment and got...well, not that.

It's sad because you enter the grounds and get cheery music and it makes you think, "Hey, this is neat. What will I do first?" Then you realize there's not much at all to do. It needs constant live shows, interactive games (lots of them), and about 5-10 rides. Make it huge. Heck, instead of it being a traveling group build an amusement park, filled with overprices sunscreen and 3 hour waits in line for roller coasters. And...well, maybe not quite that big, but bigger and more fun would be welcome.