The Great WOW Plague

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MMOStories

12 October 2010

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In a virtual equivalent of the Black Death, a deadly plague spread through the world of Azeroth on 13th September 2005.  Thousands were killed and capital cities rendered ghost towns as the plague wrought its terrible path of destruction.

It all started when a new dungeon, Zul Gurub, was added to the game in a content update. ZG was a 20 man raid instance, designed to be a challenge for the hard-core raiders of the WoW community.  It contained many encounters, all building up to a confrontation with the main boss, Hakkar the Soulflayer.

During a fight, Hakkar used many different attacks and spells to defend himself.  One of which – Corrupted Blood had an interesting mechanic. Hakkar would cast it on a random member of his opposition, and it would start doing periodic damage to them. Then after a few seconds it would start to spread.  Anyone standing within a certain distance of the originally infected player would also be infected, and start taking damage as well.  This would carry on until the whole raid group was infected with it… or dead.

Now given that the people fighting Hakkar were all hard-core raiders, sat at max level with all the best gear and buffs, the damage done by Corrupted Blood wasn’t actually that bad, as long as they had a healer keeping half an eye on them they could stay alive indefinitely.

Some mischievous gamers took advantage of this.  It was quickly discovered that if you were summoned (a form of teleportation) out of ZG instead of leaving via the front gate, then the plague wouldn’t be removed, and you’d be free to spread it to other unsuspecting players at will.

And so it began: as word spread of the exploit,  infected players started running the virus in to all the major cities and population centres of the game, infecting all who got closer to them.  Most of these were lower level chars, a lot weaker and totally unprepared… they started dropping like flies with no clue as to why they were dying.

As corpses stacked up another awesome discovery was made.  Corrupted Blood could infect npcs as well! Npcs are computer controlled characters in the game, such as quest givers, auctioneers, in keepers etc.  A lot of these had sufficient health such that they could easily survive the infection indefinitely.

So the upshot was that you no longer had to hunt people down to infect, you could spread the plague to an npc, shuffle off somewhere else, and then anyone who came to talk at him at a later point would be infected and face a swift death!

The upshot of all this was that Blizzard had to make a quick reaction. The next day they pulled all the servers and applied an emergency patch that cleansed everyone and stopped the plague leaking out of ZG.  The world of Warcraft quickly settled back down to normality, but in its short hours the pandemic had claimed thousands and thousands of virtual lives…. Awesome!

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