The Game Archaeologist: Six Halloween holidays from buried MMOs

There are two things to know about Halloween and MMOs. The first is that just about every online game in the known universe puts on a festival or seasonal promotion of some sort, because devs can’t resist the urge to indulge in a return to their childhoods. The second is that pretty much every said event involves some sort of pumpkin-headed scarecrow, because that is apparently the mascot of the holiday now.

Oh, and one more thing to know? Not every MMO Halloween returns from years past due to the sinister and often premature demise of the game. When an MMO goes down, it takes all of its holidays with it, leaving players with only memories of seasonal activities in those games.

In the interest of preserving the efforts that the developers poured into these events and the fondness that some players had for them, today we’re going to take a tour through six holidays from, ahem, buried MMOs.

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Star Wars Galaxies: Galactic Moon Festival

What would Halloween look like if it was organized by Jabba the Hutt? We’d guess that there would be bobbing for frogs, trips the carbonite house of horror, and the worst kissing booth of all time.

Star Wars Galaxies players got into the spirit with Jabba’s Galactic Moon Festival. Using a buff that dressed them in a costume (which is funny, considering that Star Wars already looks like an entire movie studio costume department run amok), players went trick-or-treating around Mos Eisley. They had the option of “tricking” NPCs with a painful little device if they felt particularly sinister. We’re guessing most did.

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Free Realms: Super Spooktacular

You didn’t have to ask kids twice if they wanted some tricks or treats in their game! Free Realms poured a lot of effort into each year’s Super Spooktacular, bringing out the zany fun of this holiday.

Halloween Harry, a short skeleton with an oversized head, was the mascot of the event, encouraging players to fight the Pumpkin Prince, go trick or treating, or — naturally — participate in a vampire vs. werewolf dance-off. In this last event, players picked a side and attempted to bust a move to win it for their team. It had to be seen to be believed.

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City of Heroes: Halloween

In a game that was legendary for its costume creator, could there be a more appropriate holiday than Halloween?

Excepting 2005 for some reason, City of Heroes ran a pretty packed Halloween event every year that kept growing in content and focus. There was trick-or-treating, of course, and temporary costumes, but so much more as well. Players got to fight off the zombie apocalypse and explore the inner reaches of Dr. Kane’s House of Horror.

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Hellgate London: Halloween

The ill-fated Hellgate London is best-known for its rapid and spectacular flameout, but when it first launched in 2007, it made waves for doing so right around Halloween. It was a perfect fit for the fire-and-brimstone game, and Flagship managed to push out an uneven Halloween event with the game’s launch. All I remember of this is collecting zombie parts for a pet, because who doesn’t want a pet zombie?

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Warhammer Online: Daemon Moon Rising

WAR was huge into masks for its Halloween events, encouraging players to earn and wear them while participating in all manner of brutal activities. Some of the masks even had unique abilities to offset the fact that you were a strange creature in a fantasy MMO that happened to be wearing a mask. There’s only so many layers of weirdness that you can slater on before it breaks.

There was also a public quest (remember those?) that involved carting skulls from one place to another, because skulls rarely get to go for a walk under their own power.
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Tabula Rasa: Halloween

When it comes to trick-or-treating, there are always two sides: the givers and the takers. I think most people prefer to be getting goodies, but Tabula Rasa decided to have it both ways for its Halloween events.

Soldiers were given permission to take a brief respite from saving the universe to run around the different human bases and hand out candy to NPCs as quickly as possible. There was something in it for players, of course: New masks could be earned after doing so many of these quests.

Believe it or not, MMOs did exist prior to World of Warcraft! Every two weeks, The Game Archaeologist looks back at classic online games and their history to learn a thing or two about where the industry came from… and where it might be heading.
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