Flameseeker Chronicles: Preparing for the Mad King in Guild Wars 2

Flameseeker Chronicles Preparing for the Mad King
By now, Lion's Arch probably looks a little different than we're used to. It had already taken on a decidedly ghoulish cast in Guild Wars by Friday, so I guess the Mad King's influence shifted by a few calendar days over the course of the 250 years between Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2.

Longtime fans of the original game don't need a lot of convincing to get anxious for the fulfillment of the spooky foreshadowing that's been going on for the past week or two. For those of you whose knowledge of Tyrian lore is either developing or a wee bit rusty, let's take a look at what's in store.

Let us begin with a question. Why can't you borrow money from a Dwarf?
Because they're always a little short. HA HA HA HA HA! Get it? DWARVES are SHORT! -Mad King Thorn
Flameseeker Chronicles Preparing for the Mad KingMad King Thorn is the central figure in the Guild Wars universe's Halloween tradition.

He's a gregarious sort of fellow, and if you don't look into the lore bits behind him -- that is, if your only real interaction with the idea of him is his routine appearances in major cities on the 31st -- it's easy to think that he's just an over-sized joke walking about in the game.

His entire presence in Lion's Arch and Kamadan on Halloween proper is one huge audience engagement piece. Anyone standing near enough to his august presence (within a circle of glowing mushrooms) is subject to his whims. I mean, for goodness' sake, the man (ghost) plays rock paper scissors with players and is accompanied by servants made entirely of candy corn. Surely he can't be all that bad, right?

The King, also known as the Autumn Lunatic and the Grim Japer (among other names), is infamous for his terrible jokes. One of the best-loved parts of his appearance is the awful puns and jokes he tells, which are often very tongue-in-cheek references that come very close to breaking the fourth wall. For example, after Eye of the North and the announcement of Guild Wars 2's development had piqued player interest, Mad King Thorn had a little gibe at our curiosity: "I know you mortals are always interested in future events, so I will give you a little preview. Two hundred years from now... YOU ARE ALL DEAD. MWAHAHAHAHAHA." (One of my personal favorite jokes is "Why do the Norn 'Become the Bear?' Because 'Become the Arrogant Loudmouth' was already taken by the Asura.")

Of course, for every lame joke, there are two or three jovial references to madcap violence and cruelty. Anyone who doesn't laugh at his jokes or respond appropriately to other calls to action he puts out is instantly put to death -- in fact, that itself is one of his jokes. "What's the difference between someone who doesn't laugh at my joke and a corpse? I DON'T KNOW EITHER!" Then there are the times when he says charming things like "I haven't enjoyed myself this much since I had that entire village skinned alive all those years ago" or finishes a joke with "Anyway the story ends with the Dwarf dead and the Human beheaded and it turns out I got all the gold!"

Flameseeker Chronicles Preparing for the Mad King
The Mad King, as players who look beyond the glow of the mushrooms he appears in will find out, is a pretty grim figure. A former king of Kryta, he was known for holding huge banquets in the middle of famine, skinning villagers alive, squabbling with Palawa Joko, and marrying (and subsequently offing) women who were probably not very willing. After being creatively murdered by an angry mob of peasants, Thorn took up residence as a Spirit Lord in the Underworld. A series of seals restricts his movement, leaving him able to return to Tyria only for Halloween each year. The Lunatic Court, made up of his courtiers (many of whom were burned alive on the night of his death), are attempting to break those seals and bring their beloved king back into the world.

In the time since the original Guild Wars, we know that one of those seals has been broken. A great deal of ArenaNet's messaging for this update suggests that strange things are afoot -- have more seals been broken? What is bringing the Mad King back to Tyria after all these years? The Shadow of the Mad King update suggests that the four-part story will focus more on the King's grim side than his lovable japes.

Players going through Act I of the Halloween content have a will start to peer a little more into the Mad King's dark past.

Flameseeker Chronicles Preparing for the Mad King
Whatever the culminating Halloween event will be, we already know that activities are part of the whole shindig: In a recent post on the official forums, Game Director Colin Johanson said that "if you like activities, make sure to stop in and visit during the big Halloween festivities!" In addition, he clarified that a number of activities and minigames have been postponed until after launch in order to focus on big features that were more important to the game (like, what, guesting?). As of last night's grand opening of the Halloween event, we've all been running around Lion's Arch pelting spooky skills at each other in the new and improved Costume Brawl, and a number of holiday achievements are being tracked.

Apparently unable to wait to get this update out the door before talking about future ones, Johanson added:
In the short-term we're currently focused on adding a massive wealth of additional content and features for players to do in the game using the players core skill-bar, which you'll start seeing in the Shadow of the Mad King update in October as well as our massive November release.
We'll have to wait to scope out the depth of the changes in this month's update before we can start to judge the promise of that "massive," but this sort of regular update could be good news for people who were worried that no subscription would mean no content.

Flameseeker Chronicles Preparing for the Mad KingAnd other stuff

This weekend was pretty marvelous. Between both games, more than 15 versions of Lion's Arch were filled to the brim on Saturday. Pink Day in LA, an annual fundraiser for breast cancer research, was a fabulous success. Many thanks to any and all of you who participated, donated, or were a part of it in any way.

Saturday also held the Extra Life 24-hour gaming charity, which you may have heard about elsewhere on this site. Like roughly a jillion other gamers, if my Twitter feed on Saturday was to be believed, I also took part in the fun. Except for about an hour break to play Audiosurf (which is amazing when one doesn't particularly want to think, or react, or focus, or do anything at all), I played Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 for the entire marathon. I played with loads of people I'd never played with before, and we did everything from Keg Brawl to jumping puzzles to a lore tour to an epic run across the entire map of Tyria. For most parts, there were so many people that we couldn't all group up properly, but we just ran, footloose and fancy-free, through the world. I've been appreciative of ArenaNet's approach to cooperative play before but never in so startling a way as I was then. At one point we had eight or more players working together to kill mobs, harvest things, complete hearts, and despite our not being grouped, there was never a moment of worrying about whether we were making things worse for the people around us. Our biggest concern was not getting separated. Of course, the fact that everything was done in the name of a good cause just makes the whole thing all the more delightful.

I caught a serious case of optimism after all the charitableness and fun of Saturday. It'll take a good long while to get me back to my bitter self. So if you're one of the people responsible, in any part, for this seemingly indelible good cheer, I thank you.

Elisabeth Cardy is a longtime Guild Wars player, a personal friend of Rytlock Brimstone, and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column updates on Tuesdays and keeps a close eye on Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. Email Elisabeth at elisabeth@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.