I think a good goof has to have several qualities to make it truly memorable. It needs to be original. It needs to be actually amusing, whether or not you "fell for it." And it needs to tweak our expectations and understanding of how MMOs work. Sometimes there are even important ideas that emerge from these jokes that could, indeed, make these titles better.
So let's go through my favorite MMO April Fools pranks of all time, as catalogued by yours truly!
Most studios are content to trick their players by posting a weird story with a few mock-ups. ArenaNet won the year by actually turning the joke into a commercial and playable content. Super Adventure Box, a pseudo-retro game-within-a-game, debuted to widespread acclaim, allowing players to jump, stab, and explore their way through this crazy world. The team even created a retro soundtrack to go with the fun, and several months later there was a follow-up in the form of World 2.
Speaking of Guild Wars, I'll remind you that the original boasted two playable quests that parodied the Terminator films. In them, players would travel back in time to save Sarah and Gwen from killer Annihilator Golems. Of course the Asura are the ones that invent time travel (in the future), and of course, Searing Day cannot be changed by going into the past.
3. RuneScape: The Musical (2013)
I must tip my hat to this crew that went above and beyond to not only postulate the notion of putting one of the game's more famous quests into musical format but shoot a video that shows the making of said musical complete with songs, puppets, costumes, and a general cheery insanity.
4. World of Warcraft: The Molten Core for Atari 2600 (2008)
Take the most well-known raid from the original game and marry it to one of the oldest consoles in history, and you end up with the genius of Molten Core for Atari 2600. The hilarious thing is that some people liked this idea so much that they actually went ahead and programmed a real game to make it happen.
Interactive April Fools jokes always trump passive articles in my opinion, which is why I had to include this recent mini-game (mini-event?) on this list. The devs actually put characters into a tabletop D&D experience and give them cool gifts (slimes!) as rewards. This is so brilliant and so faithful to the franchise that I stood up and applauded when I saw it. Well done.
Also file this under "It's a True Shame This Didn't Actually Happen": LotRO promised a "Fowl-Peoples" race complete with a special quest ("Crossing the Road"), new skills (such as "Hot Wings"), and a "Colonel" PvMP rank. At least chicken play is a real thing and something you can actually do in the game.
7. Dungeons and Dragons Online: Broccoli class (2011)
The broccoli thing kind of got out of control over at Turbine, which initially used the cute little spritely mascot in a brief free-to-play ad (above). Then it became the punchline to every joke that the studio and playerbase told, ever, because you have to run these things into the ground. Oddly enough, it was the 2011 announcement of a Broccoli class for the game that actually seemed to kill it. RIP, superfood friend.
Oh Dr. Fool, where did you get your PhD? Considering that every toy you made kept running amok on the first of April for three consecutive years, you should have had your title stripped from you and been drummed out of the toy-making service in disgrace. Come to think of it, why does a toy-maker need a doctorate?
Good for EQII to make a full-fledged repeatable holiday out of April 1st! Bristlebane Day is the height of silliness for both in-game characters and the development team, and it's hard not to get infected by the spirit of fun here. Special quests and crafting recipes emerge on this hallowed day, and it's not a joke how involved the community gets in the activities that this king of thieves evokes.
Faithful readers of the site will probably know of the saga that is our One Shots feature. For a long time, it was a daily post of player-submitted screenshots, but when those started dwindling, the decision was made to close up shop. That didn't sit too well with some, an ugly sentiment that got even uglier when we revived the column for an entire day of posting the most banal pictures ever. Then, when the crowd was ready to riot, we announced that this was a set-up to the real revival of One Shots, which has since continued on as a weekly column on the site. Mean? Sure. But it was done with love.
Justin "Syp" Olivetti enjoys counting up to ten, a feat that he considers the apex of his career. If you'd like to learn how to count as well, check out The Perfect Ten. You can contact him via email at email@example.com or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.