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Some Assembly Required: EQII's Festival of Discord

MJ Guthrie

Over the last few months, Some Assembly Required has covered features within games (such as quest-building tools, music, and housing) as well as overviews of full games themselves, not to mention some existential ranting on the life and times of the sandbox genre. This week, we focus on another aspect: player events.

Most player-created events range from RP tavern nights to full-blown tests of skill to races and scavenger hunts. These events are smaller affairs involving either a group of close friends, a guild, or perhaps even a mixture of a few guilds. However, there are occasions when events can grow larger... much larger. Such is the case with EverQuest II's Festival of Discord. Not only is this a server-wide festival designed and hosted by players, but it is fully supported by Sony Online Entertainment. And let me tell you, SOE has pulled out all the stops!

Want to see what this festival is all about or (better yet) make some of these events on EQII's Antonia Bayle server in person? Grab your cloak and join me past the break for a rundown of the festival, its history, and even events yet to come!

Gallery: EQII's Festival of Discord | 17 Photos

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The festival

What exactly is the Festival of Discord? I had the chance to meet up with the organizers of the festival to get the scoop on the festivities and delve into its history. This year's organizer was Lalayla, who assisted in previous years but took on the role of chief when her predecessor needed to step down. Also joining me for this interview and tour were some assistants whose help was vital to pulling the project off: Avith, Neverzea, and Slipps. However, Lalayla is quick to point out that it is the effort and participation of many who make the festival possible. She pointed out that people "come out and donate their time and resources to pull this off. We are all volunteers none of us get paid for any of it." She gave special mention to the contributors and benefactors who donate money and prizes, such as Corydonn.

EQ2 screenshotThe Festival itself is a week-long celebration with numerous events meant for the entire community even though it is a roleplay event. The festival's website states it "is a player created and player hosted series of roleplay social events and contests for players to immerse themselves within." Lalayla further explains, "We pretty much do it for the community to have fun with. It's our way to promote RP in the community."

Although the festival was created and is hosted by players, SOE has been chipping in to offer increasing support each year. What started as mere attendance by guides has moved to building and decorating multiple venues and even promoting the event on the launchpad. And let's not forget providing cool treats to pass out to festival attendees! Avith points out, "I remember the second year there was only a single location with limited decor, but last year is when things were much more intense." Lalayla shares that this year, "Domino is actually building sets that are programmed into the game, and she can turn them on and off." What a great example of a game investing in players who have invested in the game! The moral of this story: If you want an extra hand with your next event, don't be afraid to run it by the community manager. There's nothing to lose and certainly something to gain.

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Let there be chaos

So how did this festival come about? Back in 2007, Lalayla explains, the first festival, the Festival of Unity, was held in Antonica and was dedicated to the good folks of Qeynos. Because the baddies -- I mean, Freeport citizens -- had been left out, the Festival of Discord was born the next year from the efforts of the player Jystana. Since then, the festival has grown each year into the large-scale event it is now. As Lalayla puts it, "Each year it gets bigger and better." She continues, "It started with people being invested in the community and spread from there. Part of it is our own initiative to bring roleplay out in the open for everyone to enjoy."

EQ2screenshotGettin' yer festival on

Knowing the history and purpose is all well and good, but sometimes you just want to know what the action is! So what kind of events have been a part of this year's festivities? Crafting fairs, cooking contests, RP duels, tavern crawls, a high-dive contest, a sacrifice, jousting, and grave robbing are just a few of the offerings. And lest you think it is all just sitting around and /emoting, there are races and trivia contests as well. And yes, contests mean prizes. For the bardic competition alone, the prizes for first through fourth places are 100pp, 50pp, 30pp, and 20pp, respectively. I think it's time I hone my storytelling abilities!

If you want to keep track of the goings-on in-game, your best bet is to join the chat channel created specifically for the event by typing /join festival. Sadly, this isn't a fact that the average player just knows; to get information, you have to already know this information, so many people lose out. Since I had no knowledge of the channel, I personally had difficulty finding one of the events and ended up wandering the Commonlands for a long while before I finally managed to make it (interestingly I had to go in the opposite direction from which I was initially being directed!). On a positive note, while wandering I was able to participate in some grave robbing and impair my senses by drinking some robber's rum.

Once I arrived, I was disappointed to realize that although I could watch the stage, I couldn't hear anything about the duel playing out upon it. It turned out that I needed to join yet another channel to hear the "combat." When queried, the organizers explained that the channels are used not only to keep track of things on their end but to allow people all over the server to keep tabs and participate even if their proximity didn't allow it in person. It is also a way to avoid flooding spatial with the RP chatter and opening the roleplayers up to griefing. Unfortunately, there are still those who harass others because of a difference in playstyle. Neverzea explains that "there are a few of those [griefers] every year, though [fewer] this year."

While I cannot disagree with the need to keep things organized (and the ease of making announcements), the dedicated channels took away from some of the immersion for me. I still have some romantic delusions about people catching snatches of an event while passing by, then stopping to see what the fuss is about and possibly even participating. I've had many an experience when future roleplayers were born with just such a scenario.

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Limited time only!

This year's festival runs from November 6th through the 12th, so if you haven't had a chance to check it out, there are still a couple of nights left to take part in the activities. Day six (November 11th) features the Great Norrathian Race at 8 p.m. EST and the Bardic Competition at the Lust Tavern at 10 p.m. EST. Day seven (November 12th) follows with a number of activities including a date auction, grave robbing, Running of the Gnomes (this one I gotta see!), and closing ceremonies at 5 p.m. EST.

In the words of she who is the Herder of Cats (a special title created for Lalayla for running the festivals), "Anyone and everyone is welcome to come on out and enjoy the festival." So join me and the other revelers out in the Commonlands on Antonia Bayle. For a map, waypoints, and complete listing of events and times, visit the festival's all-in-one list. And don't forget to /join festival in-game to hear about the day's happenings.

And thank you Lalayla and crew (and SOE) for putting this on for us! *raises a stein in salute*

Calling for submissions

This is just a reminder that those who want to have their houses or cities in Star Wars Galaxies immortalized in SAR's December tribute to SWG housing need to email me their screenshots or directions to their homes. Don't forget to add which server and have the home open for visitors!

Every two weeks, Jef Reahard and MJ Guthrie take a break from their themepark day jobs to delve into the world of player-generated content. Comments, suggestions, and coverage ideas are welcome, and Some Assembly Required is always looking for players who'd like to show off their MMO creativity. Contact us!

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