Norrathian Notebook: Frostfells of EverQuests past, present, and Next

It's the end of that magical time of year: When gigglegibber goblins wrap up their gift-giving and the tinsel, lights, and even the holiday quests get packed up for the year. It's the end of Frostfell 2014 for the EverQuest Franchise; EverQuest's celebration ended yesterday and EverQuest II's ends today. Players will have to wait another 12 months to dive back into the festivities. If we're really lucky, we'll also experience the holiday anew in EverQuest Next come December!

As Frostfell comes to a close, I am left thinking about the holiday and all its trimmings. It's truly a great one. Perhaps one of the most wonderful. What makes it so special each year? And what might it be like in the coming years, especially in EQN? Let's take a look at the history of Frostfell, check out this year's additions, and speculate about the holiday's presence in Next.

Frostfells past

Although it may seem counterintuitive, Frostfell did not actually originate in the original EQ. The first live event celebration took place in 2005 in EverQuest II; the occupants of classic Norrath didn't join in until 2006. I was actually surprised by this, but EQ's Lead Designer Jon Caraker confirmed the date. EQN Producer Emily Taylor, who also still works on EQII, also assured that this was the case, noting that the idea to unify the festivals throughout the franchise came later. (Now we know there will be Frostfell in EQN!). 2006 is also the year when EQII's Frostfell Wonderland Village, a special zone where many of the holiday events occur and the special crafting tables are kept, appeared.

In both games, the initial celebrations were significantly scaled down compared to their current incarnations. Both involved tasks from a festive goblins that would lead to some special themed goodies if you saved the holiday, and both have grown steadily over the years to include many more missions and goodies. Both games also pay homage to well-known holiday traditions in the real world. Each game, however, has its own flair; the general whos and whats involved are unique. In the beginning, you had to deal with the Gigglegibber Grump (instead of a Grinch) in EQII and save a brainwashed Santug Claugg (complete with bright red armor) in EQ.

There are plenty more references to be found. Claugg's current thematic counterpart in EQII doesn't involve any quests; this gigglegibber goblin named Santa Glugg just hands out daily gifts to players. (The dark elf Gardy Giftgiver -- now Gardy Ex-giftgiver -- actually held Glugg's position for many a year, and players can find out about change by doing the quests!) EQII players also get to meet McScroogle and relive a famous storyline.

If you consider all the new missions over the years, the myriad different rewards to collect, and the oodles of housing decorations to hoard, there's a ton to do in each game. It's a good thing the celebration lasts an entire month!

Frostfells present

I liked classic EQ's approach to Frostfell. The eldest sibling in the franchise releases the holiday content in phases, opening quests up in two-week intervals. This helps spread things out and keeps things interesting (not to mention a little less repetitive) as the long holiday continues. Basically, folks can't just hop in and zip through the entire festival at the beginning and be left with nothing by repeatables for the rest of the celebration.

On a more negative note, I felt let down by EQII's celebration this year. There's still a ton of stuff for players to do, enough that using a handy chart to track your alts' progress is almost a necessity. But after such a phenomenal reworking of the Winter Wonderland Village in 2013, it was actually pretty disappointing to find that the only addition this year was one racing quest, The Great Candy (Cane) Chase. Yes, there were also some new gifts that Santa Glugg was handing out (the Isle of Refuge tower globe is nifty), but I'm now used to getting involved new missions with story, so a timed race felt simply underwhelming. I can understand that so much was put into it last year, and more recently a major expansion launched, but Frostfell is such an anticipated yearly event that not having a better experience is actually quite a blow. I am really hoping that there is more involved next year.

Although Landmark lost its claim to Norrath and Norrathian holidays when the EQN part of its title was stripped, that didn't stop Norrathians-at-heart from recreating the holiday on their own claims. Plenty of players still want Frostfell within the sandboxy new Norrath even if it wasn't official, so they just made their own! Devs even contributed to the holiday by offering colorful costumes, a key component of all Frostell celebrations. Hopefully there will be even more involvement in Landmark to enjoy next year.

Although Frostfell is truly well and over, you still have a chance to nab some holiday-themed goodies even if you missed the in-game festivities. Special Frostfell robes and housing items for EQ are available in the Marketplace until 2:00 a.m. EST on Sunday, January 11th.

Frostfell Next

Frostfell is such an integral part of Norrath that you just know in your heart it must be present in the next iteration of the world. And since EQN is an official sibling joining the franchise, devs have pretty well assured it. But what will the Next celebration be like? The Norrath will be different from any we've known before, especially in the fact that it will be dynamic. So how will the holiday fit in? How will it be celebrated by denizens of the land, both PC and NPCs? That's what we are here to speculate!

Just as new quests are introduced each year in the current EQs, I see EverQuest Next having new tasks each year related to the holiday. However, because the world is dynamic and choices affect the gameworld, I do not see the same tasks being offered every year. Basically, each year the holiday will evolve. I see the celebration being presented in the form of a Rallying Call. For instance, if the situation were to save the brainwashed Stantug Claugg and the full mission were completed by players, he'd be well and saved forever with no chance to resave him in an identical fashion every year. Of course, the converse could be true; if players opted not to save him, he might need saving the next year after all. If we saved him, then the next year the devs would need to build on that story or introduce a new one.

Yes, that means that if you were not present for the first year, you'd miss out on whatever events transpired. But folks should be expecting that since the same thing will be happening to the whole world. Even though the events will evolve, there is no reason that the goodies themselves must totally change. I love how EQII offers all the old rewards plus one new one in the selection. Hopefully EQN can adopt this same philosophy. And there must be housing decorations. There must! Lots of them!

In EQN, I hope to see the players participating in the building up of the holiday over the years, from a simpler beginning as they first establish their homes to more elaborate fanfare when multiple cities are up and running. Hopefully there will also be a chance for player input in the design of the holiday, just as there is player input in the game's development now. What about you? What would you like to see for Frostfell in EQN? Or what would you like to see in future EQ or EQII festivities? Share your thoughts!

The EverQuest realm is so big that sometimes MJ Guthrie gets lost in it all! Join her as she explores the franchise's nooks and crannies from the Overrealm to Timorous Deep. Running biweekly on Thursdays, the Norrathian Notebook is your resource for all things EverQuest Next and EverQuest II. And keep an eye out for MJ's Massively TV adventures!