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WoW Archivist: The ghosts of Hallow's End

The headless horseman
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Yesterday, Hallow's End went live for the seventh time! The holiday began as a modest one, but it has evolved into one of WoW's most elaborate. Over the years, it has endured more controversy and intrigue than any other holiday. Let's take a look back!

The first Hallow's End

The original incarnation of Hallow's End went live in October 2005. The files were included with patch 1.8. It was a far cry from the elaborate holiday we know today with its quests, achievements, vendors, masks, and ghosts taunting us with awful poetry.

Here is Blizzard's 2005 introduction:

When the decorations of Hallow's End light up Azeroth's cities, you know there's mischief afoot! Seek special vendors in Orgrimmar or Ironforge and get your hands on treats! Aid a sick orphan in a little trick-or-treating! Darkcaller Yanka, attending the Forsaken's Wickerman Festival, and Sergeant Hartman of Southshore are seeking your aid in keeping the enemy out of their holiday affairs - are you up to the challenge?

The first Hallow's End wasn't much to write home about. Towns were decorated with pumpkins. The inns got apple bobbing. In addition, the holiday made three quests available. The first was to collect candy from capital cities for your faction's kids. The other two were faction specific -- and were the focus of intense forum-griping.

Southshore stinks

The quests were meant to incite a little bit of world PvP centered around vanilla's world-PvP capital, Southshore. The Horde got a quest to throw stinkbombs at the town. Alliance players got a far less fun or prestigious task. They got to ... clean it up. This dichotomy introduced a curious dynamic. The Alliance could only complete the quest as long as Horde members were doing it. The Horde would get rocked by both Alliance players and town guards whenever they tried to complete the quest. So Alliance members argued among themselves about whether to attack the Horde or to let them do the quest so they could complete their own. No one was happy, and both sides complained.

As a solution, Blizzard added an NPC called Forsaken Prankster in 2009. He would throw bombs for Alliance players to heroically clean. The prankster was a Forsaken in a human mask who spawned as "Innocuous Townsman." After going through all that trouble, elbow deep in stinkbomb juice, you received some pocket change and candy.

Blizzard finally gave up on the original versions of these quests. In 2011, they were removed and converted to bombing runs.
WoW Archivist The ghosts of Hallow's End

Curing your blackened souls since 2007

Of all the bosses in WoW, the Headless Horseman has been relevant to the endgame longer than any other. Added in 2007, he was the first "real" holiday boss. Facing him wasn't a matter of queueing in the dungeon finder back then. You had to hike to Scarlet Monastery (the meeting stone wouldn't summon you) and clear your way through the dungeon until you got to the graveyard.

Once you killed him, the only way to face him again was to exit the dungeon, reset it via the UI, and reclear to the graveyard. Because dungeons only let you reset them a maximum of five times per hour, it was a slow grind if he didn't drop the items that you wanted. Though his loot table has been updated from expansion to expansion, the epic items have always been the same: a sword, a helm, a few rings, and, of course, his awesome fire-shod mount.
The Forsaken Prankster
2010 was the first year we were able to queue for him in the dungeon finder rather than trekking to SM. Players rejoiced.

An incredible amount of content has been added to Hallow's End over the years. What started as a three-quest event now includes both a long quest chain and a plethora of dailies. We can now trick-or-treat at inns all over the game world, defend our towns from the Horseman, wear different costumes and masks, buy pets and other toys with Tricky Treats, and earn achievements.

Like many aspects of Hallow's End, however, the achievements required some ironing out. Players, of course, responded with outrage.

A rage for all occasions

Wrath's first Hallow's End caused even more of an uproar than those first ill-conceived quests. The addition of achievements meant holidays were no longer "just for funsies." Completing the holiday meta-achievement earned a mount that, at the time, also gave you the ability to fly at the fastest possible speed without plunking down the gold for it. A lot of people wanted this achievement for that reason.

Brewfest's Brew of the Year would prove troublesome, since it took a year to earn, but at least you had control over it. People seemed more angry with the relentlessly RNG Hallow's End achievement A Mask for All Occasions. You had a chance to get any of the masks whenever you trick-or-treated at an inn, which you could only do once per hour.

With only so many hours in the day, and any one mask having a low drop rate, some people just flat out couldn't earn it in the time allotted for the holiday. Tales spread of players waking up every hour of the night in order to get that last mask to drop. Probability being what it is, you had no guarantee that any particular mask would ever drop for you. And there was nothing you could do about it -- except complain on the forums. Which players did. In droves.

Blizzard ultimately relented and removed that achievement from the meta in patch 3.0.3. (Even so, it still wound up on our list of the most evil achievements.)
The masks that leaked Cataclysm

Cataclysm unmasked

Achievements weren't the only area where Hallow's End masks proved scary for Blizzard. In the summer of 2009, datamining revealed that both goblin and worgen masks had been added to the game files. At the time, all of the other masks were playable races. Speculation exploded. Many players were convinced that goblins and worgen would be the two new playable races in the Cataclysm expansion.

Of course, that speculation turned out to be true, but no one knew it at the time. Four days later, Blizzard tried to damage-control the leak by adding masks for other races, including murlocs, vrykul, and ogres.

You have to imagine someone in their art department, the day after the leak, frantically creating these models in order to throw us off the scent. Or, were they also leaking info from the 2014 expansion, March of the Murlocs? Time will tell. Thousands of players tried to reserve the name Worgenfreeman anyway (in vain, since it's too many letters). Blizzard has suffered its fair share of leaks, but this one was possibly the most bizarre.

I'm not sure what else Blizzard could possibly add to Hallow's End at this point, but I hope they continue to surprise us!

After months of surveying, WoW Archivist has been dug back up! Discover lore and artifacts of WoW's past, including the Corrupted Blood plague, the Scepter of the Shifting Sands, and the mysterious Emerald Dream.

Filed under: WoW Archivist, Death Knight

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