Winter’s been on my mind more lately, partially because the season has turned to fall here in Michigan and partially because I’ve been adventuring through Whitevale this past week on my Medic.
Generally, I like winter. I’m weird that way, but I think it’s important to find something that you love in all of the seasons instead of taking sides and preferring one at the expense of loathing another. After all, if I’m going to be saddled with three or four months of snow and ice, I should make peace with it. And I do: I love the look of snow, the whole lead-up to Christmas, the coziness of sitting inside somewhere warm while the wind is howling outside, wearing winter clothes and jackets, and having fun with my kids outside. There’s a simple pristine beauty that winter can demonstrate that the other seasons can’t.
So I’m also drawn to winter zones in MMOs. We make a lot of jokes about how MMOs have been using the same generic biomes that have been in video games since the days of the NES, but to be fair, many designers do come up with different twists and shades of those biomes that end up putting each in their own categories. So it is with winter areas.
There are the “Christmas” winter zones, as I like to call them. These are welcoming, bright, and full of fluffy snow. WildStar’s Whitevale is a great example of this. Plenty of cozy and inviting settlements with traditionally festive winter activities — building snowmen, for example — and lights and vivid pine trees. The sky is bright, the air is clear, and one wishes that one had a snowmobile to travel around on.
Alternatively and less rare are the “desolate” winter zones. Winter here isn’t a set dressing, it’s a nasty force of nature that’s out to oppress and kill. Lots of ice, mountins, howling snow, blizzards, frozen landscapes, and few if any settlements. LOTRO’s Misty Mountains could fit into this category, or perhaps SWTOR’s Hoth.
Then you have the “Scandanavian” zones, which can be a mix of the above two, but throw in the northern lights, more greenery, and some jagged fjords. There’s a different sort of beauty here, one that’s wild and breathtaking and bold. These areas have more moose and bears and other tundra/boreal forest fauna. World of Warcraft’s Howling Fjord is a prime example.
There are probably more divisions than these, but the above three are the ones that I commonly notice in MMOs. Which is your favorite?