Mon
Nov 10 2008 8:17pm

World of Warcraft: The Running of the Bulls

The Running of the BullsEzra Chatterton was an 11-year-old boy who enjoyed playing World of Warcraft with his father. He had a brain tumor, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation arranged for him to have a day at Blizzard last year. He got to help design a new weapon, the Crossbow of the Phoenix, and a new quest. Most Horde players will have seen this one, but few Alliance players will have: just outside the low-level tauren village of Bloodhoof, farmer Ahab Wheathoof (voiced by Ezra) asks characters to help find his lost dog (Ezra’s actual dog Kyle) and bring him home. For the quest, your character gets some tallstrider meat and uses it to lure the dog over. He feeds, does a dance, and runs off to his master. It’s an absolutely delightful moment, and something I make time for with each of my Horde characters because it’s just plain fun. Blizzard also loaded Ezra’s character up with experience, gold, and goodies, and did his morale a lot of good.

Alas, cancer seldom stops on good vibes alone, even though they can and do help strengthen a weakened boy. Ezra passed away late in October of this year.

At this point, enter the blogger who uses the handle Big Red Kitty. BRK loves excuses to get a lot of people together for a fun time, and he decided to have a memorial for Ezra, a “running of the bulls” in a rather literal sense. He invited his readers, and those who heard about the event from other sources like WoW Insider, to make new tauren characters who’d take the epic (for 1st level characters, at least) trip from the tauren homeland in Mulgore across the Great Sea to try sacking the Alliance capital of Stormwind.

And y’know what? 897 people joined in. It’s difficult to describe the effect in mere words. Fortunately, BRK and others got screenshots and video capture, which he’s posted for your viewing pleasure. Check these out for the digital flash mob scene.

Unfortunately, complications ensued. It turns out that WoW servers don’t actually deal very well with having most of a thousand characters active in one zone. In fact, they crashed the Argent Dawn server. Then cascading overload took down several others, and the authentication server that everyone has to deal with to log on to play.

BRK and others were, of course, mortified. They hadn’t intended to make trouble for anyone, and certainly not on that epic scale. I was playing elsewhere at the time when the cascade happened, and was annoyed at the time, until I found out what had happened. Then I was amused. It’s not that I find the crash itself amusing, but what a reason for it! Sort of a memorial pyre, in its own cybernetic way. Even though it didn’t work out as planned, I love the concept and am glad they gave it a shot.

[Picture taken from the screenshot collection at BigRedKitty.net and used here by special permission of the author.]

11 comments
rick gregory
1. rickg
Thanks for the post Bruce. The story of how Blizzard took in Ezra for his Make a Wish day and made him feel special was great and it was heart-warming to see everyone on the various boards wish him well. When he passed it hit hard even though I didn't know him and you know, intellectually, that this happens.

I didn't know about the BRK event beforehand or I'd have been there too (as I imagine many others would have) and when I learned they took AD down, I laughed too. Yeah, it was an inconvenience for people for a bit... but it was an odd kind of tribute to Ezra and I'd like to think he was somewhere typing /lol....
Eric Braddock
2. EricBraddock
To put it simply... that sounds so amazing. :)

AND inspiring.
Arachne Jericho
3. arachnejericho
YouTube has much to offer in terms of footage.

Edit: Apparently the running of the bulls has been done before, but on smaller scales.
Bruce Baugh
4. BruceB
Argent Dawn was my server home for the first couple years of WoW, and so I saw some of the old-time gatherings large enough to crash the server. Part of what makes this one stand out is how good-natured it is. The old-time ones were all people with grievances, picking on Argent Dawn because it's alphabetically first among the roleplaying servers; their message was, basically, "Because we're not having the fun we want, we'll try to interfere with yours." The Run for Ezra crowd is clearly not carrying any such grudge - in episode 8 of his podcast, BRK describes the effort they put into choosing a time and place to minimize hassle, and it's good thought.

Possibly the next step is to try such an event with a hard cap on participants so that overload doesn't happen.
Francesa
5. Francesa
A planned cap on numbers of participants could be made more feasible if this kind of event were coordinated across all servers, and, therefore, not draw quite so many players from other servers to a single one holding the event.
Kevin Maroney
6. womzilla
I remember a similar event, done expressly for the purpose of taxing the servers, in the early days of Everquest. Crashing the system as an accidental memorial, though--that's epic.
Francesa
7. Nentuaby
I find something poetic in that description... A 21st century virtual funeral pyre, seeing the departed off in a blaze of glory with the bit-sacrifice of the world's most profitable game... A memorial fit for a cyberpunk viking hero.
Dot Lin
8. fangirl
maybe it's the stress or lack of caffeine, but this brought non-virtual tears to my eyes. what a great story-

nice video posted by arachnejericho up above, too (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ImHrUXIgo4).

the comments on who didn't and didn't support the bull running/ server crashing is a separately interesting read..
R O T
9. rogerothornhill
Wow. Thanks for the intel. If nothing else, a number of posts here are making me want to join up with the apparently nice people who are already WoWing.
Francesa
10. Cataclysm Warcraft
To have a dream come true is something we all hope for. When you know the time you have left is limited, this is all the more important. Even seeing one wish fulfilled brings hope to others. For the cynics, this is the perfect marketing tool, but I think this is one of many instances that shows the true community of WOW.

With that thought in mind, I hope that the future emanates the past.

We at Cataclysm Patch Notes hope that the upcoming destruction of Azeroth will not see the demise of Ahab Wheathoof.
Francesa
13. WGT Online
yeah. there are so many rip-off websites online now. i even dont know where i can buy wow gold online safely until i met http://www.wow-gold-team.com. I have bought wow gold from them many times, and they never let me down.

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