Train to Zone!

Train
to Zone

by Martuk

You're hunting in a deep, dark
dungeon with your group. The tank pulls the mob, and battle is joined.
Things look good as your party takes charge of the battle reeling your
enemy. Your foe is almost vanquished. The tank moves in for the final
blow and…Player01 shouts: "TRAIN TO ZONE!!!!"

Trains are a very real part
of MMOs. For those unfamiliar to this term, trains are any player character
who is being pursued by any number of non-player characters, or NPC for
short. It usually occurs by accident or just bad luck. A player might
gain the attention of one or more mobs and, before long, have 20 chasing
them down hellbent on killing them and anyone who gets in their way. Like
them or not, you have to admit they add a sense of fear and tension to
a game in a way that the developers themselves cannot…the random
chance of human error. At any given moment, someone else's misfortune
can become your own.

My first encounter with trains
came from Everquest. Many places were notorious for being training zones.
Camp Crushbone is a nice example; the ever-fearful shout of "Train
to Zone!" was heard abundantly resounding in the tunnel connecting
Greater Faydark and Crushbone. The trains often consisted of Ambassador
Dvinn, a nasty higher level Dark Elf; Emperor Crush, head orc of Crushbone;
and several other Orc Legionnaires and Orc Centurions. Estate of Unrest
was another nasty spot. There, one misstep within the mansion could drop
a person deep beneath it to a quick demise and/or create some of the worst
trains ever seen in the Everquest history. Of course, who can forget Karnor's
Castle (also known as Grand Central Station by reason of the huge amount
of traffic through it, largely composed of trains)?

One
train in particular came from Velkator's Labyrinth. My group and I were
there hunting for experience, as well as a few tradeskill items for a
crafter friend. About twenty minutes into the hunt, we stopped for a med
break to regain some mana. I was the tank and turned to look around and
keep a watchful eye. All looked clear, so I turned to check the next direction.
As I turned, all I saw was a giant white cloud. I never had a chance to
move or react before I was dead in less than a second. A huge train of
spiders had wiped out my whole group. The Paladin who caused the train
did not shout it, but he was nice enough to apologize and get our group
a rez. I found it rather funny the way it just struck us out of nowhere.
The good thing is this guy wasn't a jerk. He did apologize, and after
words we all had a good laugh about it. Some accidents can at times even
make you a new friend.

Modern day MMOs, such as Everquest
2 and World of Warcraft, have unfortunately removed this element from
the game, and with it a part of tension and real feeling that should be
associated with all MMOs of this type. A leash refers to the distance
mobs will chase a player before returning to their spawn point. In both
EQ2 and WoW, you can have several grouped mobs or single mobs chasing
you across an area, but once you outrun the leash they will return to
their spawn point and ignore anything and everything they pass. Players
that they may normally attack will simply be ignored. A player can be
killing one of his brethren, and he won't even slow down. This, to me,
took away that suspense, and fear that earlier MMOs provided. Trains are
a great element that can add that extra level of tension to a moment.

Not
everyone is as fond of trains as I am. In some cases, this simple element,
which adds fear and tension, has been used by some unsavory players to
grief others by intentionally training them. The would-be griever would
run through an area and just grab the attention of all the ill-tempered
creatures they could and run straight at a person or group. They would
then use various methods to lose or dump the agro on their target. I do
not condone this behavior, but it does happen. In my personal opinion,
I view it much like battling the secondary market. You can't change the
core mechanics and make them stale just to fight a problem. You do need
to find a new way to solve it without sacrificing elements of the game
that help make it fun and suspenseful.

If
things remain as they are, then, in all likelihood, we will see trains
in Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. There are some stories from Fanguard circulating,
telling of a train of a rather large number pursuing our good developers.
Time will tell as Beta continues. I, for one, am hoping this remain a
mechanic the developers will use. When not used as a tool for griefing,
trains are a welcome element of random chaos. It could be the one thing
to happen you didn't count on. I bet if we were totally honest with ourselves,
we might admit, however reluctantly, that these random elements make the
game all the more fun. If we know the route, and how to fight it, as well
as what is going to happen the entire way, there is no random event that
just might derail our adventure, and without that the adventure itself
loses a bit of fun. I like not knowing what could happen; knowing I am
going to win is not fun. Trains are a surprise as well as a challenge.
You never know when or where they are coming from, but you know, when
and if you hear that cry, to be on your guard.

Author's
note:
I would like to give a special
thanks to my friend Nishka on the Firiona Vie server in Everquest, who
aided in some of these fine adventures seen above.


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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Karen 1
Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.

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