Sports organizations throughout North America are suspending activities indefinitely, in an effort to curb the spreading of the COVID-19 virus. Officials in China, Italy, and more are shutting down amid what the World Health Organization has classified as a pandemic. Here in Canada we’ve not been strongly affected. Yet. I recognize it’s coming and I work front line when it comes to germ control and contamination. Today isn’t about the real plague we’re dealing with, but instead one that most players probably were not even around for.
The day was September 13th, 2005. Blizzard rolled out a fresh new patch, which included the Zul’Gurub raid instance. Obviously players and guilds were anxious to get in there and take on the denizens inside, including the final boss: Hakkar the Soulflayer. Now the raid itself was pretty straightforward with fights and challenges, but the end boss had one little difference. During the fight he would cast Corrupted Blood on players. The spell healed Hakkar but was also hit-point draining and incredibly contagious for players. It made for a tough fight. Even pets and minions could be infected.
And that’s where the problem started.
One ever so tiny oversight nearly shut down the game. You see, if Warlocks or Hunters dismissed their pets and re-summoned them, they would still be infected. Low level characters didn’t stand a chance. And players certainly would summon their pet or minion innocently enough, only for the Corrupted Blood to latch onto those lower level toons and literally wiping them out. Cities, like Orgrimmar above, suddenly looked like skeletal genocide. Eventually, among the three servers most affected, the cities were empty ghost towns. People were getting their characters out of them as fast as they could. The saving grace was if you died, the debuff vanished. But again, if you were in town and went back to your body, well rinse and repeat essentially. However, once in the outer areas it wouldn’t spread faster than the players were dying.
As you might expect, the reactions varied. Many players felt it was a fantastic world event. There were lowbies who couldn’t do much but would help players get out of the city to a safer location. High level healers would offer their services (much like we did when the Wrath pre-event launched). And of course, you would have the Rudy Goberts, sorry I meant idiots, who made a point of trying to spread the disease.
In the end, it took several hard resets and some quick fixes to deal with the issue. The developers switched the mechanics so that pets and minions could no longer be affected by the Corrupted Blood debuff. As a result, on October 5th, 2005 (about three weeks later), the plague was over.
Two years later, a number of medical institutes talked scientifically about the plague, and compared it to what a worldwide epidemic would be like. It was compared to biological illnesses, and more importantly than anything it showed how hosts would behave – something all the theoretical studies in the world couldn’t accurately replicate. 15 years later, we’re dealing with the real thing. However it doesn’t endanger everyone necessarily. It spreads through whomever it seems to decide to, while being a risk to those with low immune systems and the elderly. Who knows, maybe some of the research from Corrupted Blood will help in some way as the world deals with the coronavirus.