First off, a little tip for those of you still working on the Fire Festival. (Update: Two commenters have told me that this no longer works, though I have not been able to confirm this, read the comments for details.)
Blizzard implemented a feature in this patch allowing players to receive a refund on armor purchased with non-gold currency. This was, in part, so they would stop getting GM petitions from players who bought the wrong tier set. Apparently, some of the midsummer fire festival outfit pieces are eligible for the refund. I had the robe from last year and bought the slippers and the mantle to complete the achievement. I was then able to return the mantle.
I was NOT able to return the slippers - I'm not sure if that's a quirk of the slippers, or if you can only return your most recent purchase. (Update: The following may or may not be bad advice. Just in case, I'd recommend that any of you planning to try this buy the slippers LAST, since they're the most expensive.) Either way, I was able to get a 100 blossom headstart towards the festival pet.
Working as intended? Probably not, but, sadly, neither is just about anything else tied to the achievement side of this holiday.
Yet another buggy holiday crisis
When I wrapped up Children's Week, I wrote:
"Unless Blizzard manages to break some portion of the Fire Festival, my chances of getting the drake are looking reasonably good."
Blizzard took their best attempt. The only sighting of the ice stone, a bug that was the only fun part of the Valentine's event, comes when players go after the holiday boss. I found this disappointing, as I was expecting some sort of Northrend-wide ice stone event. The boss in question is still level 70, and therefore will not show up in the LFG interface for level 80 players. The encounter is also trivial, once you do somehow find a group to attempt it, thanks to the level difference. On the scale of issues, this was a minor one.
The potential deal breaker was that many holiday quests failed to reset from last year. Like many of the problems that have plagued World Event achievements (candy hearts repeating the mistakes of trick or treating, daily chores repeating the mistakes of its buggy non-holiday counterpart), this is not a new issue. Players have been dealing with this sort of thing since WoW's first world events rolled out. The difference is that this time, it was not some Winter's Veil crafting recipe for a level 30 item on the line.
Before the meta-achivement, Blizzard would just say that they were fixing the problem for next year, and affected players would be out of luck. In the current era, however, this issue threatened to break players' attempts at the holiday meta-achievement, by leaving them unable to complete the Fire Festival.
Blizzard acted as quickly as could be expected, given that the event went live on a Sunday (a questionable call, given that almost every single one of these events has encountered at least one bug when it went live). They rolled out a fix last night (or at your server's next restart) that supposedly reset all of the bonfires in the world, allowing players to loot them all again and gain enough festival currency to buy the required items. Of course, by this point we were a solid 36+ hours into the event, which meant that some players had already begun working on this year.
Personally, I didn't do much with the Fire Festival last year on my main - the event really shines for alts - so I was NOT looking at a situation where I would not be able to earn the required currency before the event ended. However, I wanted to tackle the achievement as soon as possible, so that there would be time to report and troubleshoot any bugs I encountered. As a result, I was part of the way through completing some of the achievements when the flame reset occurred.
Some of the outdoor flames reset themselves, though I didn't really need the extra blossoms. Interestingly, my progress on the last few zone achievements was NOT reset at the time, as the hotfix note claimed, though I was sure to finish them ASAP anyway in case they were later reset again. The big problem was the chain to steal the enemy capitol city flames.
For this chain, players must enter the four enemy capitols and make their way to loot a bonfire. The resulting flame gives players a quest to return to an NPC in their capitol. Though neither the quest log, the achievement panel, nor the NPC themselves will tell you this, the game is tracking which of the four you have completed. Complete all four and the NPC gives out a new quest that awards a hat, and the last achievement I needed to clear the Fire Festival.
Here's where my situation went awry. I had done the Silvermoon City flame before dinner and the remaining Horde cities later in the evening, ending with Ogrimmar. The questgiver had no interest in giving me the hat. Queue the panic, that my character might be somehow bugged as a result of this change. Perhaps, I reasoned, the flame reset also reset my capitol flames. Off I went all the way back into Silvermoon for a second time to loot another flame. Error, I've already completed that quest. Queue even more panic.
At this point, I figured that I should bite the bullet and re-collect the other three flames, so I could demonstrate to a GM that I had actually completed all of the quests. Back to Ogrimmar, quest already completed. Back to Undercity and Thunder Bluff... and those flames offered me the chance to repeat their respective quests. Quests complete, hat obtained, achievement complete. I have no idea how this could possibly make sense. Perhaps the reset happened between when I hit Thunder Bluff and when I hit Ogrimmar, but why, then, wasn't Silvermoon also reset?
Meanwhile, I had it relatively easy. The Horde flames are much easier for Alliance characters to reach than the Alliance ones are for the Horde. I play a level 80 mage, with a number of tools to assist in evading guards and players for long enough to loot the flames. I'm also an East Coast player on a West Coast server, able to sign in before work while most of the server is still asleep. Overall, I died only once in the process of raiding all four enemy cities twice each, because I was cocky enough to ride in the front door of Ogrimmar, and ducked into a shop instead of the tower that leads to the upper terrace.
Because the game offers no way of knowing which quests it thinks you have failed to complete, the only way to determine which flame you are missing is to go re-obtain all four of them and see which ones will give you a quest. That could be quite painful for a character who wasn't in my ideal situation.
Back to the Festival's Roots
The sad part of this commentary is that the Fire Festival was my favorite world event of 2008. The festival is packed full of incentives and perks for characters that are still gaining levels. For the most part, that event is back and working like it did last year, though attaching an achievement to dousing enemy fires all but ensures that your faction's bonfire will NOT stay lit for long while you level in a zone.
Having all of these positive aspects of the holiday overshadowed by the inevitable achievement bugs is a real shame. The world event meta-achievement has turned each and every event into a high pressure situation - the devs now MUST respond quickly when things break, often by nerfing achievements that they do not have time to fix, while players have a limited time to choose whether to pursue the latest bug-fest or give up on their previous progress through the chain of world events.
Overall, I suppose the most positive thing I have to say about the Fire Festival achievements is that they were over comparatively quickly. Two days into the two-week long festival, I have the required achievements on my main. Now I'm free to go enjoy the rest of the time on my alts, armed to the teeth with the latest in shiny heirloom toys. Either way, it's hard to describe the achievements as anything other than a disappointment. I can't say that I'm looking forward to seeing how they manage to break Brewfest, the last stop in the achievement tour, this fall.
(It won't be via the mount achievement, which has been replaced with a trivial achievement for using a mere handful of festival tickets in the current PTR.)
Greenwiz's latest title, along with the 30 food items (10 extra) and two spare city flames I needed to get en route to the hat, thanks to that pesky reset bug.