Rant: In-Game Events
MMO Developers will often spend millions of dollars and years of hard work creating virtual worlds that will seem full of life to keep us playing. One thing that seems to be overlooked a good bit is the use of In-Game Events as a tool to add a dynamic feel to the daily life of the worlds that we play in. When I think back at all the MMO worlds I have passed through in my travels, some of the times that stand out in my mind the most are some of the in-game events I have had the fortune to experience.
The problem is that this aspect of MMO's is often not given the attention it deserves. I do however understand the fact that from a developers point of view, in-game events can often be timely to code in, and in many cases only ever get to be experienced once, and often times by only a hand full of players. Or do they?
Starting at Everquest 1, I think I can only remember ever seeing or hearing about 1 or 2 events going on in the game while I was playing. I believe one had something to do with a lot of undead running wild in the Commonlands, and the other had some giants scattered around the world dropping Rubicite armor. Now maybe there are some EQ1 players out there who have seen more then I did, but in my years in Norrath I never saw much dynamic content. I heard Mayong Mistmoore of castle Mistmoore only appeared as a GM played mob, but I personally never saw him.
I remember in Anarchy Online coming back from a series of missions and finding Cyborgs marching through the streets hosing people down. I didn't know why they were there, but honestly it didn't matter to me. The town was a war zone with mass combat and people dying everywhere and it was fun as all hell.
One of my most memorable times in World of Warcraft was during the Valentine's Day event. Me and some of my buddies were bored on a Saturday afternoon, and there was a teleporter in the town that took you off to Moonglade. Upon arrival in Moonglade a giant two-headed dog named Omen was going totally apeshit rampaging all over the zone killing everyone on both teams. Alliance and Horde were both trying to kill him and killing each other in the process.
Final Fantasy 11 introduced "Besieged" in their ToAU expansion pack. Beseiged was basically a periodic event that would trigger a massive invasion of the expansion packs major city. When the trigger went off, 1 or more of the 3 tribes of beastmen would form up an army complete with generals and bosses would travel out of their lair in a formation towards the town. Players EXPing outside often times will see the army walking across the world heading for the town at which time the event begins. A massive bloodbath usually ensues with people fighting everywhere in the towns main square and the monsters try to kill the players, capture the NPCs, and try to steal the artifact from the center of town. Captured NPCs would be taken back to the monster's dungeon and locked up in a cell until freed by adventurers. There was a considerable amount of lag, but at the end of the day it did prove to be a lot of fun and added a real dynamic to the world that says these AI mobs aren't just standing around waiting to be killed, they are coming for you!
Finally, probably the one of the oldest and most legendary in-game events I have ever seen was in Asheron's Call 1. AC1 had a massive backstory that unfolded through monthly updates and lore which was continually being built on. Monthly content would usually be related in some way to the events of the month which could range from a variety of horrors.
One day, the Dark God in Asheron's Call (The Hopeslayer) actually appeared in the world. He wasn't at the bottom of some dungeon, and he wasn't in an outer plane, he was literally walking around the countryside looking for towns and people to kill. As far as I understand it, this guy was controlled by an actual person working for the game company. He would walk and fly around the games massive overworld and visit towns. Upon arrival he would shower the towns with fireballs, death and destruction, leaving the bodies of players in his wake. it was up to the players on these servers to find a way to stop him from terrorizing the game world.
To this day, I do not think any game has ever outdone the events that Asheron's Call 1 has set in motion. Players would log in after a monthly update to find a certain popular town had been destroyed, and watch it build up slowly again over the course of the coming months. I remember towns being attacked by monsters on several occasions, as well as other human controlled villains making their presence known.
Devs of future MMO's should definitely be sure to not forget this aspect of the game if they want the players to truly feel the world is alive and dynamic. It may be a worthy investment to hire people who are able to enter the world as story related heroes and villains to help further the story and help involved players. Then you have the recurring events like FFXI, which while may seem repetitive at a glance, helps build a immersion. This is especially important for a PvE game. PvP games are often driven by the actions and wars of the players. PvE games are a turn off to a lot of people because they are often time viewed as the game where the monster stands there waiting to be killed. Is it realistic that we want to kill the dragon, but he has never attacked the town? Bring on the dragons, bring on the monsters, and bring on the chaos.
Sure players may whine about getting killed by things they have little chance of winning against, but they will forgive you at the end of the day with more time subscribed because you will have given the gamer what he wants, a world that feels truly alive.
Co-Leader of Inquisition