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Community Spotlight: GM Events in MMOs

Posted by MikeB Thursday December 16 2010 at 12:31PM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread "GM driven events in MMORPG ?" by NineDots. In the thread, NineDots wonders about the prevalence of GM events in MMOs, and seeks the advice of the community in identifying MMOs that feature such events:

I was wondering if it is frequent to see events directly driven by GMs (Game Masters) in MMORPG?

What I mean is when GMs would actually take direct control of some of the game mechanics such as monsters to interact with players.

Here is a recent example where GMs took control of monsters to attack cities:

Do you know of any other MMO with such events?

Hopscotch73 notes that Fallen Earth makes extensive use of GM events:

The team at Fallen Earth are great for these, there's a weekly (well, not so weekly lately)  trivia night where the head GM (Community Director Tiggs) asks questions for players to win player-donated prizes, and then they have live events like Hillstomper attacks for Halloween and the destruction of Boneclaw, plus live events that were run for the anniversary.

Just this past weekend the Devs and GMs took to the test server to play around with the players and answer questions - they spawned some monsters at the end for everyone to have fun with.

The stated aim seems to be to have one of these events a month if possible, they're always a blast, so I hope they can do this.

Trouble is, it's easier to do this in "smaller" games like FE and Deadfall than in "bigger" games, where you have multiple servers and multiple times the qq-ing from people that miss events because of time-zones and RL.

Such events are great for making players feel like part of the game. I guess if you've played an MMO with these sort of events you'd really miss them not being there, and if you haven't...well then you don't know that you're missing anything.

GrayGhost79 takes us back in time to the GM events of Ultima Online:

This is something that started way back with UO and it was one of the big appeals of it. GM's and event moderators would hold all kind of events in game. Some events had you protecting cities from mob invasions, others had you going out to dungeon crawl. When there was an announcement for the game Garriott would do it in game as Lord British (His in game char). He would call for an assembly in his castle and the town criers would announce it to any passing by them. 

3 of the most memorable for me were the Moonglow invasion where players actually had to defend the city from a siege. If the players succeeded on their shard then the city remained on that shard, if they failed it became a demolished city haunted by spirits. 

Another was the launching of Stygian Abyss. The GM's and Event moderators took on the roles of chars from the lore to act it out and the players fought in the war which eventually led to the launch of the Stygian Abyss expansion. 

My favorite of all though was the whole thing between Lord Blackthorne and Lord British. There was always something going on event wise between the two of them. They were the two lead devs and players got to side with whomever they wanted with most of the events. 

All in all it was a blast. I missed those events and am glad seeing some of the newer MMO's copying UO.

just1opinion highlights EverQuest II as another MMO featuring GM events:

EQ2 has GM events, BUT....the only people that know about them are the people that read the forums, because that's where they announce them. They're GREAT though.  They often give away rare shinies that are rare collectables, and assorted other rares items.  The events are usually a lot of fun and involve some quest that they give you.

One time I was in Paineel and was suddenly attacked by flying COWS.  Since cows are not plentiful in EQ2 and I have NEVER had one thrown at me.....I knew there was a GM SOMEWHERE.  I got bombarded with LOTS of them.  So I went looking for the GM, found him/her and got a GM vanity pet!  It was funny and a nice surprise.

I love how EQ2 has these events because it makes the world seem very alive.  They also generally EXPECT you to roleplay with them, and that also makes it loads of fun.

Funny that no one mentioned the MMO that was driven almost entirely on GM events: The Matrix Online. The Matrix Online featured a designated "Live Events Team" that moved forward the game's storyline by putting together incredibly elaborate events for the players on a regular basis and role-playing their parts as the franchise's signature characters such as Morpheus, Niobe, Ghost and more.

This was easily MXO's best feature, but it also highlighted a number of issues with the concept, namely that it was an incredibly costly feature when measuring the effort involved vs. the amount of players exposed. The Live Events Team had to do some serious tricks to make sure that they could include the most players possible across the game's servers and this was no small task, even so, many players were dissatisfied, missing events due to not being at the rightp lace at the right time, etc.

The event focus also opened up potential for griefing, though the Live Events Team did have a number of tools to deal with griefers, it required a lot of effort to get things working smoothly.

Live Events are definitely awesome and I really enjoyed my time participating in them in The Matrix Online as well as a number of other games, but I don't think we'll see many MMOs going forward that focus as heavily on them as The Matrix Online did due to the aforementioned issues.

Do you enjoy GM driven events and do you currently play any MMOs that utilize them with any regularity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Butch808 writes:

 If i remember rightly didn't lord british get killed by a random player during such an event in UO back in the day? If so thats funny.

Jumpgate also had GM events back in the day aswell, they were quite fun, the GM's had to boost themselves as they weren't great pilots compared to the some of the better pilots, i remember they took contol of the AI badguys called conflux and they were called 'sentients', was pretty funny watching 50 or so people all chase down 1 GM.

Thu Dec 16 2010 1:07PM Report
jakin writes:

I volunteered as part of the Live Event team for EVE for about a year (back when they had one that is).  It was spiritually the successor to UO (one of the GMs from UO set it up initially IIRC) and had similar goals.


Unfortunately, I think Live Eventsof that nature in MMOs are likely a dying notion. 

As MikeB notes, they are incredibly time-intensive.  A typical "successful" event in EVE would be about 10 hours of behind-the-scenes time for a 1 hour event, would probably involve the participation of 1-4 volunteer actors, and would reach maybe a couple of dozen players directly - with a couple dozen more peripherally (i.e. people seeing the event in local chat but not interacting with it).

This would be fine except for the other side of the issue, which was the fact that players generally expected to be richly rewarded for participating in such events.  I guess it had to do with the comparitive rarity (see previous paragraph), so that if someone actually happened on an event they expected to get some phat lewt for it (rather than simply enjoying the event as a diversion from the standard grind).

Combine those two and you get the vast majority of the playerbase getting upset because they can't find events, and the ones that get involved frequently saying the event sucked because they didn't get anything worth their time out of it.

Don't get me wrong - I loved every moment of it, and when you found a group that understood the event was a diversion and an immersion tool it was great - but I can see why CCP eventually decided to phase them out as not cost effective (even though we were all volunteers).

Now EVE won't really miss them because the game play is naturally dynamic, but I really think that the standard PvE themepark game would greatly benefit from figuring out a way to include "live events" in some way.  MxO from my understanding was basically saved from complete worthlessness by the calibre of its live events.  I can only imagine what would happen if there was an interactive team employed on one of the bigger PvE MMOs with a similar mandate to advance the storyline but with the tools and developer support that we in the AURORA team would have killed to have.

Thu Dec 16 2010 3:55PM Report
smashface writes:

Live events have been making a come back in EVE, as part of the lead up to the next expansion.  They've been fairly fun, well received and easy to get involved with.  Hopefully they've been successful enough to encourage more live events after the current story line wraps up.

Thu Dec 16 2010 9:46PM Report
Requiamer writes:

Guys have your GM play pen and paper games,maybe? If they don't want fire them, as simple as that.

Fri Dec 17 2010 6:43AM Report
sfly2000 writes:

Well..Neverwinter Nights always had DM events on the servers...

Fri Dec 17 2010 8:43AM Report
Amaranthar writes:

Live events need more support. They need well designed tools to be used to make things easier to run them. Games need to be made for this purpose. It's the most exciting thing an MMORPG can offer, yet gets very little support or effort as far as design and tools to support them.

They need to go "all in" with this, and make it a primary feature. Instead of the "add on thingy if time permits" they seem to think of them.

Fri Dec 17 2010 9:46AM Report
GrumpyMel2 writes:

Live Events are the best thing since sliced bread. If text based games like Simutronics Gemstone could pull them off flawlessly on a regular basis with 20 year old technology...them todays MMO's should be able to handle them pretty well.

Forget about the complainers. It's like playing the lottery...just because not EVERYBODY wins is no reason to not have one. Your sub price gives you the CHANCE of becoming involved in a Live Event. If you miss this one....oh well better luck next time.

As long as there is another one coming along next week/month that you may have a shot at....there should be no reason to complain.

Fri Dec 17 2010 10:21AM Report
Slapshot1188 writes:

Live events are going to become the "Next Big Thing".  Developers will be looking for a way to jackup the montly sub.   To do this.. you must distinguish your product.... one way to justify a premium price is to provide a premium service.. like constant live events. (Not talking about one time "Epic" monsters that will show up every 6 months.. but an active and dynamic storyline driven by real GMs.

Sat Dec 18 2010 12:25AM Report
trancejeremy writes:

That's one of the things I missed when I started playing LOTRO - no GM events.

Okay, right before Moria they had something or other attack, but that was 2 years ago.

I swear, it's like they've got 5 people working on that game. And 3 of them are interns.

Sat Dec 18 2010 12:41AM Report writes:
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