3) Mixture of Reward Types
And once I have the ability to purchase whatever new rewards you’ve put together for the holiday event, give me some things to pick from. Don’t just throw new or slightly altered weapon and armor skins at us – give us more than that. Keep in mind that your MMO accommodates dozens of different types of players that all want and do different things.
Depending on the game we’re talking about here, maybe you could throw in some new decorations for houses, a special new mount, collectible miniatures, new outfits, or funny party items. All of this is in addition to the types of stuff most games always offer and could add a lot more variety to the content. Plus, if you give players more than just one or two items they really want, that will retain the player for a longer period of time, which is the key to an MMO’s success.
2) Lore Friendly Events
I’m sure there are plenty of MMOs out there that don’t even bother to try and explain why pumpkins have suddenly appeared everywhere or why gift boxes and presents are now a thing. But the best holiday events are tied back into the lore of the game itself, they’re not just obscure and random occurrences that don’t fit in any way.
If I woke up and walked outside to see the Headless Horseman running around, I’d probably stop and ask myself, “What the hell is going on?” Perhaps it is some evil and twisted force from another realm, maybe it’s an actual holiday in that game world – whatever the case may be, an explanation is key. I play MMOs to escape reality and adventure in another world – not to be reminded of my mediocre, non-dragon-slaying life.
1) Optional Only
The number one thing that an MMO developer should do when creating a holiday event is make sure all of the content is entirely optional. I don’t care how fun, addicting, and amazing that special Wintersday in your game might be, but if you force players to participate when they log in, you’re not going to make many friends. MMO players are a strange breed – they crave a variety of things to do, countless ways to accomplish those things, and a fulfilling experience overall – but will always complain about it no matter what.
The purpose of a holiday event should never be to push forward necessarily important plot points. If I miss the event, I shouldn’t feel like the game itself changed drastically and I wasn’t a part of it. The holiday event is the ultimate paradox in game design because not only does the content have to be completely optional and non-consequential to the game as a whole, but it must also be interesting and engaging enough to catch players’ attention.
There probably isn’t, nor will there ever be, a perfect holiday event in an MMO. Ideas will be rehashed, people will probably get offended, and players will whine and moan about there not being enough to do. However, at the end of the day, as long as the developer provides fun and unique content, then that’s reason enough for celebration.