Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Events and Holidays

I just finished a string of posts about the healing class in MMORPGs and how developers have really made them unappealing for a majority of players. This wouldn't matter so much except game design requires the class for most advanced encounters. Trying to balance these criticisms I searched my brain for something that I have seen evolve for the better in the MMORPG industry. Twirling in my chair I pick up a bite size snickers bar and thought about Halloween coming up next month. That's when it struck me. World events in these types of games have really changed a lot since the early days of Ultima Online and Everquest.

In Everquest, game masters would frequently take over high level monsters and go on rampages through lower level zones. For some reason these types of events always remind of playing against the Warlord team in Warsong Gulch. Anyways while the event was fun eventually too many people would gather to take down the monster and zones would frequently crash. The developers learning their lesson changed most events to a tournament format where the GM could control the flow of people who entered the zone. However, both events could only be experienced by a few hundred people and put heavy stress on those running them. It was much more common to hear about a cool event in Everquest then actually getting to participate in one.

It was in City of Heroes that I first ran into a scripted world event which didn't require a game master to control. The event was about an invasion of evil dimensional creatures who were much tougher then the standard villain. A certain times these creatures would open portals into Paragon City which would spew forth high level creatures with new graphic models. The event lasted long enough so that the majority of players got to experience it and there were minor rewards for those who participated. All in all it was a great preview of the upcoming patch and it didn't crash the servers by crowding players into a specific area.

World of Warcraft built upon this idea by scripting world events to include quests and very unique rewards that didn't really effect player balance. Thus if someone missed the event they wouldn't be penalize by not having any seasonal items from it. Rewards from these seasonal events usually included unique pets, costumes, useful consumables, and impressive graphic items like fireworks.

As time went on Blizzard added more events into the game often scripted around holidays with a slight Warcraftian twist. (Yes Warcraftian is a word, I just invented it.) Now these events serve the same purpose that real life holidays do. They give us a break from the standard game play and a chance to have fun doing a seasonal activity. Who doesn't like attacking someone with snowballs or dressing up as a leper gnome? Add in some useful items like the 16 slot pumpkin bag and you got something players look forward to each year.


Kinless said...

I do enjoy the in-game references to real life holidays. Christmas Tree lights strung up in the Undercity makes me feel Christmacy all over. "But I *am* enjoying the holiday. Look. There's mistletoe over Dark Lady Sylvanas."

Relmstein said...

Yeah Blizzard has really made holiday events a real part of their game. Heck they even responded to complaints of the horde not having any children by making Orphan's Week. Now you can drag little whippersnappers to dangerous dungeons once a year and make them carry your loot.