Live Events. No one cares.
Jun 14, 2007 15:54:47

Crikey, there's a blog title with angst attached to it! Every so often there is an outcry from some small corner of the MMO audience saying "more live events!" Additionally, every so often we'll hear a studio (usually SOE) pimp a particular title by introducing live events. Live Events are something special that happens in the game world only once. The event is usually hosted or controlled in some way by a game master or employee of the company running the MMO. Special loots or rewards are usually given out as part of a live event, and more often than not, these events drive the lore of the game forward in some way. Whenever this subject comes up, this blogger can only shrug and say, "and?"

What clock are you on, buddy?
The largest problem with live events is timing. One of the great things about computer games, MMO or otherwise, has always been the availability. I never had to wonder what time Zork or Bard's Tale was 'happening'. I rarely had to worry about Norrath being 'open for business'. Before the proliferation of the DVR, TV was quickly becoming a barren wasteland of strict schedules and endless commercials, especially in the eye of the internet crowd. Our lives are busier and more crammed with work and diversions every day. It simply isn't practical to block off every Tuesday at 8PM for a favorite TV show, or anything else for that matter. Our life style has been permanently modified by Online Banking, iPods and Tivo - for the better I'd say. A couple years ago I bought a new vehicle with an XM radio. It was great fun, until I bought an iPod. Satellite radio is now a distant memory for me. TV would be too if it wasn't for the DVR. Live events fall into the same category. Specific content at a specific time is a drag. Worse yet, there is no option to "tape-it". Even worse... sometimes these events only happen on a single server/shard.

Sorry, I'm busy camping a rare spawn.
Even if you happen to be online when an event takes place, chances are that you didn't realize an event was about to happen. The server-wide chat broadcasts a message: "Princess Budonkadonk is about to storm Thighmaster Castle! Head to FloggingShire to participate in this one-time live event!" Wow, that sounds fun, but your group has spent 2 hours crawling a dungeon and you're 30 minutes from taking down the boss. That boss drops sweet loot and flags you for another dungeon. What are the chances that you're going to bail out to watch the Princess gallop up to a castle and one-shot two guards that look suspiciously like Chuck Norris dressed in Renaissance Festival garb?

Can I play? No, you're too small, kid.
Perhaps by some random stroke of luck you happen to be online and standing around wondering what to do when an event starts directly where you are. The system-wide message continues: "... send a tell to GM Catassy if you'd like to participate." You /tell Catassy who promptly replies, "Sorry, the event is only for level 80+ players who are PvP flagged and wield tier-four Wombat-ticklers in their off-hand." Darn. You're only level 34 on this toon and your high-level main auctioned the Wombat-tickler off last week.

Oh no, it's bugged!
Maybe by some freak occurrence you actually get to participate. Your role in the special one-time event will consist of rushing Thighmaster Castle with the Princess. Once you run haltingly up the road behind her, a bunch of goblins spawn and she screams for help. The players jump into action but for some reason the goblins aren't taking any damage when you attack them. They seem to be rushing directly toward the Princess that you are trying to protect! She's having trouble pathing toward Renaissance Chuck due to all the goblins swarming her. Finally, she gets wedged up a tree and all you can see of the Princess is her appropriately sized 'Budonkadonk' and a couple little legs treading air. The goblins still fail to take damage. In the end, GM Catassy has to admit that there was a bug with the event. They'll re-spawn it later after having a dev look at it.

Live events are not time well spent in the MMO development cycle. Any time spent on content that will not be seen or used by a majority of the player base is a losing proposition. The big question this raises is: do raids fit into that category too?

-Brent

Submitted by Brent on Jun 14, 2007 15:54:47 CST (comments: 18)


Comments:


'Ummm...' by darrenl
Submitted on 2007-06-14 17:58:06 CST
Wombat tickler? I knew there was something missing on your desk shots!

Good article Brent.



'Well...' by Akely
Submitted on 2007-06-14 18:02:05 CST
Funny and spot on. I always miss live events being Eurotrash on US servers. And missing them makes me go "meh... wheres me beer?"

And to answer the question: Yes, they do.



'Cover it properly and they will care' by UrbanMongral
Submitted on 2007-06-14 19:20:53 CST
I’m afraid Brent, I feel you are a bit wrong with this one.

Live events are a great thing for a MMO to have, they just have to be done right. What I mean by done right? Well its pretty simple, make them interesting for players beyond the people directly taking part. Believe me when I say, this isn’t that hard to do.

Some of you know that I worked on the first EVETV which publicised a live tournament event in EVE, just over 200 pilots directly took part in the tournament but we feel we got around 50,000 people checking out the broadcast during the course of the event (and a lot of downloads afterwards too).

The thing is, EVETV was just a not that different to the coverage we at EVE Radio had regally been doing for events. For example, there was the 1st Alliance championship event, the Armarr succession event, the Colossus race series and a host of others. While the numbers watching EVETV were of course much larger than what we had seen before, ever single event we covered with EVE Radio attracted audiences far beyond the people who were directly participating.

Now I know some of you are saying “Well that only works because its EVE. With the one server, the player Alliances and CCP running the show, in game events naturally will work better. Well EVE isn‘t the only game which has done something like this. in the early days of Matrix Online, Free Zion Radio (one of the best MMO radio stations ever) used to provide excellent coverage of the many events which used to be organised by Monolith. Unfortunately once SOE took over running the game, this all stopped.

The problem in other games is not the events itself, it’s the lack of good coverage, pure and simple. In my experience there will be members of the community happy to provide that good coverage in every game, they just have to be invited to be a part of it. Then you can make the event something which matters far beyond the small group who directly take part, which is to the benefit of everyone.



'Correction' by UrbanMongral
Submitted on 2007-06-14 19:24:30 CST
Racking my memory - I think the MxO station was in fact called "Radio Free Zion".


'Radio Free Zion and MxO' by QforQ
Submitted on 2007-06-14 21:16:00 CST
Yeah you're right it was RFZ.

From an MxO vets perspective, live events were awesome! They had live events team members that would log in throughout the day(and night) and provide true interaction with the story characters. Even if you only talked to 20 people that night(from the perspective of a LET) you made an impact. Those 20 people would then brag about it, tell stories, and I guarantee you those 20 people still remember that meeting more than 2 years ago. The fondest memories I have about the matrix online and MMOs in general are tied to Live Events and The Matrix Online.

It was truly phenomenal how fun and exciting these live events teams were. If the game can afford to employ about 10 employees that run on a GM like schedule, then I think it's well worth it. The impact that it has on your gameplay and how fun and immersive things become are well worth it.

It's not the same experience talking with some NPC that has some scripted things to say. It's much more fun to actually talk to a person, trying to convince them to trust you or taunting them because they are your biggest enemy. I've never had an experience in an MMO like the ones I had playing MxO in the first 3 months that it was live. (And no, MxO was not my first MMO)



'yes and no' by Brent
Submitted on 2007-06-14 22:18:41 CST
With full respect to Urban and QforQ, you both are proving my point to some extent.

First, the Eve Tourneys are something of a special beast and I hadn't even considered them when writing this. They are cool and they are well publicized - no doubt about it. That makes a big difference. And yet, how many people participated in those Alliance Tournaments? 20 teams of 5 perhaps? 100 players, plus 10-20 Eve Radio and CCP employees? That means 1 out of every 2000 Eve players had an opportunity to participate. That's a small number.

The Matrix Live Events are easily the most well known of all Live Events to have taken place in MMOs. I didn't play MxO for the first time until a few months ago, and yet I heard about the cool storylines that have extended the Matrix lore - and they sounded cool. The problem is that I cannot experience those stories today. Those 20 people you mention are also a tiny piece of the MxO player base which further reinforces my point. Wouldn't the game be stronger if those storylines were something that every player could experience in their entirety?

LotRO is a good example of the right way to do things. Rather than having portions of Tolkien's story play out at discreet moments of the game's RL timeline - it is peppered throughout the player experience. Start playing today or 3 years from now and you'll still have a chance to have that experience. Join MxO today and those old stories are just long gone fables.

I do appreciate the insight. Both of you hit on some highlights of live events in MMO history. The Eve one I hadn't even considered because it is something that happens entirely outside of the real game and stands alone as a competitive event rather than an in-world event that shapes future content. Thanks for the input.



'MxO Live Events' by fl1pper
Submitted on 2007-06-15 03:58:05 CST
I agree with most of the points that Brent makes but I have to say that when they are done well, live events are great.The live events in MxO were some of the best gaming times I've ever had. From party's hosted by the Radio Free Zion DJs to the end of beta event, they were awesome.


'Live events are the future' by scytale2
Submitted on 2007-06-15 04:14:59 CST
Tbh this sounds a bit like picking up one of those house bricks that used to be mobile phones and saying that there was no future for the mobile telephone.

At the moment most content in MMOs is somewhat dictated - this was my gripe following your interview with the EVE CEO. He kept talking about what "he" wanted people to do in "his" game and not how he might provide solutions to allow players to expand their own portfolio of activities.

Live events are exactly this. They are spontaneous, often player-designed (see the DDO Live event forums) and use people instead of programming, so clearly they are going to be more challenging and interactive.

They are the future because these virtual-world platforms are going to be forums for huge world developments in the future, not just entertainment. They will be our mechanism for global democracy, not just leet loot and bragging rights...



'I agree with Brent' by Gooney
Submitted on 2007-06-15 05:09:08 CST
I have been an avid MMO player since EQ, I have literally had an active account in one or more MMOs since then (excluding the few months after my childrens births).

What I mean is that during allllll of that time I have NEVER seen nor participated in a Community event. Never once.

They are a complete waste of dev time, actually I think that WoW got it right by setting up periodic questline events. Childrens Week, Winter-whateveritscalled, the Halloween one, those are the way to do these things.

Thats my feeling anyway. In the future hopefully the worlds would be robust enough that communtiy events would truely be community initiated and driven. Only 3 games have this possibiltiy now, Eve, Ryzom and SWG.

-Gooney



'Depends what you mean by participated I guess' by UrbanMongral
Submitted on 2007-06-15 13:59:10 CST
When you say participated do you mean the people who directly took part, or those who tuned in to cheer on their corp/guildmates and hope for the downfall of their enemies?

Given the fact that only a tiny fraction of the worlds Football (Soccer) players will ever play in the world cup, it does not make the event pointless for everyone else.

I will agree that boring "Escort irrelevent character between two loactions" style events are pointless though. All that shows is a lack of imagination from the developers, not a problem with doing events themselves.



'No one?' by Cuppycake
Submitted on 2007-06-15 16:56:46 CST
You really think NO ONE cares Brent?

I completely disagree with you on this one. You don' t care, but lots of people do. I care, that stuff is quite important for me personally and for a lot of people I know who play MMORPG's. That's a fun thing about MMO's compared to single player offline RPG's. Nothing will surprise you in an RPG because everything happens for a reason. I enjoy the live events that happen once. I enjoy them even when I miss them. *shrug*



'that's what makes them speacial' by lochness
Submitted on 2007-06-15 23:06:54 CST
The fact that you still heard about these fabled events years later in MXO is exactly what makes them speacial in MMOS.

Where else can that happen?

Since it was apparenly well done if ypu are online for the next one then maybe you will take part.



'I think.' by ktin
Submitted on 2007-06-16 06:15:10 CST
I think the existence of this post proves that devoted MMoggers, .. Do. In Fact.. Care.

..


Yar!



'As Ususal, You're Spot On' by Pig
Submitted on 2007-06-16 13:10:30 CST
There are times, Brent, (quite often actually) in which you explore a topic on MMOs and just nail it. This is one of those times. Basically, you've summarized my entire experience with MMO live events in your article.

I've seen a few, been caught off guard by most, and never got a darned thing from any of them. In fact, every live event I've ever participated in can be summarized by four words:

Giant. Waste. Of. Time.

So poorly written. So poorly executed. So bugged. So unrewarding. Shouting across the world to gather a mass of players, waiting, waiting, waiting, then doing something nonsensical, then rewarding two people with mediocre loot. Um, woot. When will this kind of excitement happen again?

I think the model for the future isn't live events. I believe it to be scripted ones. Patch introduces an invasion by demons of HappyHamlet. Some NPCs have quests that give rewards. It gets triggered regularly, or with days worth of warning.

Ok, since I"m ranting, I'll stop now! :)

Anyway, we'll link to this on WG -- it's a good read.

Pig
www.WanderingGoblin.com



'.' by Sanctified
Submitted on 2007-06-17 01:43:24 CST
If you played Everquest and remember...

the Dark Elf invasion of Rivervale...
the Awakened Sleeper....
Santugg Clogg....
dragons attacking random zones....

....you would care.



'I did...' by Pig
Submitted on 2007-06-17 02:00:16 CST
Played EQ for years. The problems I described above all pertain to EQ more than any other MMO, in my opinion. :)


'Widen the scope a little perhaps?' by Grimwell
Submitted on 2007-06-17 22:05:31 CST
Brent, I think you are having fun with the rant, and making good on the 'time to create' vs 'actual value of work to the player base as a whole' equation. Perhaps though, you are allowing that equation narrow the playing field too far?

Live events, *as many games employ them* are not worth the effort. That I would agree with. You get one GM in the game for 30 minutes who interacts with a few dozen people and after he/she is gone the world is no different. That's not a live event, that's a sideshow.

What's not a sideshow? A live event that does touch on every player. Consider Asheron's Call. The smallest of the original 'Big Three' and yet it's still plugging along with regular content and story updates that change the shape of the world. Here's a convenient GameSpy article that hits on that very fact:
http://archive.gamespy.com/articles/september00/acevent/

Dereth has the capacity to change, in live events that can be scripted. The reasons for and ramifications of those changes affect every player of the game. That is hitting the 'live event' nail square on the head if you ask me.

Even on a smaller scope, in EQII we just had the 'Festival of Unity' put on by some players of the game. The only official input was me spawning some tents, kegs, etc. for the festival as a courtesy. Each and every day of the week long event the organizers reported over 100 players being involved.

Yes, in a game that reports thousands and thousands of players, that's a drop in the bucket, but it's still a significant number of people who didn't even wait for us to say "Hey, here's an event!" They put it together.

Letting GM's hand out cookies for good roleplay isn't an event, it's a personal interaction. That can be good too (for different reasons), but many companies do confuse that little cookie with a real live event that touches the entire game - and most have the capacity to do it if they would take note.



'Live GM events, a waste of resources.' by Scott
Submitted on 2007-06-19 19:41:32 CST
Lets get real, having GM's run live events is a waste of resources, and has been stated before to only affect a drop in the bucket of active players in any meaningful way.

If I have to wait 1-2hrs for a Help ticket to be answered during working hours in any MMO, they shouldn't be staffing folks to run some event across all their shards and take resources away from elsewhere.

The other issue is by in large these are MMORPG's, many of us play in these virtual worlds to entertain ourselves and hopefully empower ourselves to entertain ourselves and others in the process. A GM event in a MMO is a kluge for what should be systems and tools in place that allow players to influence the gameworld and create their own mini-events and drama to affect fellow players 24/7.

You can have your instanced theme park with weekly pre-planned parades.

I'll take my virtual world where I alone can craft and influence the world by my actions to create my events that we humans seem so capable of when given the tools (real or virtual) to help or attack each other.




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