Chaos Theory Events deserve encores
Two, four, six, eight,
No more Mayan Zombie hate!


The end had finally come. No, not of the world -- of the in-game event that was celebrating the end of days in The Secret World. For just over two weeks, folks got to enjoy special missions, collect special loot, purchase special costumes, and even fight special mobs. But once the end came, the opportunity was lost forever. You see, the End of Days was a singular affair commemorating one particular real-world happening. As such, it was a bit of a once-in-a-lifetime deal. That particular happening -- the end of the Mayan calendar -- will never repeat, so it makes sense that TSW's event shouldn't either, right? Wrong.

While I fully concur that events should not go on forever or be so frequent that they lose their special nature and the excitement that comes with being a part of them, I do not agree that The Secret World should have any one-time-only events. Like any successful performance, events should be granted encores. Instead of these events being once-in-a-lifetime, I propose that events should be once-in-a-long-time. Anything else actually hurts the game. Here's why.

The Secret World screenshot
Why bother?
Special events: What's so special about them? Why do companies even bother with them? They obviously take a lot of effort to put on, especially for such a limited run. Some might even argue that they are a waste of resources and developer time that could be devoted to other aspects of the game (tell me you haven't heard that before!). But those folks are missing an important point: Events spark interest in the game.

By infusing something new and limited in nature, devs pique player interest. Even in a game
as fun as The Secret World, players are eager for something beyond the same-old, same-old of the everyday. Why do you think alt-itis and game-hopping are so prevalent in MMOs? But just adding new content doesn't have the same effect as a limited-time event; something about the word "limited" grabs our attention like little else. Special events by their very nature entice players to jump in and participate by capitalizing on our desire to not miss out. It's no longer a matter of "someday I want to check things out" but a matter of "I better get in before it's gone!" And that very sense of urgency makes folks flock to the game.

So companies bother because events lead to more people playing the game and more revenue, which in turn gives devs the funding to continue development of other content as well as the audience to develop it for. If interest in a game totally died out, developers might end up with all the time in the world to work on so-called core content, but they'd be missing both the resources and audience. Bottom line: Special events bring in and retain customers.

Suck it up, buttercup -- not
So if limited-time events are so beneficial, wouldn't the more-limited once-in-a-lifetime events be even better, sparking more of a fervor to take advantage before they're gone? Perhaps for a brief time. But in the long run, these one-shot-only deals actually backfire on the company. The problem is that while folks are enticed to play to avoid missing out, those who actually do miss out are disappointed and discouraged from playing.

The Secret World screenshotAt this point, some folks (usually the ones who were able to participate) may start arguing that people had plenty of time to experience everything. After all, 17 days certainly seems like a long time for an event. Or does it?

Take a look at the time frame for this specific event. The End of Days ran during the Christmas and New Year's holidays, a time when many gamers are actually less available due to traditional commitments, travel, etc. Some folks experienced life situations that prevented game time, such as illness or disasters. Others didn't even have the game yet.

What of all those folks who could not participate during that specific time frame? Sure, you could say, "Too bad, so sad; you missed out," and leave it at that. But why would you want to do that when the idea is to make players happy and want to stay? Why would we want new players to feel cheated and sad?

The trick, then, is for Funcom to keep the excitement that accompanies special events without forcing people to permanently miss out.

Bring it (back) on!
The answer to this conundrum lies in the ideal of the land of opportunity. In America, we know that most of us won't ever attain high levels of wealth or celebrity, but we know the chance is there. Heck, people don't even have to take advantage of the chance; we just need to know it exists. It's that knowledge of the possibility that placates us.

I, for one, was heartsick when illness and travel prevented me from completing the special Halloween quests last year, so heartsick that I didn't log in for a while. My only consolation was the hope that the quests would return during the 2013 holiday. The quests are amazing, and I hate to think I will never see some because of something out of my control.

So how can Funcom avoid losing people from the discouragement that comes with permanently missing out? Give people the knowledge that they will have another chance at an event. Events don't even need to return for long (they can last just a few days) and can be many months or even a year down the line, but just knowing that the opportunity to participate again exists actually negates disappointment -- even if we also miss the second time.

The Secret World screenshot
Take the example of EverQuest II's Frostfell. Sure, it runs for well over a month every year, but that still might not be enough time for someone to complete everything. So on one other day, April 1st, the special zone opens again, giving Norrathians the opportunity to craft all those things they missed. Folks know it is coming and make every effort to plan for it. In fact, there is added anticipation for that brief return.

I'd like to see TSW adopt this philosophy as well. Bring back the holiday quests yearly or allow folks to complete them on some random other day during the year. Bring back the End of Days events over a weekend sometime, perhaps in the summer. What can it really hurt to have a temporary resurgence? I am sure some conspiracy story could be easily woven in to explain why an event returns. And the event is already coded, so there wouldn't be a whole lot of work to go into turning it on again. Folks will surely anticipate it. Sounds like a win/win, doesn't it?

Plenty of players can get caught with illness or get stuck without internet via travel or troubles. Others may have simply joined the world late. There is so much disappointment already in the real world; let's not add to it in our favorite game. Funcom has already demonstrated fairness when it gave the contest rewards to everyone after noting the skewed results. So why not show fairness to everyone, including all those new players who couldn't participate in or complete events for whatever reason. Give events an encore! They were great, and they deserve it!

Conspiracies, paranoia, secrets, and chaos -- the breakfast of champions! Feast on a bowlful with MJ every Monday as she infiltrates The Secret World to bring you the latest word on the streets of Gaia in Chaos Theory. Heard some juicy whispers or have a few leads you want followed? Send them to mj@massively.com and she'll jump on the case!

This article was originally published on Massively.
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