Mabinogi live event screenshot
My memory isn't what it used to be. My wife calls me "airheaded," but I like to pretend that the reason I often forget stuff (whether I had already washed my hair or not, for example) is because my brain is filled with amazing, distracting thoughts. One victim of that selective memory is the existence of live events. Feel free to correct me in the comments section -- in fact, I need you to -- but I seem to remember a time when live events were more common than not.

I'm not talking about scripted "random" events like those you'll find in RIFT, and I'm not referring to a quest-giver interaction. Nope, I'm talking about those special events when an employee logs in on a special account and makes things happen. In the game. In real time. Kids, ask your parents (or slightly older, funnier-looking favorite Massively columnist) for details. And no, I do not mean player-run events. Those are fantastic, but not the subject of this column.

I just attended a live event in Ryzom the other night, and it made me wonder: Why did real live events become so rare?

Ryzom live event screenshot
I've enjoyed more live events in Ryzom than any game I can think of. I have a long history with the game, even going so far as gaining the title of "reporter" so I could film during PvP events without being attacked. This recent Ryzom live event was fine, but it went differently than I thought it would. My first thought while attempting to film was, "This is going so slowly." I didn't mean it in a negative way, but in a moment of realization, I knew then that many players simply do not have the patience for it.

The event also shined light on the fact that hosting events for multiple languages is problematic. The Ryzom GM's character would say something, and then we would have wait for two other people to translate what he said before we'd hear the next part. It took a long, long time. I'm often disappointed in Ryzom's lack of communication, but even then I will always give the team there respect for continuing to nod to the international roleplaying community.

This is where my beaten memory hurts me, but I would swear that back in the day -- meaning around 1999 to the early 2000s -- EverQuest held several live events. For one of my favorite anecdotal examples, here is a forum thread all the way from 2005. The saddest entry is the player who says,
"I have played three to six hours a night, 330 plus days a year since November, 2002. Number of GM events I had heard about: maybe four. Number of GM events I have witnessed in any form: zero."
That was back in 2005. I will say that I have been to a few other EverQuest live events, but they are the more common type that come in the form of a community get-together. While I completely appreciate these gatherings, they are not GM-run roleplay stories that actually impact the game. We've probably all heard of the infamous Ultima Online live events that happened seemingly a lifetime ago as well.


"Can you imagine the complaints from players who might miss an event or from those who were outnumbered by trolls or other groups that simply wanted to wreck the happening?"

You read our fantastic EVE Evolved column, right? Brendan is the boss when it comes to covering that game, and recently he commented on CCP's Battle for Caldari Prime event. As he pointed out, much of the negative reaction came from players who thought that the event was scripted and the outcome was pre-planned. In my experience, most live events are balanced between a known outcome and the possible influence of players. The GM staff has to have at least a general idea about where they want the players to be after event is over, especially in a game with a community that is tens or hundreds of thousands strong. Can you imagine the complaints from players who might miss an event or from those who were outnumbered by trolls or other groups that simply wanted to wreck the happening? In fact, during the EVE event, players did complain about being locked out of it. Live events require a developer to take a pretty big chance unless it plans out the ending or knows how much it will allow the players to truly affect the outcome.

Why did these live events become a more-common thing of the past? There are several reasons.

First, technology has made it possible to script live events. I know, I know... these are not the type of events I am referring to, but scripted events are the ones that have taken over from the GMs. Sure, the staff might nervously watch over the event, but it's not the same as a GM logging in and literally controlling an NPC or faction. These scripted events are the factory robots that have taken over the scene. This same technology has made it possible for us to "chat" with a customer service bot, with mixed results.

Second, live events need developer staff to run, sometimes during off-hours. While it's easy to say that developers should always have a person on duty, many of the studios I know of run a standard office with mostly standard hours. Well, including all that extra crunch-time labor, of course.

Third, players do not seem as interested in roleplay as they used to be. It could be the result of games becoming much more dynamic, interesting, and intricate, but I have a feeling that players' love for grinding out levels has had more to do with it. While it doesn't take a roleplayer to attend a GM-run event, it helps to have players who are willing to roleplay. Those players seem to be more rare lately.


"In recent memory I have attended more live events inside games that were closing. The last time Ryzom shut down (before it was rezzed again) comes to mind, as well as City of Heroes' and Star Wars Galaxies' sunsets."

In recent memory I have attended more live events inside games that were closing. The last time Ryzom shut down (before it was rezzed again) comes to mind, as well as City of Heroes' and Star Wars Galaxies' sunsets. Of course those were just the offerings of a crew that generally spawned some monsters or hosted a small get-together.

When is the last time you attended a GM-hosted or staff-created live event that actually became part of a game's lore? I know the events are happening, but I already mentioned how shoddy my memory is! Sure, MUDs like Gemstone IV or Threshold and Asheron's Call other smaller titles keep events live, but when is the last time a major developer offered a real, non-scripted, staff-hosted live event? Should we demand them more?

Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to beau@massively.com!

This article was originally published on Massively.
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