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?
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?"
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."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org!