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The Digital Continuum: Live event adulation

Kyle Horner

You may or may not have heard, but we're coming to Planetside to kick some worldwide hide. At least that's the plan, but whatever happens -- win or lose -- I'm just excited to be a part of an epic, cataclysmic in-game event. It's the kind of thing I've always wanted to see more of but somehow I rarely see these sorts of things happen in massively multiplayer online games. There are smaller yearly events that are always fun, sure. It would just be nice to see more events minimally on the scale of City of Heroes' Rikti invasions or today's Planetside Black Ops event.

Whether or not developers haven't really explored this area because they fear player backlash is beyond me. I personally don't see how creating a dynamic world that keeps its players guessing at the next twist or turn isn't worth a little risk. Then again I'm all about dynamic, awe-inspiring, world changing events.

You'll have to excuse me as I'm going to play one of my wish cards here. I'm pretty aware that what I'm talking about -- if ever possible -- won't happen anytime soon. Although I do hope to see a game come out in the next ten years or so that can offer me what I'm asking for from it.

Tell me that you've got amazing graphics that run on a huge gambit of machines and I'll say, "That's pretty impressive." Show me how compelling your PvE and PvP systems are and I'll nod my head in approval. Hell a developer can even show me server technology and world design that will allow for upwards of 100,000 players online at once and while I'll be duly impressed, it still won't cause my jaw to hit the floor.

Yet if you can take all those things or even one of them -- I'd go with that server technology personally -- and create a live events team that produces, designs and runs epic server events you've got my lifetime subscription. It doesn't seem like asking for too much to me, but I know it would involve a lot of money being spent over a long period of time. I suppose the question then would be: Is a well-funded, trained and impassioned in-game events team worth all the trouble?

Yes. Very much so, in fact -- or at least I think so. The first developer/publisher to do this sort of thing right could -- in my opinion -- strike a veritable gold astral diamond mine. How awesome would it be if an events team could run a massive, epic raid on Stormwind in World of Warcraft? What if the team had so much funding that they were able to create a ravaged version of Stormwind to replace the regular version if players weren't successful in the defense of the city? It would only last a short period of time but the experience would be something else entirely. It would be amazing.

Now, Warhammer Online has a system in place that does this very thing -- but it's all player-driven and the battle happens within a vacuum with the result altering the in-game city. While that is cool in its own way, a fully funded team could do so much more. While raiding the city a team that's practiced for the past couple of weeks could shout creative battle cries and retorts at players as they are defeated. You could get a level of interaction that would keep players talking for weeks about how cool the event was for them.

I am aware of the drawbacks such a thing would have -- like players crying foul when they lose to a GM-ran invasion. Maybe that's the big reason nobody has really attempted to create a game with this sort of high-profile feature. There needs to be a system in place that could reassure players that event-GMs have only their best interest at heart. Such a thing woud probably be a complete necessity.

There's always that issue of people not being honest, fair or reasonable. Such things are just a part of the human element that makes events so much fun -- at least on paper. With an added human element comes the risk of mistake, too. So while I would love for a developer to figure out how to create an MMO where there's a digital equivalent to a good D&D Dungeon Master, I'm not really holding my breath here.

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