The dynamic event system is an incredibly ambitious project, and the scope of what it involves -- particularly compared with what we're used to in Guild Wars -- leaves players with what feels like an endless string of questions as we try to take it all in. Will these be scheduled events that reset? What if we miss something because there's no specific quest text to guide us? How will loot distribution work? How do we know when we're done?
"If we wanted every event we designed to run only once, we'd need to hire approximately 100,000 people to make enough events to fill GW2"
One of the biggest questions is that of the effect your actions have on the world around you. What if you and those around you fail to save the village from a herd of random horrible creatures? Is that village gone forever from the game? That sort of thing is nearly impossible given the constraints of petty things like "budgets" and "reality," and Johanson acknowledges that: "If we wanted every event we designed to run only once, we'd need to hire approximately 100,000 people to make enough events to fill GW2. Since our budget isn't quite that big, we're going for the next best thing and creating awesome cycling event chains that allow you to experience a wide variety of ever-changing content, but allow us to use event chains more than once."
For example, if you kill a Centaur chieftain, the Centaurs will eventually elect a new one and restart the events. These "cycling event chains" are of a wide range and carry many possible outcomes. It's a system that allows players to truly influence their world.
In addition, there are so many different factors triggering events and changing outcomes that you'll have to work pretty hard for anything to feel repetitive: "Some events only occur when specific conditions are met, like a snow storm rolls into the map, or night falls over the graveyard. If an event reaches one end of the chain, it could sit at that point for days, weeks, or months until a player comes along and decides to participate in the event chain."
This system allows the potential for some exciting -- and amusing -- happenings under the right circumstances. Two completely different events can be happening in different locations, seemingly unrelated, until the players involved meet in a town. Suddenly two separate events have a huge bearing on one another: "For example, one group of players could be escorting a merchant to the town of Beetletun with a shipment of beer from Divinity's Reach. When they get near Beetletun, the players could discover that Beetletun is currently under attack by centaurs and the players can join in the battle to save the town. Saving the town not only liberates the now grateful citizens, but also allows the beer shipment to reach the now even more grateful citizens! The merchant will set up shop in town and a new beer merchant becomes available for a while, all due to the players completing two events that ended up running in parallel and influencing one another."
This example beautifully illustrates the potential of the dynamic events system: it's ever-changing, and because other players are doing things that also affect the world, you never know what's coming next. This system could easily send boring, predictable questing right out the window and bring immersive play to a brand-new level.
If you're worried about missing an event because it's so insignificant it flies under your radar: don't, says Colin. Just because someone doesn't specifically say, "There is an event happening in the village, go there now," you won't be in danger of missing out. In one of the more amusing sections of the blog post, Colin gives an example of how difficult it will be to do so: "Let's say you walk up to someone on the street and say hello and they hand you a note that says, 'A lion got loose from the zoo.' It doesn't really have the same dramatic impact as walking down the street and witnessing the lion chasing screaming people around while the police chase the lion with tranquilizer guns. Our dynamic event system is like hundreds of lions running all over every street of the city... and they haven't eaten in weeks.
Finally, the big question: what's the reward for all this lion-wrangling? Who gets the loot? Do we have to camp the lions for their good drops? According to Colin, rewards come in the form of XP, gold, and karma that can be traded with merchants -- an extremely clever way of eliminating loot grinding and bickering. He promises more on that from Eric Flannum tomorrow, so keep an eye on Massively for that interview.
In the meantime, take a look at the rest of what Colin had to say