One-Time Events: Selfish or World-Building?

It looks like Guild Wars 2’s one-time-only events are sparking quite the debate on the blogosphere! After an initial, strongly-worded post a few days ago, the discussion’s heating up – are one-time events a selfish waste of developer resources, or an exciting new way to develop a gameworld?

Azuriel’s firmly on the side of “bad idea” – and he’s not mincing words in his second blog post on the subject. Not only does he argue that one-time events are unnecessary, but he also says that if you want them to happen, it’s positively selfish

“Ultimately, to me, it comes down to a question of where best to utilize limited designer resources. When new raids and dungeons are released, there is always a special moment attached to it. A camaraderie that exists as thousands and thousands of players try something for the first time, race to the top, and otherwise share an experience. Undoubtedly that is the same goal of one-time events, to evoke those same feelings and perhaps pretend that this is a game world that is always changing (at 12:00 PM Pacific Time/19:00 GMT this Sunday only). The difference is that with the latter, the content is thereafter removed, generating no new experiences, no new memories, and no lasting history beyond the recollections of an ever-dwindling veteran playerbase.

I want game worlds to get bigger by having more things in them, not less, and not temporary things. Designers should stick with making the tools and toys; let the players bring the dynamic themselves.

And if you need something to only happen once to enjoy it the most, 1) I feel bad for you, and 2) the first time only happens once already. Enjoy the feeling as it lasts… don’t just take the ball and go home.”

His wording is strong, but Azuriel has some interesting points here. Most MMORPGs suffer from a lack of developer time as it is – isn’t it a terrible waste to use it up on content that doesn’t make the world richer or larger?

Well, interestingly, that’s where Syl’s post kicks off – as she looks at not only one-time events themselves, but also their aftermath

“Here’s a little secret: I still haven’t watched the one-time Halloween event on youtube. I didn’t go and check how the Mad King emerged. And I decided I won’t. Nothing can beat the scenario I have envisioned in my mind at this point. I have this epic idea of what happened and I want no youtube movie to take away from my imagination. The Mad King’s appearance in Lion’s Arch will forever be the stuff of legend to me, mysterious, notorious!

I like it that way. Maybe you do not. I’m sure many players would agree that the “main event” of my little scenario above is the comet falling down from the sky. If an MMO introduced this, they would want to be there just when it happens. However, the important part is that neither outlook is wrong, just like there are no wrong playstyles. There are different ways to experience events and different things to take away from them. Arguing the point would be as fruitful as arguing whether movies are better than books: some people prefer movies for their more guided experience (the camera is your focus), their concrete visuals and sound. Others rather stick to books that rely more on suggestion and imaginary effort, allowing you to stray. Both media have a purpose, a time and place.”

It’s interesting that Syl’s pointing to something that several people mentioned in the aftermath of the Fa(i)ll of Theramore – that currently MMORPG developers are getting better at creating events, but still don’t do so well at both foreshadowing and dealing with their aftermath. Theramore was obviously the most egregious example, but I’d be interested to see how much impact the Mad King has had in Guild Wars 2, too.

Looks like this discussion will continue a while longer – particularly since Guild Wars 2 looks to be host to more one-time events in the near future!

What do you think?