How Do You Feel About One-Time-Only Events?

October 29, 2012

So I was fortunate enough to be online in Guild Wars 2 yesterday, waiting in Lion’s Arch, at the advertised time for the special Halloween event. And after all that build-up, all the secrecy, the “one-time-only” event that we were all waiting for amounted to a cinematic cutscene that lasted about 40 seconds.

Whether it was worth it or not is a matter up for debate, one I’m not going to get into here. Personally, I thought it was a wicked cutscene, followed by a fantastic encounter with the Mad King in his otherworldly lair, and that overall the ArenaNet folks did an amazing job bringing us Act 3. I was thrilled to have been a part of it.

But I still dislike the idea of one-time-only events.

Quite simply, they’re bad news, and hard to justify. Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s great that game designers are still freely experimenting with special events and timing, but when you’re planning an in-game holiday intended to be enjoyed by everyone, then 1) announcing a one-time-only event, and 2) not giving any details about what to expect is probably one of the quickest, easiest ways to alienate and piss off a bunch of your players.

Speaking for myself, yesterday just so happened to be a lazy, rainy Sunday and I had some free time in the afternoon. But I’m aware not everyone was that lucky. Australians and folks in Asia were setting alarms to wake up in the wee hours in the morning on a freakin’ work day, and a lot of East Coasters in the US were out shopping for supplies and preparing for the Frankenstorm. Come on, people, we’re living and gaming in an international community! There’s also conflicts and unforeseen circumstances that can always pop up! Crap happens! When you know full well that everyone and their mother is going to want to participate, why still consider one-shot events?

Not to mention how they often lead to not-so-fun problems associated with overloaded servers. If you ask World of Warcraft players present at the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj opening event, most will tell you about the horrific lag, and I still recall the long server queues being a hindrance at Rift’s River of Souls event last year. GW2’s event wasn’t perfect, but I do however have to give a hat tip to the team for the relatively smooth performance yesterday — though not indicative of everyone’s experience, I had absolutely no problems before, during, and after the wait in Lion’s Arch nor during my showdown with the Mad King. At least before the servers sputtered and died, that is.

But what does this all mean? It occurred to me that dynamic, truly spontaneous events with persisting and enduring consequences that will change the game world are still possibly a long ways off. After all, can’t an impromptu, extemporaneousness event which can cause our actions to alter our surroundings permanently for everybody arguably be perceived as a one-time-only event? As much as we ask for it, as temptingly awesome as it sounds, even if it were technologically achievable, player resistance will probably be a significant obstacle. As gamers, none of us like to be left out or miss anything in our favorite MMOs. And really, who can blame us?


  1. After seeing the initial cinematic on time, then tackling the event, I returned to LA about 6PM EST to find that the Mad King was flailing around in the center of the fountain. It wasn’t presented in the form of a cinematic cut-scene, but it was the same animation. Figuring that the cut-scene is really just a non-player-controlled camera with scripted movement, it was like the cinematic actually WASN’T a one time only thing. But I don’t know how anyone else saw it.

    • I think they way they presented it made everyone think it was going to be something more. As it turned out to be just a cutscene, which I guess was considered the one-time-only thing because it only came up that one time at 12pm PST. That said, I don’t know why they couldn’t have done something as simple as adding an NPC beside the fountain who would allow you the option of playing the cutscene again if you wanted to.

  2. The event in Rift was the reason I no longer play Rift. A one time event with huge server issues is not the best way to hook players for you first big deal. You would think that they would have learned fro the problem Blizzard had with the opening of AQ. For Rift I was stuck in queue and missed everything, along with a large number of other players..
    Aside from the one-time event itself, people are still having issues with grouping to take on the Mad King. It seems everyone in the group ends up in different instances. The biggest problem I have with the even though is the camp candy corn nodes to mine and the candy corn monsters. Candy corn in loot bags I could understand but nodes and monsters is just too looney toons.

    • I was there for the Rift event last year, and even though I was online for it, I didn’t have fun at all. I have a pretty decent rig, but still I could barely move my character because of all the lag. It would have been epic too, considering all the people that turned up for it, but too bad the game was only able to handle drawing the character models of the players adjacent to me, so it ended up looking like we were all standing in these little islands of people.

      I didn’t so much mind the cheesy candy corn monsters and minding nodes. The world of GW2 has always been very whimsical to me 😀

  3. We went to see a movie, then do some shopping and dining with our teens yesterday. Having been through River of Souls (with a similar problem I was there but, Sctrz had to work that day), I could only anticipate the problems of the Mad King event. Sounds like it was specifically underwhelming, on top of my general feeling that one time events in MMOs are a bad idea.

    Everyone has different things that “break my immersion” in what should be a persistent world. One-offs are one of those things to me. World-changing events are experienced by everyone in the real world, not just those that happen to be “tuned in.” Now, an in-game event that occurs or recurs over a period of a week or more and then never again is fine, because every player has an opportunity to log in if they choose to. But not something like this that requires everyone interested to be logged in at the same time, PDT.

    That’s not to say I wouldn’t like a system that created small changes over time, this is what the real world is like, after all. Things get built or torn down, etc. But, having been there, even a RL warzone is notable for its monotony. “Groundhog Day” is a common joke.

    • I do not like one-time-only events. I just find it interesting though, that if you take the idea of dynamic and spontaneous events all the way, you could potentially get world-changing events that happen when you’re not there…which would suck, yes, but it can be seen as a way of making the game world more “realistic” — i.e. you can’t always be in the right place at the right time to witness something huge, and you have to sleep and have other obligations that take you elsewhere, etc. I don’t think this is feasible yet in an MMO, so it’s a moot point, but I think most people would be okay with this if the changes were smaller.

  4. I’m not an extreme fan of one-off events, though I’m crazy enough to wake up at 3am to catch them. I much prefer GW1’s way of doing things, which does things in 3 hour intervals, catching practically all timezones in the world at some point or other.

    I have screenshots of Rift’s River of Souls event, and it’s mostly a big crowd of people milling around, saying out of game things, destroying much and any immersion in the process.

    I crashed out of Lion’s Arch twice while waiting for the Mad King cutscene, even at lowest graphic settings, losing my hoped-for place in the home server instance. My archaic computer just doesn’t have enough memory to handle all the varied player armor models coming and going for 45-60mins at the fountain, I think.

    That said, the cutscene and dungeon went well, and I thankfully finished soloing it before all the servers hiccupped and died.

    • If I had been on the other side of the world, I think I would have woken up at 3am just to check it out too 😛

      And yeah, I took a video of the River of Souls event. Looking at it now, there really was nothing to it but a lot of waiting around, then a few minutes of complete chaos as everyone started running about and my client hiccuping from the lag!

  5. I always hated the idea of one-time events like that. To me they just feel a cheap, underhanded, manipulative way to get people to people to login and do some stuff. Also to make said stuff to feel more artificially special than it would naturally be. I know that the developers don’t do stuff with that kind of malicious intent, they just want it to be cool. Still those are the feelings I get from it.

    The only reason I am just not more annoyed by this particular case with ArenaNet is because it turned out to be just a short video so not much a big deal for me. Now if it was something more of a game changer than I would be extremely annoyed and disappointed at ArenaNet.

    • I agree with everything you said, though I figure ArenaNet faced a lose-lose situation either way 😛 They hyped up their one-time-only event and were very secretive about it, invoking rage from the players. If it had been something more significant, like a special dynamic event and an achievement, it would have invoked more rage from the players. And then it turned up to be just a short cutscene…which invoked rage from the players 😛

  6. I had issues yesterday with the event. I logged on an hour late, not knowing if they had factored in that England was now in Daylight Savings time, but the US wasn’t…and then the server was absolutely packed, I ended up just logging off. 😦 And that was in an Overflow server!

    I think the event over-all could have been handled a little better – I can’t fault the content of it. But I feel like I lost out because I wasn’t able to get on for the first Act (was away on holiday), and didn’t know if I could still complete it, and how the hell to play any of the games, etc etc etc…It just wasn’t very informative on what you needed to do. Maybe I’m just being thick, but I’m still a bit lost. :/

    The connections for the servers are also an issue. I don’t have the best internet connection, but I’m usually able to play just fine. But because of the traffic and the congestion in the event areas, I’ll probably not be playing again until AFTER the event. 😦

    • I hear ya. 😦 I’d probably feel similarly if I’d been in your shoes. Though, I almost missed Act 4 because of the storm and I’d lost power, and now I realized I wouldn’t have felt too bad if I’d missed it. I’m pretty comfortable with GW2 being a casual game for me, I guess. I didn’t even try for all the achievements.

  7. The mad king reappearing at the grand piazza periodically and the fact that it is in the end just a cut-scene went a long way to alleviating my alienation.

    I was also quite impressed by the whole thing, it was an epic moment for Guild Wars 2. I just don’t see why they could have had you talk to an NPC and have that clip play with the option to skip it the second time you go through.

    • They were lucky it turned out to be just a cutscene; I can’t imaging the continued negativity if it had been something like a one-time-only dynamic event or something. Still, just because it was a cutscene didn’t really make it better in my eyes, I just think MMOs should stop planning around OTO events.

  8. […] I was not disappointed. The animation and eruption of the Mad King out of the lion fountain was just breathtaking. I was on the edge of my seat. Then it was over. I saw a lot of fuss over the fact that there would […]

  9. I hate one-time major events like that. First, no one’s server architecture has yet been able to handle having their entire player population in one place at one time, and second, I shouldn’t need to be setting an alarm to attend an in-game cinematic. That starts to sound like work to me, not fun.

    I think ArenaNet would’ve been much better off to have a big premiere and then allow people to rewatch it at intervals or in an instance.

    I am all for minor dynamic events though, or events with longer cycles. I’ve no problem logging in and finding a village overrun or some other change having happened, especially if there’s a way to get some people together and reverse it.

    • Yeah, that’s sort of what I was getting at. Seems people are okay with dynamic events as long as it’s somehow repeatable or resettable, or if it’s a one time thing as long as there’s enough time allotted for people to complete the event.

  10. I think one time only events are an inexcusable waste of development resources. The last event we got in SWTOr was a perfect (ly awful) example. It was the only new content in the middle of a three or four month stretch, was live for a week, and will never be seen by anyone again…ever. Didn’t get through it that week? Sorry, you’ll never see it all. As for the devs who spent hundreds of hours on it, well probably at least 10-20K players got to see it all…. I’m sure that seems worth it to them….

    Limited time events such as all the Halloween events that are going on in different MMOs right now are one thing. Build up a large enough stable of those, and it makes your MMO feel more dynamic over the course of the year. Hell, that’s about all you get in WoW in the two year dry spells in between expansions. A one time only event?!? That is dev time you’ve set on fire them moment the event winds down.

    • I guess I don’t mind so much when events like that are stretched over a week. I mean, a week was definitely insufficient for that SWTOR event, but at least it was a week and not something you had to be there for just that one moment when the event happened. Anyway, while we’re on the topic though, I was surprised SWTOR didn’t extend that event; like you said, it’s not like they had much else planned for the players.

  11. […] and Reviews and [GW2] Happy Dragon Hour LevelCapped – Greed Monger: An Update MMO Gamer Chick – How Do You Feel About One-Time-Only Events? MMOQuests – What Else Is There to Do? #WurmOnline Nil’s Blog – If Money Doesn’t […]

  12. I’m into my third event with GW2 now. I see a lot of complaints here about the concept, and I certainly understand the issues, especially with timezones. That is something ANet really needs to deal with because it is completely unfair to their clients on the other side of the world and to those who simply aren’t available.

    That said, i don’t think the Halloween event was that bad, since each stage lasted for some time. They certainly could have repeated the penultimate cutscenes etc for other players, though.

    In comparison, The Lost Shore weekend was definitely no good. I loved it because I was fortunate enough to be there for a lot of it, but those who weren’t there or who couldn’t dedicate that huge chunk of time to it definitely lost out. I have to thank, ANet though for the little apology they gave to those who suffered from server issues. And I have to credit them overall for the concept because if there’s one thing an MMO can get very quickly, it’s boring. I’m playing a lot less for that very reason so I will not fault them for doing things to pull me back in on a regular basis. Manipulative? Sure. But no more than a sale sign at a store. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to play, and the rewards are not game changers for those who do participate (and are also available to purchase if having them is really that important to a player.)

    Right now, I am enjoying Winterfest. The timezone problem does not exist since, while the toyship moves daily, it remains for 24 hours and the dungeon itself does not take an obnoxious amount of time to complete. Some people might miss a day, certainly, but that means you lose out on a gimmicky toy. Nothing crucial to game play. Just something fun that you could ultimately purchase if you really wanted it that badly.

    • I started Lost Shore weekend, ran into bugs that wouldn’t let me do some of the quests, and chalked it up to a lost cause, heh. It’s one thing to keep doing these one time events, but then to have them not work? I didn’t even get a chance to finish it until the next phase started, and Anet just decided to not let the quest be picked up or completed anymore. Disappointing. I mean, I probably had some bad luck with the servers and bugs, but then when you’re designing these events, these kinds of unforeseen situations should be taken into account too.

      I will probably be checking out Winterfest soon. I haven’t been playing many online games lately, been catching up with my Xbox games as well as tv shows…making up for lost time in November when I did NaNoWriMo 😛

      • It definitely was buggy and frustrating, but I won’t hate since it was their first (and they added the extra apology for people who crashed during the final day’s event). As long as they learn from the mistakes…

        I have a bunch of PS3 games to get through, but since I insist on hanging out in our Mancave, it means fighting over the TV. I let him win because he cooks for me so I have to wait till he’s away to use the TV for my shows and games 😉

        Nightxade on raptr if you’re on there.

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