Cynical Dynamism

No, really, I was not going to bring it up again. Through a series of coincidences though, I read this post by Bhagpuss (referring to GW2′s upcoming Sea of Sorrows event):

The press release is fascinating, showing, I think, just how extraordinarily difficult it is going to be to balance a genuinely “dynamic” virtual world with customer expectations of a commercial product. Taking ANet’s description of the event at face value, there’s an intrinsic and apparently insoluble problem and in just three-paragraphs they hammer home relentlessly precisely what it is :

we want to make sure that you are not missing out”

“an Event in Lion’s Arch that you don’t want to miss”

“make sure you will not miss it”

“this will only run once, so make sure you will be there!

Whether the event will live up to the hype, whether it will be truly world-changing, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is the insistence that this is something all Guild Wars 2 players must not miss. That raises expectations that simply cannot be met in full. A lot of people aren’t going to be there, no matter how much they’d like to be. The balancing act between building excitement and fostering resentment is a high wire to walk, that’s for sure, and the fall is steep on either side.

Then I received an email notification about this comment from João Carlos:

I am sure Azuriel will go crazy bitching mode when she knows about the one time events at 16-18th…

But I am sure GW2 at XFire will go up that weekend.

As an aside, if I were not actually a dude, I think I might have been offended by the “crazy bitching mode” characterization.

Anyway, mere minutes later, I browse down to NoizyGamer’s latest Digital Dozen post:

Event Aftermath – Another trend is that following in-game events interest in a game tends to decline.  Two games that held in-game events on 28 October saw the Xfire community spend over 20% less time playing those games on Sunday.  Vindictus fell out of The Digital Dozen after a nine-week run with a 22.1% decline following the celebration of the Nexon game’s second anniversary 27-28 October.  The second game, Guild Wars 2, experienced a 21.2% decline with the end of its Halloween event.

So, I would respond to Senor Carlos by saying: I would hope GW2′s XFire numbers go up the weekend of the 16th. Because, ultimately, I think that is sort of the entire point of having these Dynamic Events By Appointment, vis-a-vis to drive engagement and capitalize on gaming news-cycles.

Even if they really are being earnest when they say it is all about making the world feel alive, it begs the question of “what is the world missing, that it needs one-time events to feel alive?”

In any case, this is not an ArenaNet-only thing – every seasonal event in MMOs basically amounts to the same deal – and I am not even saying developers spicing things up is necessarily bad. These sort of events simply hold zero interest to me, even if they were not starting at 3pm EST (are they timing it for the schoolchildren?). I never considered showing up for a raid at 9pm on a Tuesday evening particularly dynamic, and I have to wonder how many scheduled one-time events someone can consume before the suspension on their disbelief finally gives out.

If you made it past 1, you are doing better than me.

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Posted on November 7, 2012, in Guild Wars 2 and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. As for the last bit, timezones I suppose – on the German forums there is some anger because the event starts so late on Sunday (9pm), and since its supposed to run some hours, people worry to miss things.
    If you would push the event to a later time, many in Europe could not join in on day one at all.

    Personally I’m looking forward to this and actually like the idea of one-time events, even if I were to miss them. I just find they overhype it a bit so disappointment is almost certain.

  2. Senhor Francisco

    It’s “Senhor Carlos”, not “Senor Carlos”. I assume you actually meant to write “Señor Carlos”, which is the correct Spanish spelling, but can’t type in the “ñ”. João Carlos is a Portuguese name, not a Spanish one. That would be Juan Carlos. Some Portuguese speaking people find that sort of confusion offensive ;)

  3. Im all for these one-time events. I missed the Halloween cut-scene by a few mins, but I’m not missing this one. As long as the rewards for these events aren’t super rare, then I see no problem and IMO it does make the world feel more real. I wouldn’t even mind if they did away with the schedule and just said, somethings going to happen in this zone over this weekend and leave it at that.

    • I would be much more onboard if they stopped with the whole “3pm on Friday is Dynamic Hour” notifications. Of course, I imagine that would frustrate even more people in the aggregate.

      I associate the word dynamic more with “organic” than I do with “change” or similar derivatives. At my job, when someone leaves the department through promotive/retirement/etc, there is always a “suprise party” on their last day. Key word: always. Why call it a surprise party, as opposed to just “party?”

  4. NEWSFLASH: Interest in a game increases when a special event is held, and wanes after it ends.

    I’m not surprised most of this article is comprised of quotes – how many more paragraphs can one milk from simply stating that the rain is wet?

    Of course, a lesser biased way of stating it would be:

    “Contrary to the trend it was following, the number of hours played for GW2 at XFire was significantly higher during the evil, eeeeeevil Halloween one-time events.”

    • So… are you argeeing that these one-time events are a cynical play for waning player engagement, or do you believe the developers are honestly trying to create a dynamic world for players the best way they know how? Or are you just posting a completely useless comment?

      That last one is a rhetorical question.

      • False dilemma. Neither. It’s just simply content. Much like the recent introduction of feats to Glitch, which are essentially build-ups to new releases, this event is just a build-up to the release of a new zone and other content. Why not do that with an event chain?

      • Before calling a comment useless, see above re: “the rain is wet”. As a matter of fact, my comment was factually useful in pointing out that the increase in the “hours played” numbers the previous week actually offsets some of the subsequent decline.

        Besides, that’s a false dichotomy. One-time events can serve both purposes perfectly well.

        That was my experience throughout the Halloween – more online presence from the members of my guild and new activities to perform together – where the time limit on some of them was a strong motivator, instead of a detractor as you try to paint them.

        Repetition and staleness has long been the bane of many a mmoplayer’s interest in their once favorite game – a world that doesn’t feel so static may be an interesting change of pace. I’m willing to see how it works out.

      • Re: False dilemma. You both are correct, my apologies. Allow me to insert a third “or what” option in there.

        @Saucelah. Hmm. After thinking about it some more, I do not have much of a response to the “why not?” argument beyond “I’d rather it be player-driven instead of developer-driven.” Which is just another way of saying “I don’t like it.” Point for you, sir.

        @Macnol. Thank you for the more substancive comment.

  5. Exactly as I foresee: crazy bitching mode…

    • I am trying to imagine what you would consider a rational complaint or opinionated critique… and am coming up empty. Would you mind fostering some intercultural understanding and helping me out here?

      • Well, my english is not very good, but you perceived how many “contrarian” comments you received at the 3 posts you made saying “one-time” events are bad. You received only one favorable post from one “puxa-saco” (yes, I am being inter-cultural here…).

        The reational thing is obvious: if you want a dynamic world you have to accept that feature will be not disponible to all players. If the world changes, things disapear, new things appear, the reswources will not be disponible for EVERYONE all the time.

        You are just saying will not accept a dynamic world, but at same time there are a lot of your posts saying you want a dynamic world. That is crazy talk. There is no free lunch, something will need to go for pay for the “dynamic” part.

        And the problem is that the MMO players are ready for a dynamic world. Everyone is full bored from the same static worlds where nothing really changes.

        [with relation to the senor or senhor thing, I really don't care... everyone knows that US citizens are arrogant and ignorant ... :P ]

      • @Carlos:

        I’m confused (and assume you’re referring to me, because I have often demonstrated how slavishly I follow Azuriel’s opinion and use it to guide my daily and, of course, gaming life. I’ll be starting a fan blog soon where I re-post Azuriel’s posts and press releases in the hope of the great ma-, sorry, bitch, one day hiring me as its forum moderator and or community manager and then eventually joining its development team).

        If the blogger in question is a female dog, how exactly do you intend for people to partake in the eponymous insult?

        Moreover, dynamism doesn’t mean content needs to go. It can be changed, certainly, but removal is not a necessary condition for dynamism.

      • @João

        This is undoubtedly a personal issue, but I simply cannot get over the fact that anything a developer does to the world is planned. It is not dynamic (to me) if it is planned. Something like procedurally-generated content gets around this limitation, because all the developers are really doing is setting the rules (or physics, as it were) and then the world basically runs itself. Players are always dynamic content, so developers giving them toys (or zones, etc) to play with also counts as dynamic in my book.

        I love storylines, and expanding lore, and even changes to the world that force you to think about things in a different light. But I do not see them as dynamic, and I certainly do not want to be forced to log in at 3pm on a Sunday to see it or miss it entirely. It is especially asinine when the excuse as to why it A) cannot be repeated in-game via loop/phase/NPC video, and B) must be a simultaneous world-wide release, is so lame. I will happily go to a friend’s house at 3pm on Sunday, or even show up at a certain hour to raid, but that is because there is a social exchange taking place, between peers.

        Besides, if Youtube and Livestream spoilers are so totally going to ruin the event if it happened per timezone, maybe you need to reexamine the source of the event’s fun. People knowing there will be a giant tidal wave caused by a Risen Whale-Dragon emerging from the deeps on the 18th shouldn’t ruin anything… unless the fun was supposed to be the academic plot reveal instead of all the cool surfing you had to do to survive.

      • @Azuriel

        so, you are implying only sandbox MMO can have dynamic worlds? Be warned that that sandboxes only work with the tools the devs give to players, and that is a limitation. And that players have a serious scarcity of creativity….

      • Players can bring a static world to life too. Blizzard never did anything to get those Tarren Mill vs Southshore fights going, for example.

        Also, keep in mind that I have nothing at all against static worlds. “Static” has a negative connotation when compared to “dynamic,” but I actually do prefer a stable experience most of the time, e.g. single-player games, themepark MMOs, novels, films, etc. Planned content is fine… just don’t pretend it’s dynamic, and absolutely stop telling me I need to be somewhere right this minute or I’ll never see it again.

  6. What I am interested in is whether these events give a decent return on investment.

    What was the incremental increase in sales (boxes and item shop) from having a 1 time animation? How much did it cost to put together?

    If the ROI is negative, what are GW2 players going to think when these ‘unique events’ suddenly stop one day?

  7. I have yet to comment here, but since the comment was made that most of the comments of this thread where in negative response to the original opinion, I thought I’d add mine.

    GW2′s one time event concept is bad.

    As it’s been mentioned often in this thread, I’m still irked whenever I hear the word “dynamic” attached to anything in gw2. They get some minor props for effort, but it’s clear that most of the people using this term have no clear idea of it’s meaning in a literary sense. From the first set of dialogue on my first character it was clear my own toon was the poster child of a static character. Not to mention the scooby doo-ish npc’s I met along the way. There’s a fine line between charm and outright silliness.

    For those that have found the game and it’s events a good time, I wish I could say the same. Glad you’re enjoying it. But I don’t think critiquing a “planned” spontaneous event, or taking issue with said event not coinciding with your schedule so… you’re out of luck to be overreaching.

  8. Bit late to the party here but here goes…

    I really can see both points of view, which was kind of the thrust of my post that was quoted. I am all in favor of one-time events in MMOs that you have to be there to experience. They are nothing new or innovative. We used to have them all the time in Everquest back in 2000. We called them GM events.

    Those were the days when we had actual, active GMs who would run non-scripted, ad hoc events on a whim. Granted the events usually consisted of very powerful creatures killing all and sundry until enough people yelled in enough guild channels that something was happening and half the server arrived to zerg the big monster and/or crash the zone, but there is no argument but that those events were genuinely dynamic. They were unscheduled, unannounced and knowledge of them spread purely by word of mouth.

    Then there were many, many less violent RP events run by the volunteer guides, usually along the lines of scavenger hunts of some kind. Equally unannounced, spontaneous and only there for as long as it took for a winner to find all the stuff.

    Those events cost nothing. No dev time, no PR, no QA testing. GMs ran them while they were working or Guides in their own time. Azuriel’s concerns over wasted resources would have been entirely inappropriate.

    On the other hand, those events left nothing more behind than memories. And some loot. And an xp debt. I once did a GM event in Steamfont where a guildmate lost nearly two levels and had to be talked down from deleting his character.

    Those events were loved and loathed in equal part but they really were “dynamic”. Scheduled events that you “must not miss” aren’t. On the other hand, scheduled events *are* entertainment. I am very keen to be at all three of the Lost Shores Noon PST events not because they are “dynamic” but because there’s a fair chance they’ll be entertaining. And in order for that chance to reach “fair” they probably do need more preparation than a bored GM putting on a dragon suit.

    As for wasted resources, the “one-time” part will, I’m sure, only be a small fraction of the work that has gone into the total content, most of which will stay in the game indefinitely. I do see the problems with this approach, and inevitably a lot of people will be pissed off for one reason or another, but on balance I’d rather have this stuff than not. I think. I reserve the right to change my mind after I’ve seen what happens next weekend.

    It just better not be a 30 second cut-scene, that’s all I’m saying.

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