- New Content. It’s something new to do that wasn’t there yesterday.
- Lore and Immersion. A fantasy culture feels more believable if it has its own customs and festivals. So it’s important that we know the history of the festival and of any local customs that we’re invited to honour. And also that the holiday fits with the feel of the game.
- Mirroring real world festivals. Sounds like the opposite of the previous reason but this is why so many games have special festivals around Christmas. Players are celebrating in real life, and it gives us a kick to be able to celebrate in game too. This can fall flat in a multi-cultural environment — a game that celebrated American Independence Day would leave the non-Americans feeling that the game simply wasn’t aimed at them.
- More activity in game. Smart designers have learned that an in game festival can help point players at content in game (such as instances, PvP, etc) which means more people around for everyone to group with.
- They are time limited. SALE ! SALE ! ONE DAY ONLY ! We love time limited events that only happen for a few days every year. It adds to the air of exclusiveness and excitement if you know there’s only a brief period in which you can get your new shiny title/mount/whatever.
Warcraft is a gonzo game so their events veer more towards mirroring RL than establishing a coherent in game culture (and I’m putting that kindly — Hello Olympic Event? WTF??!!). But in a game like LOTRO, the events really do enhance the organic feeling of the game world.
I never could figure out events in City of Heroes, they all seem very grindy. But since it’s a game that is set in a modern day city, it’s very easy for them to mirror real world holidays and they don’t really need to establish a fantasy culture.
Warhammer, by comparison, is more of a gamist design than an immersive world but they do draw on the rich Warhammer lore to set the scene for their holidays. I liked the Warhammer holidays that I’ve seen. They get people interested and out there, encourage more PvP, and have some cool lore attached. You can’t really ask more.
Note: I’ve not played EQ2 or Guild Wars, I know they have holidays also but not much about them. I’d be interested to know more about how those fit in and how fun they are?
Same as we did last year
But holiday events are repetitive, which is true in real life too, it’s the whole point. Of course they’re the same every year, that’s what local customs are all about.
If you’ve been playing a MMO for more than a year, this means you’ll see the same events come round again. This isn’t a bad thing per se, it just means that the amount of play you get from a holiday may be on diminishing returns.
I wouldn’t say I get bored of holidays, I look forwards to my favourite ones and I try to log onto games when they are on. So in that sense, they’re a huge success for me. And opening presents never gets old.
But I’d love to see more support for player-run holidays. In DaoC, we used to have annual fairs and the GMs would help decorate the fairground on our server. Just our server, because we had the in game organisation that ran the fairs and asked them for help. And our server felt as if it had its own culture. Not one that was just created by developers and slapped on top of it. (Well, we had that too.)
In the drive to more user created content, this is the sort of event I’d like more support for. Holidays run by the people, for the people! And each server it’s own organic society.