Caster's Realm: The Importance of Dynamic Events

Our world lives. Our wold breathes. We see it grow. We see it change. We watch the world move on.

Last week the elves lost the outpost of Firiona Vie to the forces of Lanys T'Vyl. Armies of elves, erudites, and the adventurers of Norrath battled against the hoards of evil in the form of dark elves and the demons of Hate. The outpost fell under the crushing fists of Lanys's ethereal titan, a golem of great mass and ancient age. A day later, the face of Norrath had changed.

Dynamic events set massive online games apart from most static roleplaying games. Moreso than any other feature, these events show players that the world they roam in isn't simply a static game with a single direction, but a living breathing world; a world where anything can happen.

Bloody Kithicor was the first time such an event changed the world I roamed in. The once-safe forest of Kithicor at night became a torn land of powerful undead armies. No longer would travelers use the roads at night, choosing to run the outskirts of the mountains instead or wait until the safety of sunlight sent the dead back into their dark pits.

The fall of Grobb again changed Norrath. Grobb, the home of the trolls, became Gukta, the home of the Guktan froglok. Many a troll adventurer still holds a bitter heart for the loss of their home.

Dynamic events offer nearly unlimited benefits and advantages to an otherwise static game. Moreso than most large-scale battles, dynamic events have the opportunity to have Lord of the Rings style wars with hundreds of NPCs against hundreds of players. The Dreadlands feels like a warzone. Armies smash against each other, swordsman cut into hoards of evildoers, for an evening, a zone we all know well becomes a whole new place.

Dynamic events help tie the story together. Following the writer's motto of "show, don't tell", dynamic events let us build our own stories and our own tales of past battles. We all saw or heard something different the night the armies of T'Vyl took the Outpost of Firiona Vie. The more opportunities we have to create our own detailed stories surrounding the large shifts in Norrath's struggle, the better.

Dynamic events help tie expansions to the old world. The fall of Grobb helped tie Ykesha to our own world. The recent Dreadlands war helps tie next week's new expansion to our existing storyline. The building of Queen of Thorns in Nedaria's Landing showed us the progress of the building of Mordin Rasp's dark boat over a period of a couple of months. These dynamic events help bridge our world into the newer lands we see twice a year.

Dynamic events are often spoiler free. Few knew how the Dreadlands war was going to go. No one knew how to defeat Lanys's dracolich. There wasn't time to post a spoiler on a website and by the time one was online, the dracoliche was already dead. The more our world changes, the less likely we are to rely on out-of-game information to guide us. From an element of surprise and challenge, this is a good improvement.

There are a few things SOE can do to improve dynamic events. Existing guides could be given scripts to follow, events to run on each server that help fill in spots of a much larger storyline. Vampires attacking Felwithe foreshadow the changes in Mistmoore. A new Gnoll general asks for help in reclaiming paw from the elemental horrors inside. The same resources used for events such as riddle sessions and Greater Faydark rescue missions can instead be used for plot-driving events of the same caliber and scope.

Beyond that, the only advice we can give is "more events". Events like the recent fall of Firiona Vie show how powerful these events can be and how well players respond to them. Events like this help keep Norrath constantly moving and shifting. It brings older players back to see new changes and shows new players a dynamic and evolving game.

A strategy and schedule for regular zone revamps also help keep Everquest shifting and evolving. While such a suggestion falls into the category of "more better work faster please", a system to efficiently revamp zones keeps the world continually fresh. These revamps, tied to the dynamic events that open them, build Norrath even further into a living breathing world. They can help tie the story together and give new and older places more exciting and updated content to explore.

Dynamic events show us how Norrath builds and grows. Every time we log in, we may have a new land to explore. Dynamic events are one of the most important traits of a massive online game. Dynamic events breathe life into an often static world.

Loral Ciriclight
21 February 2005