In this editorial our longtime member and moderator, Nybling, takes a look at the role of world events in an MMO, and speculates about how the concept of Daedric Summoning Days could be effectively used to provide players with lore-appropriate event content in The Elder Scrolls Online.
For MMORPG veterans, holiday events have become something of a tradition. It is practically expected that developers will add such events in order to add a bit of fluff and liveliness to their game during certain periods during the year. Examples of these events range from Life Day (celebrated in both Star Wars: Galaxies and Star Wars: The Old Republic) to Noblegarden (in World of Warcraft). Generally, holiday events add several daily quests that players can work on in order to earn unique rewards, typically special food items, or cosmetic/appearance items. These items are predominately valued for their rarity, rather than their raw power, but certain holiday events in RIFT or Dungeons and Dragons Online have rewarded players with the opportunity to earn powerful equipment as well.
Fans of the Elder Scrolls series that are new to the MMO genre might be curious about how these events work, or why they are held. As previously mentioned, special events in MMOs have existed since EverQuest, where game masters used their omnipotence to create unique scenarios for players. Due to the expansion of the MMO genre, it is no longer practical for GMs to conduct special events manually while still reaching a large number of players. Instead, developers either work to craft scheduled events that are based around certain holidays (Christmas, New Years, Easter, etc…) or they incorporate a special event into the launch of new content.
A notable example of an event introducing new content would be the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj world event in World of Warcraft. This event required a server-wide effort to gather hundreds of thousands of crafting materials in addition to raid-only questline that awarded a special mount and title for those who were able to complete it during the event. This event happened during vanilla WoW, and while the raid quest requirement could be criticized for excluding too many people, the idea of having factions gather massive amounts of resources for a “war effort” could be utilized quite well in The Elder Scrolls Online.Rift has also incorporated this mechanic by conducting regular world events with the release of new content. These events introduce a number of different tasks which reward special event currencies. These currencies can be used by players to purchase special cosmetic items, mounts, or even equipment rewards.
In The Elder Scrolls Online, I believe that Zenimax Online (ZOS) has an opportunity to take the MMO staple of world events and mold it into a gameplay feature that not only embraces the rich lore of the series, but takes us away from the standard fare that holiday events have become. Seeing “Santa” while playing ESO would certainly detract from the rich flavor that holiday events could add to a game.
The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall incorporated a mechanic known as Daedric Summoning Days, which restricted when the player could acquire specific Daedric quests to the specific day that you could summon the corresponding Daedra. These summoning days could provide an perfect premise for occasional world events in ESO. Given the persistent nature of MMOs, it would be necessary to expand the events to encompass more than one day to allow for maximum player participation. Event rewards are a tricky topic to discuss, but personally, I feel like these events could be utilized to kill two birds with one stone. For players demanding Daedric quests/artifacts, these quests could yield cosmetic artifact rewards (that would provide no bonus, but look cool), or Daedra companions like a non-combat pet version of Barbas.
January 01 / Morning Star 01 – A new year is a time to reflect on your hopes and goals for the next twelve months. Those who take advantage of Clavicus Vile’s Summoning Day could be rewarded with a subtle advantage, swaying their character’s fortunes for the year ahead. For balance reasons, the benefits would have to be minor; perhaps a small bonus to realm points gained in RvR, or a slightly increased likelihood of crafting success. In order to obtain these bonuses, players might do a small series of quests to forge a pact with Clavicus Vile. In previous Elder Scrolls games, players were asked to retrieve specific items for the Daedric Prince. I think that core mechanic could work well in ESO, with Clavicus Vile asking the player to hunt specific monsters in search of a rare item that they possess.
February 02 / Sun’s Dawn 02 – Sheogorath’s Summoning Day, fittingly enough, happens on Groundhog Day. Why is this fitting? I could type out a paragraph of text about this, or I could simply ask you to watch several minutes of Bill Murray. If anything can jive with the Daedric Prince of Madness, it’s that movie. As for actual in-game content that this day could provide, the possibilities are endless. I don’t mean that in the patronizing sense of the phrase, but think about it, anything can happen during Sheogorath’s day. Simply look at what Bethesda has done with the different quests that have involved this Daedric Prince. In Morrowind, we were asked to use a fork (the Fork of Horripilation) to slay a Giant Bull Netch, a monster with about 250 hit points using a weapon that did a miniscule amount of damage, and oh, by the way, the fork completely drains the wielders Magicka. In Oblivion, you are tasked to gather several odd items to kickstart a prophecy by setting off an “apocalypse” by attracting a swarm of rats and killing some sheep. Recently, in Skyrim we are sent into the mad mind of Pelagius III to fend off night terrors, restore confidence over anger and to deal with his paranoia. Clearly this event would present ZeniMax developers with the chance to let their imaginations run wild, albeit for a limited time.
March 05 / First Seed 05 – Certain historical leaders could have made use of Hermaeus Mora’s Summoning Day in order to divine what fate had in store only ten days later. Although not representative of any real-world holiday, this event could be effectively utilized to provide a lore-consistent event granting desirable temporary benefits. Given Hermaeus Mora’s reputation within the Elder Scrolls series, quests around his summoning day could yield a slight bonus to the speed that players learn skills. This would present players a chance to use weapons and armor types that they have been reluctant to level up before, encouraging experimentation with new builds and customizations.
June 05 / Mid Year 05 – Hircine’s Summoning Day provides a perfect excuse to unleash its namesake Daedra. Veterans of previous TES games know of the Huntsman, what better time to undertake a great hunt than at the start of Summer? When this event kicks off, Hircine could issue a number of quests which revolve around hunting rare monsters, killing them, and returning trophies for special rewards. These rare monsters could roam across both faction-controlled territories as well as throughout Cyrodiil, requiring players to venture into dangerous lands to acquire Hircine’s blessing. In addition to straightforward hunt and kill quests, ZOS could include rare boss monsters that require groups or even raids of players to defeat. The most dangerous of these foes would roam Cyrodiil daring players to brave RvR in order to claim their trophies.
September 08 / Heart Fire 08 – Nocturnal’s Summoning Day can be linked with the shifting of summer into autumn, in keeping with her being called the ‘Daughter of Twilight’ by some. Quests or tasks during this event could tie in with the Thieves Guild, encouraging small acts of thievery or lockpicking (after all, her skeleton key is pretty infamous). A fun event surrounding Nocturnal’s day would be to grant a token of Nocturnal’s favor to a small number of players within Cyrodiil. This item would confer a buff providing a minor bonus to damage done in RvR combat. Its effects could be stolen by any player who defeats its bearer, with this cycle repeating for the duration of the event. This would add an entertaining additional dynamic within RvR for the duration of the event.
October 08 / Frost Fall 08 –Malacath’s Summoning Day does not reflect a real-world event, but ZeniMax may as well embrace Malacath’s personality in designing an event. Given the prince’s penchant for vengeance, one possible mechanic for this event to introduce would be a buff that increases your damage dealt against the last person who killed you in RvR. Call it ‘Thirst for Revenge’, manage to kill your target and reap some bonus realm points for completing the vendetta.
December 20 / Evening Star 20 – Who needs a boring, standard Christmas event with presents, or other inane holiday traditions? ESO certainly doesn’t, as long as ZOS takes advantage of Molag Bal’s Summoning Day. In keeping with the overall plot of ESO, this event could be kicked off with Oblivion Gates open up all over Cyrodiil, giving players within the province more to deal with. The faction war can be included by having each Oblivion Gate be essentially a public quest, in which the faction with the most contribution can ‘capture’ that Oblivion Gate, sending players inside in order to engage in special event battles for unique rewards.
The seven Daedric Summoning Days that I have outlined above are merely symbolic of the potential directions Zenimax could take with holiday events. Missing, of course, are the other nine Daedric Princes: Meridia (Jan 13), Sanguine (Feb 16), Azura(Mar 21), Peryite (Apr 09), Namira (May 09), Vaermina (Jul 10), Mephala (Oct 13), Boethiah (Nov 02), and Mehrunes Dagon (Nov 20), as well as several other notable holidays documented within Elder Scrolls lore. I am eager to hear what ideas the community has about how these days can be utilized by Zenimax to provide entertainment for ESO players. Let me know what would be your perfect world event for Elder Scrolls Online.