If you have ever played an MMO, you have probably experienced holiday events. Many times they correlate with real life holidays, but there are also original holidays based on the games own in-game story and lore. Not only does it bring the world alive, it also keeps your interest in the game longer. Good MMOs have events going on pretty much every month of the year. There is always something to look forward to. Even after you have obtained all the best items, killed all the bosses, and seen all the story, there is a reason to stick around and see what is going on in the game.
One day I thought why not have holiday events in single player games? It would be a lot of fun to have things to look forward to. Most single player game world feel really static. Everything happens in a certain order every time you play. You might get some choices in the quests or missions that make it interesting to replay, but once you finish the content it is mostly over. Even Skyrim stops being interesting once you complete all the quests. There are “radiant” quests that randomly give you tasks to do. There could also be holiday events.
Previously, single player games were played offline, but more and more single player games require you to be online these days for their DRM schemes. Developers may as well use our internet connections if they are available. Most people get automatic updates that patch up all of their games. Holiday events would just be small content updates to the game. Most holiday events would be included in the base game, but small free updates would include new ones as the year goes by.
Holidays would each have their own varying frequency. Most would be yearly; some would be monthly or weekly. No matter when you were playing the game, there would be some unique holiday to experience or look forward too. These events would require about the same work as a quest. NPCs would have to be scripted. Voice actors would need to say a few lines. New items as rewards would have to be created.
Compared to actual DLC, holidays would be much smaller in scope; small enough that one guy could do all the work in a weekend’s time. The voice actors could record the few lines needed in another weekend’s time. Finally, another couple days would be needed for QA testing. So in about a week, one of these holidays could be created without the need for huge staffing. In return, developers and publishers would keep people playing their game much longer. People would be much more likely to buy the DLC when holidays are ongoing.
An example I have for Skyrim would be an Honor Your Ancestors event one week a year. The thanes in each city would do a short speech in their hall to the citizens. Then citizens would visit their ancestors’ resting places. As a player, you could buy some flowers or other momentos and place them on the graves. It would be your choice where to place your flowers or momentos. On the roads to the city, you would occasionally see NPCs on a pilgrimages to their ancestors’ resting places to pay homage.
This quest would not really have any reward, but it would greatly flesh out the world. The player would have some role-play opportunity as well by having the choice of what items to place for their remembrances and where to place them. Maybe a great-grandfather passed away who fought in some war. Maybe you are Khajiit, but your real parents died when you were a baby. Your foster parents were Nord, so you place your items on your Nord parents’ graves. You could also defile the graves by placing bad items on them.
The only problem would be the voice acting. They would need voice actors on call to do the voices. However, a RPG with no or minimal voice acting would work great. It would just take one or two quest designers to create the necessary NPCs and scripting for the quests. Like my example, it would be best if most of the events happened at regular times of the year, but it could be changed based on the game. Some games would be better to have calendars that correlate with the real life calendar.
So they could set a week for Honor Your Ancestors. Every year on that week you would have a unique gameplay experience. I know in Skyrim players can skip through time, but these holidays would not really have rewards. There would be little incentive to skip through time just to see these holidays. Some players might if they are bored with the rest of the game and just want to see that last bit of content, but most players would just keep playing as normal and see the holidays as they happen.
I think this could greatly improve the worth of a lot of games. Role-playing games especially would be benefit from this, but it does not have to be a RPG. Racing games could have special races that only are available on certain days. They could connect it with real life; have an in-game NASCAR race on the same day the real race is. Pretty much every game could benefit from holidays or special events. Maybe someday developers will start doing this in their single player games.