The Survivalist Soapbox: Astroneer’s moon landing update is a time-limited online event done right

    
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I could definitely write a Why I Play on Astroneer (and maybe I still will!) because there are so many reasons this game just captivates me and brings me back. But right now I want to extol the virtues of the special summer event happening through August 31st. In honor of the Apollo 11 moon landing’s 50th anniversary, Astroneer added a replica of the the shuttle on the moon for players to discover. And it has reinvigorated my play in a tremendous way.

Some other players, however, are pretty opposed to limited-time anything. A few have come out and declared they won’t ever touch the game again because of the introduction of a limited-time item — the summer skins. I can only imagine the unhappiness a whole event caused for those folks. If that’s the hill they want their gameplay to die on, so be it; it’s their prerogative. I see it differently. Not only am I a big fan of this particular event, but I really hope System Era does even more like this! Other games could learn a thing or two from here as well.

Of course, I agree that not all limited-time things are created equal; I expounded on some bad ones last week. That does not diminish Astroneer’s event, however. The lunar landing is limited-time done right. It was implemented well, avoiding many of the pitfalls that could have plagued it. And it certainly has succeeded in enticing more play hours out of me. Subsequent events would enhance the game just as this one has! I even have some ideas on future possibilities.

A fun new goal

One of the key elements to the success of this event is that it has added a fun new goal to pursue. I have the chance to explore the surface of the moon to find the recreation of the Apollo 11 landing. How cool is that? Once it’s found, I’ll get a special skin palette and visor. I am always up for some additional customization options, especially free ones. Additionally, I’ll even get a special picture of myself and my friends finding it because LEM lander’s TV Camera is still operational and will be snapping photos of the discoverers. I’ll also get to sit back and listen to recordings of the original mission. Yeah, this is a goal worth reaching for.

Just having a new purpose is exciting and spurs me on! In my dedication to finding this craft, I have sidelined other gameplay that I know will still be there later. Those alien nodes will still be there, and those resources will all still be there, so I can take my own sweet time seeking them out later. But if I want the thrill of finding the Apollo 11? I need to devise plans and test those plans now. Having a bit of a time frame adds an element of excitement.

Not-so-limited time

Yes, I just said limited-time adds excitement! Because it does. The rub lies in the length of the time: Limited-time events that aren’t that limited aren’t a problem. They can add just a hint of thrill that entices you to play. Look at the lunar landing: For over six weeks from July 18th through August 31st, 2019, players have the chance to discover the landing craft. The moon is small, making the search not insurmountable, and it is fairly easy to get to. And with such a stretch of time, even folks who have other obligations that prevent them from logging in for days or a few weeks still have the opportunity to succeed. A casual player who can’t devote inordinate amount of time to any game (or in my case, any one game because I’m spread out over so many) can still participate. I know this because I am doing it! And I have been in for only a few hours on three days.

What is wonderful is that there is a sense of anticipation to find the craft, but not a sense of forced urgency that I will miss it. Maybe that will change if I am still searching come August 25th (my RNG is legendarily bad). However, after each unsuccessful attempt, I have refined my plans, and I am sure I will find it soon. And it’s the making and refining of these plans in a new way for a new goal that I am especially enjoying.

Recurrency

An event is, by definition, something that will come to an end. And events are wonderful things to inject new and fresh content into a game. But why should an event be one-time only? Despite what I had originally thought about evolving worlds, I am not really a fan of one-time events. There’s just too much of a chance of “forever missing out” that causes anxiety and frustration or eventually leads to apathy. Instead, limited-time events (and I am also including cosmetics like the summer ones being given away now from the June update) should be recurring!

What that time-frame for recurrence is depends on the event itself, taking into account what the event is and how long it runs. Take, for example, the two-day Moonlight Enchantments of EverQuest II. Talk about being easy to miss! But those occur on a monthly basis; if you miss January through June, you can still get the same thing July through December. I’ve missed annual festivals, and I am not stressed because I know I can attend next year. For Astroneer, this Apollo 11 event can recur around the landing anniversary every year, not just this year’s 50th.

Another way to combat the negativity of the limited-time is to take the limited part off somehow: Make some aspect a part of the game going forward. In the case of Astroneer, even after the event ends, the shuttle will remain in game (though the free skins will not). Folks can still find it long after the event is gone.

Let’s further this thought: When an event is recurring, bring back the previous items. Even if you add something in a subsequent iteration of the event, make sure the previously provided things (here, the skins) are available as well. Folks who finished then had all that time between events to enjoy having said things, and those who missed out for whatever reason will have the chance again to do the same.

More, please!

So using these guidelines for good limited-time events, what else could Astroneer implement? How about a special (holiday-themed?) planet that comes into close enough orbit to visit once a year – say, around winter solstice? What about a black hole that opens up every six months to a new area to explore? What about some kind of Area 51 tie-in?

Those are a few of my ideas. Do you have any thoughts on some good limited-time event Astroneer could run? What would you like to see? Let us know!

In the survival genre, there are at least 1001 ways to die, and MJ Guthrie is bound to experience them all — in the interests of sharing them with you! The Survivalist chronicles life and death struggles against all forms of apocalypse, outbreak, mutation, weather, and prehistoric wildlife. And let’s not forget the two-legged enemies! Tune in here and on OPTV to see who feeds better: MJ or the Death Counter.
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Tanek

I do like that they have this running for more than a month and I hope they bring it back each year so new purchasers have a shot at getting the rewards, too. When events are run for only a week or so they are easy to miss if you have anything else going on.

Events like a large asteroid coming into range once in a while could be neat, but I’d also like to see them continue things like this Apollo lander. Get one of the Mars rovers out there on a planet. Calidor, maybe?

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Schmidt.Capela

Yes, I just said limited-time adds excitement! Because it does.

For you.

For me, on the other hand, limited time events range from annoying to frustrating with no redeeming qualities. I chose games as my main entertainment escape exactly because, contrary to the real world, they allow me to replay any positive experience I had at whichever time I want; limited time events, even recurring ones, remove that, and thus make whichever game uses those blasted things far less enticing for me.

And yeah, whether or not I will purchase Astroneer in the future will hang on whether I will able to use mods or cheats to trigger that event at will and obtain its rewards. If I can’t, I’ll either permanently skip the game or else get a pirated version (as those, in single-player games, tend to include all limited-time content that can’t be obtained anymore; publishers using limited-time offers or rewards to push for more sales is one of the few things that can make me pirate a game nowadays).

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Tanek

So, to make sure I understand the line being drawn here, stealing a game is ok if you want something right now and it won’t give it to you?

I’d still disagree with you, but could respect the stance if you said you would just not get a game that had limited-time events. This, though? Lost me.

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Schmidt.Capela

If I can get everything with the legitimate version then I don’t pirate the game. But if the pirate version has content that is impossible to get anymore with the legitimate version, not even through cheats or mods, then I have no qualms about pirating.

Basically, I hate exclusivity, and missing content in single-player games, enough that it can override my usual dislike of pirating games. Though by far the most usual result is that I simply avoid the game, never purchasing nor playing it.

And yeah, I purchase lots of games. Almost getting to 1.3K on Steam alone. Which, mind, is a big part of the reason I’m far more likely to avoid games where I can’t obtain some old, exclusive piece of content than to pirate them; I have enough games in my backlog that playing a game I’m not willing to pay for isn’t worth the hassle of downloading and installing a pirate copy.

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Tanek

My point being, hating the exclusivity or limited-time event is perfectly valid. and stating that as a reason for NOT playing the game is something that I can understand.

Using it as an excuse to steal the game, however, is just that. An excuse. And if you say it isn’t worth the trouble to pirate, why even bring that up in the first place? As I said, you’d have a stronger position with this if you did not advocate theft as an appropriate response.

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Schmidt.Capela

why even bring that up in the first place?

We likely see copyright (and perhaps patents) in a completely different light. For me, copyright and patents shouldn’t be regarded as rights, but instead as incentives to foster the creation of further similar works (and should only last for as long as they are providing that incentive). Due to that I tend to not see piracy as inherently bad, as well as to only see paying for a copyrighted work as worth it if I want the company to continue the behavior they currently have regarding that copyrighted work.

Thus why I’m perfectly willing to pirate something if the company is behaving in a way I find obnoxious when it comes to that copyrighted work. If I don’t want the company to keep behaving the way they are, then I don’t want to pay anything for their copyrighted works. Thanks to Steam and GOG, though, nowadays this mostly results in just avoiding whichever game I don’t want to pay for and instead purchasing games from companies I condone the practices of.

BTW, piracy isn’t technically theft, as it doesn’t prevent the owner from using what they own. Thus I tend to see any attempt to conflate the two as mere posturing, not worth paying attention at all. Ironically, the whole using the word “piracy” to indicate copyright violation in the first place seems to be the result of a 17th century campaign by book publishers to cause unauthorized copying books be seen by the general population as a threat to civilized society, but in recent times that re-branding has backfired spectacularly.

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Schmidt.Capela

“interference with copyright does not easily equate with theft, conversion, or fraud. The Copyright Act even employs a separate term of art to define one who misappropriates a copyright: ‘[…] an infringer of the copyright.'”

US Supreme Court, Dowling v. United States (1985)

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Tanek

Please stop. You know exactly what we are talking about. And this is not a law class.

Pirating software is taking something that has value without paying for it. Maybe the definition under the law needs to catch up with reality, but it is stealing all the same.

Stealing to survive when there are no other options, maybe you have a moral leg to stand on. Stealing a game because you want it and don’t want to pay for it is just greed, no matter the excuse you think you have loopholed your way through.

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Schmidt.Capela

More like because I want a specific version of the game and the publisher refuses to sell it to me. Otherwise, if the publisher is willing to sell me the version I want to play, I gladly purchase it.

As I said before, I have almost 1.3K games on Steam alone. I purchase a lot of games and don’t have any issue paying for them when I feel like they deserve my money, and I spend far more on games than the average player to boot; my game collection is easily worth over twice the price of my car. But I don’t feel like paying for any game that the publisher or the dev decides to only sell in an incomplete state just so the rest of it can feel exclusive.

BTW,

Pirating software is taking something that has value without paying for it.

Nope, it’s not taking. It’s making a copy. The original is still there, undiminished, for the owner to use. By their very nature, non-rivalrous goods (i.e., goods whose supply isn’t diminished by consumption) can’t be stolen in the legal sense. Equating copyright infringement with theft is just a malicious attempt by big copyright holders to make copyright infringement seem like something far worse than it is.

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Tanek

No one thinks they are the villain in their own story.