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.
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.
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.
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.
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!