Fortnite just hit the news again because of an in-game event where players could all login and watch a rocket crack open the sky.
Obviously Fortnite is a global phenomenon and it’s showing everyone how much live events can add to an online experience, but it’s not the first game to do such a thing. Plenty of games have used in-game events to pull new players in, to increase publicity, and to keep existing players engaged.
Here are some of the best:
Elite Dangerous Thargoids
The aliens in Elite Dangerous were a masterclass in in-game storytelling. Teased over the space of months via in-game ARGs, players had to find and decode alien signals, unlock the secrets of alien devices, and uncover long lost bases on distant, uncharted planets.
Eventually, this all led to first contact – a terrifying scripted sequence one player uncovered, in which an alien ship pulled them out of a hyperspace jump. The sound design, the visual spectacle, and the eerie atmosphere of the captured clip made the encounter go viral and led to more ship captains searching out the Thargoids themselves.
The whole thing gave the aliens an unknowable, actually alien quality, and this initial reveal paved the way for new weapons, ships, and more – tech capable of fighting back against these seemingly organic, indestructible vessels.
The Matrix Online
When you think about it, the Matrix is a perfect universe for an online game. The Matrix is a simulation, after all. The Matrix Online was ultimately a deeply troubled and largely rubbish MMO with some intriguing ideas – chief among them its handling of live, in-game events.
In its earliest, most ambitious format, Matrix Online featured a full-blown story continuation from the movies given the stamp of approval by the directors. This meant that famous characters would appear – but not as simple AI NPCs or quest-givers. Developers would log on as characters such as Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus, with in-game factions taking sides either with or against the movie hero.
Crucially, these weren’t just NPCs running across the world on a script – they were real players, reacting to and sometimes fully interacting with the players around them.
Developers led The Matrix Online into becoming basically one big role-playing server where developer-controlled Agents were to be as feared as their near-invincible in-movie counterparts. It’s no surprise that this single feature made many fans of this otherwise fairly unremarkable MMO – and it is rightly the thing the game is now most fondly remembered for.
Contributed by Alex Donaldson.
Doomfist has existed in the Overwatch lore since the game was announced, so players were dying to get their hands on the punch-happy villain. Initially, he was teased via in-game posters, alluded to in multimedia content, and you could even see his gauntlet in one of the maps, housed safely in the Overwatch Museum.
In February 2017, Doomfist’s gauntlet disappeared from the Numbani map, along with the release of Orisa, a new robotic hero. Around the gauntlet were a handful of trashed security robots, one of them punched so hard they stuck into a crater in a nearby wall. This was a tease for what the next hero, Doomfist himself, would be capable of when he finally released.
MGS V’s nuclear disarmament
Hideo Kojima and the team at Konami created a cutscene for Metal Gear Solid V that nobody would have ever seen if it wasn’t for dataminers. The cutscene was meant to trigger when every person in the world got rid of their nuclear missiles in the game’s multiplayer portion.
As you know, people are assholes – there’s no way everyone would give up their nukes at the same time. There will always be some clown who thinks they’re at an advantage if they’re the only one with nukes, just like in real life.
Still, we eventually got to see the cutscene thanks to dataminers, but imagine how special it would have been if it had been unlocked the proper way.
World of Warcraft
WoW does something epic for every expansion Blizzard releases. One example is Argus, another world players could visit to meet new characters, go on quests, and eventually take on a difficult raid.
After the Antorus raid, players were treated to a lavish cinematic, but once they returned to their world, Argus, the planet that had been visible since the beginning of the expansion, had vanished from the sky.
Just like Fortnite, all Blizzard had to do was update the skybox to make it feel like there is a world that exists beyond the bounds of the players’ current location.
GTA Online’s snowy Los Santos
We could have easily highlighted the way aliens were uncovered in GTA Online via in-game easter eggs and cryptic clues, but we’re all alien-ed out after writing about Elite. Instead, we thought we’d be a bit more festive and celebrate a tradition that brings pacifism to the bloody streets of Los Santos.
Around Christmas, Rockstar blankets the entire Los Santos map with snow. Not only does this new surface change how the cars handle, it also allows players to twat each other with snowballs instead of bullets.
It makes a nice change of pace. There’s always stuff like this being added into the game to tie in with real-world events, such as the Independence Day firework launcher, a modded panzerfaust that allows players to shoot fireworks into the sky to celebrate in-game.
Can you think of any more in-game events like this? Let us know in the comments.