As expected, I will follow the tradition and repost this once again.
Five years ago animuson, a Stack Exchange employee pointed out how they were bored by the fact that, for 8 years, Winter Bash had been the same thing with different triggers.
As an aside, I would love to hear suggestions from people that have nothing to do with hats. This was the 8th year we've done the same thing with different triggers and to be honest, I turned them off this year because I've gotten kind of bored with the idea. There's got to be something else fun and interesting we can do at the end of the year that isn't just repeating the same thing over and over
They then proposed a radical change: instead of unlockable hats users would earn coins that could be used to buy (random?) hats.
Essentially, have a list of triggers (both public and secret) that award one Stack Exchange Unicoin each. Then have a collection of stuff they can redeem those coins for. Certain items can also be made only available during certain dates, as a way of rotating out what you can redeem for throughout the entire event.
You can read animuson's full proposal here, while my two side proposals can be found here and here.
I doubt Stack Exchange really wants to implement the "gacha" part of these proposal: seed based "generated" hats (think of those gravatar style avatar generation services) isn't a realistic option, and even a "crane game" is probably too much.
Yet the "earn coins, buy hats" suggestion has a lot of merits.
Currently, the Bash event is starting to show its defects:
- the novelty goes away after the first (few?) days. Most of the secret hats are discovered almost immediately, and the "free4all" date-based hats become just a delusional attempt at keeping the feel of "discovery" ongoing during the entire event
- many users will look at the hat list on the first day, find a few low-hanging apples that they can get... and call it a day.
- every single year Stack manages to fail the "GiantRobot of Offense" test: at least one trigger can be influenced by your local Grinch that revels in making users lose their chance at some hats (example: people using downvotes to prevent users from getting Four Ayes)
- hats are starting to feel like "already seen, already played" content and as a result often the side events get more love than the main one (see the Hat Dash game, the knitting game or even the Save Sparkles hunt).
Whilst detaching the "triggers" from the "hats" won't solve all the problems, it will give the devs more freedom for creativity (maybe we could finally get something for playing the secret chat Asteroid game?). If paired with basic seed-based generation (reminder: balpha is a staff member, he made Unicornify) you could have "infinite" hats, meaning that no one could see all the hats, meaning that there would be an incentive for all users to hunt for hats during all the event, not just the few two days