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The devil is in the DLC, so is the beauty

by Zubayr Bhyat (plut)  Posted Thursday, July 10, 2014 10:22:00 AM

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DLC, or expansion content is one of the more controversial topics in the gaming industry. For many it's a complete waste of money, only to be bought when heavily discounted much later in a game's lifespan. For others, it's water of a duck's back - and their disposable income gets poured into it. Others like myself want complete games, with DLC and expansions only being available later to supplement strong design. It's just something I grew up with.

DLC isn't new. It isn't even much different to what we had years ago. The idea behind add-on content to games is one as old as titles like Doom. I still remember when the Plutonium Pak was released in 1996, shortly after 3d Realms saw massive success with Duke Nukem 3D. It featured 11 new levels, an entirely new episode and a tonne of bug fixes. At the time I paid R200 extra for it. In retrospect, that was a complete waste of money, since an entire episode and patch offered so little value compared to R300 paid for Duke Nukem 3D at the time. Many of my friends still bought the add-on regardless of the cost though.

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Fast forward to today and the same holds true. Where there is love for a franchise, there is money spent. The only real difference between then and now is how new content gets distributed and the frequency thereof. We now receive buffs (player boosts) and extra items via the Internet, usually in the form of one-time use vouchers that need to be used on Steam, Xbox Live or PlayStation Network. Very often, these vouchers come as rewards for pre-ordering or spending a little extra on a game. Why we all cannot get these bonus features is still a mystery to me.

1. Paid-for DLC is here to stay

Fans of Forza Motorsport will tell you about how they received every car ever modeller in FM3 Ultimate Collection. They'll also let you know how disgruntled they were when years on, Turn 10, still charged for most of FM4's add-on car content. The Porsche Expansion Pack still retails for R219. I accept that EA held the rights to any Porsche that could feature in a Forza game, but charging that much for a few vehicles is not value for money. Players who bought Forza Motorsport 4 on launch received unique DLC codes for bonus vehicles for being early adopters. Everyone else had to pay in for it. We're now at the fifth iteration of the series - and a season pass for Forza Motorsport 5 costs $50.

You'll be paying over R500 for some newly modeled cars that should have been included in the first place. That includes a limited selection of 60 vehicles over a couple of months. Turn 10 has since given players free downloads of extra cars and tracks to bring fans back, but the pay-wall still exists. I suspect that Forza Motorsport 6 will have the same. I have to point out that not all paid DLC is as money-driven as we

2. DLC will always be used to draw users to specific platforms

Call of Duty: Ghosts did it with the Xbox One by keeping DLC as a timed exclusive to that system. Destiny's going to have special content for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 users. Turtle Rock plans to give Xbox One Evolve players their goods first too. It's not just in DLC either that this happens too. Playdead Games will release Inside on Xbox One first, and then other platforms later. A value-added extra or exclusive will always be a carrot for hungry customers to follow.

3. DLC serves as fan service and extra income for publishers, developers.

Where you stand here depends on how much love you hold for a franchise. Bioware made more downloadable content for Mass Effect 3 than for any of the previous two games. If you purchased all the extras for the game you'd come up to a hefty $60 on top of the list price of the game. That's roughly R700 more on a game that cost R600 or so when it was originally released. Big fans of the series would pay for the added content, but let's be honest - would you? I wouldn't.

As much as Mass Effect has redefined my view of storytelling and narrative in gaming by giving depth to relationships and continuing the cycle of its predecessors, paying that much for a few more hours of game is not something I am willing to do. Then again, Bioware did give players Extended Cut for free: a series of endings in Mass Effect 3 that actually told players of more consequences their choices had that the first ending never did. Also, the Citadel DLC that came out as a conclusion to the trilogy really gave fans closure to all three installments of the series by bringing every character together in one setting, and letting them bring Shepard's story to a happy end.

4. There are times when it's done right

Another great piece of DLC include Outlast's "Whistleblower". You play a computer technician forced to witness the birth of the the Walrider, final enemy of the original game. You also saw first-hand why Mount Massive was doomed to the fate it was. The Last of Us added onto its story with Left Behind. Players experienced Ellie's journey to the jaded teenager she became in Naughty Dog's smash hit. What about Dishonored's "The Knife of Dunwall" and "The Brigmore Witches"? They extended the story well past Dishonored's player-driven ending by giving them the chance to play as the enigmatic assassin featured in the beginning of the original game.

What about Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 3's Game of the Year Editions? Every extra got thrown in with the full games at a cheaper price. It's interesting to note that in all of these cases, gameplay received fine-tuning. That, and we got to play as different characters. Shifted perspective and introspection is where it's at. Borderlands 2 fans also got some great pieces of DLC in the form of Tiny Tina's Assault on the Dragon Keep as well as Captain Scarlett and her Pirate’s Booty. How did they stand out? Well not only were more powerful weapons dropped by enemies but players got to see Tiny Tina's backstory, and enjoy a little dungeon crawling while they're at it.

Those are all fantastic examples of how DLC added onto a game's already rich content.

5. DLC isn't new, limiting content on release is

There is nothing new about working on extra components of a game post release. Epic games released a Game of The Year edition of Unreal Tournament a year after the UT99 came out. It featured the best maps, game modes and mutators post the 1999 original. If we look at what we get now, every game comes with a pre-order incentive favouring more money spent. Watch Dogs DEDSEC edition came with stat boosts, special weapons and player perks. To me, that robbed anyone who never bought the game before it came out. Whatever happened to giving everyone the same game? Will there ever be a fully-featured distribution of Watch Dogs a year or two after release earlier this year? I doubt it.

Closing thoughts

I think that the quality and cost of DLC largely depends on who publishes and develops a game. EA has yet to release a complete edition of Mass Effect 3 with all its DLC, so has Turn 10 with Forza Motorsport 4. This stands even when a sequel has been made already, or is in development. Instead we're given pre-order incentives with buffs and extra missions reserved for those who pay more. When DLC is done right, however - it makes the developer, its game and the publisher shine. I wish more companies would do what Bethesda and Naughty Dog does. I know I'd be grateful for the effort.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd



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