Author Topic: GTD: DLC  (Read 5311 times)

SpacePirateCaine

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GTD: DLC
« on: 13 Jun 2011, 11:28 »
Game Theory Discussion: Downloadable Content

First, a disclaimer. This appears to be a bit of a sore spot for many consumers and I do not wish to start a flame war. I swear I am not trolling - This is a huge point of discussion and one that is extremely important in my line of work. I was recently reminded about the hatred of DLC by the outcry regarding EA's Battlefield 3 and I would like to open a discussion within a section of the gaming community that I trust to give me informed and intelligent responses about important issues that face the gaming community as a whole. I recognize that this is not entirely relevant to this community, but I believe that as game creators, it is something worth thinking about.

A little background: 2 Years ago, I re-entered the world of professional game creation as an assistant producer in a publishing studio (The evil overlords of commercial gaming). I have recently also been promoted to a proper producer's position and am therefore very deeply involved with the DLC planning/implementation process. I have had the very educational experience of releasing a number of very distinct projects that have run the gamut of varying levels of successful and unsuccessful since I began. My company is also one of the first studios in Japan to really have embraced Downloadable Content (DLC), and we had the honor of being recognized by Sony Computer Entertainment at the end of 2010 for our contribution to downloadable gaming.

We released one game in late 2009 called ウィザードリィ 囚われし魂の迷宮 (Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls) - a PS3 title that is a reboot of the classic 1980s Sir-Tech "Wizardry" property, whose license we obtained the rights for a ways back. It was released as a Download-only title on PlayStation Network and for all intents and purposes, even with a relatively small install base (compared to huge game companies), it was still something that I consider successful. One of the reasons for the project's success was with its large amount of available DLC. We managed to achieve a DLC attach rate (The rate of users that purchase the original product and also pay for DLC) of close to 50%, and though this is a rare case, I will be using this project as a reference in this discussion, as it contains examples of all forms of DLC.

As we are a game development community, I assume that most if not all of you are familiar with the concept of DLC, but for posterity's sake, I would like to take a moment to define DLC and its subsets.

What is DLC?
DLC stands for DownLoadable Content. It refers to any content related to a single product that can be obtained separately via a monetized (Paid DLC) or non-monetized (Free DLC) transaction. Paid DLC is a hot topic in gamer circles for popularizing the concepts of microtransactions, in which the end-user purchases a product, and pays separately for small, frequently insignificant items (avatar items, equipment), though it can refer to the purchase of Expansion Packs as well.

How does DLC work?
Traditionally, computer and console games were not designed to handle additional content; but as of more recently, developers have created a method by which certain parts of code or script can be altered through "patching". Patching has existed for many, many years in the PC gaming space, but is still a fairly young concept for console gaming. These patches can be downloaded and applied individually to a product, adding content that can be accessed in-game through a method as specified by the developer. This content can be accessed in two distinct ways: Via Content Licenses and Downloadable Packages. I will touch on these subjects below.

What is the difference between Standard DLC and an Expansion Pack?

The simple answer to this is that there is none - both are content added to further the experience of the game, provided separate to the main "Vanilla" experience but dependent upon it to function. On a more deep level, when we get into nuance, they become very largely different entities of their own. The general consensus seems to be that "Standard DLC" ranges from cosmetic upgrades (Costume packs/Avatar items) through to "Map Packs" (Additional levels of gameplay not previously available in the main product). In contrast to this, you have Expansions, which are similar to map-packs, but also serve to extend the game's narrative, and often contain a variety of other additional content (Items, cosmetic upgrades, etc.). To put more succinctly, Expansions are Bigger and more all-inclusive versions of DLC (Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls offers a large variety of small, monetized items, as well as a full Expansion Pack and smaller Content License Expansion. I am contractually unable to give specific numbers, but at its peak, the most downloaded DLC was the full, downloadable Expansion Pack, though there are content licenses that do very well financially).

A fairly large amount of research and monitoring of varied gaming-discussion forums/sites leads me to believe that the general consensus is that Expansion Packs are more widely accepted by the common user-base as "Good" DLC, which leads me to Theory 1*:

Theory 1: Larger and more inclusive DLC is better than small individual DLC, even though larger DLC is traditionally more expensive.

To elaborate: As opposed to paying for an enhanced existing experience, players would rather spend a large amount of money for a completely new additional game experience, within the confines of the original game's engine and narrative (In some cases, the cohesion of narrative is tenuous, with expansions like Red Dead Redemption's Undead Nightmare expansion**).

What is the difference between Content Licenses and Downloadable Packages?

A Content License refers to a DLC item that unlocks existing content by downloading an identifying key. The game recognizes this key and allows the player to access this content. This is often referred to as "On-Disk*** DLC" or "Unlocks". As the content in question exists as data that is installed as part of the game, but can not be accessed without the aid of the unlock (Generally monetized), it is one of the largest targets for end-user ire. This is also closely tied with the concept of "Planned DLC". See Below for more information.

A Downloadable Package refers to DLC that is not released as part of the original package, but contains data that must be downloaded and added to the game in order for content to be accessed. As the data for a Downloadable Package can be created separately from the original product, this allows for long-term support for a game, expanding the scope of a project beyond the finished product at release.

How can a publisher justify charging for DLC?

"If I buy a game at full price, why should I have to pay for a part of the game? Also, how do you justify releasing a game "unfinished", then forcing us to pay extra to get the whole game?"

The above quote is a paraphrase of one of the most common arguments against DLC that I hear when discussing the theory and practice thereof. I put specific emphasis on the word "unfinished", as it is one of the major complaints related to DLC - the assumption that once extra content is released for the game, the game ceases to be complete until the additional content is applied to the game. This is directly related, in my opinion, to a common completionist attitude in popular gaming culture and boils down in many players' minds as a matter of perception which is very much at odds to the mindset of a game publisher.

To put it very simply, the publisher does not withhold critical content. The game will be able to be played from beginning to end without any significant hindrance regardless of whether DLC has been purchased or not. This does not mean that a number of publishers do not design their games with incentives to have the player buy extra content, whether it be via expanding the game world through an expansion, or allowing the player to "buy time with money", and lower the difficulty level by buying powerful items and removing the effort traditionally required to acquire them.

If a game requires DLC to be purchased in order to progress to the end, that falls into the realm of Patches  (or Updates), Paid Demos or Episodic Content. I will touch upon Episodic content further down in this document. To very briefly touch upon patches/updates, if a game contains a "Game breaking bug" that can not be circumvented and prevents the player from progressing to the end, that must be fixed via a patch. Patches are never (to my knowledge) monetized. If anyone wishes to hear my justification of "Day one patches", I will be glad to write about them, but this is already very long, so I will save it for later.

The purpose of DLC from the perspective of a publisher is that it is content that enhances and enriches an already-finished product. The player is given the option to add extra content beyond the structure of the game itself that changes the nature of the game or adds to the overall experience, but is not critical to the game. Episodic Content is generally considered to be an entirely separate entity, and though relevant to this discussion, deserves its own section.

If Content Licenses are already on the disk, why should we pay to access data we already purchased?

Content Licenses are one of the trickier areas of DLC and harder as a publisher to justify without seeming like money-grubbing suits. Ultimately, it is justified with the same argument above - as it is non-critical content that does not restrict the narrative in any way, it should be considered as such. The benefit of releasing extra content on the game disk*** is that it is more easily accessable to the end-user, as it only requires a key of a few kilobytes worth of data to unlock.

Content Licenses also have other applications, such as what I like to refer to as "Paid cheats" (or "Buying Time with Money", as outlined above) - allowing the user to pay for an item instead of finding it in-game, or pay for an item that will increase the power of their character(s). This is very often applied in "Freemium" or "Free-To-Play" model games, MMOs being one of the most common examplese. In Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls, we released a relatively large library of equipment that could be purchased in this manner, as well as items that raise the randomly generated bonus point value available to a character during character creation. In this instance the player is considered to be "Buying time". By spending money (At their own discretion), the player is spared needing to "grind" to find rare equipment (In the case of Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls, it is a single player game, so does not give paid users an unfair advantage against others, though this is a common occurrance).

What is Planned DLC and why do people hate it?

Planned DLC refers to expanded content that is in development prior to the release of the original product, most commonly the target of disdain when announced also prior to the title's release, once again leading to frequent "unfinished" claims, such as "If they are already making it, that just means that it's part of the game they're not putting in so that they can force us to play later!"

In order to explain and/or justify the existance of Planned DLC, it requires a little information about product releases. Without going into too much detail (Unless specifically asked), the mastering phase for a full product is separate from that of the downloadable content for said product. This is particularly relevant in the case of console software, as with the PC, it is often up to the discretion of the publisher who are not at the mercy of a licensor (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo). Console software in particular should be in masterable form (Publisher QA finished) at least 2 months prior to release. Ideally somewhat earlier. However, once you enter into the QA phase of a piece of software, generally a large amount of the design staff are freed up for other projects. In order to keep them employed, as well as release finished DLC long before the game's product lifecycle has ended, this means that almost invariably DLC is being developed as soon as a project is finished, if not months before in the case of larger games.

To use a well-recieved example, Dragon Age: Awakening (DLC Expansion to Dragon Age: Origins) was in development for almost a year before its release.

What is Episodic Content and why is it more well accepted?

Episodic content refers to an almost subgenre of game in which the game itself is (generally) a budget title that requires less time to complete than other games in its sector, that provides a singular chunk of a larger narrative including a beginning, middle and end (to the individual episode). It takes popular Television nomenclature, "Episode", and applies it to a game design philosophy. In Episodic Games, you can "Enjoy one episode from the beginning to the end and receive closure, but understand that it is a part of a series with a definitive 'Macro' beginning and end". Episodic games are frequently released as "Seasons", particularly well done by Telltale Games (Which, as adventure gamers, I'm sure we're all familiar with).

Episodic content is, for all intents and purposes, no different from larger, sequelized game franchises except for the fact that it is understood by both parties involved (Publisher and consumer) that there will be multiple sequels in short succession, generally without or with minimal updates to the game engine. It was resisted at first by many consumers, but seems to have been largely accepted at this point - a phenomenon I am still mulling over. This leads me to Theory 2:

Theory 2: If content is provided as separate, autonomous entities, users will for the most part cease to consider them purely as DLC.

Finally, I would like to briefly address another facet of DLC that is being addressed by gamers in relation to the previously mentioned Battlefield 3: Exclusive Pre-order/Store DLC.

It is not uncommon for a Publisher to enter into an agreement with a store, or the general user-base by proxy, wherein purchase of the software under certain conditions is incentivized by the inclusion of downloadable content exclusive to those purchasers (i.e. Receiving a specific special bonus level or item when you buy a game from GameStop, as opposed to a separate special item when purchased from Electronics Boutique - which may no longer exist, apologies as I haven't been game shopping in the states in years). This is done with the user base in the form of what is referred to as "Preorder Bonuses" - Special content that is offered exclusively to people who promise to purchase the game prior to its sale (Often putting up a percentage of the cost of the software ahead of time).

The reasoning for preorder bonuses, as you may suspect, is to encourage users to pre-order their software, which in turn gives stores and distributors incentive to buy more copies which they can retail to the general public. I'd like to just put forward the reason behind this practice, and allow you to judge its validity on your own.

Why does a Publisher need to sell copies of a game before it even goes on shelves?

There are many reasons, most of which are between the individual companies involved in the creation, distribution and selling of games. Many years ago (Disturbingly, before many of the members of this very forum were old enough to be playing/buying games), games were a booming industry in which development costs were reasonable, and the returns were large because a very large number of users would purchase games frequently. As of the recent market crashes, users are becoming more frugal (Which they rightfully should), and by that same right, stores are doing the same.

I can only speak from experience for the Japanese method in this section, and I know that it is different in North America and Europe, but here, every copy in the store is a copy of the game that the store has paid for prior to selling it to the consumer. This is why they call it retail. Even though they are traditionally the only channel by which people can purchase their games, the stores still need to buy a specific number of copies to put on their shelves. Stores have analysts****, or "buyers" who research user interest and make a quantitative decision as to how many copies of an individual game they think that they can sell.

These sale forecasts are heavily influenced by factors like preorders, especially in the case of new IPs - Stores relay their purchase numbers to the distributor (usually an external company, as only the largest publishers have distribution channels of their own), which in turn offer to purchase a number of copies from the publisher (Who pays for the games to be created on disc usually by the licensor - i.e. Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo). Everybody in this line takes a risk by spending their money, and if they pay for too many copies and they can't sell them, it creates a surplus, drives the cost of the game down after sale date and nobody wins. The opposite happens when a game is under-quoted, which leads to an unmet demand (Exactly what happened with our most recent game, AKIBA'S TRIP).

As most games make 80% or more of their total profits within the first week of sale, if there are too many or aren't enough copies in circulation, there is either a loss of funds by the stores, which in some countries will sell back the extra copies to the publisher, who in turn has to essentially throw them away or convince other buyers to take the extra copies, or there is a loss of potential profit due to waning interest/loss of potential day-one sales.

Now, I move on to the questions I would like to have answered:

  • What kind of DLC are you willing to pay for? Why?
  • Do you believe that DLC is a good/bad thing? Why?
  • Do you agree/disagree with any of the above statements? Why?
  • Do you think that the inclusion of exclusive DLC warrants Boycotting? Why?

* Please note that these sweeping, blanket assumptions will almost certainly be wrong when picked apart on a deeper level.

** These products were also released as packaged retail products, which in a manner of speaking takes it out of the realm of pure DLC, as it is not Downloadable, but extended content. However, for the purposes of this topic, it will still be referred to as DLC.

*** On-Disk DLC can be something of a misnomer - it should be clarified that data does not need to be contained within physical media to be "On the game disk". On-Disk DLC can exist within downloadable packaged games.

**** The "Store" referenced here is generally not the individual store that the consumer shops at, but the greater corporate entity that owns and operates every store under its wing.

TL:DR
DLC

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Re: GTD: DLC
« Reply #1 on: 13 Jun 2011, 12:31 »
I'm not against DLC by any means, in fact I've both purchased DLC in the past, and given IcE3yGamE3studioE3 a bit more consideration in explaining how DLC could be made to work in AGS than most people would consider worthwhile..

I feel that DLC (commercially) should be reasonably priced, and shouldn't be used as a substitute for releasing a proper-length game to begin with. If I'm going to pay $60 for a game then I should get $60 worth. And if a given bit of DLC constitutes, say 5% of the gameplay of the original game, then I honestly shouldn't be expected to pay more than 5% of the game's cost (totaling $3) for the DLC. This idea would probably mean that most DLC would be considered overpriced, but I don't buy a lot of DLC anyway.

Nice article though. Could be interesting to see how other people feel about it.

SpacePirateCaine

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Re: GTD: DLC
« Reply #2 on: 13 Jun 2011, 14:03 »
Hey MonkE3y - nice to see someone managed to scale the great wall of text, and an interesting evaluation of pricing. I remember that thread, though I didn't participate in it. To be honest, I thought that IcE3yGamE3StudioE3 had some intriguing ideas about monetizing adventure games. It's a pity so few people take him seriously just because of his obsession with Square Enix. I think it would be really interesting to have an open discussion about the possibilities of DLC for adventure games (Can it be done, aside from in the Episodic format?).

To be honest, I try to use the "percent of gameplay" numbering when considering DLC pricing as well, though that can be particularly tough to work out when you're calculating for content that's more 'enhancement' than 'extension'. So a question for you, then: Say that I've released an action-adventure with a playtime of around 20 hours - 30 hours if you're a quest completionist, 100 or so if you're a collector type. What content would you be willing to pay $1 for? And what about $5, or $10?
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Re: GTD: DLC
« Reply #3 on: 13 Jun 2011, 14:19 »
Though I pretty much suck at the game, Magic TG: Duels of the Planeswalkers had a really cool pricing of DLC and the excuse for it. And it took the system from actual card game. You buy the basic game for around 9 euros, where you get 4 packs and lots of unlockable cards when you beat challenges.
But for 1-2 euros you can buy more decks, which is like 1/4 of the game content (actually less, because you already have the challenges).
Now the problem for me is that this is still multiplayer game and I suck at and that's not really fun to play when you suck.  ;D

So for 10% of the price you get about 20% more content (that's a really silly aproximation, but still) and without it the game is fully functional, nothing is limited, just that you get more with DLC.
The thing is that you need to make the cutsomer think like he/she is getting a bargain right from the start, because if they feel cheated out then they'll also thing they'll get ripped off. Also don't implement DLC content in the game (like say DA Origins did and some other games) where the player sees that he is limited because he didn't pay more it really breaks immersion and the gameworld seems very unnatural.

I do agree that bigger DLC is better, if you consider smaller DLC to be stuff like weapons package in rpg or 1 map in FPS or something. But if you announce more to come than the game should be cheaper at the start, there's no question about that (although I think games should be cheaper in general).
I also hate the preorder from a certain shop, although I don't really mind if it's like a small token, like 1 item or something, but anything bigger, again, makes me (and I think others) cheated. Preorder in general...I don't know, I guess maybe paying to play a week or two earlier might be okay, but I won't offer other opinions since I'm 99.999% certain I'll never buy a game over preorder. The 0.001 is for the small chance I become extremely rich.

In the ol' days you couldn't buy DLC for a console game, but that also meant no patches which you could get on a pc, that was maybe a cooler time, when your product had to be tested more before you could ship it out and DLC required for a whole new game to be made.
« Last Edit: 13 Jun 2011, 14:26 by anian »
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Re: GTD: DLC
« Reply #4 on: 13 Jun 2011, 14:37 »
This is an interesting topic, especially since this discussion has been exploding at my other home, shoryuken.com

Capcom has always been a big fan of releasing iterations of a game that already exists (Street Fighter 2, Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition, Street Fighter 2: Turbo then with Street Fighter 4, super street fighter 4, and most recently, super street fighter 4: arcade edition.) and very recently released the latest iteration of SSF4 as DLC. It was $15 and I happily bought it.

Here are some reasons why:

*Clearly the new characters and features and balance changes were not made overnight. Capcom has listened to the demand for a bigger variety and balanced some things that have been bugging us for the past year.

*I appreciate the DLC opposed to physical disc form. It's been much cheaper than having to buy a new disc. Arcade Edition in disc form will retail at $40.00 USD.

*None of the iterations have ever felt "gimmicky" to me. There has always been something new and exciting about each of them while we wait for the next engine to be developed. I think it gives us something to look forward to.

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Re: GTD: DLC
« Reply #5 on: 13 Jun 2011, 15:13 »
  • What kind of DLC are you willing to pay for? Why?


So far the only "DLCs" I've ever bought were episodic games. I bought also a few expansions, but they were pretty much autonomous entities. If this kind of bonus content can be bought separately and not only within some GOTY edition of game, I don't have a problem paying for it a smaller price. That said, I'm rarely much interested in more of the same game - I prefer trying something new instead.

  • Do you believe that DLC is a good/bad thing? Why?


It's a way of making more money from a product. It's not inherently good or bad, but it can be sometimes annoying. Mostly when it makes you feel like you've bought an incomplete package.

  • Do you agree/disagree with any of the above statements? Why?


There's nothing particular that I disagree with, but I'm surprised you assume the client should care about any of the publisher's challenges with distribution and sales. The publishers don't lower their prices just to be nice if it means getting less profits, do they?

  • Do you think that the inclusion of exclusive DLC warrants Boycotting? Why?


Depends on what does the DLC offer and how exclusive it is. For example if I had an XBOX version of Super Meat Boy and was obsessed with playing that game, I might be really angry that I don't have access to the Super Meat World from the PC version - endless supply of new levels + a level editor.
« Last Edit: 13 Jun 2011, 15:59 by AGScovE3l »

SpacePirateCaine

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Re: GTD: DLC
« Reply #6 on: 13 Jun 2011, 16:02 »
Thanks for the responses, guys! I'm really enjoying it, and am really glad that I could get some decent opinions out of my favorite gaming community.

Mostly when it makes you feel like you've bought an incomplete package.
Would you say that because additional content is in development/planned for a game at the time of release, it is an incomplete package? At what point is a game "complete"? One infamous example would be the "lost levels" in Assassin's Creed II - the Forli missions that were all but completely removed from the original game, but made available as the "Bonfire of the Vanities" package. I played from the beginning to the end of ACII without playing those particular missions (Though did explore the city looking for Assassin Tombs) and don't think the game suffered for their lack of inclusion. Of course, I assume I'm much more permissive of this, since I'm usually the one cutting content to get a project done in time/under budget.

I'm surprised you assume the client should care about any of the publisher's challenges with distribution and sales. The publishers don't lower their prices just to be nice if it means getting less profits, do they?
In no way do I assume consumers do or even should care about the publisher's end. I put all of that information up there entirely as an example of the publisher's justification and nothing else. Hell, I've worked customer support - I fully understand that the average gamer wants to play the game and could give a rat's ass about the people who made it, for the most part - this is one of the many reasons people pirate software. It's one of the reasons I used to pirate software but don't anymore. And of course publishers don't lower prices to be nice, they lower prices to increase profit and hedge risk, because without the profits made from the game, a game company will go bankrupt. Again - users rarely care about that sort of thing, though.

One of the saddest things I've heard in the industry was when people were actually saying "Good riddance" when the entirety of Pandemic got closed down by EA.
« Last Edit: 13 Jun 2011, 16:05 by SpacE3PiratE3CainE3 »
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Re: GTD: DLC
« Reply #7 on: 13 Jun 2011, 16:44 »
"Day 1" DLC will always annoy some people, because, by their logical reasoning, this will be content that was otherwise specifically held back from the finished product, to facilitate some extra revenue generation. More so in the case of DLC that's actually just a code to unlock content which is already on the disk. "Resident Evil 5" springs to mind for the latter, "Kane and Lynch 2" for the former.

The fact that DLC is usually developed in tandem with the main product, will, rightly or wrongly, cement this opinion in the minds of those already adverse to the concept.

Personally, I think a covert strategy for DLC is best. Stating "Our game will be supported by X/Y/Z DLC from day of release!", is not a positive thing to many gamers. Like I said, "Day 1" DLC just annoys some people. "We are planning DLC support", sounds a more palatable proposition; it implies that the core game and the extra content are two distinct projects.

It's all apples and oranges, really, but a light touch can make DLC seem less...opportunistic.

EDIT: Case in point.

Personally, I'm more likely to buy DLC that would otherwise be sold as "Expansion Packs"; Fallout 3+NV, Mass Effect 2, Borderlands, etc, where the DLC is about adding substantial playable content to the main game, rather than just cosmetic extras (costumes, and the like).

« Last Edit: 13 Jun 2011, 16:50 by LimpingFish »
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Re: GTD: DLC
« Reply #8 on: 13 Jun 2011, 17:44 »
What kind of DLC are you willing to pay for? Why?
I pay for stuff, not for fluff. Extra levels, units, challenges, plot... I'll jump on. Skins, avatars, hats and other stuff that has otherwise no affect on the actual gameplay or plot, I don't care.

Do you believe that DLC is a good/bad thing? Why?
Mostly good. I've always been a sucker for expansion packs and patches that add crazy tons of extra stuff to games I loved, played the crap out of and thought I knew everything about. When DLC is genuinely designed with the purpose of expanding the core game, it's a good thing.

That said, most companies embraced DLC for a reason, and it's not to expand their games or give players extra stuff, producing a single DLC can go up to a few millions bucks with no guarantee of return on the investment, the purpose of DLC, for most companies, is to fight used games market, which they consider as bad if not worse than piracy. As long players hold onto their copy because there's a DLC around the corner, used games bins will be empty and people won't have much choice than buy new copies. That's why you don't see much DLC for games that are more than a year old, that's why DLC are so damn important in the first days and weeks of a game's shelf life, and why they're often designed and produced at the same time as the core games.

Do you think that the inclusion of exclusive DLC warrants Boycotting? Why?
I have a profound hatred for exclusivity deals, period. When I get into a game or a series, it's all or nothing, I want to soak myself into every details of it or none at all. And it annoys me to know I'm missing something because I bought the game on the wrong system, the wrong store or at the wrong time.

I want my missing level in the NES version of Donkey Kong, and the missing icycle in Mario Bros. And I'm still irked that after playing through the 120 original levels of Lemmings I discovered the Genesis version had more levels ("Hey! Remember that time you finished Lemmings at 100%? Well you didn't!") And I only renewed my love with the C&C series when I discovered some cool dude created a patch for the original Red Alert, to add the briefing videos made for the PS1 version of Red Alert (Badass General Carville briefed the Allies missions, years before Red Alert 2!)

You wanna make exclusive DLCs? Fine, but they better be included in the deluxe version of the game you'll release a couple years later, otherwise there are chances I won't be arsed to play it, if I do, I'll have this naggy feeling that I'm not seeing everything the whole time I'll play, which will make me less giddy about sequels, won't make me search every nook and cranny, won't make me talk about your game on fan forums, and I won't take pride in seeing your game in its original box next to tons of other games I love, which sit in my shelves in their original boxes.

Everyone's different but that's how I am. All or nothing, I press the pause button when I need to go to the bathroom during a movie to not miss a single second, no matter how insignificant to the story it might be and I want my games to have all features if possible.

Quote
For example if I had an XBOX version of Super Meat Boy and was obsessed with playing that game, I might be really angry that I don't have access to the Super Meat World from the PC version - endless supply of new levels + a level editor.

And owners of the PC version obsessed with the game might be irked that they're missing some playable characters and levels designed or approved by Team Meat.

Quote
At what point is a game "complete"?

When it includes all the features that have been created for it, all the DLCs, and when you don't need to buy another version to see the n% content that's exclusive to that specific version because it's already present in the "complete" one or because there is no exclusive content.
« Last Edit: 14 Jun 2011, 22:10 by blueskirt »

Jonathan Wedge

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Re: GTD: DLC
« Reply #9 on: 13 Jun 2011, 18:11 »
Hey MonkE3y - nice to see someone managed to scale the great wall of text, and an interesting evaluation of pricing. I remember that thread, though I didn't participate in it. To be honest, I thought that IcE3yGamE3StudioE3 had some intriguing ideas about monetizing adventure games. It's a pity so few people take him seriously just because of his obsession with Square Enix. I think it would be really interesting to have an open discussion about the possibilities of DLC for adventure games (Can it be done, aside from in the Episodic format?).

To be honest, I try to use the "percent of gameplay" numbering when considering DLC pricing as well, though that can be particularly tough to work out when you're calculating for content that's more 'enhancement' than 'extension'. So a question for you, then: Say that I've released an action-adventure with a playtime of around 20 hours - 30 hours if you're a quest completionist, 100 or so if you're a collector type. What content would you be willing to pay $1 for? And what about $5, or

I am still making the game and I pretty sure it works thanks to monkey, I haven't checked it though. thing with me is I like to be the first to do things on AGS (RPG,MMO,3d,DLC,interactive voice control(speak to NPC in game using your voice)) however you can't be first in everything now can you ;)

Anywho...It would be nice to see other adventure games using DLC.


« Last Edit: 13 Jun 2011, 18:14 by Studio E3 »

Re: GTD: DLC
« Reply #10 on: 13 Jun 2011, 19:25 »
    * What kind of DLC are you willing to pay for? Why?

When I buy down loadable content, its usually stuff that warrants hours upon hours of extra game play (expansion packs). Most smaller DLC stuff is about roughly 5 buck and in my opinion turns kinda into a super market of getting the best bang for your buck, so a lot of the DLC available for the games I have purchased are often skipped and ignored by me. (I will explain more in the next question)

    * Do you believe that DLC is a good/bad thing? Why?
I don't think DLC is right for every game  project. While I do understand that its to keep people employed and hone peoples crafts, but getting new weapons, costumes or even getting armor for my horse for a couple of bucks just really doesn't interest me.

 Now in the same aspect if I really enjoyed the game I purchased, I want to continue to support the people that made it. I think DLC is a good way to do that. example: *Mass effect, Dragon age, Red dead*

    * Do you agree/disagree with any of the above statements? Why?
To be honest there wasn't anything that red flagged  me with your above article. Its nice to get the view from the other end of the spectrum of game development.

    * Do you think that the inclusion of exclusive DLC warrants Boycotting? Why?
As long as it will become available later at some point from a different outlet. One of my friends from High school runs a game store and I will always purchase my games there. So in a way its kinda a waste that they would make something exclusive if you pre order from gamestop or whatever game store and then not have it available everywhere 6 months down the road.

I may edit this post if I think of anything else.



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Re: GTD: DLC
« Reply #11 on: 13 Jun 2011, 19:44 »
DLC is just another way for publishers to suck our money. I hate DLC almost as much as I hate DRM. It's hurting the industry, in my eyes. Even free DLC is often just an excuse to release a game unfinished. Sure, there are exceptions, but more often than not, it's just a ploy to get another $15 from something that can't be bought used.

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Re: GTD: DLC
« Reply #12 on: 13 Jun 2011, 23:59 »
LukE3,

I agree with ddq that its just money sucking really. But unforunately that's our climate these days. We're finally being offered mobile phone packages that could've just as easily been available 10 years ago - but they would never make them available back then, because they need gauranteed years of money suckage.

As for additional content adventure games, I'm aware of a few in the works, I've been asked to contribute to one of them - and they will be DLC stuff that lets you add expansions and extra stuff. I don't really know.

When it comes to that, I call it "habbo hotel fever". I mean, everyone wants to pay a small amount of a one off, full, awesome game. I just don't get the reasoning behind humans who want to add extras. I'd personally be pissed off if I didn't get the whole lot when I first paid.

Alright we have things like Deluxe editions, where they merge two expansions together or whatever - but I'm the type to WAIT until that deluxe edition is available. But you must remember I'm a strapped for cash son of a bitch :P

I realize people can't get enough of certain things. But I really hate it when you download something or buy something like a DLC game when you're in full knowledge that you're expected to pay more, for more.

Episodes are something I could get into. I've always hated the idea, but now I'm opening up to it.

Quote
As most games make 80% or more of their total profits within the first week of sale,

There is no debate - DLC is the future. One day, when our TV set can do everything including wash the dishes, the last thing humans will do is go out and by computer games when they can download it. My concluding thought is although I like this quote, the endless times I've heard ex developers of adventures say "Well, we sold loads, then it stopped selling, but now we sell loads again" makes me semi-disagree.

The PS nation of gamers probably do buy it once in the first week and never again, but you have to remember, adventure game players are pretty different to that demographic.

An interesting read Luke3!
« Last Edit: 14 Jun 2011, 12:36 by ModsiE3 »

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Re: GTD: DLC
« Reply #13 on: 14 Jun 2011, 05:59 »
* What kind of DLC are you willing to pay for? Why?
As an old school fan of expansion packs, those are the kinds of DLC I like the best. For example, I have all the DLC packs for Borderlands. But none of the ones for Portal 2. I have zero interest in hats or monocles for my game hero. I want more missions!

* Do you believe that DLC is a good/bad thing? Why?
I love DLC, provided it's the right kind (see above).

* Do you agree/disagree with any of the above statements? Why?
Nothing really jumped out at me that ticked me off or made me cheer.

* Do you think that the inclusion of exclusive DLC warrants Boycotting? Why?
I'm not a big fan of it, no. But it doesn't warrant boycotting.
*

Scavenger

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Re: GTD: DLC
« Reply #14 on: 14 Jun 2011, 07:02 »
  • What kind of DLC are you willing to pay for? Why?

The kind that comes on a disk. Seriously. Or level editors, capability of editing the game data to make new things from it, or big expansion packs. This is because I don't need hats to enrich my game playing experience, I want customisability or more game to play. Giving me a weapon isn't giving me more game to play, so why should I pay for something that doesn't give me more game?

For episodic games I'll wait until the entire game has come out on a physical copy before buying. Unless it's the shareware model (Free first episode, buy the rest as a package) it's not really worth the wait between episodes.

  • Do you believe that DLC is a good/bad thing? Why?


I've always believed DLC to be the devil, since it is by nature disposable. What happens ten, twenty, or a hundred years down the line to the content we've microtransacted? Do we get to keep the DLC, long after our consoles have turned to useless twisted piles of junk? Long after the content delivery servers have extinguished their LED glow and their data flow become a stagnant pool of decaying bits? Will we ever get to enjoy the game again at it's full glory and entirety?

The loss of data is a tragedy, especially when you've bought it. But the transient, volatile nature of DLC kind of scares me. Can we really trust the publishers to protect our purchases? What with the track record with the games industry of leaving games to languish and rot two years after release, I doubt it.

And "buying time" is something that can be so easily abused it's not funny. You can charge people real money for in game items and say "Oh, we're just saving you the time spent on grinding for it", when the grind is there because the developer put it there. It's like saying "You can have fun with this game, but to experience it all either wash 500 dishes, or pay us $5. You know which is best.". I like finding rare items - not in the "1/256 chance of dropping" sense, but secret rooms and dungeons which you can explore to get a leg up in the endgame. Charging people real money for in-game items shatters the sense of verisimilitude, since where are these characters getting these items? Reducing the thrill of neat stuff down to grind/buy is just bad game design. You see it a lot with Facebook games. There is a potential for fun in some of those games, but you either have to wait three million hours to regain your arbitrary fun tokens or buy them. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

  • Do you agree/disagree with any of the above statements? Why?

They make sense from a business standpoint.

  • Do you think that the inclusion of exclusive DLC warrants Boycotting? Why?

The inclusion of exclusive DLC holds no water in these enlightened times. The consoles are, in fact, almost completely identical in terms of capability, so it makes no sense to have one guy get better stuff than another guy, if each guy can only afford one console. This isn't 1994, where the PSX can have full motion video and the n64 gets other stuff to compensate because the latter console simply cannot play FMV. This is 2011, and every console is just about as capable as the other one.

As for store-specific DLC, it's just a little bit cruel if one town doesn't have a particular deal on, and what if you want both DLCs? You miss out either way and feel bad. Not to mention different countries and stuff like that...

It's a horrible move to pull on your player base. I'm not actually sure what the suggested action should be. Tell the people in charge "You're being a bit of an ass"? I don't know.
« Last Edit: 14 Jun 2011, 08:48 by ScavengE3r »

abstauber

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Re: GTD: DLC
« Reply #15 on: 14 Jun 2011, 09:48 »
I totally agree with Scavenger in all points.

* What kind of DLC are you willing to pay for? Why?
If the story of the maingame is unfinished and relies on DLC I won't buy the game at all. Optional mission packs are fine but I'd only buy them at bigger resellers like Amazon or Gamestop.

* Do you believe that DLC is a good/bad thing? Why?
DLC is terrible. Anyone remembered playing Skies of Arcadia on Dreamcast? Where the DLC now?! Gone, yes.
Besides what really sucks is that the player has register himself for everything and totally looses the control of his/hers personal data (recent hacks @Sony, Codemasters and Epic).

*Do you agree/disagree with any of the above statements? Why?
They make sense from a business standpoint.

* Do you think that the inclusion of exclusive DLC warrants Boycotting? Why?
Not really as I wouldn't buy anything in-game.


I understand that DLC is a license to print money, but I certainly don't want to be the cow to be milked.

Buckethead

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Re: GTD: DLC
« Reply #16 on: 14 Jun 2011, 16:26 »
* What kind of DLC are you willing to pay for? Why?
I consider getting DLC for games I really really like and want to play more of. For example Fable 2. I also really liked Mirror's Edge but I would never get the DLC because it's just a thrown together mappack. The DLC would really have to add a lot to the game. Also it would help if the DLC wouldn't be so pricey, especially for older games.

* Do you believe that DLC is a good/bad thing? Why?
I can't really choose sides on this one. It's good that developers have a way to release more of the same without having to create an entire. If you really like a game it's nice to get some extra stuff for it. It's a bad thing though when it only get's used to cash in extra money. For example when the DLC only got a few maps or a handfull of achievements to lurk people into buying it.

*Do you agree/disagree with any of the above statements? Why?
I do agree with most of them since I want to be a game developer myself and understand the situation I suppose.


* Do you think that the inclusion of exclusive DLC warrants Boycotting? Why?
I haven't really seen a game yet where a DLC kills the game. But I guess it depends on how exclusive the content is. I don't want to play half a game and would have to get the DLC to play the rest. If I think I will enjoy a game I will probably get it anyway. 


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Re: GTD: DLC
« Reply #17 on: 16 Jun 2011, 07:11 »
Thank you everyone for your enlightening, if generally expected responses. I realize that each individual is going to have varied opinions about this issue, but it's interesting to see not only the thoughts of the vocal minority and various news sites, but also the thoughts of people who consider themselves aspiring developers, independent developers and/or gamers with a vested interest in the development process.

The best thing about there being a lot of hot conversation about a single topic is that you get to see a lot of people sounding off about it. Today, I came across a thread on Reddit which is somewhat more concise than my above description, and I thought that I would post it here for anyone interested in getting the developer's perspective.

Quote
No, this is not going to be an AMA. I've decided to briefly come out of my perpetual lurking state because lately there has been some outrage in /gaming/ regarding DLC, DRM, and numerous other decisions gaming companies have made.

And no, I'm not going to reveal who I am, because I'm not going to be a popular person by the time this thread is done with.

I'm going to get this out of the way right now.

DRM exists because people pirate games. I'm sorry if that answer upsets you or in turn causes you to pirate more games, but that's the way it is. As developers, we would rather DRM didn't exist because it's an extra hurdle to get through before a game can be released. I've spoken to others in the industry, and it's a foregone conclusion that we are moving towards a cloud based system where very little of the game will reside on your hard drive. Retail stores used to fight this idea, but with how PC game sales are trending towards digital distribution, it's really not a question of if but when.

The only reason why you see certain members of the industry speak out in favor of piracy, is they are trying to gain popularity and encourage you to buy their game. It's the same reason why musicians do it, and the same reason why certain actors/actresses defend their work being downloaded illegally.

Now that I have most of you frothing at the mouth.. onto DLC.

You are correct in assuming that most DLC is created before the game is finished. More often than not, we are approached 50-60 percent into the development cycle of a game and asked how we want to handle content post production. This has become more and more common the last five-six years, and it is a direct result of several evolving changes in the industry.

To be blunt, you can blame Gamestop and other retail stores that encourage buying used games more than new ones. Someone is less likely to sell back their title if they know more content is on the way, and with the fact that some games now can be finished in a day playing time, we have to move fast with DLC announcements.

Yes, you are caught in a bit of a war between distributors and publishers. I'm sorry.

Pre-Order bonuses have been ramping up in popularity because they work rather well.

Which sorts of leads me to my final diatribe.

DLC promises and Pre Order bonuses increase sales. Again, I'm sorry if those facts upset you, but we aren't an industry of upholding some false ethical code. Over the last several years, the consumer has eaten up both of these business practices and shown us that we can and will benefit from using them.

Do I think what EA is doing is bullshit? Yes, I do. Are they getting away with it? Yes, they are. I admire what Reddit is doing with the boycott, but please keep in mind that /gaming/ does not represent the majority of gamers. There are people who, upon hearing of the Pre-Order bonus, immediately signed up for it.

My advice to /gaming/ before I leave

    Digitally Download your games. The sooner retail stores are mostly out of the equation, the sooner some of these aspects of the industry might dissipate.

    Stop pirating. Seriously though, stop. If you don't think that there is a correlation between DRM and piracy numbers, then you are not doing it right. If you are going to pirate, then please buy the games you do download.

    The best advice I can give. Follow through with your boycott. Follow through with every boycott. Companies can ignore verbal insults, but they cannot ignore explaining to the shareholders why profits are down. If a boycott works, then it is quite effective. Key word is IF.

A.D. out -

Read the whole thread here.

This wasn't me, but I agree with each and every one of his statements. Honestly, to my ears, everything he's saying makes perfect sense and I'm glad more people on this side of the argument are sounding off. As I mentioned before, I understand that gamers don't generally actually care about the people making the games or the reasons they make them as they do. This is just a part of life, but I hope that people are at least willing to take an interest in the argument. Communication is key in any relationship, right?
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Igor Hardy

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Re: GTD: DLC
« Reply #18 on: 19 Jun 2011, 11:34 »
As I mentioned before, I understand that gamers don't generally actually care about the people making the games or the reasons they make them as they do. This is just a part of life, but I hope that people are at least willing to take an interest in the argument. Communication is key in any relationship, right?

I'm sorry, but I don't really think this is any sort of understanding, communication-based relationship. You could similarly ask a thief and a person he is stealing from to work things out together. This is exactly that kind of relationship - based entirely on money, feelings of entitlement and a conflict of interests.

SpacePirateCaine

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Re: GTD: DLC
« Reply #19 on: 19 Jun 2011, 12:31 »
You seem to be under the impression that the people making games are only motivated by money and don't wish to communicate with the gaming population at large whatsoever.

I think that your analogy of a thief stealing from someone else is deeply flawed - a thief takes something that they have no right to, without consulting the owner of the items that they are stealing. It's a one-sided transaction and the victim of the theft receives nothing in return. A business offers products and services and generally requires compensation. Even if you are adamantly against downloadable content, there is nothing stating that you are required to purchase anything beyond the initial finished product and if you do, you get something in return. As mentioned in my first post, critical content is not withheld from the final product, only additional, peripheral content. Doomsayers that believe that one day you'll have to pay an extra fee just to fight the last boss are fooling themselves.

I'll openly admit: Businesses within the gaming industry are exactly that - businesses, and without charging for their product, they go out of business, but they (we) still listen to their audience and are consistently evaluating risk versus return and trying to offer the best content for the best value. If we didn't want to make something the users would enjoy, why would we work in an industry with such a low return?

"But games make millions of dollars!" I can hear you cry out. That they do - at least the huge-scale AAA titles that get all of the press nowadays - but they also require millions of dollars to make in the first place when it comes to anything larger than a one-to-five-man indie studio. A 20% profit margin is considered a big success for a non-MMO title in my experience. We hear about the unfoundedly enormous successes like the Call of Duty or Half-Life games; even Minecraft, but for every one product that sees a notable profit, there are 20 that don't even hit their recoup line. If we were just looking for money, we would be building commercial applications like Adobe or Autodesk, where the companies are free to release a product and charge based on its production cost.

It seems that the moment you create a luxury item (i.e. anything with no practical merit, only entertainment), people completely change their perception of the product. Hell, I've heard people complain when DLC is released for free, especially in the case of day-one DLC.

To continue my posting of educational content related to this argument, if I may, I'd also like to link to a video series on the escapist (That site with Yahtzee's Zero Punctuation videos) that I'm very fond of, which also goes into discussion about DLC.

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