DLC will Forever Change the Culture of Games

By – Eric Lovelock

 

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DLC is one of the most mixed bags ever to exist in the world of gaming, and will no doubt only become more and more prevalent as consoles continue their path to becoming social media devices and faux computers. That’s not to say this progression is bad, because it’s not, as the increasing interconnection between consoles and the digital world opens itself up to interesting and unique experiences, but there are definite drawbacks that are created.

 

One of the biggest perks to DLC is its ability to improve the gaming experience. In the past, only PC based experiences had a luxury of being able to easily fix pesky and potentially game breaking glitches with the press of a button. Some companies, Nintendo especially, attempted to subvert this difficulty by releasing patches in later titles (I for one had to use a copy of Pokemon Colosseum in order to fix the infamous “Berry Glitch” in Pokemon Ruby, not that I particularly minded though, as I owned copies of both before discovering how to rectify the glitch) and allowing for the gaming community to simply purchase the title, fix their game, then enjoy a new experience, but this wasn’t ideal. Some people couldn’t afford another game, some lacked a necessary console, and so on. This method worked, but it was tedious. Due to this constraint, the development of a title would go on much longer, as the ability to simply fix oversights just wasn’t possible, so a big name release required much more testing to compensate.

 

Now, glitches, bugs and quirks in a game can be fixed simply by connecting to any internet connection and clicking “Download Patch”, destroying the need for overly complex bug fixes, and allowing for a more streamlined development process. In today’s instant market, developers can skip various stages in playtesting towards the end of the process and release a game much earlier, then begin developing the necessary fixes immediately. In essence, this creates a unique Gamer-Developer relationship, what get fixed is directly related to what is most pertinent to the gaming community. The disconnect between those who make a game and who purchase it has been nearly abolished. “Open Alpha” games such as DayZ or The Long Dark take this to the next step, involving the player in many aspects of development. The developers get the bug testing they need, and gamers can experience what they love early. This aspect of the interconnected culture of today allows for this wonderful process which has helped shape many games to completion. That being said, it does have its flaws.

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One of the biggest flaws that this system carries is when a game’s bugs go from a minor issue to a major problem, with possibly game breaking consequences. Bethesda, who has given us some amazing titles in the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series knows this all too well. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Which sits Comfortably at about 55,000 PC players per day according to “Steam Charts) is a wonderfully expansive and beautiful experience that is truly unique to each individual player. I’ve sunk a modest 8 hours into Skyrim, and in those hours, I’ve experienced 24 game breaking crashes, more or less 3 crashes an hour. That’s the issue that is created, while a few bugs are manageable, when a game can barely hold itself together, it creates a major problem. That’s not to say that Skyrim is bad, quite the contrary! Skyrim is an epic experience, it’s just plagued by bugs that should have really been figured out before release, but with thousands of players logging on each day, it’s much easier to just patch as needed, if it means releasing earlier. I have the utmost respect for Bethesda, that being said, a little extra playtesting before a wide release can go a long way.

 

 

Now that patches are out of the way, let’s get into the meat of what I’d like to talk about, DLC in the sense that most would recognize, extra content that can be purchased and downloaded after a game has been completed. At the heart, this is an excellent feature, allowing already great titles to acquire more content, and remain relevant longer in today’s ever shifting Market. The “Replay Value” of the game is ever increasing with DLC, creating a near-endless experience, far beyond what older games could achieve, which is truly wonderful. The issue is, where there is potential for greatness, there is always potential for someone to screw up, and DLC is no exception.

 

“Day One DLC”, a combination of 3 words that are sure to make anyone who understands how DLC works gag. When DLC first started taking off, Day One DLC took the form of the season pass, which was fine, people have no problem Pre-Ordering a game in advance, so naturally there was no issue to pre-ordering DLC as well. What it’s become though, it just atrocious, with DLC available from the getgo, developers now have the ability to hold back essential portions of a game, and force people who’ve already paid to have to crank out extra cash just to get the full experience. What’s even more infuriating is the transparency that developers have assumed with this system, proudly displaying “Experience the game the way it was meant to be played” on it’s DLC items, or flaunting “Witness the true final battle” on another, subtlety is out the window, developers understand what they’re doing, as does the audience that they sell to, there isn’t even an attempt to be sneaky or clever, it’s just blatant. If something is required for a game to be “Complete”, then it simply shouldn’t be DLC, it’s not that complicated. No gamer wants to dish out 60 bucks, and then another 20 just to get the bare minimum of the game that they purchased.

 

Another big issue that has come with DLC are the dreaded Microtransactions, which before only seemed to bug Mobile games and MMO’s, but are now encroaching upon Consoles as well. Why play as your character the default red, when you can now be blue! At least DLC is extra content (For the most part) that adds to the experience, new areas and game modes are acceptable to be advertised along a gaming experience, slight cosmetic changes aren’t. I don’t mind when I get a little screen that says, “Hey, this DLC is out, check it out if you’d like!”, I mind when it’s everywhere.

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Smash Bros 4 is a good example of how to properly handle DLC in general, it releases new characters and maps, all of which were created after the game was released, and when the new content is put out, one screen pops up in the game the next time you log on, kindly letting the player know that they can now purchase the DLC, giving them a link to the store, then dropping it, no further probing needed. It’s simple, quick, and not irritating above all else, just enough to remind you about the new content, but not so much as to become an annoyance. If a game is going to postpone its gameplay for a minute or two in order to remind a player of the DLC, the DLC should at least be a significant change, not goofy skin’s for a pre-existing character.

 

All things considered, DLC is simply a mixed bag, but it still has its big winners. Smash Bros, mentioned before, seems to have a great handle on how to use DLC. The Smash Ballot, which encouraged players to vote for further DLC expansions is brilliant as well, with consoles becoming more and more interconnected with the internet, why not allow for the dedicated players to decide what they will and won’t buy?

 

Even without that player input, DLC has the potential for greatness, people just need to know one thing, a game is popular for a reason, expand on it. I’ve played through Bloodborne: The Old Hunters expansion 3 times, as it embodies what is beautiful about DLC as a whole, the ability to take what was great, and give people more of it. The Last of Us: Left Behind is another example of how to properly give DLC, taking the emotion and world of an experience, and fleshing it out with new content. DLC is only improving too, even games who’ve had some missteps in the past (Such as Destiny: The Dark Below) have shown tremendous improvement in their additional content, as evident in Destiny: The Taken King, which takes all that was fun about Destiny and expands upon it, creating an expansion that improves upon its source.

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With each new era in gaming, mistakes are inevitable. This was true in the days of Atari, it was true in the days of the N64 and early 3D games, and it’s certainly true now. DLC will surely only improve from here, giving gamers new experiences and content to pour their hours into. With each expansion to a Triple A title, developers are learning to tread the new territory DLC creates more effectively and with greater precision and purpose. Whether you’re a hardcore gamer, or prefer a more casual experience, DLC will surely begin to shape games as we know it, now and for years to come.

 

 

About the Blogger

Eric Lovelock is a longtime game fanatic living in Virginia and is preparing to go into College to study game design. His favorite games Include Metroid Prime, Earthbound, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and Bloodborne. His dream is to become a Lead Designer in the video game industry and to leave a creative mark on the gaming world. When he’s not playing games, he often enjoys working on Photoshop or Editing/Producing video’s for his friends on Adobe Premiere.