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Too Much DLC?


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#1 Toothpix   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 810

Posted 04 December 2012 - 06:23 PM

Every time I am on the GDnet "around the web, most recent" page looking for something interesting, I am inundated with the fact that it seems now every game (AAA and also some indies) seems to have DLC (Downloadable Content) . Its like the development team makes a core game, and saves half of their best ideas and effort for DLC, which are already set in stone for a month or two after the games initial release. In my opinion, a game should include every idea and all the content that the development team can create in a reasonable span of time, and DLC should only be planned for whenever the audience completes and exhausts the game and also is willing to spend more time and money in it. Another more recent feature, season passes, is even more ridiculous. It is almost like you are paying for the game, but you have to buy something else to get the rest of it, which you only get over time, and whose content is probably mostly finished off by now. That is just my opinion. Do you think that DLC (especially on-disc DLC) is almost overuse of a franchise, and also in a way ruins the value of a game?

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#2 Hodgman   Moderators   -  Reputation: 31920

Posted 04 December 2012 - 06:40 PM

Do you think that DLC (especially on-disc DLC) is almost overuse of a franchise, and also in a way ruins the value of a game?

Yes, I especially hate the trend of "pre order now and we'll give you this bonus equipment that either adds the fun back into the game (which we deliberately removed to sell this thing), or is basically a cheat for the game (which ruins the designer's vision)!!!".
Back in my day, sonny jim, "DLC" was just called "a patch" or an "expansion pack".

Current consoles haven't helped. Traditionally, console devs haven't been able to issue patches, only PC devs could. Modern consoles with HDDs and interwebs changed that, however, you can't release content on a console without paying tens of thousands of dollars to have the console-gate-keepers run their QA/certification process over it. This means that while PC devs can still patch for free, it always costs money to release a console patch, so that cost is often passed onto the gamer as DLC...

What I want is *expansion packs*, which may technically be "downloadable content", but DLC has a connotation of "pay $3 for 1-10% of an expansion" -- and has added the phrase "horse armour" to the gaming lexicon. I want to pay $30 and get something substantial.

Morrowind had two, great, fully fledged, coherent expansion packs. Oblivion then had a trickle of random item and quest DLCs. They then bundled these random additions into a box-set as a very poor attempt at a completely incoherent "expansion pack". The quality of the two approaches are worlds apart.

Having "DLC" on disc (it's not really downloadable content then, is it?) at launch is just an insulting bolted-on attempted at getting a slice of "this microtransation thing". Just increase your retail price by $3, or don't do it. Or save it for the full priced expansion pack...

Edited by Hodgman, 04 December 2012 - 07:24 PM.


#3 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 22779

Posted 04 December 2012 - 06:53 PM

No, I don't believe it "ruins the value of the game".




I first consider who is complaining, and the extent of their complaints.

Many players whine "these maps should have been included!", but these same players whine about just about everything:

The same people whine that games costing tens of millions of dollars should be free or cost just $1.

The same people whine that the game is "horribly broken" and demand for a patch because of a single errant polygon allowing a good sniper position.

The same people whine "How dare they take our money for broken content" when they simply don't like how DLC or expansion content happens to integrate.

The same people whine "they Nerfed my character with a mandatory patch" while at the same time whine about how overpowered their opponents are.

The wording of your post is almost the same mentality: You didn't allow for a 99% rating. You went for "completely ruined."




Second, players have come to demand DLC.

There are the haters on both sides.

When Skyrim said they would have no DLC there was a very vocal group of people who wanted to boycott the game. So now we get Skyrim DLC and people want to boycott it for having DLC.

The same complaining minority will whine either way.




Third, it allows developers the ability to fit additional content in to their budgets and development time:

As a developer you might have $10M total development money and 16 months to build the game. That is enough money for the game and enough money for three maps worth of content. You really want to make seven maps, but you can only afford three in that cost and in that schedule. So you build three because that is the budget you can get approved.

Since you know DLC is an absolute requirement from your bloodthirsty mobs, you design it in to the game. You come up with great ideas for all seven maps. You make the game complete with three maps and spend all your budget. Then when the game is late in production --- and only AFTER it looks like a blockbuster --- you can invest additional money on more maps as DLC.





Looking at bottom line numbers, DLC has a very high cost for very little return. They still require development costs. They still require extensive QA. They require even more QA to ensure compatability between patched and unpatched versions. There is community support that costs time and money. The content needs to be certified by Sony or Microsoft and ESRB and none of that is free. Finally, because it has the ability to be patched your players will actively demand for patches and (sometimes literally) call for blood if you don't deliver updates.

Many times the financial risk of DLC is greater than the financial risk of the base game. It is generally less likely to become profitable, and if it is profitable, the profit margins are generally much smaller.



Personally from this side of the desk I wish customers would quit demanding DLC. It would make my job easier and cost us less money. But customers want it, and it adds value, so it gets created.

Edited by frob, 04 December 2012 - 06:56 PM.

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#4 tstrimple   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 1735

Posted 04 December 2012 - 07:04 PM

I don't mind DLC. I do mind DLC which is available on the same day that the game is released.

#5 phantom   Moderators   -  Reputation: 7591

Posted 04 December 2012 - 07:30 PM

I do mind DLC which is available on the same day that the game is released.


I'm ok with it right now, although it'll make less sense when physical discs vanish, simply because of timing issues.

In my experience Art ramp down much sooner than code, generally leaving only a few people on during the last month of development to fix post-alpha issues and do small fixes. Large amounts then get shifted off to other games as the company requires but some will stick around for DLC reasons but generally there isn't enough time between final art lock down and disc lock down for said work to be completed thus you can use the disc production time to finish things up and have it ready to go on day-zero.

(Note; this is downloadable DLC, not on-disc DLC which is a strange kind of crazy...)

And that division of man power is why DLC tends to come out quickly; companies don't want to keep projects alive to product DLC for too long and ramping people up and down on a project is insane; if you left it 6 months before producing the next DLC pack for a game then chances are you'd also have to get everyone to switch source control servers, get old pipelines up and running again and sort out tools etc to get production going once again. (And chances are in that 6 months period, if your team is actively developing the engine, half your old pipelines are now unsupported as newer processes based on the 'failures' of the last project are adjusted for).

The other issue is if you don't hit quickly with DLC then people might not buy it because they are no longer playing your game, or have completed it and don't want to go back and redo chunks of it just to get at your new level which drops in 50% into the game, at which point you've run up cost for no reason and have just hurt the studio. You could argue 'but they should do it before release! Just take longer!' but with games costing vast sums to make you can't afford to miss sale windows and/or take too much longer to get your game out or it could break you.
(A game we just released had that issue; we were down to the wire for getting it OK'd by Sony and MS; a delay of one more day would have missed the street date and we only got it done because MS let us punt the game back into the queue quickly at the 11th hour, after a bug which had never been seen during the whole dev cycle caused us to fail out, because they loved it internally!)

I personally have no problem with paying for some DLC; I've never paid for a CoD DLC pack, for example, but I have basically yelled 'TAKE MY MONEY!' at Relic for DoW2 DLC which has mostly been small cosmetic updates or weapons which don't change the balance of the game, just give you a new way to pay. I've also recently brought the Borderlands 2 'season pass' because I'm enjoying the game and want more slightly crazy situations to shoot dudes in the face in (I've also not completed the game yet).

#6 Prinz Eugn   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3683

Posted 04 December 2012 - 07:53 PM

I think it's fine for the most part, although on-disc or release day content is kind of annoying to me. But how is DLC really different from buying a game? You're still just paying money for entertainment. And if DLC were so awful, people wouldn't be buying it...

That being said, when DLC upsets a multiplayer environment that can have a negative impact on the overall experience, so I guess in that sense it can be bad.

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#7 Khaiy   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1342

Posted 04 December 2012 - 11:14 PM

Some of it is fine (like DLC that adds new features like player classes, maps, quest lines, etc.), some is irrelevant to me (pre-order at GameStop to get junk that doesn't affect the playing experience at all), and some is unacceptable to me (like screens that show silhouettes of characters, equipment, etc. in the base game on release day that you can only unlock by buying DLC).

I used to be annoyed by all of it except formal expansion packs, but as I've thought about it more I decided that it was hard to tell what "would have been" in the game if not for the uptick in DLC schemes. Thinking of it in that light, I tend to see individual games as complete in that nothing was stripped out to be sold later as DLC, even if I might have preferred those features to come with the base game. Some games have obnoxiously conspicuous marketing strategies for their DLC even in-game, but while irritating that doesn't change my attitude.

This kind of reminds me of the 90's and early 2000's, when people complained that PC games were rushed out the door incomplete because they could always be patched. That probably reflected the difficulty of getting the games to run on different hardware configurations more than greed or laziness on the producers' parts. Similarly, I can see how DLC looks like unabashed greed from the publishers, but most of the time I think it's just a sort-of novel marketing approach.

#8 samoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 5037

Posted 05 December 2012 - 04:48 AM

DLC addresses two problems:

1. people are always unhappy and want more/better/faster, no matter what you give them
2. pirating

DLC gives "more" to people who want more, at a small price. It also makes pirating impossible for these people. There may only be a small overlap (most pirates won't pay for DLC either), but there probably is one. Admittedly, most people who pirate a game likely wouldn't pay anything anyway (and despite all petty "want to try before buying" excuses never plan to), but I guess it just depends whether the content/price ratio is such that you create a "rip-off" or a "big gain" feeling.

If you can get some cool feature extra that adds a lot of fun and only costs 2 dollars, you might be tempted to just buy that. All the cool kids have it too. Now, too bad it doesn't work with your pirated copy, because they validate your serial online...

I can see the merits of that.

Edited by samoth, 05 December 2012 - 04:49 AM.


#9 slicer4ever   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3986

Posted 05 December 2012 - 05:01 AM

DLC addresses two problems:

1. people are always unhappy and want more/better/faster, no matter what you give them
2. pirating

DLC gives "more" to people who want more, at a small price. It also makes pirating impossible for these people. There may only be a small overlap (most pirates won't pay for DLC either), but there probably is one. Admittedly, most people who pirate a game likely wouldn't pay anything anyway (and despite all petty "want to try before buying" excuses never plan to), but I guess it just depends whether the content/price ratio is such that you create a "rip-off" or a "big gain" feeling.

If you can get some cool feature extra that adds a lot of fun and only costs 2 dollars, you might be tempted to just buy that. All the cool kids have it too. Now, too bad it doesn't work with your pirated copy, because they validate your serial online...

I can see the merits of that.

i'm not really sure why you have the belief that dlc stops/prevents pirating, if anything dlc would probably be easier to run with pirated software, since you'd just patch the software to ignore w/e checks it does to validate the dlc/itself from running.
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#10 samoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 5037

Posted 05 December 2012 - 06:05 AM

i'm not really sure why you have the belief that dlc stops/prevents pirating, if anything dlc would probably be easier to run with pirated software, since you'd just patch the software to ignore w/e checks it does to validate the dlc/itself from running.

Maybe, maybe not.

You need to get the DLC from somewhere, so you must authenticated online, or pirate the DLC itself (which may or may not be trivial). Authenticating online means that you need a valid serial number (or at least someone you know needs one). It also means you leave a tiny bit of traceable evidence. Maybe not much, but a little bit with every additional DLC you steal. You will probably still never be caught, but you cannot be sure, the risk gets higher every time. A company might give out "bait", which may be as easy as flipping a few bits in a texture or a sound file, or some kind of more advanced stegano-stuff.

If 4-6 months later, you learn that 98% of all cracked DLCs in the wild came from 3 of your customers you can be rather sure that this is not accidential or someone having pirated "privately" (which isn't pursuded in many locations) but you're on the tracks of someone doing this on a large scale. The police might still not get hold of the cracker, but you never know. The evidence is much harder, and the police will likely lay hands on the 3 people from which the respective DLCs originated. At least, they'll have to give plausible answers to some uncomfortable questions.
It's easy to be convincing that you don't know how one piece of software that you bought made it to a ring of crackers, or that it's maybe a mistake, maybe you had some "virus thing" (you don't know much about computers) or maybe your laptop was stolen, or someone might have copied the content at a party last month. It's not quite so easy to give a conclusive explanation when there is a trace of this consistently happening over months. And since you don't know what data they have, it's hard to come up with a good lie without getting caught in a contradiction, at least if the interrogator is somewhat experienced.

Also, you would presumably make your DLC in a way so it is "customized" to one particular installation. A 3-second brainstorming gives e.g. encrypt textures, and use the main executable's checksum plus the serial number as key. Or something the like. It is pretty trivial to encrypt some files with some key on the fly as people buy them in your web-shop.
You may even have your DLC back-authenticate online (including a validation of the original title's binaries and serial number). Since a legitimate customer must necessarily have an internet connection to buy the DLC, there's no hindrance. The only hindrance that exists is if you're not quite so legitimate a customer.

Can this be cracked? Certainly, anything on the user's computer can be cracked, we need not discuss that. However, if you spend more than the 3 seconds I spent thinking about it, it's likely that it isn't all that trivial and that you can't easily produce an universal run-this-to-unlock-crack that everyone and their mother will use.

If a particular piece of DLC costs a mere 2 dollars and only adds "some stuff", it also isn't really worth spending a day cracking it either, especially when new DLC with a varied scheme comes out every week. You'd rather get the fame for cracking the next big title before someone else does.

#11 TheChubu   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4791

Posted 05 December 2012 - 06:09 AM

When Skyrim said they would have no DLC there was a very vocal group of people who wanted to boycott the game. So now we get Skyrim DLC and people want to boycott it for having DLC.

lol, when that actually happened? Beth never said Skyrim wouln't have DLC. They said that they were going for medium sized DLCs with less frequent releases (and that's what they did), and everyone was okay with it since they hoped for Shivering Isles kind of expansions rather than "Horse armor".

Hell, if you even read the official forums, most ppl wasn't contempt with "medium sized DLCs", they wanted expansions.

What you described didn't happened. And i'm guessing the rest of your post has the same problem...

Edited by TheChubu, 05 December 2012 - 06:11 AM.

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#12 MrDaaark   Members   -  Reputation: 3555

Posted 05 December 2012 - 09:22 AM

Just one more thing to make me not buy certain titles.

I hate DLC because the idea of having compelling DLC goes directly against the concept of making the best game you can possibly make. The stuff in DLC is what you call in retail an UPSELL. It means you leave something out, and then you charge more to add it back in to get more money and increase the average revenue per sale.

GTA 4 did it by leaving out a lot of the funner elements from past games and then selling it back to us in 2 big DLC packs. I love the GTA games, but it sucks to go back and play the base GTA4 and lose out on everything that was added in the expansions. The motorcycles in GTA4 had no weight and controlled horribly, so enter DLC 1, which introduced heavy, proper handling bikes... They had proper bikes in 4 titles prior to GTA4 (VC, VCS, LCS, SA), and suddenly they go bad so you have something to sell us? (The storyline content of the 2 expansions was really, really, good and worth the money, but why sabotage gameplay mechanics and features in the basic game?)

Red Dead Redemption killed the great online atmosphere they add by adding needless Zombie DLC. Now everyone online is running around in a zombie skin on a flaming undead horse.

BioWare really pissed me off in Dragon Age Origins by having an NPC at the save camp that asked you for money constantly. It was completely tasteless and broke immersion. You end up at your camp between every major area of the game, and you end up having to deal with this idiot every time. What next? Is Trent Oster going to follow me around and ask me to buy him a pack of smokes?

Dragon Age 2 is not any better. I almost purchased it, but took a quick look at what the DLC was before buying it. And as I suspected, all the best stuff and gear is locked away behind an expensive DLC paywall. Really, 5$ equipment packs for each class? As much as I want to play the game, I'm not going to support this bs.

*I'm cool with the add-on campaigns. There is a difference between paying to unlock stuff and having NPCs nag you about it, and adding actual new side content.

But Bioware has a history of letting me down with their add-on content. I remember when they would put out their expansion packs, and all the promised new content turned out to be mostly hastily re-skinned old content. Which would have been fine, had they not charged me the price of a full game for it.

Capcom disables stuff and has you pay to unlock it right off your own disc. Really insulting in games like Dead Rising where ALL the interesting gear you could build with the game's weapon construction system, and ALL the good costumes to be worn were paywalled. So how can I buy any Capcom games now?

I can list more and more examples. I think this type of DLC is a conflict of interest, and illogical. You can't market DLC for game that is complete. You can't market extra fun items in a game filled with fun items. So you have to purposely dial back the game and make it feel incomplete in order to make people want to buy this stuff. You must sabotage your project and only aim for 90% to support an aftermarket later.

Even worse is when the new physical copy comes out that includes everything for cheaper than you paid for your original copy 6 months ago.

But some people do it right.

Skyrim's new Dragonborn DLC is on the right track. It's a massive chunk of extra content. It's an honest piece of work, and not something that is filling in blanks. The community response to it has been very positive too (for once).

Their other DLC to build houses out in the wild is a bit iffy, but it's something I was actually wishing I could do after I'd had the game for awhile. I think it's a good idea, but I think they could have lumped it in with this, or the last DLC, or at least threw a few more things into it.

Skyrim held nothing back, and I'm still finding new things in it after a year of playing it. So anything they add is fine with with me. I'll be buying Dragonborn as soon as it hits PS3 in a few months. And to their credit, they have patched new features (like mounted combat) into the game for free since release.

Zen Pinball is all DLC. You get the base platform for free (on mobile) with a fully functioning table, and they work to release new tables which they sell cheaply. It's all unique content with new graphics, sounds, gameplay mechanics, etc... Every month or two they have a new table for around 1.99-2.99. These guys are leading by example.

#13 Wavarian   Members   -  Reputation: 728

Posted 05 December 2012 - 11:10 AM

What I don't like about DLC is when I decide to take a 5 month hiatus from a game, and then when I have a spare hour or two to go back to it, there's this huge 4Gb update waiting for me to download BEFORE I can run the game.

Given that Australians don't have great internet providers, many of us have download caps (I myself have a 20Gb cap per month) and speeds low enough to make that 4Gb update take 3 hours to complete. Why would I want to use up a fifth of my quota to update a game I only want to play for two hours here and there?

#14 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 22779

Posted 05 December 2012 - 11:47 AM

I don't mind DLC. I do mind DLC which is available on the same day that the game is released.


Why?

As a developer you should understand there is roughly a 2-month lag between when a product is "done" and when it hits store shelves.

What do you expect the DLC development team to do for those two months?

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#15 Rakilonn   Members   -  Reputation: 421

Posted 05 December 2012 - 12:55 PM

DLC are fine when they are really good unfortunately that's rarely the case because they often are goodies which split the community. With add-ons, the community has only one more thing to buy.

DLC are like small expensive add-ons. For example an add-on costs half the price of the game ( 30 euros ) and you have new multiplayer maps, new weapons, new classes, new solo campaign and sometimes new modes.

In the DLC format, for roughly the same price you only have some multiplayer maps and some weapons, and rarely some modes or classes.
When DLC are really "cheap" it's just to sell virtual goodies which were not long to make.

And please note that multiplayers map and weapons are really cheap to make, so no that's not fair for the customer.

I also found the new "season pass" business method really abused : a game now costs ( Black ops 2 ) 59,99 + 49,99 = 109.98 euros ! For the game + some maps.
Yes, you can only buy the game but you will be with the minority of the community, and it has still costed you 59,99 euros for a PC game !

So I don't like DLC at the moment but if someone makes a real DLC ( = size of a real add-on ) with a fair price ( less than 30 euros ) that will be good.

Edited by Rakilonn, 05 December 2012 - 12:56 PM.


#16 Prinz Eugn   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3683

Posted 05 December 2012 - 01:33 PM

All I'm reading is "How dare they sell a product and then sell additional products!"

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#17 Rakilonn   Members   -  Reputation: 421

Posted 05 December 2012 - 02:15 PM

DLC are not evil on the paper, it's just that there is often not enough content to justify the price.

#18 phantom   Moderators   -  Reputation: 7591

Posted 05 December 2012 - 02:24 PM

And please note that multiplayers map and weapons are really cheap to make, so no that's not fair for the customer.


I'm curious as to how much you think it would cost to make a new, balanced, multiplayer map?

#19 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 22779

Posted 05 December 2012 - 02:29 PM


And please note that multiplayers map and weapons are really cheap to make, so no that's not fair for the customer.


I'm curious as to how much you think it would cost to make a new, balanced, multiplayer map?

For my last game, just over $2M per map. That includes costs of things like first-party certifications.

Most customers (and sadly too many developers) have no idea just how much content costs.


The simple act of getting a piece of content posted as DLC --- first-party certifidcations and such --- is a six digit figure by itself.

Edited by frob, 05 December 2012 - 02:33 PM.

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#20 Rakilonn   Members   -  Reputation: 421

Posted 05 December 2012 - 04:30 PM

Honestly, I don't know how much a multiplayer map costs for a company. Yes, I have exaggerated for the maps, I talked more about the weapons because when I see a weapon which costs 4,00$, there is a problem.
That means if I don't buy 12 objects like this one, I will be able to buy a game. Surely a game is not equivalent to 12 small models.

And the problem is the same with the Map packs ( but significantly less important ).




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