Friday, February 1, 2013

Editorial: Day 1 DLC

 Now, before I get started, I want to stress that this is an EDITORIAL. This is my opinion on the subject. Yours is probably different. Feel free to voice your own and critique mine, I'm sure it's got its own logical fallacies somewhere.

Kotaku published an article earlier today with the headline 'Dead Space 3 has 11 Pieces of Day One DLC', and the subtitle 'Start saving those pennies, folks'. Now, at this point a lot of people are already raging. "DAY ONE DLC, RAAAGE, WHY ISN'T IT PART OF THE GAME BLAHBLAHBLAH". The implicit (and sometimes explicit) connotation is that day one DLC is somehow 'ethically wrong'.

I disagree. It CAN be, but it isn't inherently. DLC, especially Day 1 DLC, should be 'extra', and not required in the main game. Just because it was done before the game was released doesn't automatically mean it HAS to be sold with the game itself. What would make a game with Day 1 DLC different than a game made by a slower team who made the same DLC after release? You're not buying their time and effort before launch, you're buying a product that you reasonably expect to be complete. Of course, you have to define 'complete', so let's do that.

The problem arises when the DLC is not 'extra', when it's a core part of the main game. This is (supposedly) the difference between Zaeed from Mass Effect 2 (who I recall very few people complaining too vociferously about), and Javik from Mass Effect 3, whose non-inclusion in the base game actually caused some people to boycott the game. (Controversy started early with Mass Effect 3). People thought Javik would 'complete' the themes, narrative, or whatever of the game, and thus people thought he should have been on the main disc. I'll agree with that sentiment. (Assuming he IS vital to the game, but that's another topic)

The way I see it, there are two main types of DLC (possibly more but I'm only discussing two). One is purely game-y stuff - like the weapon packs both Dead Space 3 and ME2 and 3 have. The other is 'actual' new content, like most of the DLC for Skyrim or the story-based DLC in the Mass Effect series.

As for the first, I think it's fine to leave that out of the game as long as it's not designed to be an integral part of the game. It's easy to have weapons that are a little OP or offer some slightly different pros and cons than those in the base game and not miss them at all in the base game. It's also definitely possible to have a game that's unreasonably difficult or limiting without the progression those weapons provide. Most F2P microtransaction models work on this principle - totally fair in a F2P game, since that's how they make money, but in a game you've already paid for, weapons like this should only be to provide you with an 'extra edge'.

The second is dodgier. There's a much fuzzier line between 'extra' and 'necessary' content with new mechanical and story content, since in either case they should be integrated into the content already present. Many people were extremely upset with Javik's exclusion from the main game because they believed he would be quite important to the progression of the main plot, while Zaeed was quite obviously totally extra.

In any case, my point in all of this is that it's not as black and white as many people seem to think it is. You are NOT obligated to everything that is developed before release. You're obligated to a finished product. If the exclusion of Day 1 DLC content makes the game not work properly, mechanically or narratively or whatever, THEN it's 'wrong'. Otherwise... get off your high horse. You don't have to buy it (the game or the DLC) if you don't want it.

P.S. I know all this Dead Space 3 stuff is making people mad, especially all put together, but I have yet to see something that is GUARANTEED to make the game unplayable without it, or even inferior. If the balance is the way it SHOULD be, then all this extra stuff should be essentially OP while allowing you to have a normal balanced experience without getting any of it.

That said, it's very possible for them to go the F2P route where it's almost impossible to advance without buying new content, but I hope they aren't THAT dumb. We can also hope they don't make it particularly intrusive. I will admit it's pretty much impossible to tell ahead of time, but this is prime 'vote for your dollar' territory. Assuming you actually want to play DS3, go buy it, and then if it turns out they DID screw up the balance, make a stink and get a refund instead of buying the extras. They'll pay attention.


  1. This takes me back to expansion packs. What really helped sell expansions, in my opinion, was the combination of adding to your current armament and continuing the story or at least expanding on its core principle. Some of these Day 1 DLCs are sort of like buying a cake and then buying a dozen cupcakes because they look like the cake. Good Day 1 DLC is like going out and getting milk and plates and forks and maybe ice cream to go with that cake.

    Food similes to one side, Day 1 DLC is an incredible God-send compared to waiting and waiting and waiting for promised or expected DLC to appear. Game developers making a game that isn't F2P that requires DLC to complete the main progression of the game are interested more in profit than player satisfaction. That in itself is more than enough reason to trade in the game and tread cautiously around that developer from then on.

    1. 'that isn't F2P that requires DLC to complete the main progression' That is the main point, yes, and one I probably didn't state as well as I could have.

      As far as your food analogy, that's what I meant by 'extra'. It's definitely a good analogy in my view.

      thanks for commenting! :)

    2. Following this line of thought, what constitues DLC compared to what constitutes a game? When do games stop adding to the story and just continue telling the same thing? Could Dead Space 2 and 3 really just be expensive DLC?

      Though as I reread this it seems to just be following the question "what is a game".

    3. Also, I hadn't seen the new Errant Signal before posting this. So, this isn't coming from that.