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Posted by Zac MacDonald on Jan 29, 2013

DLC – The Good And The Bad

The Trials Of St. Lucia - Dante's Inferno DLC

DLC, everyone’s favorite thing on earth.

Who doesn’t love the idea of buying a game for 60 bucks, only to find out that when you get home, you’ve got part of the game you not only get to download, but pay another 10 bucks for!

Okay, this is tiring. Let me drop the sarcastic enthusiasm.

DLC nowadays, especially Day 1 DLC, isn’t worth anything anymore. As you all know, a lot of Day 1 DLC is simply content that the publishers made the developers hold back from the actual game (though, usually still on the disc) that they charge 5 to 10 dollars for on the first day, or worse, content that the publishers pulled the developers away from the main game specifically to make, which takes valuable time and resources away from the final product.

Omega - Final Fantasy 13-2 DLCThe problem with this is a LOT of people, including myself, feel like we’re getting an incomplete game. Seemingly in response to this, a lot of recent DLC has been an additional side mission, or special weapons and items, stuff that doesn’t really have any effect on the story or overall gameplay. More often than not, it’s fairly useless in the grand scheme of things, and to someone like myself, this doesn’t really seem worth it.

The problem with this DLC is that if you buy it day 1, you’re likely to want to use it day 1, too. So the side-quests and items have to be available from the start. The problem with this, in say, the case of an RPG, is these side quests or items, or side quests FOR items, can’t be the side-quest for The Infinity +1 Sword, or the most powerful boss in the game. No, most of the weapon DLC are more or less useless by halfway through the game because the devs can’t give you something over-powered to make the game easier. And the side quests, more often than not, are just loosely stapled on to the story, or even worse, just take place in some pocket-dimension that has no bearing on the game at all.

There are ways around some of this with Day 1 DLC, like unlocking alternate costumes early, or perhaps a weapon that increases your strength by a slightly higher percentage than the rest in the game, rather than a static number, which solves the imbalance of power. And some games have been doing more intelligent stuff like this, but not enough of them are.

Now there is some Day-1 DLC that is A-Okay in my book, and that’s DLC that was made using the time between when a game “goes gold” (is given the OK to start printing) and when the printing is completed, which can take weeks, as was the case with Borderlands 2. It’s not so much a money-grab as it is a way for the developer to have something to do in the interim, rather than immediately start working on the sequel. Plus it puts a little more money in their pockets at launch, which is far more likely to get that sequel green-lit.

Lost In Nightmares - Resident Evil 5 DLCResident Evil 5 is a great example of both doing it wrong, and doing it right. If you remember back in 2009, when it was first released, there was about a week or two where the versus mode was not available. The DLC was fairly low cost at $5, but the download itself was less than 2MB. Now, it’s entirely possible that Capcom’s claim that it’s a new set of code that applied new function to existing assets and the likes, but a lot of people were not convinced, and if the case is they’re lying, that’s doing it very wrong. However, Capcom has done an admirable job with support for the Resident Evil series, with 5 getting several additional storylines that have their own set of achievements, and 6 having minor tweaks based on community feedback, which is very, very, very right.

But let’s talk about the On-Disc DLC a bit more; the idea that having content on the disc you already paid $60 for that you now have to shell out another $10 to unlock? Well to be perfectly honest, the idea behind that isn’t so bad anymore, sure, it was back in 2009 and 2010 when Resi5 and Bioshock2 were the focus of much rage for this exact practice, and Day 1 DLC wasn’t as common as it is today. However, if the publisher is set on holding back content just to suck money out of my pocket, I’d rather it be on the disc already so I don’t have to spend time downloading it, to be honest. But that’s just a silver lining to this cloud of poop that is the state of our industry.

Overall, I think the thing I want to leave off saying is sort of more for the developers and publishers. Day 1 DLC isn’t evil, I’m not someone who’s claiming it’s the end of all things. But it’s not really worthwhile to a lot of gamers. Yeah, I’m sure people still buy it, and at the end of the day, that may be all you’re…okay, that pretty much IS all you’re looking for. But if you want to show people like myself that your DLC is worth it, spend time on it, make it special, and for God’s sake make it add achievements so I feel I’m getting my money’s worth.

Argul's Tomb - Darksiders 2 DLCIn closing, DLC is a delicate thing, and it’s often handled the wrong way. Real, good DLC is something that almost doesn’t exist anymore. The best DLC adds to the story, that is not something that was taken out of the game deliberately in order to sell it back to us for 10 bucks, but it expands on the actual game. It shouldn’t be just a gauntlet of the same enemies for in-game currency or lackluster weapons, and for the love of Cthulhu, it adds achievements so I feel like I didn’t just pop in my 2 month old game for 10 bucks worth of “awkwardly getting used to the controls again” for an hour.

How do you feel about DLC? Would you like to see more of it, or less of it? Or how would you handle it if it were up to you?

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