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DLC: Swings and Roundabouts

In this current generation of consoles there’s obviously a large focus on downloadable content. From small add-ons like character skins and new weapons, to much larger downloads like maps and even whole new expansion packs. It’s a great way for developers to build on an already successful title and extend the longevity of a game; perhaps throwing in some new ideas or a completely new story driven experience. But then there’s also a dark side to downloadable content as we see a lot of developers (or publishers) capitalizing on it just to make a quick buck.

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“There’s also a dark side to downloadable content”But I’ll start this little piece with the good side of things. I, for one, love DLC when it’s worth my time and money. Rock Band 2 is an excellent game with a surplus of stand-out songs included on the disc. Developers Harmonix don’t want to sit back and rest on their laurels though; they’re committed to building on that set list, continually releasing more and more songs each week. There’s now an overabundance of tracks available, and I don’t mind paying for them because it’s always a small price for what you’re getting. I know I’ll play those songs a countless amount of times so it never feels like I’ve been cheated, or wasted my money.

And that‘s still just a small part of what DLC is all about. There’s a whole host of larger packs out there, including Bethesda’s work on expanding the Fallout 3 folklore. I, and many other people, was disappointed with Operation: Anchorage. It was more of a shooter than anything else, taking out half of what makes Fallout 3 such an exceptional game. But I still maintain hope for the two more pieces of DLC we’re expecting over the next few months. We’ve seen what Bethesda did with the massive Shivering Isles expansion for Oblivion, so hopefully we’ll see something similar delivered with Fallout 3; because, boy, does it deserve it.

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I’m also really looking forward to Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned. I think this is the perfect example of what DLC should be – something for other developers to aspire to. It was obvious Rockstar had this idea in their heads from the beginning, and it really shows. Not only are we getting a completely new tale with brand new missions, but also new vehicles, weapons and even animations just to differentiate the two playable characters from the GTAIV universe. I’m sure there are plenty more surprises in store for us, and I can’t wait. If Rockstar decided to work on content like this rather than develop a new game, I wouldn’t complain. Liberty City is such a beautifully crafted city, that it’d be a mistake to ignore it now and move onto something else.

So that’s all good and well, but it’s when we have to pay for small features that I get annoyed – features that could have easily been in the game from the start. Look at the recently released Skate 2 as an example. In the first game you could go into the editor and add all sorts of different film effects to improve your film and make it unique. Now, in Skate 2, you’re going to have to pay for this feature. Seriously? You have to pay to use effects? Something that was included in the first game from the beginning?

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“It’s when we have to pay for small features that I get annoyed”All that’s going to do is split the community. A lot of the films aren’t going to be as good as before simply because people aren’t willing to pay for something that should be included on the disc in the first place. We’ve already shelled out however much it is for the game, so why add another sum onto that? I can understand the developers need to make money off of DLC, especially with the pre-owned business thriving as it is. I just think some developers should take a different approach. Rather than try and make a quick buck from miniscule features, how about putting some time and effort in to make something worthwhile. If it’s good enough it will sell well and get the game some extra exposure down the line. Surely that can only be a good thing?

And I know EA get a lot of flack, and I’m going after them a bit here, but I’m really enjoying what they’re doing at the moment with their new IPs and the like; I just don’t like the way they are handling their DLC. Dead Space is in a similar position to Skate 2; we’re having to pay for small add-ons like weapon and armour skins. Who’s really going to buy something like that? They can’t be making that much money off of it, so why not just stick it on the disc? If this was a PlayStation 2 or Xbox game all of these little bonuses that we’re having to pay for were always included on the disc from the start. You’d just unlock them with cheat codes, or by beating the game or challenges and so on. It was never a frivolous bonus, just something you’d expect and take for granted.

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I know this argument may seem a little redundant since I’m not being forced to buy them; it’s just disappointing that people have to pay extra money to get something that would have been featured on the disc ten years ago. It’s a sign of the times and definitely gives you an idea of the state of DLC. Some developers want to use it to gain a quick buck whilst others actually want to improve upon the original experience, treating the fans with some new content that extends the longevity of a title. I suppose with everything good you get some bad thrown in as well.

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @richardwakeling.

Gentle persuasion

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