Mad Mack: The Four Worst Kinds Of DLC
I know I have tackled this topic in the past, and some of you may be thinking: “Yes, we know you’re not a fan of the business tactics Dave, but what do you have to say that is different from before?” Well, the thing is, I don’t have a problem with all DLC – I just have a problem with the shit sort; the sort that is a blatant cash grab by publishers eager to exploit their loyal fanbase.
Recently, we published an article extolling the virtues of the best kind of DLC. You know, the kind that lasts nearly as long as the core game, while at the same time making the core game better. For those of you who are old enough to remember, this kind of DLC has been around for a long time, and used to be called ‘An Expansion’.
This is not an article about that kind.
We’ve all seen many shady attempts at extracting money from gamers through added content, and I’m sure we have all spent real money on something only to wonder what we were thinking. But sometimes, it’s worth taking stock just to remind yourself how fucking abysmal some publishers are.
So then, here are the four types of DLC I consider to be the absolute worst, starting with…
I am going to get this out of the way quickly, because some might argue that there is merit to being able to give your horse purely cosmetic armour if you are a massive fan of the game. I strongly disagree however, and actually see this as one of the worst kinds of exploitation – because it is exploiting the players who are most loyal to the franchise.
Let me put it this way. I loved Mass Effect 2 more than I have loved any of my siblings (though to be fair, I love Magners cider more than I love my siblings), and I have a certain level of OCD when it comes to having all the things in a game. So, when my OCD met with my love for ME2, I was going to buy every single item of DLC they would release. Every. Single. One. Starting with the Collector’s Edition, and running through weapon packs (which I never used – more on that later) all the way to skin packs for my squad.
And this is why cosmetic DLC represents such a kick in the balls. Not just because I feel ripped off (though that should be reason enough), it is because, like me, there will be other gamers who just cannot get enough of a game or franchise and so will be willing to pay of any old shite that the publisher thinks will earn a few extra dollars. It a cash grab pure and simple and adds absolutely zero value to the gaming experience. In my view it is therefore reprehensible. But not as reprehensible as….
Recently, the producer of Dead Space 3 stated that there are (apparently) horror and action game fans out there who have only played games on their smart phones, and that micro-transactions are a part of gameplay on smartphones. Therefore, by extension, it was his view that including micro-transactions in the game would increase its appeal to the smartphone crowd.
Now, I don’t need to explain to you why that is Bizarro World logic, or that it made him sound like he was huffing paint. Does he seriously think people are sitting on the bus on the way to work playing games on their smartphones because they have never heard of a PS3? Or that by including micro-transactions you will suddenly see people dragging their home entertainment systems on public transport with them? Fuck no. Of course not. The logic just does not stack up. Certainly, it does not stack up in the same way that twenty-dollar notes do…
But are these sorts of transactions a problem? Can they just be for gamers who want to experience the story and not worry about the game difficulty? Well, again, this concept is not new to gaming, only in my day it used to be called ‘Cheats’. You entered some fancy keystroke combination and hey, voila, extra lives or infinite ammo or whatever. Shit, the first Dead Space had cheats – I used one to generate extra power cells, because, like many others, I found it a considerable challenge, and just wanted to get through it (also, I was tired of having to steam clean my sofa after every shit-inducing session).
But apart from now having to pay real money for our cheats, the micro-transaction also raises another big, smelly issue. Namely, one of difficulty. In a game where you can essentially pay money to make it easier, what is the actual, native difficulty level? A well-designed game will have multiple difficulty levels, but one will be set to How The Game Is Meant To Be Played, with those on either side being for little girls, or absolute masochists. Think the new XCOM with its ‘Easy, Normal, Classic, Impossible’ difficulty selection – Classic is how the Classic game played (clue is in the name) – i.e. unforgiving but do-able – while Impossible, like the name suggests, is piss-takingly hard.
So, what is the game experience supposed to be when you can pay to make it incrementally easier? In Fable 3, you could purchase DLC weapons in-game using real money. These weapons essentially amounted to the same as in Dead Space 3 in that they made the game a bit easier. So I ask again, where is the native difficulty? And do you think it beyond the bounds of posibility for designers to start making games that are incredibly difficult without buying better weapons or more resources, effectively forcing us to partake in their micro-transaction bullshit?
That said, as bad as this one is, it pales in comparison to the following DLC type…
(Crucial) Day One DLC
Mass Effect 3: From Ashes. I could probably leave this section right here.
We all know the story: the developer leaves off crucial content from the full game, forcing their loyal gamers (truly the MOST loyal, as they are Day One purchasers) to pay a bit more money for the content (or they include it ‘for free’ in the Limited Edition version, which basically amounts to the same thing).
This is lowest-of-the-low behaviour, designed to extract more money from you before the game is even warm in your disc tray. While some might argue that the From Ashes content was just an extra character and some new dialogue, this character was actually central to the lore of the whole series, and many would argue totally indispensable.
Even so, this is not the worst thing I have ever seen (though it is related and not far off the mark)…
Imagine buying Street Fighter 3 and then being told you had to pay extra for Ryu. Or Sagat. Or any of the other characters that truly define the series. Imagine purchasing a Call of Duty game and then being told that if you wanted to see the set pieces and spectacle, that would cost you extra. How outraged would you be?
Prepare to get outraged, people – because this is already happening.
Dead Space is a terrifying franchise. Or should I say was a terrifying franchise, because from what I hear Dead Space 3 is more of an action-shooter than it is a horror title. Now, I am not going to bang on about the cheapening of a great IP or the move away from real horror, because, frankly, I don’t give a shit about survival-horror. I will leave that to those that care.
However, just this week, around the actual launch of Dead Space 3, Steve Papoutsis, boss of Visceral games, went on record to tell everyone that the first DLC pack, titled ‘Awakened’, would contain “some of the most disturbing content they have ever seen in a Dead Space game”. Apparently it will also see the franchise’s “darkest chapters”.
Do you need a moment to let that sink in?
Yes, that’s right. A franchise that was known for its dark, depressing and disturbing horror, that has been made more of an action title in its third incarnation, is now offering fans of the series the option of buying the game, and then paying extra in order to experience the same dark, disturbing horror they have come to know and love.
Are you out of your fucking minds? They are literally saying ‘buy this action game and then buy the horror content later’. Why, I ask, why, was this content not included in the actual FUCKING GAME? OK, so you wanted to make an action game to appeal to the smartphone crowd. So, you know what you do? You pull an Arkham City, and offer the real terrifying content as a bonus for people who buy the game on release. THAT is how you handle it. You do NOT charge loyal fans of Dead Space 1 and 2 additional money just to experience what they are used to seeing from a Dead Space title.
Make no mistake, this is what we were all afraid of when we saw what happened with From Ashes. They have actually removed crucial content from the core game to sell to you after you have already paid for it. And you know what’s worse? It’ll probably make a bastard fortune.