Game Industry Misbehaving Series  Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Game Industry Misbehaving Series  RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Game Industry Misbehaving Series: Failings of DLC Sun, 30 Nov 2014 11:00:56 -0500 Pierre Fouquet

Downloadable content (DLC) is something special. It was introduced with the seventh generation consoles (Wii, Xbox 360, and PS3). DLC can extend the life of a game or bring new experiences within the game. It can also bring new maps, new weapons, new areas, new characters, and new stories. DLC is great when used correctly, but sometimes companies use it to make as much money as possible out of gamers. This wasn't the original purpose of DLC, nor should it be the main purpose now. Companies should use DLC to help players get the most out of the games they've purchased. I want to talk about where DLC fails in the ways it's used, as well as the pros and cons of certain types of DLC. 

Different Types of DLC

Before I start, I want to briefly touch on the different types of DLC that exist, and my definitions of them:

  • DLC - This is DLC that you simply purchase and use. It's not included in any pre-order, Season Pass, or through a particular store deal. Developers may announce the DLC before the game is out, but until the game's released the DLC cannot be purchased.
  • Pre-order DLC - This is DLC which you get for pre-ordering the game.
  • Platform-Exclusive DLC - This is DLC which you can only get on a specific platform, and is often used as an incentive to purchase the game on that specific platform.
  • Store-Exclusive DLC - This is DLC which you can only get if you purchase a game in a specific store, and is often used as incentive to do so.
  • Season Pass - This is when you pre-purchase a specific amount of DLC, often for a discounted price on each DLC separately. For example a game has 4 DLC packs at $5, that's $20 in total. The Season Pass would sell for $15, so 1 DLC would be free.
  • On-Disk DLC - This is DLC which is already included with the game, either on the physical copy or alongside the download files. Games with included DLC are usually more expensive than their basic versions.
  • Free DLC - This is any DLC released for free, as long as you have an internet connection you can download it. Extra content given in updates counts as Free DLC.

DLC Quest is a commentary on the state of DLC in games now. Find it on Steam.

So with each type of DLC cleared up, let's get to explaining why they are good or bad.


There is nothing inherently bad with just selling DLC for a game. But there is an issue when 20 or 30 DLC packs get released for a game. Take Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row 4 as examples. The former has 20 DLC packs and the latter has 26 DLC packs. When is too much just too much? Most of these packs are just weapons or clothes, so why are players being asked to pay a fair amount of money for them? Weapons and clothing should either be free, or included in a larger DLC pack with a new area, or a have new type of gameplay mechanic attached to them.

Sure, some of the Saints Row DLCs had a few new storylines, which did extend the life of the games at a fair price. These are well-done DLC packs. However, they are not among the best. That honor goes to the GTA IV DLC. "The Lost and Damned" (TLaD) and "The Ballad of Gay Tony" (TBoGT) did not change the setting of the game, but they added new gameplay elements. The bike club system in TLaD gave players the ability to call in other bikers to help them out. TBoGT added a parachute and a higher flight ceiling so that players could fly higher. Both of these pieces of content also added slightly new aesthetics: TLaD added some film grain, for a more gritty feel, and TBoGT added higher contrast, due to it being based around night club owners. They also added new vehicles and weapons, like bikes, helicopters, and new shotguns, rifles, pistols, and explosive ammo.  That's a whole lot of content to pack into two DLCs, and it's how DLC should be done. 

 This pack included both TLaD and TBoGT. It became available after both DLCs had released.

Pre-order DLC

I don't think I can say anything good about pre-order DLC, except the obvious point that it makes people want to pre-order the game for the extra content, so the company fares better in sales. I'm sure you are wondering what is wrong with pre-order DLC. Let's take a look at Alien: Isolation. To be more exact, the "Crew Expendable" and "Last Survivor" DLC packs. In these packs, you play as Ellen Ripley, Dallas or Parker. This begs the question: if the game was so heavily influenced by the Alien franchise, which has each one of those characters in it, why are they made peripheral as pre-order DLC, which would exclude them from the games of players who can't or choose not to pre-order? Why should players be charged extra for content that is important to the franchise? That just makes no sense to me; it feels as though it's going against what the principle of the game is - to recreate the feeling of dread and powerlessness against an unstopple alien, and to relive the universe and story of the movie franchise. But what if the game had been terrible? Then this DLC with extra characters would have been nothing more than a lure to trap players into buying a bad game. And that doesn't do honor to the Alien series. These should have either been free or sold later down the line. (I am not against selling DLC after a game is released.)

DLC pricing and strategy is usually all done by the publisher. Of course not all games have separate publishers, but for the ones that do, it's often the publisher who controls the pricing models. In the case of Alien: Isolation, Creative Assembly developed it, and Sega published it, meaning Sega called the shots on the pre-order DLC. Please direct all annoyance toward Sega for this one. Developers could perhaps put more pressure on publishers to reconsider the way they use DLC, but doing so could cause backlash from the publisher that would jeopardize the game's success. 

The pre-order advert for Alien: Isolation.

Platform- and Store-Exclusive DLC

Let's explore both these types at once, because they have the same issues. These issues boil down to the fact the content is already in the game, so why are only specific people allowed to have it? To me, it feels a little bit like bribery - a company or store offering extra content that will make more money for a publisher, for which they receive extra revenue from extra sales. Which just sounds a bit shady. It's a beneficial relationship for both companies involved, but is it really beneficial to players?

I will talk about Platform Exclusive DLC primarily, because dicussing worldwide platforms is more relatable than discussing regional store chains, but the ideas are shared between both types. Let's take Watch Dogs as an example. On all the PS3 and PS4, it received 30 minutes extra gameplay. Doesn't sound like a lot, and it apparently didn't add a lot to the game, but that's not the point. The point is that this content was made. Time, resources, and effort were put into creating that content, yet an entire section of the fan base was excluded from having access to it, simply because of their console choice. That's wrong, and it drives me away from ever purchasing any Ubisoft games on any Sony platforms. However, timed, exclusive content is also a thing Call of Duty does too, as its DLC is released around a month earlier on Xbox than on other systems. And for what? Some maps?

There is nothing I can see that's good about this, so I'll cut myself off here before I rant on about it. My last comments on this are that if someone has created the content, every single person who buys the game should have access to it. No matter how, where, or on what they purchased the game. Timed exclusive content isn't as bad, but I still don't understand why it exists.

The advert for the Watch Dogs Sony exclusive content.

The Season Pass

When is the last time you wholeheartedly trusted an AAA publisher or developer to deliver top-quality content? Do you completely trust EA, Ubisoft, Capcom or any other AAA publisher or developer? By purchasing a Season Pass you are putting your trust into that company, and what do you get back from it? Nothing, for a while. You are trusting that they will give content which is worth the money that you put into it. You are trusting that the company will deliver high quality content, and 9 times out of 10 you will be let down.

I don't have much more to say about Season Passes - they're really a matter of personal trust. I do not trust AAA to deliver high quality content post-launch, especially when many cannot even deliver with the base game. Battlefield 4, Assassins Creed: Unity and even Watch Dogs are a testament to that, among many others. Duke Nukem Forever, anyone? How about Aliens: Colonial Marines?

This is the advert for the Assassins Creed: Unity Season Pass, the Gold Edition of the game has it included.

On-Disk DLC

Yes there is a good thing about on-disk DLC.

Let's go ahead and get that good out the way. Putting the DLC on the disk can help people with slower internet connections. Instead of having to download 100MB, 500MB or even 2GB for content, you only need to download 50KB for an unlock file. It's also (usually) available to all players who want it, and often saves the time and money spent purchasing/downloading the DLC at full price later on (since game/DLC bundles are usually somewhat discounted). 

Now the bad. Even though the DLC is on-disk, it still does not excuse the fact the developer/publisher is charging you for content which was already created during standard developement time. It's still the result of companies trying to cpaitalize as much as possible on players who want to get the most out of their games. 

When a developer has finished a game, and the public theoretically could play it, the game gets put on a disk. This is the point at which a game has gone gold. (This is often around a month or so before the game's release date.) It ensures shipment of boxes goes smoothly. Any missed game bugs beyond this point are fixed in last-minute patches, often put out on the day of or day after release.

Do you know what this tells me? That the on-disk DLC was created during standard developement time. (Time which could have been spent on fixing those base-game bugs rather than making extra content for extra money.) It did not take any extra time, or effort to complete. It's always been an intended part of the game, even if it's not essential. So why is it suddenly being charged for? One of the most notable examples of this is Street Fighter x Tekken, but it's not the only one.

The logo for Street Fighter x Tekken.

Free DLC

I have spent enough time criticizing DLC. At the beginning of this article, I said it was great, and I still think that. Free DLC is the only type of DLC which has no downsides, unless you have slow internet. Monolith, the developer of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, constantly releases new content for free with game updates. (The most recent is being able to play as Lithariel, more information on that here.)

And CD Projekt Red recently announced that they will have 16 free DLC packs for The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, more on that here. Thank you to writer  for this news.

Free DLC is the way to go for any DLC, aside from massive new story lines, like in TLaTD or TBoGT or the World of Warcraft expansions. Big things which takes a lot of time are ok to charge for, because sometimes they're almost as big as the original game itself. (The DLCs for Skyrim added nearly 400 extra hours of gameplay, 350 of which came solely from Dawnguard. That's almost as much time as Skyrim itself.)

16 free DLCs for The Witcher 3. We know what 4 of the DLCs are, the other 12 we don't yet. Who's betting on one of them being an Enhanced Edition?

Closing Remarks

We should push the AAA publishers to think about how they sell their DLC, and if they should sell them at all. We should push them into caring about us, and the only way to do that is to keep your money away from the bad stuff. The only ones who have the power for change is you. The gamers.

This time Vader does not need you for evil, but good. And the force for change lies within you.

Games Industry Misbehaving: Is Steam Sick? Does it Have a Virus? Tue, 30 Sep 2014 02:48:27 -0400 Pierre Fouquet

With the recent update Steam has received, I want to talk about what the deal with the Steam Store is, and why the personalization update is so important.


Steam Greenlight is a service which allows users to vote on games submitted to the system. After an unspecified number of votes, which needs to be specified, Steam (there by Valve) will allow that game to be published on Steam. This opens the flood gates for all sorts of monstrosities to be released onto Steam... just look at Air Control. CAUTION: Side effects include minor to major bleeding of the eyes.

Steam Greenlight at heart is great, but in practice can fail.

However, Greenlight is a great system that allows games, which may not get the mainstream audiences attention, to get exposure. Just because a game is unheard of doesn't mean it's bad - a lack of publicity can simply be due to not having a large publisher backing, so no marketing support.

Greenlight allows gamers, using a mainstream platform (Steam), to vote for games which they find interesting. I think the system also gives developers more incentive to create experiences that players want, and gives them a chance to see if their idea is wroth sticking with.

Where Greenlight fails is with the developers (or publishers) themselves, it basically allows them to lie. 

Greenlight allows developers to pitch an idea which sounds great: get votes and then release the game on the Steam Store. But, this practice is wholesale and with no promise that the game will be any good or even work at all.

Success in this process then gives developers the ability to publish games easier on the store from then on, as they are have become an established publisher on the Steam system... Then you get into the situation we currently have: too many Greenlit games, and most are of terrible quality. Air Control I am looking at you.

What Even are those on the Floor? Yes, this is Air Control.

Is Greenlight the Only Failing?

Not by a long way, the other side who fails here is Valve themselves, with a lack of quality control. This is where I liken it to a virus, where the virus says that everything is ok with these games, and so Steam’s cells (the automatic publishing system) allow the game to be posted. The games then can infect more wallets with false promises.

All Hope is Not Lost

As I said at the beginning, Steam has received a recent update. This update does two things:

  1. Adds a personalised Steam Store front page.

The New Layout Makes Steam Blue (which looks good) and adds suggestions based on gameplay and purchases, among many other things.

  1. Adds the group Curator system.

The Curation system allows you to follow curators’ you trust, these are built into the Steam Group system (it’s a new tab).

With these changes, I think that there will be less clutter on the front page, and it will allow gamers to really delve into the games they want to play. It will show the games which are functional and the games which are good, amazing, and must buys.

The curation system is the biggest change, and I think the best way to see the games which are worth buying - as long as you trust the curator. So, pick a trust-worthy group. It also allows the curator to give a brief explanation (and be able to link to a full review) as to why you might like this or that game, and why it’s worth the purchase.

A Step in the Right Direction

These new systems Valve has put into place, will help separate the good from the bad. Or the experiences you need to play, even if a little buggy. But you will go into them knowing a bit more about what to expect.

Check out GameSkinny's Steam Group page, and the games they suggest. Or my own (GS has a better one).

What do you think about the new redesign? Does the curation system excite you? Does Valve need to put a QC system onto Steam? Let me know in the comments bellow.

Game Industry Misbehaving Series: Steam Early Access, Fraudulent or Truthful? Wed, 26 Feb 2014 03:30:47 -0500 Pierre Fouquet

Does the Early Access program steal your money, or use it in creative ways?

Think About the Developer's Rent

Developers are humans and so need to pay for everything. They need to have a roof, and some food, as well as all the other nice things humans need.

Without this sort of system, and no publishers to back the projects, how can small studios make their games? The answer is that they can't, without sacrificing such luxuries like food, or water, or a place to sleep.

Money Grabbers

Developers need houses, yes, but that's only the developers who are just starting out. Take other developers who have already got a publishing deal. Games like Arma 3 or DayZ, in this case the developers are the publishers.

However this does not stop the fact they already have all the funding and houses they need.

So why would these people put an unfinished game on Steam Early Access?

To milk money from an unfinished game and from their fanbase is why.

Glitches were very obvious in the Arma 3 Alpha and Beta.

What Would the Developers Point of View be?

You, the consumer, may see this as a money grabbing scheme from the Bohemia Interactive teams, but they see this as showing you their game. They want to show you how it grows, expands and improves. Simply put to get the game, in an early stage, into gamers hands. They can then optimise the experience to fit the gamers wants and needs, to shape the game how gamers want it, while keeping to their vision. Balancing the game, stress testing the game and generally testing the game, to make sure it releases with as little bugs as possible. Indeed, Arma 3 is the least buggy Arma game, with the best AI.

DayZ was held off for a long time untill Dean 'Rocket' Hall, the creator of the DayZ mod and the head honcho for the DayZ team, held off the release untill he was happy it was ready to be playable, and in a reasonable condition. (Mr Hall is leaving DayZ soon).

DayZ Standalone has a few glitches, but nothing more than the mod.

Should you Always Trust Developers?

Do you trust a developer who releases a game which isn't created to its full potential, making the game broken and difficult to play? The outrage at the Battlefield 4 multiplayer being a prime example of this leading to a significant number of gamers demanding refunds. This then led players (like you) towards not trusting DICE as much as they may once have. So why when a game like, 7 Days to Die comes out (and you are made to pay full price for it, if you want it) is there almost no backlash? Do we just accept poor quality or down right broken games because it bears the mark pre-alpha or the like? Are gamers buying into this purely because the games bear the mark, "Steam Early Access"? Do you have any ideas?

7 Days to Die may have good ideas, but it doesn't make them look good, or work.

Who is to stop a developer just never finishing their game? What if they run out of money because they can't manage said money, and so cannot pay for staff or office/house rent? Will they, in effect, been stealing the money, of possibly thousands of gamers, on a false promise? In my books, that's fraud.

What is an Alpha or Beta for?

For developers:

  • Alpha 
    • When game's story has been implemented, but often unfinished
    • A small part of the world has been made
    • Very buggy or unoptimised
  • Beta
    • When full game is playable from start to finish
    • There are bugs (sometimes game breaking)
    • Optimisation issues a plenty.

For the consumer theses should mean something a bit different.

  • Pre-Alpha
    • When the core concept is there.
    • Game isn't fleshed out.
  • Alpha
    • Building upon the pre-alpha
    • Core concept works and is fully playable
    • Minimal game breaking bugs.
    • Like the state DayZ is currently in.
  • Beta 
    • Fully functional
    • There are some optimisation issues
    • Servers need to be stress tested, due to online features
    • Such as the Titanfall Beta
Attach These Definitions to 7 Days to Die

Is 7 Days to Die in a fit state to be released? I don't think so, but for a game like Interstellar Marines it's ok right? Errr... I'm not sure, do you want tell me what you think?

Interstellar Marines has one of the most open developers out there, Zero Point Software. They often release 'behind the scenes' video logs (vlogs) for small announcements, and they release previews for upcoming updates. All of this really shows how basic the game is, and where they want to go with it. But the game is functional and has only minor bugs, well with the exceptions, and the issues that come with PC gaming, it will crash. Overall the game is very stable, I think in part it's due to Zero Point developing it in public eye and in small sections. It's in a pre-alpha stage, where there is only multiplayer, and no single player as of yet. So this is a good thing right? Even if I do personally like the game, even in its current state, I am waiting for it to be fully released to play it as much as I want to. I payed for it as I wanted to fund the game, just like I wanted to do with their unfortunate Kickstarter. Is this how Early Access should be used? To fund a game in a similar way that Kickstarter uses?

Interstellar Marines was released very barebones, but works. Almost flawlessly.

Is Early Access Just like Kickstarter?

In some ways yes. You give a developer money, before the game is out, to help fund the development process. Only the game has to be playable right? Well not always, as I have explained before, but the developer does have more of an inclination to finish the game as it's playable, and in the publics hands. Which is always a good thing. Look at Broken Age for a great Kickstarter success.

The game may have gone over budget, but it's still great.

The good side of Alphas or Betas

As I have said before, the Early Access Program allows a game to be shown to people before it has been released; as a sort of pay for demo. This allows player feedback to shape the game. Then it's exactly how gamers want it. Think Goldilocks and her porridge, it's just right. I think it also opens the development process of the game up to the public, as they can see exactly how the game takes shape, what features are harder to make (these will often be the features implemented last) or what features get taken out, if any (but hasn't happened as of yet).

The Name: Steam Early Access

Does the name of the program make you think you can have access to games early? Sure. But does it also tell you the game is still in development? Not so much.

I think Early Access says to someone "you can now have access to our game earlier than anyone else, and it will work". Which is not the case. Maybe a more fitting name would be, Steam Funding Access, or Steam Pre-Release Access. Ok, not those, but something which screams. This game is still being made, it will be broken, and/or unfinished. This is purely for funding the game and seeing the progress we make.

My Views

If the system is used well, like with DayZ, then great. On the DayZ Steam page, it says:

They are actively trying to stop you from buying their game unless you want to fund it, or are able to deal with game breaking issues. This is great, as it tells you exactly what to expect.

I hate Early Access when it's used to push out a bad, broken, or unfinished game, and claim it's like that because it's still in development. So I mostly hate the way some developers use the system. I really hate it when the terms Alpha, Beta, etc, are used as get out of jail free cards. I know the game is still being made, but as I can play it, it should work.

I like the idea behind Early Access, but dislike the way some use it.

Readers Your Money! Please?

Now as this article is in an unfinished state, I demand your money! Or you will never get the full article. What's that? This article is finished? Never mind then.

Please leave your mumblings, thoughts, musings, or fully constructed and formatted ideas in the comments bellow. It would be best if all of the above are to do with the article, but feel free to write about anything.

If you cannot complete your fully constructed ideas, please don't ask for money, that's just rude.