The State of DLC
Since the moment internet connectivity partnered with gaming, post release support has always been at the forefront of developers thinking. First we saw cosmetic changes with horse armour coming to The Elders Scrolls IV: Oblivion, then multiplayer maps, extra single player content and then XP bonuses all began to follow. The sheer volume of DLC that gamers are gifted with continues to grow with each passing year, and though there is some suspicious deals from time to time including content exclusive to certain retailers, to certain consoles and some that is made available only to those who pre-order the game as an incentive – there is also plenty of good stuff out there. There is a large cloud of negativity that follows DLC, and it’s time that we look to the silver lining and recognised some of the best DLC out there. Before diving into some of my own thoughts I took some time to survey some of my fellow Player2.net.au writers on their favourite pieces of DLC.
Our own Sarah Ellen was enamoured with Mario Kart 8’s superb DLC, it doubled the number of tracks in the game, added a slew of new characters and was quite affordable at $10AUD. Ignore the sponsored Mercedes Benz DLC, numerous writers agreed that Mario Kart 8’s DLC was a hit!
Numerous names including Jason Imms and Joel Guttenberg declared that Bioshock 2’s Minerva’s Den DLC to be the main reason to buy the game in the first place. Not a stand-alone piece of content, much to the disappointment of many, Minerva’s Den was in retrospect the only reason to buy Bioshock 2 at all. This was due to it being a fantastic single player add-on with a self-contained narrative that carried the weight and emotion that we expected to get out of the main game that was a sequel to one of the generations best games.
Matt Hewson spoke glowingly of Borderlands 2’s DLC. I too second his comments, Borderlands 2 in its initial season of DLC offered up massive amounts of additional content that had been clearly planned out prior to the main games release. It elicited the same laughs, carried itself with the same charm and possessed the same level of depth as the main game, ensuring that players were returning to Pandora regularly to try out the newest content… then, as if they hadn’t already gifted us with enough, they went and made a second season too!
Universally loved by Player2 writers was The Last of Us’ phenomenal ‘Left Behind’ DLC. There was only one slice of single player DLC for The Last of Us but the story told in this single 2hour DLC carried more weight and conveyed more emotion than most full games have ever done. The strength of Naughty Dog’s story telling prowess shone through in Left Behind leaving many fans excited for what is to come with the Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End DLC.
Some shoutouts were also given to numerous other slices of additional content including some of the extended campaign DLC’s for the Total War games, Artorias of the Abyss for Dark Souls, Modern Times for Tropico 4, and of course the DLC for Mass Effect franchise. The common thread that connects the majority of these DLC is their single player status. Now obviously there are some fantastic multiplayer centric related DLC packs out there, whether that is in the competitive or cooperative format – you only have to look at the incredible popularity of Call of Duty and Halo’s map packs while Diablo 3’s continued seasonal support also continues to impress – It does however seem to be the added campaign content that attracts the most interest from gamers.
There was some DLC that extracted a not so positive response from our writers. Referenced in conversations were Prince of Persia (2008) for its horrible Epilogue DLC and Asura’s Wrath which also required you to buy DLC in order to see the full ending. The connection between each of these packs is the undeniable fact that you’re paying to get the ending you ought to have gotten in the main game. Again though this shows that players are most engaged and interested in single player DLC – it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad, it is what gamers are seemingly most interested in.
This doesn’t mean there’s not room for creative freedom either, we’ve seen via Bioshock Infinite’s Burial at Sea DLC that when developers are keen to stretch their wings a bit and try new things, gamers are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt – but only after they’ve previously earned that bucket of good will. So the question that many find themselves left asking themselves is why do we get so little of this top tier add-on content, in favour of maps packs, character skins and XP bonuses? The answer is unfortunately quite clear – It’s far too expensive an exercise.
Creative freedom, and the ability to craft wonderful narrative expanding DLC takes both a lot of funds and most importantly a lot of time. Without wanting to speak on their behalf (only because I’m quite possibly wrong), I often theorise that if Naughty Dog had elected not to make the wonderful Left Behind DLC, then we may only be a month or two away from the launch of Uncharted 4, instead of another six months as we currently stand. As profitable as some DLC can be, there’s no doubt that Left Behind won’t make a scratch on the millions that will come in with Uncharted 4, but it’s a credit to Sony that they let Naughty Dog do what they felt passionate about regardless of this fact. In the large majority of cases, especially among some of the bigger third parties, we’ll often see map packs because they quick and easy to churn out, immediately profitable, but simultaneously it doesn’t stop the developer from working on Battlefield 5, or the next Call of Duty for example. Taking the time to carve out a new sub-plot is going to slow down the creative process on the next big game and it’s a delay that the publishers are often not prepared to allow.
DLC is at its best when it is giving us more of what we already loved, not when it is holding back the full vision that the developers had but extending it in meaningful ways. Whether that is in the form of single or multiplayer content, what we’re being given needs to be meaningful; players have already paid full price for the main game and if they’re being given half-assed, poorly considered content then they simply won’t splash out the extra money to buy it. In an age where consumers seem to get nickel and dimed all too often by publishers, the efforts of Naughty Dog, CD Projekt Red, Bioware and Irrational (just to name a few) fills my heart with hope that what we get in the future is much improved post game content. Until then, please think through your purchases, and vote with your wallet.