DLC Has Become One Of The Most Exciting Things In Gaming

It used to be that you couldn't even mention downloadable content's existence without someone getting upset, or without someone going off on how much of a money-grab scheme it all is. It's an understandable reaction, to some extent -- sometimes, a game isn't out yet and already we're talking about the follow-ups? Geez, slow down.

I used to think of DLC in that way -- as something that I didn't really want but that I would learn to tolerate. And sure, there's still the occasional questionable DLC that seems to exist solely to squeeze more money out of people, or even flat-out horrible DLC. But after playing The Walking Dead: 400 Days last night, I realised that in the past year or so, DLC stopped being something I dread or, at best, tolerate... DLC transformed into something I look forward to, sometimes more than the next iteration in a game.

Battlefield 4? Meh. The DLC for Battlefield 3? That stuff has dinosaurs and bikes in it, man! You could say it's not just DLC, but any side-content that's not a major iteration in a game -- look at what Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon did. It's the sort of over-the-top outrageousness that could probably never be developed as a main entry in the franchise -- and yet many might consider what Blood Dragon aims for as more enjoyable than what Far Cry 3 did, thanks to its flippant tone. It's almost like we're more likely to get what we actually want most out of a game in the follow-ups.

Most of what is commendable about the add-on content, though, is a DLC's willingness to push boundaries and experiment -- and when many major games feel rather safe, a DLC's push for innovation is welcome. With 400 Days, we have a bite-sized episode that weaves five different stories together. You can play them in any order. No story lasts more than 15 minutes, allowing you to get a wider understanding of the world and the different types of people in it -- something which a single-protagonist game can't do nearly as well.

Lee Everett, the protagonist of the first season of The Walking Dead, seems boring when put against characters like the the naive 'other woman', the stoner, the concerned big sister. While we're seeing more games experiment with multiple protagonists, good luck finding a major game that puts you in a role similar to any of the ones I've mentioned. The suits would probably say it wouldn't sell. But the best DLC will take advantage of creative flexibility and totally take the plunge, sometimes letting you play from the viewpoint of unlikely protagonists. That's the point, in a way. DLC is best when it's creative. When a developer finds the most exciting, provocative parts of their game -- and then is willing to take the DLC to a place the main game couldn't go, for whatever reason.

Mass Effect is a good example here. Both Mass Effect 2 and 3 have had a series of fantastic DLC content that let us explore interesting side stories and species around the galaxy (like the Protheans), test out new mechanics (vehicles, boss battles), and even gave us the ending we deserved. An ending with fan-service -- which is also something DLC is great at providing. You can't know what players will take a liking to until after the game is out. Then, once you know, you can do stuff like release swimsuit DLC. Truly, DLC is a blessing for fan-service.

I don't think I'm alone in how I see DLC now, either. Having a number of notable, amazing DLC in the past helps; I'd be remiss not to mention the critically-acclaimed Minerva's Den for BioShock 2. But just look at how most people talk about The Last of Us, too. Many recognise that it would be nice if there wasn't a follow-up, as it ends perfectly... but that can't stop anyone from musing on where the DLC might take you. We're hungry for it. What if you could play as Marlene and get a closer look at the Fireflies? What if you could play as Tess during the years we never get to see in the game? What if we could play as Tommy? Heck, what if we could play as Ellie? I wouldn't even care what the context is, that'd be awesome. I'd buy it... and honestly? A lot of these sound more interesting than what The Last of Us actually let us play. What were once idle musings on the things we could play can now be a reality thanks to DLC.

There's less risk involved with DLC -- it's cheaper and has shorter development time -- and so gives developers some leniency to experiment. My only hope is that developers use what they learn in doing so and fold it back into the main games. It'll be grand if I didn't need to pay extra money to experience interesting, experimental stuff, or to play as a woman. For now, I'll take what I can get -- bring on the DLC.


Comments

    DLC is only exciting to me when it's handled properly. Expansion packs of old are what DLC should aspire to be, the Fallout 3 & NV expansions, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and 400 days are examples of what, I believe, to be good DLC.

    DLC that is handled poorly are things that I believe should be in the game from the get-go as it once was or as in-game unlockables, such as cosmetic changes and outfits.

      I came in here to say essentially what Shadwell has already said.

      I guess the part here is what is considered 'content'. Hats and Day1 DLC, no. Paying for all of the games unlocks... maybe, but certainly not within the first few months of releasing the game.

      I'd like to see more games produce expansions and release them in episodic type bundles.
      RTS games could be raking in some big dollars by doing this (Sure, StarCraft II could be seen as 'DLC's instead of full blown expansions as just one example). You don't need to completely rewrite a game to release it as DLC, but by adding new islands and new stories. This is where it should be at.

      I've not really appreciated what Gearbox have done with other peoples IP in recent times, but one thing they have got right in their own IP is their DLC.

    DLC is still horrible in comparison to the old system of expansions. It costs you more in the long run, and the majority of DLC is still crap. There are only a handful of companies that produce good DLC, Bioware is the stand out.

    DLC like New Super Luigi U and the GTA4 and Red Dead Redemption expansions are fantastic and almost worthy of being full games themselves. They are examples of DLC done correctly.

    Day 1 DLC and new hats can piss off though.

    A good artist knows when to stop painting.

    You create your art work to the best of your vision, and then you prepare to defend it. That ME3 ending? I'm sure it appeased all the neckbeards, but fuck those guys. All it did was prove Bioware's artistic cowardice, and proof that they're just interested in shitting out products and not art.

    Also, TWD was designed to be a serialised game; it's not just about a bunch of vacillating accountants insisting on changes so they can get a few more sales.

    Nah I disagree. I still dislike DLC very much and although there are a few gems out there, calling it one of the most exciting things in gaming is more than a little far fetched.

    DLC that adds stuff to a complete game is fine when it adds a bit more to the game. For example the DLC that added onto Valkyria Chronicles. It was a complete game, and the DLC added some more missions to show a bit of a different side.
    What I can't stand however is when stuff is clearly taken out of the main game (which is still full price) to be sold later as DLC. For example I am quite worried about Rome 2 Total War stripping out a number of the factions that were playable from day 1 in Rome Total War, and selling them off later as 'DLC packs' (for example the 'pre-order DLC' which consists of the greek states, all of which where perfectly usable with vanilla Rome 1)

    Wholly depends on the nature of the base game. When the game has a plot that is nicely rounded off at the end of the game, adding a sequel plot in DLC is a horrible idea. Side stories are okay, if they complement the original story by giving you insights into the world or the characters (eg, Knife of Dunwall). DLC that is purely designed to "bridge the gap" to the sequel (ME2: Arrival, for example) should be left as a prologue chapter in the sequel, as far as I'm concerned.

    I'm in two minds about how TWD: 400 Days did this... on one hand, it's five completely disparate stories that tell the backstory of five characters that for some completely unknown reason wind up together, with no part taking more than about 15 minutes - barely enough time to get attached to these characters; on the other hand, it tried to experiment with shorter sequences and more choices than any episode in the main game. I appreciate that it was trying to do something new, but I don't want something that tries to be emotional and engaging for ten minutes at a time, and then moves on. The strength of games is in the ability to take as much time as necessary to engage you in the plot, the characters, and the setting. This did not.

    I LOVE DLC. Greatest thing to come out of this generation. Obviously there are instances where it's exploited or handled poorly, but that can apply to anything in gaming.

    On the whole it's fantastic. Especially for folks who only buy small amounts of games over a generation. Gives you extra life out of the titles you buy.

    DLC is not that exciting. Give me a game that is finished, and polished any day.

    Last edited 08/07/13 12:08 pm

    This is an editorial and not reporting. What info has been released with this? None.

    DLC is still and will still be for the foreseeable future a money grab by lazy, greedy companies that try to make up for crap sales with crap DLC. Sniper: Elite warrior 2 is a perfect example of this. All content that should be included or unlockable.

    The author of this article is full of it. Either that or being paid or compensated by corporation games companies. Go on, make yourself a liar Patricia.

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