Guest Column: Why DLC and Single-Player Don't Mix

Guest Column: Why DLC and Single-Player Don't Mix

Downloadable content is a natural fit for multiplayer games, but falls short when it comes to the single-player experience.

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I agree.

The DLC for Fallout 3 sounds interesting, but I haven't touched that game since I accidentally beat it. By that I mean since I had only put a few hours into the main quest, I didn't think it was really going to end at that point...but it did.

I considered getting back into it, but the DLCs are too short and infrequent. I can't be jumping in an out of the game like that because I will get tired of it. Maybe I can get back into it once all the DLC is out, but that will probably be a year or two from now. Other games will surely have attracted my attention by then.

I think this is just a side effect of the whole "release now, fix later" approach. Even if they aren't cutting content for the purposes of milking us for additional revenue, it would all be MUCH more enjoyable as a single package, rather than a slowly trickling stream. Honestly, I felt Fallout 3 was so short, I am bordering on being upset that I bought it. The only reason I'm not is because what WAS there was so well executed (except for the ending of course). But if their games get any shorter, I won't be buying them any more; eventually you get to a point where quality just can't make up for a lack of quantity anymore.

I completely agree - I think it would be best for both developers and gamers for developers to spend time on complete, fully-formed projects rather than try to rush out some quaint DLC.

Of course, publishers would much rather have (what they think is) continual sales rather than spurts of sales with a lull in-between. Stupid publishers.

You're making two problematic assumptions.

You allude to this in the Bethesda developer pointing out that as they get used to making DLC they'll go much faster, but TellTale games has proven it more fully. The first few Sam & Max episodes were clunky, poorly paced, and confusing. By the second season they had it done perfectly. Although I do agree about indefinitely extending narrative arcs (look at HBO's shows to see the common issues of repetition it creates), it's not like you can't produce a single "season" that tells a self-contained story that also can be extended. The problem with denouncing episodic content is that no one has really tried to do it in the context you're describing.

The second is that you argue single player games will suffer because of their short length. On the contrary, I'd say narrative single-player content will finally hit its full stride with DLC precisely because it will be shorter. The average game's plot is a dragged out and a tedious affair that could use editing on all fronts. By not requiring those games to be 8 to 12 hours they can start delivering a more coherent narrative. Even that dingbat that writes at Wire was arguing this the other day.

Now, I tend to keep DLC and Digital Distribution Only Games (DDOG) separate. The Sam and Max games really don't qualify as DLC, which is really more about 'little additions' to the game.

I love being able to buy little arcade games to download to my Xbox, but with these hard drives and internet capable consoles comes a huge problem. Console games were, in the past, more complete and generally bug free than PC games. This was in fact one of the major selling points of consoles; easy gaming that was relatively bug free. Now developers are putting out what feel like incomplete products that have not received sufficient testing. This way they can make DLC to 'expand' the game (and make some more quick cash) and save money on testing buy just tossing out patches.

Feels a lot like PC gaming, only stuff that was often times free in the past on PC now is going to cost me money on the console.. and it is sneaking into the PC world also. This really isn't the best progress to my mind.

Hrmm.. and I made that whole DDOG thing in the hopes of using it again... but I think I'll end up ranting with no end in site, and so it shall remain unused unless someone else decides they like it. Please, you know you want to adopt this cute little abandoned acronym.

What percentage of gamers actually play the single-player games before the DLC is available? In my case, I'm so far "behind" that I don't get to games for months/year+ after they're released. By that point the retail price has also been reduced.

For multi-player games there's value to getting and playing early, because the online community dies quickly - no one there to play with 6-12 months after release. But for single player, does it really matter?

Well as far as I know, companies like Bethesda have enough people to make DLC and work on a new game, I mean, Bungie does it all the time. It is not hard at all for me to reimurse myself into a game for its DLC, oh and an example of great DLC for a single player game,The Shivering Isles.

I think that one of the reasons that games have been less buggy on consoles, has been the fact that the developers were dealing with a fixed hardware spec- fewer compatibility issues. Otherwise, it's too soon to tell how the brave new world of DLC will shape up.

I agree with you on games like Fallout 3. It has been so long since I played, I couldn't remember how to do things in the expansion! But DLC is the only reason I still play Rockband after more than a year! I'll start to get tired of Rockband, then a new song or album comes out that I have to have.

Don't worry about it. Elder Scrolls V will be here in 2010.

Okay, firstly, as gsf pointed out: Rock Band/Guitar Hero/SingStar- personally, I think these are better products for having the DLC available and letting you pick and choose your music rather than forcing fifteen other songs you don't want down your ears. All we need now is for Harmonix/Activision to release free, downloadable versions of the software that doesn't come with music on its own.

As for story driven games, I agree with the article for the most part, but I think most poor SP DLC has been a failure of execution, rather than concept- developers thought not only that people would suddenly be quite happy to jump straight to buying lots of bits of game for bits of money, but also that they'd be any good at making it.

Shivering Isles and Lost & Damned seem like the right idea- something closer to the expansion packs of old- a substantial amount of game for a substantial amount of money (although neither as much as a full, retail game), with an eye to beginning to shuffle downwards towards shorter, cheaper initial purchases and shorter and cheaper still expansions, until we get something closer to the ideal of 'Episodic Gaming' that we're aparrently looking for.

I hardly ever buy DLC so maybe I shouldn't weigh in here but I think your conclusion echos my sentiments exactly.

I would much rather be hearing about the new Fallout/ElderScrolls or where the new GTA will take place than hear about what they want to add on to the old one a year from now.

The big draw of any GTA (for me at least) is exploring a new city, unlocking it's secrets, and finding good spots to terrorize the populous.

Lost & Damned might've been worth the $20 if they added the landmass we heard rumors about or added the things we were disappointed to not find (Tanks, Miniguns, Flamethrowers) but all you get for $20 is a few new missions and other crap I didn't think the game was originally missing, that's worth maybe $10... maybe.

I only hope the resources being used to make these new missions aren't the same they would use to make the new game but that would be too optimistic.

At this point I'm more looking forward to the next Saints Row than the next GTA. It was just way more fun and it didn't leave out stuff so they could charge us for it later; or if they did it wasn't noticeable.

The only one that makes me really angry is Burnout Paradise. It wasn't that great to begin with but they insist on polishing that turd and all they're going to end up with is a polished turd. We need a new Burnout, one with more road rage and that brings Crash Junctions to the next gen.

Two or three hours is sometimes enough -- just look at Portal.

And I do plan on getting the Overlord DLC sometime (hopefully before Overlord 2 comes out), so interest can be maintained over a longer period. I would also like to get the Prince of Persia DLC, but sadly it's not available for PC.

I think the folks behind The Witcher made the best kind of DLC, though.

I like single player DLC, because it gives me a reason to go back and replay older games from my collection. Usually there are some outstanding things to do (achievements, side quests, whatever) from the original game content that I haven't completed anyway, so DLC provides a good impetus to get back into these games for a second playthrough.

I have to admit, DLC does get a bit crazy with how its used for so many games now. As it stands, I have to agree, its not too great for single player games. Specifically, the expansions just aren't the same as compared to online games now. A bit more content in a day to day online game is a great thing, but the same thing for a single player game requires too many people to pick interest back up, especially in stand a lone ones, which tend to be the problem.

The Fallout 3 DLC that extends the game though, seeing as its DLC comes up a bit, thats a different type of deal as I see it. It encourages people to replay the original game for it, even if it were to come out much later, and is the type of material that works far better. Sure, that could also be a new game, but if you're project for said new game is different, but you want to tell something in the last game still, its at that point where adding on may be the best bet, without spending all that time trying to expand out a full blown direct sequel.

The problem with DLC is that developers move on to the next game as soon as one is released, and we as gamers expect the next game to be even bigger, better and prettier than the one before it. Myself, I'd rather see expansions and sequels done as DLC only, and keep the actual releases for new IPs. Of course it will never fly as companies like to make money, so they will keep shoveling out new sequels which are tired iterations of the previous game.

Why can't they do almost ever single sports game as a downloadable update, that changes the roster and enhances the AI? And if they offered that at a tenth the price? people would jump all over it, rather tahn buying Madden 2011 which is the same as 2010 barring a few minor changes.

People are still playing Diablo II to this day. Why not do expansions to that as DLC? It's obvious people will buy it, to add on an extra act or a new character class or new items.

We as gamers have accepted the current model, where we are willing to shovel out increasing amounts of money for the same game that we already got the year or two before. Not only that, but developers are unwilling to cater to their fans. Why not give something exclusive to people that bought previous games of theirs? A new weapon, an exclusive skin, new creatures, a new ability? Why not release earlier versions of the game in the new engine for free? Do something for consumers that show you care about them, and they will continue to follow you, gobbling up whatever you put out.

I know personally, I would rather have much more time between games (4-5 years) as long as the first game was put out more polished and it were supported during that time (with DLC expansions so to speak).

However, what I dislike is DLC that's exclusive to systems. What is the purpose of this? I am not going to go and buy a system just to get DLC that happens to be on it for a game I like that I happened to buy on another system. DLC like this splits everyone into haves and have-nots, and as we saw from Hellgate: London, that didn't work out so well for them.

On the flip-side, if the DLC is as buggy, unimaginative and worthless as it currently has been, I guess people aren't missing out much. But for Bethesda for example saying screw you to all those who have bought a PS3 as their system...well, I for one am very unlikely to support Bethesda in the future. If you make a game cross-platform, then support it cross-platform.

There's my wild wandering rant for the day.

I disagree. Not just because of my fanboyism, but because the three of the top three DLC downloads for the 360 are from Oblivion and Fallout 3 right now.


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