Expanding the Game: The Semantics of Standalone

Expanding the Game: The Semantics of Standalone

The concept of expansion packs has changed a bit over the years, to the point now where "standalone" expansions are all the rage. Yahtzee examines the semantics.

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Wow. I've never been there the moment something popped up. Noon on the dot. It's oddly satisfying.

It's weird to have a remembrance of old expansion packs, and not to include the countless Doom mods out there. I still have a CD full of those. But I think one of my favorites was the Simpsons mod for Doom 2.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
It's like surgically removing a large ovarian cyst and referring to it as a 'standalone human expansion'.

Hey, some standalone human expansions really stood the test of time: HeLa cells were taken from a cervical tumour way back in 1951, and are still going strong! Like, 20 tons of biomass and invading other samples in biological research labs strong.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HeLa

maffgibson:

Yahtzee Croshaw:
It's like surgically removing a large ovarian cyst and referring to it as a 'standalone human expansion'.

Hey, some standalone human expansions really stood the test of time: HeLa cells were taken from a cervical tumour way back in 1951, and are still going strong! Like, 20 tons of biomass and invading other samples in biological research labs strong.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HeLa

Ok, that's creepy :/
But still- SCIENCE!

I'm not sure I understand this piece: Is Yahtzee bothered by the fact that AAA studios are making expansions that do the same thing amateur programmers used to do? Because there's still plenty of remakings of games by fans; one of my favourite things to do is see what the community does with each iteration of Total War.

While the gulf of money definitely exists, the modding community has only grown in recent years. And if companies want to take their engine and cover it with new ideas, I say go for it; they can do some pretty amazing work, and it's just more variety.

blackrave:

maffgibson:

Yahtzee Croshaw:
It's like surgically removing a large ovarian cyst and referring to it as a 'standalone human expansion'.

Hey, some standalone human expansions really stood the test of time: HeLa cells were taken from a cervical tumour way back in 1951, and are still going strong! Like, 20 tons of biomass and invading other samples in biological research labs strong.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HeLa

Ok, that's creepy :/
But still- SCIENCE!

Yeah, science does sometimes throw up stuff that sounds like the concept for a b-movie

Gat out of Hell really does seem like fanfiction, but in all honesty I think I'll take it over some real fan's fanfiction (as cruel as that sounds). Though I suppose the real fan's ideas are missed out on unless the game is on PC because mods.

Remember Diablo Hellfire? I was mad when I found out that wasn't made by Blizzard.

Do people really say, "I preferred this when it was Cowboy Bebop"? I mean, I love Cowboy Bebop, it's one of my favorite animes, but . . . I mean, do people not realize that Cowboy Bebop was not the first show ever to do cowboys in space? Hell, anime wasn't even the first medium to do cowboys in space, despite them doing it a lot.

Aaaaaaaand . . . I really have nothing else to say.

I feel like Falskaar is something relevent to mention here. For those that don't know what it is:
http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/37994/?
It's a Skyrim mod. An incredible one. At least as big as Bethesda's own Dragonborn expansion and far, far better.
Maybe what Yahtzee misses in this article is just what we now call the Modding Community.

Where would Majora's Mask fall in this discussion? Is it just too good of a game for people to think of it as an expansion to Ocarina of Time? They developed new assets for it, but the same can be said for the rest of the games on this list.

ambitiousmould:
I feel like Falskaar is something relevent to mention here. For those that don't know what it is:
http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/37994/?
It's a Skyrim mod. An incredible one. At least as big as Bethesda's own Dragonborn expansion and far, far better.
Maybe what Yahtzee misses in this article is just what we now call the Modding Community.

You forgot the fact you have to pay the nexus forums to download it.

RJ Dalton:
Do people really say, "I preferred this when it was Cowboy Bebop"? I mean, I love Cowboy Bebop, it's one of my favorite animes, but . . . I mean, do people not realize that Cowboy Bebop was not the first show ever to do cowboys in space? Hell, anime wasn't even the first medium to do cowboys in space, despite them doing it a lot.

Aaaaaaaand . . . I really have nothing else to say.

Who was first?

Bravestarr? Saber Rider ? the Galaxy Rangers ?

Gretha Unterberg:

RJ Dalton:
Do people really say, "I preferred this when it was Cowboy Bebop"? I mean, I love Cowboy Bebop, it's one of my favorite animes, but . . . I mean, do people not realize that Cowboy Bebop was not the first show ever to do cowboys in space? Hell, anime wasn't even the first medium to do cowboys in space, despite them doing it a lot.

Aaaaaaaand . . . I really have nothing else to say.

Who was first?

Bravestarr? Saber Rider ? the Galaxy Rangers ?

I cannot remember off the top of my head. I just remember it being brought up in a film class I took back in college. Some film back in the late seventies was pitched to the studios as a western in space (though I can't even remember which film was specifically named, I need to go back and see if I can find it in my notes). You didn't get the "cowboys in space" as a running theme in Sci-Fi anime until the mid 80s.

On topic: Eh, to me this reads mainly as a nostalgia rose-eyed view of the past. Mods are still a (huge) thing. Cheats weren't killed by DLC, they were killed by the achievement craze. DLC may not be as big as expansions, but it's also usually much cheaper and you can grab just the pieces that interest you. The good companies still do good work, the bad companies still price gouge over minor additions.

RJ Dalton:
Do people really say, "I preferred this when it was Cowboy Bebop"? I mean, I love Cowboy Bebop, it's one of my favorite animes, but . . . I mean, do people not realize that Cowboy Bebop was not the first show ever to do cowboys in space? Hell, anime wasn't even the first medium to do cowboys in space, despite them doing it a lot.

Aaaaaaaand . . . I really have nothing else to say.

I think that was supposed to be a surprise swerve away from a Firefly mention, but I could be wrong.

lordloss217:

ambitiousmould:
I feel like Falskaar is something relevent to mention here. For those that don't know what it is:
http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/37994/?
It's a Skyrim mod. An incredible one. At least as big as Bethesda's own Dragonborn expansion and far, far better.
Maybe what Yahtzee misses in this article is just what we now call the Modding Community.

You forgot the fact you have to pay the nexus forums to download it.

Really? So when I downloaded it without paying it was piracy?
(You do not need to pay to download mods off Nexus)

RJ Dalton:

Gretha Unterberg:

RJ Dalton:
Do people really say, "I preferred this when it was Cowboy Bebop"? I mean, I love Cowboy Bebop, it's one of my favorite animes, but . . . I mean, do people not realize that Cowboy Bebop was not the first show ever to do cowboys in space? Hell, anime wasn't even the first medium to do cowboys in space, despite them doing it a lot.

Aaaaaaaand . . . I really have nothing else to say.

Who was first?

Bravestarr? Saber Rider ? the Galaxy Rangers ?

I cannot remember off the top of my head. I just remember it being brought up in a film class I took back in college. Some film back in the late seventies was pitched to the studios as a western in space (though I can't even remember which film was specifically named, I need to go back and see if I can find it in my notes). You didn't get the "cowboys in space" as a running theme in Sci-Fi anime until the mid 80s.

late 70s.... moss eisley ?

'Standalone' is just an awkward word for 'smaller version of the main game with a few tiny tweaks'. It sets expectations. If you bought Gat out of Hell expecting SR5 you'd be outraged, but you know it means 'it's a mini SR4'. That you have to start from scratch and most your content doesn't carry over from the main game are fairly important things 'standalone' also conveys.

For the rest of it I'm a bit lost - third party unofficial mods are still going strong; we haven't lost anything there. Even full conversions, though fewer since it's just so much content work now. So it's a bit lazy for AAA, but I don't see anything fundamentally wrong with something that produces Blood Dragon.

Gretha Unterberg:

RJ Dalton:

Gretha Unterberg:

Who was first?

Bravestarr? Saber Rider ? the Galaxy Rangers ?

I cannot remember off the top of my head. I just remember it being brought up in a film class I took back in college. Some film back in the late seventies was pitched to the studios as a western in space (though I can't even remember which film was specifically named, I need to go back and see if I can find it in my notes). You didn't get the "cowboys in space" as a running theme in Sci-Fi anime until the mid 80s.

late 70s.... moss eisley ?

No, it definitely wasn't Star Wars. Star Wars was the Hero's Journey in space. And also that professor was adamant about not talking about Star Wars in class.

A little disappointed by this Extra Punctuation because it seems to tease an interesting discussion/monologue about the merits of game expansions, what role they can/should/do play in gaming, what differentiates a good expansion from a bad one, and their place in the broader discussion of DLC as whole, but instead Yahtzee just waffles around about how expansions were a little bit different back in the day and a gave few examples of expansions he had played which he didn't even seem to have particularly strong feelings about one way or the other. In the end he didn't really say anything. It feels like the majority of the article is missing and all we are left with was the first draft of the introduction.

A few topics briefly mentioned I would like to see explored further besides those mentioned above, by Yahtzee in other articles or perhaps just discussed among the commenters here: The role of community created content such as mods or expansions made with creation kits like those commonly released with the Elder Scrolls series or even coded from the ground up; games that allow community created content to be made and shared in game such as Minecraft or Portal 2's perpetual testing mode with it's community created puzzles; standalone expansions vs. expansions that are tied more directly to the original plot/canon; developing games with expansions and DLC in mind and the many factors that guide what to content to create and include at launch and what to save for later; free content updates common to early access games even after their official "no longer early access" release and the potential for games in perpetual development with new content added fairly regularly as opposed to creating sequels; and plenty others that I am not including because this post is already much longer than I anticipated

Wow, I'm not normally one of those people to go with "that's exactly what I was thinking," but damn, Yahtzee hit the nail on the head there. Devs didn't used to make it hard to modify games: they usually gave us a toolset or at least let us have the developer command line. It's one of the reasons I still love valve's single player shooters: they all still have noclip and such. It's also why I've always loved cheating at games: it was more fun to explore the limits of what the game was coded for as opposed to just playing vanilla. Yes, there is a modding community, but it is rife with the same elitism that turns off a lot of pc gamers in the first place.

I liked starting Half-Life 2 with the gravity gun: that cop tries to make you pick up the can and you can just shove it down his smug throat. And if that doesn't do the trick, then you hit him with a dumpster or something.

lordloss217:

ambitiousmould:
I feel like Falskaar is something relevent to mention here. For those that don't know what it is:
http://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/37994/?
It's a Skyrim mod. An incredible one. At least as big as Bethesda's own Dragonborn expansion and far, far better.
Maybe what Yahtzee misses in this article is just what we now call the Modding Community.

You forgot the fact you have to pay the nexus forums to download it.

What are you talking about?? The nexus is completely free to use and download mods. The only thing you pay for is to turn ads off and/or get access to their faster download servers.

Wait, what? I thought 'standalone' just means 'doesn't require original game to run', which is a useful thing to know.

Remember back in the glory days of the Halo series, that is Halo 2, how the paid DLC map packs used to become free after 6 months? The ramifications of this were immense. It meant that after the new map pack wasn't so new anymore, at least the entire player base had it. The maps would therefore come up regularly in multiplayer matchmaking games, keeping the game fresh.

It all went to shit in Halo 3. That was when Microsoft decided to adopt the greedy policy of never allowing the DLC maps to become free. Even years later you still had to pay. Want to play them on a second account on the same box? Bend over and pay again. Consequently, you'd rarely ever find a match where all players had the requisite maps. They tried to address this problem by making dedicated DLC playlists, but all that achieved was to make early adopters tire of the maps even faster. DLC playlists became a ghost town just 5-6 months after release.

This phenomenon of "worthless DLC" reached a horrifying pinnacle in Halo Reach and Halo 4. Bungie seemingly lost the ability to make decent multiplayer maps and it only got worse after 343i took over. The prospect of forking out cash for garbage maps that would only be relevant for a couple months turned everyone away.

Apparently the bean counters believe it's a losing proposition to forfeit a bit of short term profit to keep the population happy.

The expansion packs I remember best are the ones for RTS's and the Hal-Life ones (Opposing Force, Blue Shift (HOW COULD YOU FORGET BLUE SHIFT?!), and Episodes 1 and 2). For the Age of Empires expansion packs, I wonder why the units/technologies/civilizations in them weren't in the main games.

Besides money.

It's interesting to see this look into the history of mods and expansions.

I fondly recall the days of fan-made total conversions for all sorts of games. The first Jedi Knight FPS, for instance, became dozens of other things thanks to fan modders doing crazy stuff with the engine, and not just overpowered nonsense either. I vaguely recall a 'cowboys in space' thing where mashed Star Wars and the Wild West together for ten glorious levels.

Though DLC can be nice--Borderlands 2 being one good example of such for me because they stick to the familiar features of the engine but then go and do weird, self-contained stuff with the expansions--I think what I miss most is fan projects that were themelves some sort of crazed pipe dream as done by a half dozen guys over the course of months or years, and you were lucky if they got it all out. That's where all the weird, interesting stuff tended to happen.

"It's like writing fan fiction for your own property."

More common than you think. DVD releases of a movie will include deleted scenes or funny shorts with the same characters. Comic books are littered with What-ifs and Elseworlds. Anime and manga often have shorts at the end called "omake." As with standalone game expansions, they're usually silly and non-canon.

Also, fanfic authors will often include omakes in their fanfics. Stuff that didn't fit the story but they still wanted to write. Fanfic of their own fanfiction!

TVTropes, as always, has the full list: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BonusMaterial

Well, I guess I have a question about this topic.

What exactly IS the dividing line between the expansion pack and the DLC? Now, sure, sure, we can all draw comparisons that make our skin crawl, but what I want to bring up is The Elder Scrolls and Bethesda (the cheeky cunts).

What separates Bloodmoon (a Morrowind expansion set in Solstheim, a frozen wasteland off the coast of Skyrim that includes numerous new quests, enemies, weapons, armors, and more to see and do) from Dragonborn (a Skyrim DLC set in Solstheim, a frozen wasteland off the coast of Skyrim that includes numerous new quests, enemies, weapons, armors, and more to see and do)?

The only "difference" that comes to my mind is the fact that I still have the boxed release of Bloodmoon on the shelf (along with Morrowind and Tribunal, of course), next to the countless other PC boxes I have from that era, while Skyrim was released in the "digital download age" and the only way to get Dragonborn is through the download.

So what defines this difference, in our modern age?

 

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