The 10 Commandments Of DLC

By Alec Meer on January 6th, 2010 at 9:52 pm.

Watching our first Dragon Age: Awakening thread spiral into something huge (though Awakenings itself is more like a traditional expansion than DLC per se), it’s pretty clear that there’s still a great mistrust of downloadable content, even when it comes from a respected developer. Disproportionate at times, perhaps, but there is good reason for it – it’s something that we’ve definitely been let down down by a fair few times. Everyone wants to spend more time with a game they’ve really enjoyed, but lacklustre paid-for bonus content can actively diminish our fondness for a title. We like to believe we’re given hand-crafted adventures, made with love just for us, but when we’re given something that feels cynical or sub-par, that bubble bursts. It becomes harder to trust the game and its creators. It shouldn’t be like that – so allow me to be your half-crazed, unforgiving street preacher.

It’s absolutely wrong to say that there’s anything inherently wrong with DLC – to the contrary, it’s an opportunity to get more of what we enjoy, without having to wait years for (and spend even more cash on) a sequel. But a lot of games do seem made with the expectancy of having DLC for DLC’s sake, rather than a smart idea for DLC occurring naturally. DLC isn’t something that’s going to go away – it’s big money and it generates a lot of interest. So, rather than stupidly and masochistically demanding the whole thing stops altogether, let’s instead stamp our feet prissily and demand some house rules: just a few things any prospective DLC should keep in mind from drawing board stage onwards. DLC should be a term that makes us excited, not one that makes us worry and whine like a cat who’s been presented with a different brand of canned, jellied meat to his usual one.

Anyway, on with the show – naming no names because it really is wrong to suggest there are specific supervillains in this regard. Everyone’s still learning how to best approach this still-new way of expanding games, after all. But have Bible, will bash…

1. Thou shalt not undermine the host game – that which we’ve achieved should still mean something, not seem lesser in the face of or be undone by what follows.

2. Thou shalt not leave the host game with a cliffhanger that you intend to resolve via later DLC. We’ve paid for a story, not a chapter.

3. Thou shalt not attach a pricetag to small things that a free mini-mod does or could very easily provide. Earn that pricetag rather than fobbing us off with fancily-packed tweaks, or make ‘em free.

4. Thou shalt not remove already-created content from the host game to sell later, leaving obvious gaps and shortening the experience we’ve paid $30+ for.

5. Thou shalt not shatter immersion by having in-game characters suggest you spend real-world money on downloadable content.

6. Thou shalt not break old savegames.

7. Thou shalt not be features or content that the developers don’t genuinely care about, and want their fans to play. Be made with passion and purpose, or not at all.

8. Thou shalt not be more expensive than buying an entire other game.

9. Thou shalt not split multiplayer communities by preventing DLC owners from generally playing with non-DLC owners, or by granting extra in-game advantages to DLC owners.

10. Thou shalt not be about bloody zombies yet again. Um. There’s probably something better than that. I really am bored of bonus zombie modes now, though. You should suggest something else, though…

(I didn’t want to do the ‘Thou shalt not’ cliche, but I couldn’t think of a better way. Someone really needs to write a 10 Commandments Of Writing 10 Commandments lists list.)

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152 Comments »

  1. Boycott Left 4 Dead 2 says:

    INDEED! I’m e-mailing this to VALVe right away. Well said sir.

    • Skinlo says:

      None of this applies to Valve at all, as their DLC for L4D1 was free, and everyone had to download it, so everyone had it.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Yeah, none of this has anything to do with L4D or L4D2. Yet, anyway.

    • JonFitt says:

      Except doesn’t the Survival Mode L4D DLC violate 10?
      Where’s my Zoe vs Louis horseracing sim?

    • Jockie says:

      Well yeah but it was free. I don’t think anyone has a problem with developers releasing free stuff for a game post-release. Quite the opposite for me personally.

    • Jimbo says:

      Thou shalt not mistake a retail expansion pack for DLC?

    • Bhazor says:

      “2. Thou shalt not leave the host game with a cliffhanger that you intend to resolve via later DLC. We’ve paid for a story, not a chapter.”

      Half Life 2, Episode 1 and Episode 2 break this.

      Also I think it breaks rule 11 “Don’t take three sodding years to make an expansion pack to a trilogy you said would be over by 2006″

      So says Brother Nathan.
      Peace and fuckin’.
      Believe!

    • Stupoider says:

      @Bhazor:

      I wouldn’t really classify HL2:EP1/2 as DLC, there’s a lot more than there would be in DLC. The inclusion of the word “Episode” in the titles also hints towards there being a recurring plot. :o

    • qrter says:

      The HL2 Episodes aren’t DLC or expansions – they stand on their own (no host game necessary) and Gabe Newell has said before that the 3 episodes together actually make up what you’d call Half-Life 3 (in fact, Newell said it had been a mistake to call them Half-Life 2 Episodes, not Half-Life 3).

      And, as Stupoider said, calling them “Episodes” was also a good hint.

    • etho says:

      To follow the tangent, It makes me sad that Half Life 3 is happening in the form of the HL2 Episodes. Not that they are bad, per se, but it’s not as though they are being released any more often than a full game would be. For example, barring a HUGE surprise (like, tomorrow), at least two full Bioshock games will have been released in the interval between Ep 2 and Ep 3. And the episodes have the same weapons, the same enemies and the same game engine as Half Life 2.

      I mean, the episodes are fun, but if they are the sequel, I feel sort of gypped. It’s like if HL2 had consisted of virtually nothing more than new levels for HL1 and had come out in 2006.

      If the HL Episodes are DLC then they are a stellar example of the idea. They extend and build on the host game and give us more of what we loved about it. If the HL Episodes are the sequel to HL2, they are a laughably terrible example of a sequel. I choose to view them as DLC, regardless of what Gabe Newell says. But then, I ignore most of what Gabe Newell says.

    • Bhazor says:

      Yes if you think the episodes constitute full games, adding no new weapons/enemies and in a minutely tweaked 6 year old engine, then the whole L4D2 debacle is even more nonsensical. They’re good old fashioned expansion packs with longer between releases than Modern Warfare, Zelda and Bioshock.

      If one amateur made the superb R&D mod in a year then how can a team of 40 professionals take three years to make a shorter game?

    • etho says:

      L4D2 doesn’t bother me as much as the assertion that the HL2 Episodes count as HL3. L4D2 added new weapons, enemies, characters and levels, and it happened in a reasonable sequel timeframe. Yeah, it’s still using the Source engine, and a new engine for Valve games would be great. But it’s still more of a reasonable sequel than the HL2 eps.

  2. Tei says:

    Will you pay 6€ for a game with a time limit of 1 hour?
    No.

    • JonFitt says:

      Time limit: No. (who has a time limit??!)
      Expected play time: possibly.

      I’ve never been one to gripe over the time length of a game being purely an indication for how worthwhile it is.
      Remember, it’s not the length, but what you do with it that counts.

      Final Fantasy games take flipping ages because of all the inane grinding required. That does not make them the best games.

      If a game cost 6EUR and managed to take you to hell and back in 1 hour. Brilliant.

    • JonFitt says:

      L4D is an obvious personal exception. I gripe about it not receiving more content even though it did take you to hell and back because I feel like I was not satiated to the level I thought I would be with that experience.
      MP-only games are tough ones wrt length.

  3. JonFitt says:

    Also, commandment 6 should be burned into the forehead of anyone who releases a savegame breaking patch.

    • TheApologist says:

      And then they should be kicked in the nuts.

      Don’t forget the kicking in the nuts.

  4. Gabanski83 says:

    Number 10 is a bit of a poor choice; It’s not like the number of Zombie themed games is approaching anywhere near the critical mass that WW2 games reached a couple years ago. The zombie themed DLC for Borderlands was quite good; the issues I had with that game were there from the start, such as the piss poor plot, the repetitive gameplay, and the narrow range of things you could actually see modified about your weapons. I mean, where the hell is my Skag Launcher? The Dr Zed DLC felt better, as it was more tightly focussed than the original story. I’m looking forward to the next chunk of DLC, the Mad Max styled one.

    • Nick says:

      It was also really funny. At least, I thought so.

    • El Stevo says:

      @ Gabanski83:

      It’s a 10 list. There’s always going to be something not quite as important that sneaks on there (“you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife”?), or something good that doesn’t make the cut.

  5. Flint says:

    Out of morbid curiosity, which games are guilty of #5?

    • Nessin says:

      Flint:
      Dragon Age: Origins

    • Rinox says:

      Dragon Age

      http://art.penny-arcade.com/photos/704358679_ayGHY-L.jpg

      It’s actually not joking much. This is pretty much what happens in the game.

    • Mad Doc MacRae says:

      Dragon Age: Origins notably

    • Carra says:

      The game has an NPC in your camp. You can chat with him and when you’re thinking that you’ll finally get your quest you get a dry message “Let’s go quest [go to bioware.com and buy this quest]“.

      Sure ruined the suspension of disbelief.

    • Lilliput King says:

      The yellow exclamation mark over his head was the worst thing. There needed to be a conversation option suggesting where he should put his floating punctuation, and demanding his speedy retreat from the camp. You just have to put up with him though, infuriatingly.

    • JuJuCam says:

      Also he has a tendency (at least in my game) to return to camp and offer the quest again ever after I’ve finished it.

  6. Greg Wild says:

    Thou shalt not speak of commandment club.

    …Errr, wrong rules of life cliche.

  7. TheSombreroKid says:

    it’s a tough subject to deal with, good job for trying, but i think for me there’s only 1, make something that’s worth the money you intend to charge for it.

    • JonFitt says:

      But some of the commandments focus around not making the original game worse in order to sell DLC. That needs saying.

    • TheSombreroKid says:

      i don’t think anyone deliberatly makes thier game worse for any reason whatsoever.

    • JonFitt says:

      Nobody sets out to make a game worse, but these commandments aim to help people to not do it through bad choices.
      No matter how good the extra content is, the original game is made worse when you break 5 for example.

    • Ryx says:

      SombreroKid, you’ve obviously never played spore if you think that.

    • poop says:

      I am pretty sure the godfather charged you for the ability to fucking use a tommy gun in a mafia game

  8. Down Rodeo says:

    Battlefield 2 suffered from number 9. I had the Special Operations or whateveritwascalled pack but rarely played it because there were fewer servers and a smaller community *and* you had to boot up what was essentially a different game if you wanted “vanilla” BF2. That could have been handled so much better. Similarly for the content packs, Armoured Fury and what the other one was.

    • Nick says:

      That was a great shame as Special Forces was hilarious fun with friends.. the grappling hook/zipline antics and the mini-forklifts and jet skis especially.

    • ascagnel says:

      I think SpecOps got merged into the full game with the most recent patch (along with the “booster packs”). Expansion packs for online games have always been weird.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      The booster packs have, SpecOps hasn’t. It’s still an expansion pack.

  9. Leeks! says:

    “Someone really needs to write a 10 Commandments Of Writing 10 Commandments lists list.”

    That, of course, breaks every single one of its own commandments within the list.

    • admanb says:

      If you can pull it off so that each commandment breaks itself while remaining a reasonable commandment I believe you will be hailed as a god.

    • TheApologist says:

      And the universe would implode.

    • Alex says:

      @admanb

      1. Thou shalt not start every commandment with “Thou shalt”
      2. Thou shalt not include purely personal and subjective opinions in your list, as I don’t like them and think it makes them dumb.
      4. Thou shalt not skip a number and hope no-one notices
      5. Thou shalt keep personal attacks out of your list, unlike that dolt Alec
      6. Thou shalt keep thy comments short, and to the point. Do not go on and on about them. This is supposed to be a list, not an essay, so just mention the bear essentials, without expansion – don’t elaborate too much.
      7. Thou shalt not repeat commandments worded in a slightly different way
      8. Thou shalt avoid having multiple similar commandments, simply reworded
      9. Thou shlat proof-raed
      10. Thou shalt not include useless filler fluff just to make up to number 10

    • Leeks! says:

      My hat is off, sir.

  10. sana says:

    So DLC can’t be more expensive than the full game, but being equally expensive is alright?

  11. Carra says:

    Let’s take a look at Dragon Age:
    1. Guilty. Getting the armor DLC means you didn’t have to upgrade your chest for the rest of the game.
    4. Guilty. The golem was obviously pulled from the main game after it was programmed.
    5. Guilty. Having some dude in your camp ask me to go online and buy your DLC? Ever heard of suspension of disbelief?
    8. We’ll have to wait for the expansion which is priced at $40. I have serious doubts that they can deliver a full blown expansion in four months. Unless if they’ve already been working on it for months…
    10. I think I saw some zombies. Or were those darkspawn?

    • Nick says:

      They were probably working on the expansion when they were polishing the finished PC version for 6+ months.

      ¬_¬

    • TheSombreroKid says:

      it was actually a full year. it’s amazing a game that was polished for a full year looked like shit and had a shed load of bugs.

      please note i loved dragon age.

    • Dante says:

      4: Shale doesn’t count. He’s free.

    • Carra says:

      Sure he’s free. So why the heck do they add him as DLC? To pester us, buyers?

    • Lilliput King says:

      As a form of DRM and second-hand market protection, I imagine. It’s been said before, but I’d say it was a fairly redundant countermeasure. I haven’t had a look at pirated versions of DA, but I imagine they include all the current DRM, or will do eventually.

      On the other hand, relatively painless, and I prefer it to a more stringent version of DRM.

    • Geoffrey says:

      They also stated that Shale was originally intended to be part of the game, but broke several things during testing due to his size (he was originally programmed to be a bit larger). Due to time constraints, they cut him from the “Gold” product deadline. When they had more time, they went back and fixed their issues with him, shrunk him, and put him out as launch DLC (which served the above purposes mentioned, as a “please buy us firsthand retail” incentive, etc).

    • merc says:

      Shale was pulled from the original game because the character model was too big and screwed up cutscences and couldn’t get through doorways. Since they couldn’t fix it in the deadline they had, they pulled it from the game so they could reach their deadlines and worked on it as a free DLC while the final QA & publishing stuff was done. So no, bioware wasn’t breaking the rules.

      Funnily enough, if you talk to Shale, it tells you a story about how it’s previous owner’s wife wouldn’t let it in the house because it was too big for the doorways, and the mage had to try and file it down to size, which is all a big inside joke about Shale’s inclusion in the game.

    • Dan says:

      I reckon they also did it to show how the DLC actually works. It’s a bit different from many other games since they have the marketplace, DLC, and other online stuff all integrated within the game.

    • MastodonFarm says:

      Sweet, I bought DA:O on Steam and had no idea it included the DLC for free (do they tell you this somewhere?). Thanks, RPS!

    • qrter says:

      It’s mentioned on Steam’s store page:

      http://store.steampowered.com/app/17450/

      You should probably get promotional codes from Steam, through e-mail? I bought my copy at retail, so the codes were included in the DVD box.

    • skalpadda says:

      The codes are available by just right clicking the game in the Steam list and choosing “View game CD key”. You then have to enter the game and choose to add the DLC from there, redeem your code at the website it sends you to, then probably restart Dragon Age and then download the DLC. It does feel very unnecessarily convoluted and I really can’t understand why they didn’t just include the DLC with the Steam download.

      merc: I liked that joke. “How does one shrink a golem?”, “With a chisel and a lot of nerve”. :)

  12. Heliocentric says:

    So, I’ll resist listing current offenders. But i don’t agree with all the rules.

    2, 3, 4, 7 or 8

    2) because a story doesn’t need a terminus.

    3) let them, and let them be noted for it. If they provide mod tools as well as selling mods thats fine. Look at nwn games, the best content is often free, doesn’t mean the mods are wrong

    4)some times a level is not fitting into the natural flow of a game, is deemed unfinishable by the developers or isn’t ready when the publisher drops the flag, does that mean it should never be seen? Obviously, if a game is lacking? Punish it critically, but not just because its less than it might of been.

    7)Should all big developers close shop? Or am i being naive to think that the whole industry isn’t powered by passion alone.

    8) they can attach whatever price they like, whether or not we pay it is different. But there are some expansions I’ve valued higher than some games, even the title the expansion was based on.

    • Premium User Badge AndrewC says:

      4: well sure – pre DLC, if a level was unfinished it was just dropped and never to be seen again. DLC allows us to see those levels eventually and so DLC is a good thing. But we have already had examples of blatantly held back or locked stuff – eg. there was a multiplayer mode for RE5 on the 360 that had to be bought, yet the file you bought was only a few hundred kb’s big. Hrrrrm.

      Assassin’s Creed has two late game chapters that simply get skipped in the game due to some ingame explanation about ‘corrupted’ DNA memory (or something). They will now be DLC. is that a deliberate hold back, or a cut-due-to-time? Beats me.

      I guess the lesson is to avoid the knee-jerk ‘they stole our content!’ reactions to any paid for DLC – for that way lies boycotty foolishness. When there are deadlines, there will ALWAYS be genuine cut-for-time content.

      I guess we should amend rule 4: be smart about how the extra stuff gets integrated, so it doesn’t feel like there’s a hole in the original release. Assassin’s Creed 2′s missing chapters (you are promised 14 (i think that’s the number) but only get 12). It’s just, you know, a bit dim.

      There is, I should point out, a hell of a lot of Assassin’s Creed 2 as it is, so it’s not really a gyp, but, you know: D’oh.

    • admanb says:

      2) Agreed, but if the story doesn’t need a terminus, it doesn’t need a DLC terminus. There’s a difference between saying, “The story must end” and “If the story must end, it must not be in DLC.”

      4) Your examples, to me, don’t fit the criteria of “finished content that’s removed.”

      7) I don’t think that truly great games can be made without a heavy dose of passion.

  13. mandrill says:

    You forgot this one:

    Thou shalt make your DLC as easy to obtain and pay for as syphilis in a Bangkok brothel.

    Reasoning: I bought the retail box of Borderlands and now cannot buy the DLC as I don’t have a credit card. I have enough cash in my paypal account to pay for it but Gearbox don’t seem to want to take it from me. *sadpanda*

    • JonFitt says:

      Fallout 3 would fail at that commandment.

    • Heliosicle says:

      I feel your pain.

    • icabod says:

      @mandrill:
      I agree. I’m playing Far Cry 2, having pre-ordered the game but kept it on the shelf for a year as it didn’t “click” when I first tried it. Now… I can only get the DLC by buying the full game again. Or resorting to “dubious means”.

    • Premium User Badge Spork says:

      @mandrill:
      fwiw adding my agreement. It’s been said before, I but just can’t get my head around their (GFWL’s) retail model.
      Guy walks into shop: “I’d like that £800 TV please”
      Assistant: “Sure, pay us £1000 and we’ll take £200 off the next one”

  14. Dan Pryce says:

    Thou shalt not make your DLC inaccessible after a certain point in the story. Nobody told me that, once I’d entered Mass Effect’s third act, I wouldn’t have access to the galaxy map and thus be unable to get to Pinacle Station (played on 360, you’re not perfect either).

    • TheSombreroKid says:

      :S why don’t you do the “new game+” and play pinnacle station.

    • Dan Pryce says:

      I did. But I paid money for it – my own money – and I shouldn’t have to play through to the end and then play through the beginning levels (at least two hours play) to get to my purchase. It’s not unreasonable to want to use something you paid money for, right?

  15. Anthony says:

    If developers want to do DLC right, they should look to Bethesda (at least for Fallout 3) and Rockstar. We don’t want horse armour or bits of the game that should have come with the box we purchased, rather new experiences that extend and expand on the original game in satisfying ways.

    Then again, Bethesda is rolling in cash and Microsoft bankrolled the GTAIV expansions, so maybe it’s just too expensive to do in most situations.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Yeah, it’s a shame that ‘horse armour’ has become synonymous in some circles with DLC.

      Although I’m not really that bothered with DLC anyway. I don’t tend to pick games up just to run around a new quest; I tend to prefer actual add-on packs that add a completely new campaign, rather than attaching themselves to a campaign I’ve already finished.

    • JonFitt says:

      But Bethesda killed my character giving me no way to play the initial expansions, in my personal story arc, and tied them inside the GFW puzzle box.

    • Kadayi says:

      The irony to your request is that it was in fact Bethesda that infamously created said Horse Armour as some of the first DLC for Oblivion. However it does seem that since then they’ve raised their game considerably.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I think some of the DLC was supposed to resurrect your character in Fallout 3 if you died. And my Fallout 3 was always tied to that GFWL nonsense.

  16. Castle says:

    I pray that developers follow #5 (aka the Dragon Age clause). When I first stumbled upon the in-game Dragon Age character peddling DLC, I was quite worried that this could be the start of a terrible trend. Despite its shamelessness, it really is a more effective way to sell DLC–it increases both exposure to the player and desirability (by suggesting that you’re purchasing a missing part of the game, rather than adding onto a complete whole).

    Let’s hope developers realize that the extra money made by shoving DLC in our faces like this isn’t worth completely shattering their game world.

  17. Dan Pryce says:

    Burnout Paradise commits #5 like seppuku.

    • RyePunk says:

      I’m just curious… You were immersed in a game in which you violently smash cars at high speeds? I mean the game isn’t exactly trying to immerse you, it slows down time to show how awesome car crashes are. Besides you can’t actually download any of the DLC on the PC.

    • Dan Pryce says:

      Again, 360 version. I’ve only recently acquired a decent gaming PC.

      It’s not so much the breaking of immersion I have a problem with – it’s the fact that they patched Big Surf Island into the game (all 1.2GB of it) and the charged you for access to the bridge that connects it to the mainland. That’s a dick move – a bit like videogaming’s Dartford Crossing.

    • JuJuCam says:

      And to clarify, if you haven’t bought Big Surf Island obnoxious popups routinely interrupt your exploration of the roads whenever you’re not in a race or event. Pretty much ruined my enjoyment of the game when I went back to it a few weeks back.

  18. JonFitt says:

    Personally, I only want DLC for RPGs that adds content beyond the end of the original game.
    I rarely replay longform RPGs due to a mounting pile of other games, and it’s no good to me to add a new lvl 5 dungeon, or something which is inaccessible after the end game because I’ve already played the game.

    I want my original story to remain complete, and DLC to add new adventures. If it is augmentations to the original story, then it needs to be available as an option at the same time as the original game.

    The only way to get around this as far as I can see if to wait to play recent RPGs until after the GOTY edition comes out.

    • Kadayi says:

      Pretty much of the same opinion. I like to experience a lot of games, but don’t have bags of time, so it’s rare I revisit them unless they are pretty exceptional (Deus Ex is about my most replayed game at 3-4 times). Much as I’m enjoying Dragon Age I honestly doubt I’ll replay it simply because other games are going to come along that are likely to demand my time, and it’s a big commitment, so DLC/expansion packs that operates within the same universe but are an amendment to the finale is certainly more my preference rather than something that slots in as a side quest.

    • mmrik says:

      I agree completely. Return to Ostagar feels weird, since I’ve already finished Dragon Age, and I have very little interest in going back. A seperate adventure, with new characters, would feel much better.

  19. Alex says:

    Cat’s are not the only mammals that whine when they are presented with offensive jellied meat. Humans can be picky about it too (see Holodets).

  20. cliffski says:

    Generally all true, but I take some issue with #3. Yes, a lot of games are moddable, coders have got better at crafting generic engines with wide possibilities (this is really very hard to do), but just because theorectically a mod can do X, does not mean anyone WILL do X, or that X will get finished, or be bug free, or of high quality.

    For example, anyone can add ships, modules or races to Gratuitous Space Battles. It’s very moddable. Would that make it evil to release an expansion pack that added a new race? I don’t think so, because it would be done to the same standard as the game, be officially supported, and be widely available and promoted, and therefore more useful for multiplayer than a less-supported mod.

    I’d pay for widely-used official enw maps for various multiplayer games I play, even thought hose games do have mod tools. I don’t see this as evil. At the end of the day, all DLC is optional.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Yeah, I’d also argue that a mod is very unlikely to provide something as substantial, polished and supported as, say, a Positech-made new race. I was thinking more small things like the DA storage chest and – oh yes – horse armour for that one, but I’ll tweak the wording a bit.

    • JonFitt says:

      I was also thinking the DA storage chest. The main problem I have with that and more so the DLC for Empire: Total War is the trend in encrypting or locking the game files down so that the only person who can release sometimes trivial content is the developer.

      E:TW has had a series of DLC units made available through “premium” packs which the community used to churn out with impunity. Some of them appear to be palate-swaps with tweaked stats and descriptions, but because the game files are locked, they can’t be made for free.

    • MajorManiac says:

      Agreed. My biggest concern with DLC is the way it can potentialy harm the Mod comunity.

      It feels like we’re gaining some awful and loosing something amasing.

  21. Oak says:

    For a while, Empire: Total War’s menu screen was an ugly, jarring, Indian-themed advertisement for the Warpath expansion. Seems minor in comparison to Dragon Age’s obnoxiousness, but it really rubbed me the wrong way.

  22. Dave says:

    How about:

    Thou shalt not put a pricetag on “DLC” that consists of basic features that really should have been in the game since before beta.

  23. bhlaab says:

    Perhaps this is covered by #4 but

    Thou shalt not use paid-for DLC to unlock content that already exists on the host game’s disc

    • Elton says:

      But why not? I’ve heard the same complaint from other people but it doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe it FEELS wrong to have content on-disk that you have to pay for, but it’s better to have it there than to have to waste time and bandwidth downloading it.

    • Dan Pryce says:

      @Elton It’s to do with ownership. If you pay for disc content, you should be able to have access to all of it without having to pony up because the developer felt like making a few extra quid.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      The idea of “owning” software is in the past. You don’t have to like it, but it’s pretty much done at this point. Most of us don’t even “own” the operating systems on our computers, we own a license to use them.

    • vagabond says:

      @Elton, it’s because it leads to one of two things happening:
      The game ships with content that would previously have been included in the retail release, but you now have to pay for at a later stage assuming you want to, and either,
      a) you pay less up front that you used to for a game, and if it turns out you don’t like the game that much you save money by not having shelled it all out up front, or
      b) they charge you standard retail for the game, and if you like it enough to want the “DLC” you pay more than you previously would have had to.

      a is most certainly not going to happen. What will happen is b mixed with a whole lot of option c (c is what a few people I know did with Dragon Age, they purchased the game and when they found out about the Warden’s Keep DLC said “Fuck you Bioware, I paid for this” and pirated the DLC.)

      @invisiblejesus, I don’t dispute that software is not a physical object, and as such “ownership” of it is different to traditional property, but until such time as the interaction between publishers and consumers shifts so that that difference is used to also confer the benefits available to consumers rather than just allow additional monetization and control of the software, the less people that drink the kool-aid the better.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      @vagabond: I dig what you’re saying, I really do. But reality is what it is. The entire software industry has changed over the last decade or so, and refusing to accept that isn’t going to affect positive change. It’s just going to deny you good games. If you honestly feel that ownership is so important that you won’t spend money on any game or service that doesn’t give you full-on ownership, fair enough. You’ve got every right to decide what you’re willing to spend your money on. I’m just saying that it’s unrealistic to expect the software industry as a whole to comply with that sort of viewpoint. It isn’t going to happen. When Microsoft implemented Windows Validation and the entire computer using community didn’t rise up in mutiny, the deal was sealed. We don’t get to go back and revisit the issue, it’s settled. If you think that’s wrong, cool. Good on you for sticking to your guns. But the idea that the PC gaming public can force a change in the industry now is just not realistic. It isn’t going to happen. Our options are to deal with that in whatever way we think is appropriate or drop out and just stop playing games on the PC. We don’t get to turn back the clock and change that.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      Aaaand, rereading that, I’m not sure my reply to Vagabond was entirely on base. I’m very drunk at the moment. If I misunderstood or failed to address an important point, I blame the devil alchohol.

    • vagabond says:

      @invisiblejesus, You’re right, things have been done and they wont be undone. I don’t think there are too many people being deprived of stuff because they refuse to buy on principal, it’d be so small a number that they don’t even factor into the equation. You list two options, go with it, or stop playing, but you forget option c. The people that might swing things around are the people that buy the stuff that does a fair deal by them and pirate the stuff that doesn’t. It certainly should affect the desired change according to the tenets of capitalism. Whether there are enough people out there are like that is anyone’s guess though.

  24. malkav11 says:

    This isn’t a commandment, as such, but…if you want my money, thou shalt either release the DLC in a timely fashion or make it a significant postscript to your game. I never played Mass Effect’s Bring Down the Sky DLC because they finally got around to releasing it months after I’d beaten the game, and I’ll never play Pinnacle Station both because it’s reputedly bad and because it came out a really, -really- long time after I’d beaten the game. I’m not going back to the well for an hour or two of content. Not even if I really liked the game. It’s going to almost certainly have to be a full expansion worth at that point.

    Similarly, I will probably skip Return to Ostagar at this point because I’m at least 70% through Dragon Age by now, probably more like 85%, and I don’t expect the new release date to arrive while I’m still playing the game.

    The reason this isn’t a commandment is I honestly don’t care if they do this or not. It’s not like I -need- to play this stuff. But if they want me to, this is what they gotta do.

  25. Dean says:

    Yeah I have major issues with commandment 3.

    I think specifically it’s getting at Dragon Age, which gives you the storage chest that can (and has been) done in a mod, via the DLC.

    The problem is, the reason that it could be done by anyone as a mod is that the DA toolset is pretty awesome. At least in terms of the depth to how much you can change things. But that does mean that most things released as DLC could theoretically be done by a modder.

    But that’s far better than say, the Mass Effect route, where the whole game is locked down and utterly cut-off to modders. No modder could make Pinnacle Station, as the tools are not there.
    Another good example is Empire Total War, where the modding tools have gone backwards so that they can release DLC.

    We need a 3(b) – Do not accomplish commandment 3 by going out of your way to make modding difficult.

  26. ZIGS says:

    Hey guys, Activision, EA, Ubisoft, Take-Two and THQ just called, they don’t give a rat’s ass about your list

  27. Kadayi says:

    @Alec

    As I understand it Awakenings is an expansion Pack (and is being retail released for all 3 platforms), therefore not strictly DLC (though I’m sure a DD version will be made available as DA:O did pretty well on Steam etc). I think with the recent non-appearance of Return to Ostagar (which is DLC) some confusion has crept in here. I don’t think anyone would try and sell $40 DLC (I believe R*’s GTA IV:L&TD was priced at around $20), but $40 for an expansion pack isn’t horrendous, and judging from what’s included in the Awakenings blurb I don’t think they are robbing anyone here (whole new area of the game + new non player characters, ability to play as a whole new character (rather than your DA:O character) etc, etc).

  28. Shivoa says:

    There will hopefully be a return to real expansions or sensible pricing at some future point (maybe the Steam sales are showing a future digital world where everything can be cheap, at least for parts of the year and after the initial month of release).

    Fallout 3 had excellent DLC, but at £7 per pack that is a £35 expansion which didn’t exactly blow the original game content away. New zones, new story, but imagine what they could have released if they’d been given 12 months and a boxed expansion release price of £35 and told to go away and build something. Of course, 360 users got a 1 day sale at half price over Christmas which put it in line with my price expectations but being 1 day only was a shame.

    The GotY packs you get once the DLC is done with reinforce this rather expensive pricing of piecemeal DLC by bundling the game and all DLC packs into a box that will often sell for about the same price as just the DLC did. I know your early customers are the ones you milk but Fallout 3 + DLC boxed is under £30 while anyone who paid full price for the game and enjoyed it during the first year had to pay £35 just for the DLC expanded content (which was far from a bug free process on day 1).

    Not lowering DLC prices over time (because without physical media taking up shelf space you don’t have to clear stock) does inspire people to buy early because it won’t get cheaper later, but surely these GotY packs undo that good work. Personally, I satiated my desires for Dragon Age with a bit of a quick play round a friend’s but will be holding off handing over the cash until I can buy a box that contains their (guesstimate) £100 of DLC and the £40 original (all day 1 dlc too) in a single box, probably selling at around £30 retail. Why would I risk being nickel and dimed over the 2 year DLC plans when there are so many other PC games that need my time? In an SP game, being late to the party isn’t nearly as bad as an MP focussed title.

    Those Steam sales have really not helped by sense of value on the PC either. Right now £3-7 still seems like a good deal for an entire game, not a few hours of DLC. If I give you £35 I want a back catalogue of a publisher’s works to enjoy over the next few months. Yes, Valve have broken my purchasing scale for at least a few months where everything will be too expensive to consider. At least they sold me a load of classic titles (I had missed) for pennies which I can play while I get over this.

  29. Pijama says:

    Ah yes, corporate shallow bastards are always after our money.

    Boycott, socialism or a swift one upon their collective arse.

  30. DeliriumWartner says:

    I think for me the biggest problem is one of length. Yes, I know that length doesn’t equal quality and yes, I’d rather play a short, great game that a massive boring one. That said, it’s a fair indicator, within a game, as to the amount of content you’re paying for.

    My point is, if the main game costs £30 and lasts, lets say, 100 hours on average, then a DLC purported to last a tenth of that time shouldn’t cost a sixth of the price. If it’s £3 and it lasts 10 hours, fine. I might not pay it, but I don’t feel I’m being ripped off.

    If the main game costs a certain amount per hour played DLC should not be more expensive than that. Agreed?

    • Kadayi says:

      @DeliriumWartner

      The flaw to this argument is that you’re penalising developers for being generous in the first place. DA:O is a big game, in fact it’s a lot bigger than most other titles that have come out this year in terms of Bang for your buck as far as entertainment dollars go. Borderlands is probably the only thing that comes close & that doesn’t remotely offer up the same depth of storyline being more a shooter than RPG.

      Also you have to consider what’s being delivered in terms of content. There’s a big difference between slotting in one new area to an existing game Vs making a whole new region and building it from the ground up in terms of history, NPCs, Storyline etc etc. When you get into that sort of thing, attempting to measure in entertainment dollars alone becomes much harder.

      Given DA:A is an expansion pack (and not DLC) I’d say 15 hours is not too shabby (I completed both B:AA & MW2 in less time), esp given I find developer estimates on play time are generally worst case scenario. 15 hours for a DA Playtester is probably 20 – 25 hours for a Kadayi.

  31. Rosti says:

    Bonus Request: Pretty please Mister Games Man, can I buy your shiny new content with actual money-pounds rather than your imaginary personal currency? Is there a sensible reason for this, beyond committing each user to spending some percentage more into a system than they might otherwise do?

  32. suibhne says:

    This piece seems a bit oriented toward DLC that’s pay only. Might be nice to be more up front about all that. One of the basic problems here is that plenty of DLC has been released (by good game developers) for more than a decade, but only more recently (and particularly since Microsoft’s pushing of it via the XBox) has it become an engine for printing money. One of the basic questions to be answered is whether a specific DLC item is worth money in the first place. It seems that Bethesda learned its lesson (based on FO3′s DLC), but several of the Oblivion DLC packs were so minimal that they should have obviously been free. Then there’s the question of scale, too. DA:O’s DLC, Warden’s Keep, adds about 45 minutes of gameplay, a tiny bit of lore, and some loot – 1% or less of the total game content, by my calculations based on my own playthrough – for roughly 15% the price of the full game (assuming you paid full price in the first place; if you bought the game on sale, the DLC is even more expensive relative to the full game). It’s a ridiculously terrible buy, objectively considered. On the other side of the spectrum, Valve releases immense amounts of content without charging a penny; if Bethesda had been in charge of TF2, the TCO for a TF2 gamer would probably be in the thousands of dollars by now.

    Basically, I don’t want to cede the point that DLC should be provided for money in the first place. I think it can easily be worth money, no doubt, but the assumption that be that it has to earn that distinction.

  33. Collic says:

    Empire total war is guilty of #9 with the dlc and pre-order unit packs being usable against anyone in multiplayer, it’s a fairly insignificant advantage though. It does irk a tad though. I wasn’t impressed with the in-game dlc selling in dragon age either.

  34. kout says:

    DLC is the new p-word :)

  35. the wiseass says:

    AMEN, BROTHER!

  36. Ian says:

    Bonus points for the picture of Ray, Mr Meer.

  37. Ryx says:

    I have a few commandments of my own:

    Thou shalt not release ‘DLC’ that already exists on the game disc and simply must be ‘unlocked’, or hold out on the consumer with already finished content in any other way.

    Thou shalt not force the consumer to give their email address, username, and password to something, and make them login whenever they want to access what they own.

    Thou shalt not charge money for bugfixes.

    Thou shalt not charge more for DLC on PC than on Consoles, or vise versa.

    • suibhne says:

      That last one is a bit problematic, since Microsoft forces most DLC to be paid for XBox games. That’s the reason Valve charges XBox 360 gamers for the same stuff we PC gamers get for free; Epic ran into the same issue with Microsoft over UT3 content. It’s all well and good to say that, in a perfect world, all platforms should be equal…but I certainly wouldn’t want parity with the 360′s current situation with DLC.

  38. DigitalSignalX says:

    This entire list feels like a large sign we could (appropriately so) hang over most Bioware or Bethesda titles in the past 5 years or so.

  39. Santiago says:

    They should be more considerate of the diversity of their audience. Say, I believe it´s ok to cash in on idiots (that´s what capitalism is all about, imho) but that doesn´t mean you have to treat everybody as suffering from the same level or flavor of idiocy, because we feel insulted, and that´s not what you expect from a game that you intend to use as a vehicle to convince people to send you their money. Well, except for some people that is.

    So I, for instance, will never, ever, pay for a freaking armor, and will immediately return or pirate a game that tries to sell me stuff while I’m playing, or kill the developers, or swear. But I will gladly go ahead and pay for a nice follow-up if the game was good to me, or buy a similar game, or buy an add-on if I feel it’s worth it. Others might do different idiocies with their money.

    So I think Steam has the upper hand here to develop such a mechanism that would allow developers and publishers to be able to predict what kind of rip off they can get away with, but more interestingly, who they can rip-off how. And also, now that we’re having this pleasant conversation, they can even develop the concept of network selling and even be able to compensate titles for inducing the sales of other titles. Or even blogs. Or people!

  40. SirBob says:

    proposed #10 – Thou shalt not add DRM to DLC for a game that originally did not have it (ie. Borderlands – Zed’s Zombie whatnot).

  41. Kakksakkamaddafakka says:

    Two things (or three, sort of):

    1. I didn’t bother checking if anyone else had mentioned what I’m about to say.
    2. Is that The Saint of Killers?
    3. THAT LIST IS A BUNCH OF CRAP. There isn’t any need for even a word like “DLC”, downloads have existed a goddamn decade, and what the arseholes in the industry is trying to pass off downloads as now is pitiful. There was a word for what “DLC” should have been, it was “expansion”. Only “expansions” were actually a piece of work that made sense, as it was an actual product that a real team of developers had used a significant amount of time and money on, and it had a reasonable price-tag for what usually was quite a large amount of content. “DLC” is a product of the greedy “golden age” game industry that has absolutely no scruples in their doings that ultimately has only one arc: grasping as much money as they possibly can from customers that seem to not mind being fucked so hard in the arse that their teeth are popping out. Not surprisingly the industry is collecting those teeth, hoping they can earn a few pennies, as their researchers (who, mind you, are getting a whole lot more money than the actual developers) are stacking the odds quite heavily towards the existence of the tooth fairy. However, what does surprise me, is that most people are happily living this whole shitty deal, having forgotten how awesome it was to be a gamer playing mainstream games just a few years back.

    There is absolutely no need for a list like this. This is like saying, “Oh, I think Hitler should have just stopped at Poland, trying for rest of Europe was rather brash”.

    I want a new list, and I want it in the style of the Nürnberg trials, not this silly “please, go a little slower, I’m getting blisters” fashion. This is petty.

    /rant.

    • Doug F says:

      aaand we’re godwin’d.

      DLC is as bad as Hitler, and game developers are war criminals. Someone alert the media.

    • Nick says:

      I think it’s Ray from Call of Juarez rather than the Saint of Killers.

      But they both look similar.

    • Tim Ward says:

      ITT we learn:

      1) Distributing content over the Internet is something Hitler would do. DIE VERNITCHUNG DER JUDISCHEN RASSE IN EUROPA!!!!!!!1111
      2) But distribution methods which involve large high street chains are more “indie”, or something.
      3) Distribution of games in a form which is not either full-game or expansion size is something nazis would do. Jawohl! Hier war nicht nur eine freudige Zustimmung allseits festzustellen, sondern darüber hinaus ein gänzlich Unerwartetes, ich möchte sagen, sie Übertreffendes und Überbietendes im Hinblick auf die FORDERUNG ZUR ENDLOSUNG DER JUDENFRAGE!!!!1111 *goose steps*

  42. EBass says:

    I rarely buy DLC, but then I rarely bought the addon packs of old. I think a lot of the ire thats directed at DLC could have equally validly been directed at addon packs as well, but back in the old days of addon packs we didn’t have the internet and modding communities to show up the developers.

    I mean lets go back to the old days and look at a generic addon pack for a generic first person shooter.

    The original would contain lets say 9 weapons, a 10 hour campaign etc etc.

    In the expansion pack which would cost half the price of the original game we’d get maybe two new weapons a 3 hour campaign and a few new multiplayer maps. So for half the price of the original game we’re getting about 10% of the content.

    But the bad value doesen’t stop there. The original game also needed the engine and AI routines etc coding, not to mention the team is now well aqauinted with the software so would develop it quicker. So essentially you’re paying half the price for about 2% of the work that went into the original game.

    Only a few expansion packs were ever value for money with respect to the content contained in the original title. Operation Flashpoint: Resistance being probably the best addon pack ever.

  43. Thants says:

    11. Thou shalt not intentionally stop people from modding your game in order to sell DLC.

    12. Thou shalt not provide free DLC with the release of the game in order to screw over people buying used copies.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Thants
      #11 is particularly important, as modding can act as a sort of quality control for DLC. Put simply, a game that has DLC and no mods is usually going to have crappier DLC than a game that has both. A game that’s moddable requires developers to put out DLC of sufficient quality to be noticable and desirable above and beyond what the modding community puts out. Devs that are confident of the quality of their expansion content should have no problem with that, those that know they’re bilking their customers will go out of their way to prevent it. Both behaviors should be noted.

    • RogB says:

      as a developer I see nothing wrong with #12

      hey at least provide SOME incentive for buying new, instead of joe public looking at a pre-owned game in the store thats a -FEW POUNDS- cheaper than new, and deciding to go for that instead. instant 100% profit for retailer = 0% money to the developer.

    • phil says:

      @RogB : As someone who buys a lot of games second hand, I’ve got to say that’s a little short signted. The trend seems to be that three-four months after retail release, the title is half price, six months or more you’ll be able to get change from a fiver, so fairly considerable savings.

      I do however spend a fair amount on DLC providing the game world is good and rich with potential, Bethesada have certainly gotten a fair chuck of my cash despite me buying both Fallout 3 and Oblivion second hand.

      Rather than imposing highly annoying barriers, that make me more likely to forget the whole thing and play something else, wouldn’t creating sticky content that draws consumers back be the best solution?

    • RogB says:

      @Phil

      I dont think its short sighted. My problem is not with games becoming cheaper over a period of months. Even if its cheap, a new copy will still send some money to the publisher/developer. I buy a lot of titles that are a month or 2 old at a better price than when they first came out, but its still a ‘new’ copy. I never buy pre-owned as its pure profit for gamestation/GAME with no reward going to the people that made it.
      My issue is with ‘pre-owned’ copies – more specifically, preowned copies that show up in the first WEEK of sales, usually sat next to new copies on the shelves – a disgusting practice IMHO.

      of course like I said before, im in the business of making games so my priorities are a little skewed to the average punter that just wants it as cheap as possible. My view is that a title of mine bought preowned is the same (revenue wise) as a copy pirated.
      Since we’ve ‘lost’ that sale, at least clawing some of it back by offering some paid DLC is our only option.

    • Tei says:

      @RogB

      I see the market of used games like the market of used cars, or the market of used books. and reselling used books/cars is not inmoral in the slighty.

    • RogB says:

      oh well. more studios close, more people out of a job, and less ‘daring’ games, but as long as you get manshooterIIX for a few quid less thats okay.

      comparing to the car market is extreme but anyway – you may be unaware but our government (UK) now has to offer cash incentives to buy new cars. immoral? probably not, but you cant deny it isnt hurting the industry.
      anyway. I’m sure i’m pissing in the wind here so that’ll be the last of it. ;-)

    • Tei says:

      RogB:
      “anyway. I’m sure i’m pissing in the wind here so that’ll be the last of it. ;-)”

      Ok, lets the discussion end there. To be honest, I don’t sell my used games, but I don’t see anything wrong on that.

    • Lilliput King says:

      “and reselling used books/cars is not inmoral in the slighty.”

      Why?

  44. perilisk says:

    I can think of a few… well, “points”, moreso than commandments.

    1) Your full game might be a novel experience with beautiful visuals and sound, compelling narrative, and amazing gameplay mechanics, but once I finish your game, it’s the new status quo. The “something new” benefit fades away, and now your $5.00, half-baked, 1-hour quest is competing with the entire digital marketplace of great games that I never got around to playing. Which do you think is a better use of my time and money?

    2) In most cases, there is a major time investment on my part to replay your game and get maximum use out of the DLC. If your game isn’t at all replayable, it is probably not worth it. Even if it is kinda replayable or something I come back to every once in awhile, I’m not actually going to shell out for DLC until I’m actually committed to playing the original again.

    3) To reiterate, my time is valuable. The actual transaction of learning about, deciding whether or not to care about, and eventually going through the numerous hoops to get your DLC (entering credit card/address information, creating an account at your site, trying to remember the password to an existing account at your site that I used once last year to get DLC, painstakingly typing in some kind of DRM code, whatever) is going to add, at a minimum, $2 to the actual cost to me of getting your DLC. If the process of finding, acquiring, and installing it is particularly onerous, the cost goes up from there. If you’re selling me a 15 hour expansion pack for $20, this time cost is a drop in the bucket. If you’re selling me horse armor for $0.50, it just quintupled the real cost of your DLC.

    4) I guess, the main point of 1-3 is that I’d rather buy large expansion packs. I really don’t have time to dick around with tiny little bites of game, especially when I can just wait a few months and get everything at once, for less money and effort.

    5) If you sell your DLC through Windows Live, I am not in your market. If Microsoft wants me to start using that POS, it better start offering free hookers and coke for a year with each subscription.

  45. Longasc says:

    My experiences with Fallout and Dragon Age DLC:

    While there are some really nice stories and stuff to explore, it is usually unfortunately 1. BUGGY, SHODDY and 2. WAY TOO LITTLE STUFF for 3. WAY TOO MUCH MONEY. In case of Fallout cracked DLCs were out when the legal downloads caused issues which really made me LOL.

  46. Tommo says:

    I fucking HATE those three little letters D-L-C. Its just another part of the console takeover and dumb down. I dont want it, its useless for me, I know its worthwhile for games publishers. I want an EXPANSION PACK, not a new ring or horse armour.
    Dont treat us like lazy console consumers!

    • Gunrun says:

      You’ve got the wrong attitude. DLC doesn’t HAVE to be tiny little items. It can add whole areas of gameplay and stuff. If it helps you could think of those as mini expansions?

  47. Bozzley says:

    Fallout 3′s DLC was a bit weird on the PC. If you didn’t have the game installed in your C: drive (i.e. you ran it from another drive letter), you had to recreate the folder path that the DLC should sit in on the C: drive on whichever drive you’d installed the game to. So you buy the DLC, realise it isn’t working, spend half an hour reading through forum threads to find the answer, fifteen minutes making and renaming a whole bunch of folders on your other hard drive or partition, five minutes finding and copying the DLC over, and after all that, you can load the game and play what you’d paid for. Whether that was GFW-L or Fallout 3′s fault, I don’t know, but I do know it fucked me right off and makes me hesitant to buy any more DLC for anything PC-wise.

  48. Rob Hale says:

    You realise that probably 80% of all games made break number 7 not just DLC.

  49. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Hurrah, Alec! When do we march? I’ve got some pitchforks stashed away around here..

  50. Mesmertron says:

    Father Meer, your views intrigue me and I wish to tithe to your collection plate.