Fish, Hitler, And Naughty Language: DLC Is Bloody Weird

By Craig Pearson on June 11th, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

Shooting Hitler is weird

What do Hitler, Snoop Dogg, George Washington, and Shakespeare have in common? If you said they all appear in Rik Mayall’s autobiography Bigger Than Hitler, Better Than Christ*, you’re wrong. Washington and Snoop aren’t mentioned in that. The correct answer is that each has been digitised and reformed–Weird Science style–into your games as DLC.

There’s a lot of DLC out there, ranging from the mundane to the insane, and I think I know why. Games are increasingly serious business, with huge budgets and a cast amount of public scrutiny. DLC–well some of it–feels like the passion projects that don’t fit into the canon. An outlet for the stuff that gets cleared from the whiteboard for being too off message, or too niche. DLC is cathartic. I’ve been on a strange journey, readers. I’ve been looking through games catalogues and hunting down the sort of DLC that could be described as ’boutique’. I’ve been on a boutique call, ahahahahahahaha!

When I first pitched this feature, it was because I’d visited the Star Citizen shop. I’d tried out my pre-order ship in the Arena Commander alpha, and was less than impressed with its awkward over-steering and a cockpit that showed more window frame than space. I was aware that the game allowed people to buy other ships and upgrade, so perhaps there was an upgrade that let me control and see the game I’d paid for? I wandered into the store, feeling like a vagrant at a muscle car shop. My, what a place. For real, folding money, you can buy better ships that cost more than the combined costs of the desk I’m writing at and the seat I’m sitting on.

But further into the shop, at the back, behind ‘upgrades’ to entirely virtual purchases, there is another store that takes United Earth Credits–credits that backers have but can also be purchased with real world money. It’s the decoration section, and I found myself clicking on ‘Fishtank’, because if you’re making a game about space and carefully designed, systemic ships, then the top priority for the community is a place to keep their fish.

Yes, you can buy fish. And the fish have backstories.

“Vindel: Generally found in shallow water, this species of fish feeds on waste and algae that collects at the bottom of rivers. The tentacles on the head allow the fish to dig through the loose rock and soil. Not generally edible. They taste pretty terrible.”

I wonder how many design meetings were needed to decide on the flavour of the fish? Star Citizen won’t be the first game to feature incongruous, odd items for sale, and it won’t be the last, but it is the reason I chose to poke around. Fish in a game about space ships. What else is there?

You probably remember that some of this stuff existed, but you probably forgot it was odd. I did. Strange things become normal over time. Valve released a jar of piss for TF2, and the years in-between have somehow normalised the notion of an assassin soaking a target in urine. It started life as an April Fools gag and somehow crossed the barrier of joke and into the realms of man. A similar thing has just happened with Arma 3, which just turned the Arma 3: Go Karts gag into actual, paid-for content. I get the feeling that they accidentally made it, with the team laughing it up at an April Fools’ meeting, giggling and pointing at the artist’s monitor, guffawing at the web-page, high-fiving at the trailer, and then their boss asked what they’ve been doing for the past week and panic sets in.

“Er, we made DLC?”

And because of that, I can now skree through the streets of Kavala with a wheezy, over-steering go-kart in a game about Maximum Warface.

Actually, Bohemia is doing an interesting thing with their DLC, attempting to avoid community splits by giving premium content away for free, and advertising it to players who haven’t yet paid for it. It’s really intriguing, but it’s also far too sensible for the rest of this post, so let’s just nod appreciatively and move on to the game I found about disassembling weaponry.

I discovered World Of Guns: Gun Disassembly because there was a game called World Of Guns: Gun Disassembly. Sometimes you don’t even need word of mouth, just words. World of Guns. World. Of. Guns. Anyway, World Of Guns: Gun Disassembly is a free-to-play game about how fast the players can pull apart and put together weaponry, which at least has some semblance of connection to a real-world activity. Soldiers are taught to strip weapons quickly in order to fix them in the field swiftly. So naturally it has Skeleton DLC, because if you’re speedily putting together the guns that begin a process of turning living things into dead things, then the natural follow-up is to include the component parts of the dead things for you to pull apart and then put together as speedily as you can. It’s almost philosophical. I am thinking.

What am I thinking about? Well it goes like this: Guns > Skeletons > Hitler. Let’s take some time to remember how odd the Sniper Elite v2 DLC is, in which you are put in a mission called Kill Hitler. I like the game. Honestly. The one gimmick it has is somehow still entertaining after the surprising number of hours I’ve put into it. The faceless Nazi proles you dispatch in bone-crunching vignettes are incredibly satisfying. But Hitler? I’m not saying seeing his internal organs split by tumbling, hot metal isn’t somewhat cathartic. It is. Immediately. But a few days later it started to nag at me, that perhaps using Hitler in something so base and grim and silly isn’t what I should be doing. That reducing him to a punchline, where the correct shot will give you a slow motion shot of his testicles exploding, isn’t something I was comfortable with. I can’t say I wielded the gun with anything other than salacious intent at the time, but a few days later I wasn’t proud of my participation.

Rebellion disagrees, and Hitler will return in Sniper Elite 3′s Target Hitler DLC, but I can’t face playing it this time.

Let’s lighten things up a little, but keep history in view. Assassin’s Creed 3 was a boring game that managed to spawn some powerfully strange DLC: The Tyranny of King Washington. Given that the Assassin’s Creed history is an alternate history, and that this is an alternate version of that alternate history, it’s a couple of steps removed from reality, setting up a world where George Washington has gone mad with power and forgone the presidency to install himself as a full-on king of America. To make it more oddball, you don’t even play an Assassin, but instead a version of Conner who remained a Patriot, keeping his native name of Ratonhnhak√©:ton and attacking with the power of a bear spirit. A polygonal bear. There’s even a pyramid in the middle of New York. The ending has a man wearing a puppy using his animal powers to fight a King who is controlled by an apple.

See? DLC is weird, even in the triple AAA sphere you’ll get a founding father going toe-to-toe with a mystic fighter. To cement the point, let’s shift to Call Of Duty, a series as AAA as they come. The growth of the Call Of Duty series has been something to behold. I don’t get it, but I do get that something that large and recogniseable has fuzzy boundaries, a budget, and probably developers bored of taking the Michael Bayish leanings of the series seriously. You probably think I’m going to mention the inclusion of Nazi Zombies into the series, but the truth is that’s not as odd as some of the DLC voice packs that have been released for multiplayer. Specifically, there’s a Snoop Dogg Voice Pack that gives you vocal gymnastics for every banal moment in multiplayer. “You just laid dem Bustas down, but there’s another round!”

When I remember that adults made that, I get a little giddy. It’s certainly what I’d do if given a budget and a contact list of celebrities. Well, that and pay people to fight to the death for my entertainment. I’m very Roman in certain aspects, which is a lovely and easy way to talk about Total War: Rome 2′s: Blood & Gore DLC. It’s an add-on that puts the viscera into victories; a work of arterial artistry. It’s actually a sneaky way of gaining a Pegi 16 rating for the main game, but allowing age 18 content for those that want it. And for those that can pay, which is a bone of contention poking through the skin for those that see gore as a necessity in the game. I can see the point, but can also sort of understand Sega’s position. Releasing age-rating altering content post Hot Coffee is a move that has the potential to explode in their face, but you’ll have to pay ¬£2 to see the results.

(Also: the images used to advertise the DLC are so grim that Google has threatened to delist sites from search if they posted them, so I’ve had to ensure the following collection is suitably ungored)

Don't spill it... don't spill it...

In some eyes, those screenshots are art, and therefore the end of the question about if games can be art. I am willing to frame and sign a few if you’re really impressed.

Anyway, I consider that question answered a long time ago with Typing of the Dead: Overkill’s DLC. The type-or-die game doesn’t seem the place to find true, world-recognised art, but they’ve been mixing up zombies, WPM, and all sorts of inappropriate content. The least inappropriate of that is Shakespeare DLC, where you’ll hastily type couplets from the Bard’s tales to keep the undead at bay. But I was talking about art, and no-one here is saying that Shakespeare is art. No, I’m talking about the Filth DLC.

The Thick Of it and Viz’s Profanisaurus prove that swearing is an artform, which means this DLC is art, and therefore games are art. Admittedly, the ability to type horrendous filth into a wee box is something that gamers are particularly good at, but there’s creative turns of phrase that makes it a bit more of a challenge than teenagers just being teenagers and winning the game. Not one will have used the phrase “Adolescent sex fiasco” I’ll bet.

Can you imagine being a Sega employee and being asked to swear for a living? Remember when I said that DLC was cathartic? This has to be the ultimate example of that, and the best place to end this ramble. There’s probably piles more out there that I didn’t uncover. I’m sure Dota 2 has some amazing work. What have I missed?

*So long, Rik.

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30 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    amateurviking says:

    That was a strange and wonderful journey.

  2. Premium User Badge

    RedViv says:

    This was an entirely enjoyable hike through increasing madness. Thank you, Craig.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Anthile says:

    It seems like a good chunk of recent DLC follows the Japanese “gaiden” model. Instead of just adding levels they explore the game’s universe from a different angle.
    When it comes to weird DLC the Sunset Invasion for Crusader Kings 2 is pretty out there, featuring a highly centralized Aztec empire subjugating most other American tribes. They reverse-engineer viking longboats after the first contact and sail across the Atlantic to conquer. Needless to say, this DLC made a lot of people unhappy and ultimately it’s just a horde for the western part of the map but it can be a lot of fun and it has plenty of flavorful events.

    • Premium User Badge

      JamesTheNumberless says:

      Not being a fan of most Japanese games I have always wondered what “gaiden” meant, I used to just read it as “you don’t want to read about this game it’s got gaidens” now that you’ve made the connection to Sunset Invasion I’m a little more enlightened but will still basically read it the same way ;)

      • Kitsunin says:

        Well, knowing Chinese and not Japanese (Outside of weaboo media absorption), I believe that gaiden directly translates to “outside (a very adaptably used word) legend”, so considering the way it is used, it seems like a pretty useful term to me.

  4. Freud says:

    All these DLCs and even more sinister ways to monetize games (season pass wtf) is gamer death by a thousand cuts.

    • little says:

      I actually really like the fish DLC in Star Citizen. It’s purely cosmetic and completely optional. It’s something fancy to look at but nothing more. In my view a perfect way to support a game.

    • frightlever says:

      What he ^^^ said.

      One man’s fish is another man’s poison, or something.

      For me DLC is like sprinkles on icecream if I love the game. I’m getting the opportunity to have a little extra of a game I’ve already “finished” or am just already having a lot of fun with. Sure, they could put everything into the main game, but then there’s no sprinkles. Do we want a life without sprinkles?

      OTOH, on games that I’m not so enamoured with, DLC is a fucking curse and how very dare they.

  5. Shooop says:

    This article is more entertaining than all the DLC it covered combined.

  6. OscarWilde1854 says:

    How did this article come to pass without ANY mention of Far Cry 3.. Blood. Dragon. Dragon-blood…
    A game set on a tropical island where you shoot armed guards and hunt leopards turns into a sci-fi shooter with dragons….
    That one always blew my mind.. Such a random DLC

    • Premium User Badge

      Anthile says:

      It’s not DLC. It’s a stand-alone game recycling many of Far Cry 3′s assets and most of its gameplay in a very different setting.

      • Wedge says:

        It was originally designed as DLC, until they realized there was no reason to tie it to the base game and they could get more potential sales putting it out on it’s own.

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      Lexx87 says:

      Just a quick shoutout to the music in that, incredible stuff.

  7. LionsPhil says:

    That Typing of the Dead video is surprisingly entertaining, given the source.

  8. DanMan says:

    I’m much more ok with fishtank DLC than with essential stuff that’s hidden behind a paywall. Of course, the best DLC is that which adds just more or different stuff, like the Vergil DLC in DmC.

  9. Phasma Felis says:

    I’m really looking forward to the day when Valve announces that every cosmetic DLC item from every game ever will now be available as TF2 hats.

  10. Comrade Roe says:

    Great article, Craig. If it weren’t for you, I’d be able to breath. Do continue making fine articles on this site, please.

  11. muelnet says:

    I feel like this should be a monthly feature.

  12. kio says:

    That second Total War pic.

    http://i.imgur.com/C8E8P2T.jpg

    I’m not the only one who sees this, right? Right???

  13. AyeBraine says:

    I heartily recommend Gun Disassembly. I played a little of the “World of Guns” (FacebookSteam version), and its free-to-play shenanigans are really off-putting, but that’s just the latest experiment from the developers.

    The core game, existing for many years for PC and mobile, is Gun Disassembly 2, and it lets you just buy the damn guns (though it doesn’t have shooting ranges).

    I worked with those guys a little, and I know that their current library of about 80 guns was accumulated by really hard work – about a month minimum for every model with a team of 3-5 people (and I suspect more lately).

    This is a tremendous learning aid for any well-read and inquisitive gun enthusiast and historian, and an indispensable teaching and demoing tool. A lot of things that I only read about for years really became clear to me only after I studied the action in X-Ray, Slo-Mo and then disassembeld the mechanisms. They’ve covered dozens of iconic firearm designs (not just iconic guns, but influential designs) with enormous attention to detail.

    Some models have 300-500 animated parts. If you know what every part does, it’s a very enriching experience. And when it comes to the Maxim gun or an artillery piece, it crosses the boundary straight into architecture. I think they could do a whole steam engine, if they wanted (they experimented with cars, bikes and skeletons, and recently released the insanely detailed BMP-3 AFV and DeLorean with time travel option).

  14. AngoraFish says:

    For the benefit of those unfamiliar with the Internet – scam, intended to extract your Steam login information and to trap you in an infinite circle of “surveys”.

  15. JimboDeany says:

    Hitler only had one ball….

  16. Low Life says:

    I know it’s not for PC (at least yet), but there’s this Dead Rising 3 DLC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKs0NjEsqQY

  17. Premium User Badge

    cpt_freakout says:

    FISH HITLER OF THE DEAD

  18. -Spooky- says:

    Overkill filth made my day .. *mwhaha*

  19. Michael Isenberg says:

    the correct shot will give you a slow motion shot of [Hitler's] testicles exploding

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler's_possible_monorchism

  20. KenTWOu says:

    Polygonal bear spirit? You’ve got to be kidding me, Craig. That bear super power was super boring. Wolf cloak and Eagle flight were the shiniest part of that DLC. The Tyranny of King Washington is the best part of Assassin’s Creed 3 and the main reason why I don’t regret I bought AC3:Deluxe Edition.