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.)