DLC: The Best and Worst Thing Ever

One of the internet’s preeminent gaming personalities, whether he likes it or not, made a statement of note earlier this week when TotalBiscuit posted this video, detailing his personal evolution on so-called “day-one cosmetic DLC.” You see, back in 2011, the same TotalBuscuit made a video decrying content of this type during the release of Portal 2, player skins, mostly. Cut to this year’s release of Turtle Rock’s Evolve and its controversial DLC program, and TotalBiscuit doesn’t mind.

“Ladies and gentleman,” he announced, “you’ve just witnessed someone changing their mind on the internet… I no longer hold the opinion that I did in 2011 in regards to Portal 2’s cosmeticDLC. Frankly, I don’t care, and I don’t know why I cared in the first place.” The reasons for this shift are numerous, best summarized as the sum of his becoming more familiar with the game development process and a period of self-examination, and, indeed, when he pointed out that art departments have a great deal of time on their hands in the latter half of a game’s development cycle, it did soften my own opinion on the matter. I was ignorant, and it effected my opinion, as TotalBiscuit admits it effected his.

Still, I don’t like DLC. Not in concept, but in practice. Everyone games for different reasons. Some like the competition of a fast-twitch shooter, or challenge of puzzlers or manically difficult platformers designed to make your blood boil and send your keyboard flying across the room. Me? I game for stories. And DLC doesn’t get along with a good video game story.

Too often, now, developers are seeing the landscape, riddled with season passes and day-one DLC, exclusive missions you only get from pre-ordering from this store or that, and realizing they don’t need to put real time into this. People are buying the DLC before the game’s even in their hands, before they even know they’re going to want more, and they’re taking advantage. Watch Dogs, a good enough game if you separate it from it’s unreasonable pre-release hype, released a DLC campaign not too long ago, a completely irrelevant romp with a side character no one much cares for doing all the same things we did in the main game. Nothing that happens matters. Too often, that’s all you get, from a story stand-point. A manufactured excuse for extra game.

Is this always the case? No. Of course not. Positive examples abound. Bioshock: Infinite has excellent, well-written, heartbreaking DLC. Same goes for The Last of Us, Skyrim, and the series of Libery City Story additions to Grand Theft Auto IV. But as it becomes a foregone conclusion that every AAA title is going to have some sort of additional DLC campaign, things they announce long before the game is even released, it feels like the amount of rote, forced, manufactured content is going to increase. I mean, I don’t begrudge anyone for spending five dollars on a set of Evolve monster skins. I would never do it, but to each their own. The thing is, they’re making so much money doing it that developers see that sort of thing as the new way to make a game profitable. That effects behavior. It effects the products we end up getting.

I want to go back to the days when we called these things “expansion packs.” Those words feel more substantial, like they demand more than an alternate costume and an different-colored flying tiger to ride. It’s not as if the good-actors are going to go away. They won’t. There will always be good developers, making great games with great DLC worthy of your dollar. It’s just going become harder and harder to dig through all the hats and pointless fetch quests to find the gems.

Or not. Maybe I’m just a pessimist.

Did you like what TotalBiscuit had to say? Have you, yourself changed your mind on the value of DLC? Think we’re stupid fatcats trying to use fancy word-writin’ to turn out your pockets, hold you upside down, and just shake you until all your hopes and dreams fall out? Yell at us below, or on Twitter!

Originally published at blog.gamewisp.com Feb 19, 2015.

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