Peeling off the cellophane wrapper the box opens with a reassuring click. Inside are several CD-ROM’s and a manual that has yet to be touched. The box smells of newness, you know the smell, a one time kind of smell, so you breathe it in and savour the moment. You put the CD into the cup holder shaped drive and ease the drive back into position. The drive gives off a calming hum as it reads the disc. As the game installs you pour over every word in the manual, reading the health and safety guide twice over, because we all know how gaming melts your brain. Install complete you launch the game…
Maybe I am naive to think that when I buy a game, I am buying a complete, working finished article? In an era when a dodgy launch with a semi working game is considered the norm and somehow acceptable, I hark back to the golden age when games used to work straight from the box. An age when the game you bought didn’t come with additional DLC because it was released as a complete product. An age when the term micro transaction hadn’t even been invented. SDK, Modding tools, source code all seem to be dirty words around these parts. A faint whisper on the breeze. A shadow of the times before. Games that didn’t come with these tools were ridiculed, scorned and treated with utter disdain. So what changed?
PC gaming in the past was always an exclusive club, components were expensive and difficult to fit. The majority of games required a great deal of luck just to get them working and whenever you connected to the world wide web, your computer screeched in horror and pain as it dialled up. Perhaps developers felt obliged to include tools for the community to work with, whether that was a simple level editor or a complex all singing all dancing self development kit, because once the game was out, that was that.
Some of the games we know and love today had humble beginning as community made projects. The most high profile of these has spawned a Goliath, a behemoth. The worlds biggest game to date League of Legends began as a Warcraft 3 mod known as Defence of The Ancients or DoTA for short. This mod single handily put the MOBA genre on the map as we know it today. Speaking of maps the original DoTA map is the same map we play today in Summoners Rift a little over 10 years after its conception, granted it may have been tweaked over the years but the fundamentals are still the same. In fact all the games which follow the MOBA genre will have borrowed heavily from DoTA in some way.
Minecraft is another game that owes the community for a large part of its success. Whilst at its core Minecraft is an absolutely excellent game, especially for the creative people amongst us, without the constant additions and general helpfulness of the community the game could have stalled. Is it not the amazing community made projects that catapulted the games popularity into space? The community even drove the game forward adding features whilst Notch, the creator, worked on other aspects. It makes it almost unbelievable that developers don’t want to harness the collective creativity and enthusiasm of the community in all games.
So where does DLC fit into this complex puzzle? You needn’t look any further than the last generation of consoles which in effect created the culture of drip feeding content at a premium. Console gaming has always had a large user base and the introduction of the xbox 360 and the PlayStation 4 only served to increase that user base. Suddenly developers had a large market, hungry for games that didn’t necessarily have the high demands of the PC market with its endless system configurations. I am sure someone can point me toward DLC that was available prior to this point but it certainly became common place during this time. Gamers were desperate for additional content to there favourite game’s, it started innocently enough. A map pack containing an extra 5 maps for your shooter of choice, two additional quests on that excellent RPG you have been playing. Then all of sudden games started launching with day 1 DLC, Mass Effect 3 is probably one of the most high profile games to take this route. Gamers would be served a raw deal if they didn’t pre-order and receive additional content. It is well documented that during a games development a separate team will be working alongside the main game developing additional premium content.
So why did gamers not talk with their wallets and refuse to pay? Its hard to say definitively, gaming for most people is a form of escapism, and often gamers will completely immerse themselves in the world on the screen and a chance to experience just a little bit more content is too good an opportunity to miss. Is it the competitive nature of gamers that compel them to buy additional maps just so they can prove they are the best? Do we even need to look at the reason’s why when the fact remains that DLC isnt going anywhere as long as gamers keep buying, or is it?
People will say most things in life follow cycles and DLC doesnt seem to be an exception. With the launch of much smaller indie studious that are turning out high quality games quickly, and updating them for free, DLC may be on borrowed time. Both me and my bank balance will be glad to see the back of it.