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Bioware talks day one DLC

Bioware talks day one DLC

Tue 14 Aug 2012 8:20am GMT / 4:20am EDT / 1:20am PDT
OnlineDevelopment

"There is no single right time" for content says director of online development Fernando Melo

EA BioWare

BioWare develops high quality console, PC and online role-playing games, focused on rich stories, unforgettable...

bioware.com

Bioware's Fernando Melo, director of online development, has tackled the thorny issue of day one DLC during his talk at GDC Europe.

He described selling extra content as "really safe, from a risk perspective" and added that "contrary to what you might hear on the internet, fans do want more content."

"They tend to say, 'I want it now.' The problem with day one content and the challenge around it is that the right answer for now is different for every player. There is no single right time, there is no single now. It's subjective, and it's unique to every player."

He said releasing extra content on day one was about making it available whenever the fans wanted it.

"It's not based on us. It's not based on some first-party release schedule. It's there, if they want it they can pick it up day one. If they don't, they can wait until they've finished their game."

He also addressed the conflict this situation could cause with parts of a game's fan base who argue day one content should simply be included as part of the game. Melo suggested consistent communication was key.

"You're not lying to them, but they will take whatever you're saying as like, 'you're lying to us.' That will always be there," he explained.

"The only way that that's going to go away is you fast forward a few more years, where this is just normal. Every game is digital from day one. Every game is an ongoing service, almost like an MMO, where on any given day new content shows up. Maybe that's part of the base package, and maybe it's a premium feature."

Via IGN.

27 Comments

James Prendergast
Research Chemist

730 411 0.6
I don't know. For me it depends on how tied in to the core game the day-one DLC is. If it's very melded in to gameplay and story there's immediately a question raised into my mind about how this came about and how that was possible if the content was not planned from the very early stages of the game development. Now, sure, you can say that the content might not have been given the green light but IMO, DLC should complement the game and not make a gap through its absence. In the latter case it's as if you're witholding content from those customers who paid for the game experience.

Having a character who fleshes out the storyline and backstory and has more meaningful interactions with respect to that than anyone else in the game sits on the wrong side of that line I defined above.

Having plug-in quests, items and areas do not.

Posted:A year ago

#1

Terence Gage
Freelance writer

1,288 120 0.1
This same story went live on Eurogamer at about 11pm last night. As of about 8am this morning there were about 120 comments, and I'd estimate that upward of 95% were people saying that they intensely dislike paid day one DLC. I don't know how it works in terms of the development side of things (although understand from a few sources that DLC is now planned and developed alongside the main game), but generally speaking I think you'll struggle to find people who are happy to pay an extra 8 (or $10) for something which a few years ago would have been part of the main game.

Posted:A year ago

#2

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

517 734 1.4
If you don't think it's worth it, don't buy it. Quite simple really.

Posted:A year ago

#3

Nicholas Pantazis
Senior Editor

1,008 1,397 1.4
@ Dave And many people don't. Worse, you're hurting consumer confidence in your company, which can hurt future sales. I know it's not a totally fair comparison, but look at the sales of Skyrim compared to every other RPG, and Skyrim didn't launch with any DLC. I don't think people want this.

Also, Bioware, don't treat people like idiots. Don't include as your Day 1 DLC "extra" content that was clearly part of the main story initially (Javik was already on the disc, guys. People aren't stupid). As James said, people are very angry when you're holding back part of the story from them, and there are a lot of gamers who still don't buy ANY DLC. So yeah, I do think we need to get to a point where there is a better balance on what is reasonable in the DLC department... and I think Bioware is far from it.

Posted:A year ago

#4

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

517 734 1.4
@Nicholas - I think it was someone from Bioware (though I'm not entirely sure) who said something along the lines of "we'll stop making day one DLC when you guys stop buying it". People do a lot of complaining and then go and hand over their money anyway.

Posted:A year ago

#5

Tommy Thompson
Lecturer in BSc (Hons) Computer Games Programming.

44 26 0.6
I think James hit it on the head. Day one DLC should not be designed to cheat the consumer out of what they could have received on the disc. While they are something I don't understand, I can appreciate that day one DLC such as weapon unlocks (that already exist in the game) and superfluous items such as weapon skins (see Gears 3 and the ridiculous amount of gun skins available day one) are perfectly fine. It's when you start moving into proper consumable entertainment that potentially impacts on the story or the experience that people begin to get annoyed.

Frankly it's the wrong approach. DLC should be ensure a game persists in the minds of gamers (and indeed the drives of their consoles). Nicholas pointed out no day one DLC for Skyrim, but now it has the Dawnguard expansion. That's great for folk who have already exhausted the game and want more. Heck, Gearbox continued to produce content for Borderlands years after it came out. Titles such as Deus Ex:HR and arguably Castlevania LoS knew how to make that work for them.

To me it reeks of publishers pushing monetisation. Bioware did a much better job of managing the content on Mass Effect 2 compared to the original, but they really dropped the ball I think the third time round.

Posted:A year ago

#6

Bryan Robertson
Gameplay Programmer

86 210 2.4
I think you'll struggle to find people who are happy to pay an extra 8 (or $10) for something which a few years ago would have been part of the main game.
But it wouldn't have been part of the main game. There are a few exceptions, but generally speaking, DLC content, even day one DLC content is content that either wouldn't have been created, or would have had to have been cut from the game to hit the ship date.

Years ago, the teams that work on day one DLC would have been surplus to requirements, and would have been laid off as the project ramped down (unless you were lucky enough to work for one of the few developers that is financially stable, like Epic or Valve, or a publisher that has multiple projects in flight and is good at managing the ramping up and down of projects in a way that will avoid layoffs)

That the DLC is planned from early on, is no indication that it was deliberately held back from the main game.

Posted:A year ago

#7

Terence Gage
Freelance writer

1,288 120 0.1
I agree with the voting with your wallet sentiment, but unfortunately not enough people seemingly agree, and as you say Dave, while folk keep buying day one DLC publishers will keep supporting it.

Posted:A year ago

#8
It's interesting how many gamers know that the DLC was originally intended to be in the game, etc. I find it fascinating because I thought this kind of information would generally not be released outside the developer and publisher teams (and possibly account managers at platform holders).

Posted:A year ago

#9

Rick Lopez
Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,269 941 0.7
I feel like they are selling me a game for 80$ and stripping you of content if you choose to pay 60$. im ok with day one DLC that doesnt affect the core game, like bonus weapons or costums, but for ME3 I was mad and upset. Because the DLC really had on impact on the overall game story. On tekken vs street fighter, the lack of certain characters also made me angry. If they were costums and stuff fine. But characters, no simply because that feature is part of the core gameplay. I also dont mind promotional stuff, items and none essential side quests. but what happened with mass effect was out of line.

And if every game is going to become a service, then ill stop gaming simple as that.

Seriously, Bioware, you messed up.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 14th August 2012 7:20pm

Posted:A year ago

#10

Sam Brown
Programmer

235 164 0.7
There is DLC and there is DLC. It appears that DLC that is complimentary but not essential to a game is acceptable to the community, regardless of when it was developed. The issue with ME3's day-one DLC is that it is (however rightly or wrongly) considered essential - and this is the thing that is very hard to get across to people who aren't deeply involved in ME's story.

I did hold off buying Javik to begin with, but with the release of the Extended Cut I thought I'd give it a go for this playthrough. It does make quite a difference, particularly if you bring him along for every mission you can.

On the other hand, very little complaint is given about the plot that is only revealed in other media. ME3 (and ME2) relies to some extent on continuity established in the comics and novels, yet virtually no-one complains about this. Is this because only game media matters? Or were they compartmentalised enough? Or is it lack of awareness of the other media within the community?

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Sam Brown on 14th August 2012 5:24pm

Posted:A year ago

#11
Feeling it's a rip-off is different to supposedly knowing it for a fact - you are entitled to your opinion, and it's the publisher's job to persuade you to part with your money.

While sufficient numbers are prepared to pay for it, DLC will continue to be published - platform holders and publishers want to make money. Certainly the problem for the publisher is convincing people that the DLC is worth buying. Maybe there is a more appropriate time to release a particular DLC than day one. Maybe people won't make a fuss if the same thing is released two or more weeks later. But this is a relatively new market and we're still feeling our way around it. We're trying different things out - we don't know what people will accept unless they hand over their money (or don't). So you might not see a Javik again, that might have been tried, too few people paid and the fallout was considered not worth it - then again, the opposite may be true, there might be only 120 complainers and 100,000 buyers, I don't know.

Posted:A year ago

#12

Sam Brown
Programmer

235 164 0.7
It's interesting how many gamers know that the DLC was originally intended to be in the game, etc. I find it fascinating because I thought this kind of information would generally not be released outside the developer and publisher teams
I believe it was confirmed as content cut from the original game by the official Final Hours iOS app, which details the game's development. I've not seen the app, so I can't confirm that, nor whether it was cut solely to make it DLC or because they thought there was no time to finish it.

And you're quite correct - It is entirely down to manipulation of customer perception. If you're selling something you need people to think they're getting value for money. If they don't think that then you've failed, even if most of the complainers bought the product anyway, because then you have damage to your customer relationship. How bad that damage may be won't become apparent until the next time you're selling something.

So, does that mean it was a mistake to make Javik day one? Should they have waited? For that matter, should they have let the Final Hours people into the office?

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Sam Brown on 14th August 2012 6:02pm

Posted:A year ago

#13

Ian Brown
IT Developer / IT Infrastructure

107 26 0.2
Having bought the collectors edition of ME3 as it was one of my favorite games for many years and it coming with the Javik DLC wasn't a big issue but yes it did play significant part of the story. With that character being the last of his race which also happens in particular to be the last race to encounter the reapers it was quite a mistake to cut him out and charge for it. Like many have said, if it was an extra character with minimal impact on the main story but added their own piece to it, i don't think any one would have minded or at least the majority anyway. It just concerns me that this will perhaps become the norm, which will be sad indeed. What happened to extending a game after its finished to continue the story, not filling in the blanks.

Posted:A year ago

#14

Kevin Patterson
musician

182 96 0.5
I got mass Effect 3 as a gift so it didnt hurt to spend the extra $10 for the DLC, but I thought it was absolutely ridiculous on their choice for Day 1 DLC. Dragon Age:Origins had the stone prisoner which was free if you bought the game, and you could play and finish the game without it, but you would miss on possibly the best character in the game by not having it. I understood that choice, there was no previous backstory before that, and it was a great way to get people to buy the game new, or make money on used sales.
From Ashes was something that should have never been Day 1 DLC though, as it explained two games worth of backstory and gave insight on what you learned in previous games. It was essentially a money grab and a slap in the face to Mass effect 3 fans.
Next time, if you want to do Day one DLC, use the Stone Prisoner as the better way please.

Posted:A year ago

#15

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

517 734 1.4
It is a bit of a misleading pricing strategy. In a way it's like airlines that do "cheap" flights, but then find when you book it they charge large fees for taking luggage, or having everyone in your group seated together. Technically optional, but things the customer expects as part of the main cost and seperating them was just a way of hiding a part of the true cost. Worst case of this? Free To Play games. They hide the true cost of the game entirely.

Posted:A year ago

#16
Sorry, but I think that's a false analogy. It says on the game box, here is what you get for 40. Then it says online, here is a product for 5. If it was like airlines the price sticker would say 40, you take the box to the till where they charge you a variety of additional fees on top (taxes, card processing fees, etc) for no additional content.

Posted:A year ago

#17

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

517 734 1.4
That doesn't make it a false analogy, you just focused on the bits I didn't talk about rather than the ones I did. Like how having your family sitting together on the plane is something any reasonable person would expect is part of the deal, even though technically it isn't - you paid for a flight, and that's what they're giving you, the airline considers choice of seats as "additional content" and may charge for it.

Posted:A year ago

#18
There is nothing misleading about saying, "here is what you get for 40", this game or a random seat on the aircraft, and "here is what you get for another 5", a character or the choice of a particular seat. It is misleading to say "here is what you get for 40", the game or a seat, if the customer will end up paying 50 for the game or a seat absent the character or choice of seat.

Posted:A year ago

#19

Tamir Ibrahim
Programmer

75 56 0.7
I think the vocal internet minority is a lot more angry about this then the silent majority average customer.

Posted:A year ago

#20

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

517 734 1.4
It is misleading, because they're advertising "here's a game for 40", and not "here's 80% of a game for 40", which, rightly or wrongly in Mass Effect 3's case, the customer perceives it to be. Like other people have said, it's not about your internal politics whether you intended that content as "extra" or fundamental to the story, but how your customer sees it.

Posted:A year ago

#21
Bit of a weird argument, this. The verb "mislead" has a pretty clear meaning. If copy says, "in this box you get these ten characters for 40" and the buyer gets those ten characters for 40, he hasn't been misled. If online copy says, "if you hand over another 5 you get this additional character," the buyer is not misled if in handing over 5 he receives that additional character. If he only gets nine characters in the box then of course he has been misled.

He might be disappointed with the ten or eleven characters, and of course I agree customer disappointment ought to be considered, but can we get rid of this silly idea that the industry is causing people to have the wrong impression about what is in its boxes and DLC? You can't be misled post hoc.

Posted:A year ago

#22

Dave Herod
Senior Programmer

517 734 1.4
Does the title on the box say "Mass Effect 3" or does it say "Most of Mass Effect 3"? People who've played the DLC seem to agree that it was pretty vital to the story and without it, the game is incomplete. It's marketed as a full game, and as far as a lot of people are concerned, that's not what they got.

Posted:A year ago

#23

Hugo Dubs
Interactive Designer

161 24 0.1
What about DLC that already are on your disk on day one? That studios deliberately locked on the disk and makes you buy an unlock key via your online store...

With ever increasing dev budgets and time frame, DLC is a substainable business model for studio that need to extend their products life cycles by producing extra content based on existing techno/assets. This is good for the industry.

Now when COD is selling you 4 maps for 15 dollars, I just want to spit at their face for selling content which used to be free... How much does it cost to produce 4 maps with existing materials? we will never know and we all know why.

Posted:A year ago

#24

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,130 1,038 0.5
Given that the industry loses money by not allowing those gamers with lousy internet to actually buy ANY type of DLC, I'm wondering how things would look if the option to buy a game on a damn disc with EVERYTHING on it on day one would appeal to people as opposed to ignoring that portion of the market as if it doesn't exist.

Sure, a Game of the Year package is the best option for those folks, but even that's not a sure thing as form some stupid reason, you're forced to download content in some of these "complete" versions of games that yes, some actually wait for because they're led to believe everything they want will be there. And no, multiplayer modes (unless they're playable offline) don't count as important.

Posted:A year ago

#25
Dave Herod,
Does the title on the box say "Mass Effect 3" or does it say "Most of Mass Effect 3"? People who've played the DLC seem to agree that it was pretty vital to the story and without it, the game is incomplete. It's marketed as a full game, and as far as a lot of people are concerned, that's not what they got.
I think a distinction can be drawn between deliberate deception, which is what I understood you to be talking about when you used the analogy of unscrupulous airline companies, and feeling misled due to being disappointed after deciding the game would have been better with the character included. I think I will leave it there.

Posted:A year ago

#26

Robert Mac-Donald
Game Designer

58 45 0.8
I think we can dissect day 1 DLC as much as we want without finding any real strong argument against or for it.

What I do think is that the ideal of DLC is detrimental to the quality of games. Video games need to sell a whole experience if we want them to start being taken seriously and seen as something mature, instead of a toy with no intrinsic value other than entertainment with lots of separate parts to buy and append to.

Edit: specially if we want games to be seen as art. I can't think of anything that is considered art that doesn't expose the whole experience but brakes it into purchasable chunks.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Robert Mac-Donald on 17th August 2012 6:50pm

Posted:A year ago

#27

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