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Bleszinski: On-disc DLC an "unfortunate reality" for industry

On-disc DLC will remain until games become fully downloadable says Gears of War designer

As the games industry continues to transition from retail to digital, some gamers gamers are starting to react negatively to a rising business practice of turning on-disc content into DLC. That sentiment has rung true with Cliff Bleszinski of Epic Games, who says the practice is "an unfortunate reality" for the industry.

"When you're making a game, and you're getting into a ship cycle, there's often three or four months where the game is basically done. And you have an idle team that needs to be working on things," he said to GameSpot.

"And often for compatibility issues, [on] day one, some of that content does need to be on-disc. It's an ugly truth of the gaming industry. I'm not the biggest fan of having to do it, but it is one of the unfortunate realities."

Bleszinski added that a solution may be possible in fully downloadable titles. Digital distribution would ultimately remove the necessity for such actions, as gamers would then be able to purchase games piecemeal, rather than be forced to pay for content through DLC means.

"If we can get to fully downloadable games, then you can just buy a $30 horror game and just have it, and that stuff will thankfully go away," he reflected.

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Latest comments (11)

Private Industry 9 years ago
Obviously if you can put some of the assets from the DLC on the disc that`s a good thing since you can cut down on the DLC download size. Any customer will be more than happy if he/she only needs to download 400MB instead of 1GB for the DLC. On disc DLC is you having to download a 100kb file to unlock something that`s already fully working and on the disc and that doesn`t have anything to do with the game being finished 3-4 month before release.

"I'm not the biggest fan of having to do it, but it is one of the unfortunate realities."

I know it must have been so unfortunate for Epic to charge in Gears of War 3 for multiplayer weapon skins where the full pack cost more or less the same as the game itself while in other games skins are for free, such an unfortunate reality.
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Khalid Sleiman Studying Graphic Design, Fanshawe College9 years ago
The skins incident is completely different since it is cosmetic. No one was made to purchase skins and there was other skins to be unlocked through challenge in the game. If the skins had given people health boosts or stronger weapons then that would be something to hassle them about. I'm not going to attack a company for releasing cosmetic extras for a price since it doesn't really hinder my gameplay experience.
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Gordon Van Dyke CCO, Raw Fury9 years ago
That statement is just BS. I like Cliff, but he's a designer and should stay on that subject instead of stepping outside his area of expertise. It's as silly as Markus Persson's comments on GAME and their financial predicament. More than anything GI and other media outlets are posting these and encouraging it. It's really getting old and makes for a bad and misleading information.
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Show all comments (11)
Joshua Rose Executive Producer / Lead Designer, Storm Eagle Studios9 years ago
Really I don't see why people would make such a big deal about it.

On Steam you can preorder a game and preload almost the entire game. BUT you still can't play it until the content is unlocked. Of course, when you purchase a retail copy of a Steamworks game, you still have to download like 400-600 Mb of content to actually finish the installation of the game, which is their way of preventing a retail leak of the game. I can't stand when I buy a game and then have to download another half a gig to get it working. My internet at home isn't the best, and it takes a while to do that.

But complaining about content already being on the disc that can't be used yet, please... For all we know, this could be something publishers have been doing for a while and people have only just become aware of it. Before now, publishers could have been putting complete PDF copies of the early works of Charles Dickens, or the complete George R.R. Martin works on their discs at release. Then in the future they would unlock them as part of some marketing thing, or another DLC. Until people actually know about it, they're perfectly content with what they have. Suddenly they find out the first installment of DLC is on the disc when they purchase it, and they complain up and down about not having access to content that was developed as DLC to begin with... It's not like one of those companies that sends you a book series and then demands payment for it after delivery, It's not like publishers are pulling a bait and switch on their customers. It's all about efficiency, and in today's economy efficiency is a profitable solution.

Internet for most people is so fast today that they don't recognize 10Mb from 100Mb... They see a loading bar, and when it's full. On the Xbox, people are going to see, hey there is a DLC for this game! Do you want to buy it? SURE!!! *click* Okay, it's gonna download, better go grab a beer while I'm waiting. Okay I'm back, YAY it's done!!! Time to kill people... People expect DLC downloading to take some time regardless of what it is. The less time spent waiting for a download, the more time spent playing the game. Of course this doesn't give you the opportunity to grab a beer first, but any true gamer would already have a cold one open on their desk or coffee table next to the couch. :)
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Gordon Van Dyke CCO, Raw Fury9 years ago
Expertise and "what other things you know" are VERY different. Sure he knows a bit about other things after 17 years since he's a smart guy, but I would guess he's far better in design feedback and not an expert in everything.

I've also come out of production many times myself, and know a fair bit of team management and asset creation. If you have people sitting around idle you either haven't planned ahead very well or about to lay off a bunch of people. Either way, those idle people can make content in time for being printed on disc then that same time could have been spent on the original project. And sure there are exceptions, but stating it will be the rule is a lazy and greedy position to take.

And I'm not just thumping my bible when stating this, the current team I'm leading will, and would not do this. Those same idle resources have been planned properly and won't actually be idle except for the well deserved vacations they'll get.

P.S. I started in design and now a designer. Also, we'll be hiring for level designers in the near future. Would love to get your CV. :-)
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Kevin Danaher Associate Producer, EA Mobile9 years ago
Yeah but there's a difference between just having a compressed package on the disc and having integrated content with the game, both things can manifest as on disc DLC.

1. Tightly Integrated DLC - While the main team were working on the game another team were working on DLC that would tie right into that experience but not be essential. They still had to be done at the same time so the game could be approved with and without this option 'switched on' by the console manufacturers in testing, as it's data read natively by the title.

2. Just an extra package on the disc - The submission to the console manufacters has been made and the team moves right onto making some DLC. The submission fails first time and the team continues bug fixing and finishing that DLC. By the time they roll around to final submission they may as well stick that data package on the disc and tell the console manufacturer that it's there but it's not used. Rather it will be unlocked by code or purchase later.

The first option here sounds pretty reasonable, like the recent ME3 DLC that was made with another team and half of it was already on the disc as it 'had' to be. It had to hook into the game being developed in certain ways. The second option sounds more dubious to consumers but when you lay it out like this makes sense. That content always would have been DLC, the team just happened to make it right after main game development finished. They were in a position to put the package on the disc for convenience so they did. Hence a 100kb unlock download.

Okay, so some studios take the piss with the second option and clearly it was actual game content that they locked out but in an ideal world it would work as above...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Kevin Danaher on 10th April 2012 5:19pm

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Sander De Visser Developer 9 years ago
I think the main problem with DLC content on the disk is not so much a necessary bad thing, but more a marketing failure. Consumers expect to get what they've paid for. They feel like they've bought the disk and the data it contains, instead of the actual service provided. Of course they are then shocked and mad when they find out that for some of the data they "bought" you have to pay extra to actually be able to use.

Of course digital distribution takes away this by the nature of the product. Consumers will more easily see this as a service since they do not actually get a physical copy.

@Gordon, are you looking for interns as well? :D
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Craig Bamford Journalist 9 years ago
I suspect that this wouldn't be so much of an issue if consumers didn't feel like they're paying more and getting less. If it actually felt like additional content above-and-beyond what they'd possibly expect out of the launch, there wouldn't be this sort of grumbling.

Clearly that isn't the case. Calling it "unfortunate reality" misses the point that consumers won't just sit back and take it. They'll look at the situation and simply move their entertainment dollars somewhere else. It's not like there aren't more than enough options these days.
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Tony Johns9 years ago
I kinda think that the games I used to buy that are complete are going to become a distant memory.

While the ignorant will be blissfully unaware, I must console myself knowing I have got many great games that are already complete versions when I got first them.

I need to become a CEO of a game company in order to make games the way I remembered them to be.
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James Prendergast Process Specialist 9 years ago
Honestly, i dislike it and i don't "get" his explanation in the article. Let me summarise:

On-disc DLC is good because it saves having to download stuff separately? Which will happen anyway when it's all digital.... in which instance you'll have to download stuff anyway. So... What? It doesn't really make any sense to me. Those two scenarios appear to be identical to me - though of course it depends on what you're talking about. If you're talking about stuff for multiplayer compatibility then that makes sense to include it on the disc (if you're happy about dividing up the game content that the consumer payed for). If you're talking about single player stuff that isn't affected by compatibility issues then the justification is not there, IMO.

People complain when they find out that their hardware is locked/limited via a simple line of code or a jumper setting and then they find that they can unlock superior performance via that very simple thing but were previously being charged huge amounts for the option to do it... I don't see why that would be valid and yet, in this instance, an effectively comparable situation is not valid.
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Ian Brown IT Developer / IT Infrastructure 9 years ago
I think the main reason for the uproar with on disc DLC is that pirated versions can not only get the game for free but they get the DLC for it too because its on the disc. If it had to be downloaded it's less likely that they could, but as it stands those with a pirated Street Fighter X Tekken games can play a game with more characters than if they paid for it.
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