Epic Games' Michael Capps recently caused quite an uproar among gamers with his suggestion to offer the conclusion to games as premium DLC rather than as part of the core experience. As the latest in our continuing week-long feature, we asked our panel of industry personalities what they thought of the proposal. Interestingly, much of the group was noticibly more tight-lipped in their responses than when answering other questions.
I could see serializing a story into smaller chapters, perhaps, so long as the player was aware that was what they were getting into up front. So long as each chapter came out in a timely fashion, the player could choose to continue along the story? That might work, I don't know. Keeping an ending for DLC, however, sounds a bit like withholding it for extra cash, whether it's intentional or not.
I don't know about you, but I expect some kind of resolution to a story I purchase. Can you imagine watching a movie and getting to the end and the screen goes dark? "For an extra $2 you can see the ending! Come to the ticket booth now!" There'd be a riot! I doubt that's what any company would intentionally try, but I think it'd be a hard sell to convince the players out there that it was something beneficial.
Unless designed and structured as serialized content, this would be very detrimental to the experience because from the player's perspective an ending does exist; the point where content runs out. A cliffhanger is not exciting simply because the protagonist is left hanging from a cliff.
The whole DLC bit just feels like another tacked on solution to something that is broken in its core.
Developers, or more likely, publishers are looking at different ways to get players to pay out. In doing so, ideas come up that push the envelope of acceptability. I'm sure to many the idea of forcing players to download the end of the game seems like a rip-off. However, if you told the player that they had to pay micro transactions for each individual level of a game, but the first level was free and the total cost of the whole game was the same as a normal game, they wouldn't have a problem with it even though both are forcing the player to pay for the last level.
I am against it. I think a game should be complete even if the ending may not be reached by the player. That is not to say that that there is not a place for additional content in games – these are more like sequels. A game, like a story, should resolve.
I guess it depends whether the DLC is free. I would be pretty aggravated as a gamer if I bought an adventure game and I had to pay extra to get to the end. If in Planetfall I had to pay extra to find out what happened to Floyd the droid I might feel very differently about that game than I do today.
With any good story line, there should always be a beginning and an end. You can't cheat the players out of that. But we love the idea of getting further mileage out of the investment into the original full story and adding additional elements down the line. Downloadable content is a great way to do that. The question remains how to provide extra content without the playing feeling ripped off.
I haven't heard anything about that, so I'm not aware of the pros and cons that people may be discussing.
Tom Gaubatz, producer for publisher Mastiff
I think the idea was misconstrued and it's not as ridiculous as it sounds, but personally I couldn't stand behind it. The game business is moving from creating products to creating content. Packaged products are inefficient in a lot of ways, but the nice thing about them is that they provide a stable canvas for artistic expression. I still buy CDs because albums stick with you more than songs. You wouldn't buy a painting and say to the artist, "Can you cut off the corner and give me a discount?" I think that most developers would want to know that anyone buying the game at least has access to their vision.
Well, the flip side is that not everyone is going to play to the end of the game anyway, and that's why the idea makes sense. I guess I'd say that if we as developers want to keep the ability to express a unified artistic vision, it's our responsibility to make games that people want to finish.