Monday, March 26, 2012

Game Design Controversy : On Disc DLC

I know I haven’t done a game break down in a while but I will leave it for next week or the last week, instead I wanted to talk about an issue that’s been rising up ever since the rise of DLC content in games. DLC (Downloadable Content) in games has been a great way to increase the replay value of games and give players more content even after the release of games. This has essentially replaced the business model of creating expansion packs or another way of putting it, is that DLC is expansion packs in downloadable format.

Heroes of Might and Magic III: Armageddon's Blade Expansion

There have been great expansion packs in the past, though it could be a hassle to get since you had to be sure to have the original game as well. Developers would frequently have “gold” edition versions of the game where they include both the original and expansion packs in the game. But the thing I want to point out is these expansion packs were pretty much all created after the original game, at least that’s what we are aware of. The companies back in the day weren’t as huge as it was now so it’s most likely they fully created the new content afterwards. Of course that depends on the company but again, we aren’t aware so it shouldn’t be an issue to us.

Oblivion had some great DLC content that could last hours

Once DLC started hitting, it was essentially an easier form of an expansion pack, for less money to. It was easy to receive since there weren’t limited copies and it extended the life of a game just like an expansion pack. Notably the Elder Scrolls Oblivion had some great DLC content that was released years after the original game. This made DLC great and they even released them in the form of expansion packs for players who had trouble downloading content or had no Xbox Live, etc. Games have continued to do this, but over the past few years, there has been a troubling issue at hand, and that’s the title of this blog, DLC on disc.

Street Fighter X Tekken – The DLC fiasco
The reason I wanted to talk about this is because of a recently released game which I mentioned in my blogs before, Street Fighter X Tekken. The game has a roster of 38 characters available for both versions of the game (Xbox and PS3), though the PS3 has 5 exclusive characters as well. Now that’s a really big roster for a fighting game and Capcom announced that the game would feature future downloadable content. Now that sounds cool doesn’t it? They are going to support the game after release, that’s what every gamer wants? Well that changes when you discover that the DLC that they were planning to release and charge you is found right on the very disc you bought.

Street Fighter character Sakura, was included on the disc but locked away

Within the first weeks of the game being released, hackers got their hand with the game and did their magic. Soon enough it was revealed that a whooping total of 12 characters were hidden on the disc, inaccessible to normal players. It’s pretty much confirmed you would have to pay for these characters when they would be “released” for DLC. Not only that but a massive number of alternate costumes were also found, for every single character and that includes the DLC characters on disc. Their alternate costumes which you will have to pay for are right there with them. To many fans, this has been a huge blow, including myself. Though I like the game, who can’t help but feel betrayed by discovering this much content already stored on the disc and “going to be released as DLC”. Before we start pointing fingers at Capcom, let’s look at this from both sides about why they are doing this and what they could be doing.


So let’s look at it from our consumer point of view. First off we can obviously see that the characters are on disc (not to mention their story segments are there too). Worse is the fact that hackers have also been able to get online with them and play with them against other people. What has happened to these hacker players I am not sure, but this proves that the code to play against other people using these characters is already in the game somewhere. So in essence this means the “DLC” you buy down the road, is just an unlock code, change a few variables, that’s it.

Footage of Blanka and Jack, two non released DLC characters online

The reason people would be so outraged is because they would argue that these characters, being already made should be put right in the game right away. They are finished to the fullest extent, with full story, movesets, costumes (that goes for the 38 characters we have access to and their costumes). They are on the disc and therefore should be given to us as the consumers. Calling this DLC would be a lie (Unless you change the acronym to Disc Locked Content), because we aren’t downloading these characters, they aren’t being made after production of the game, they are already there for us but just out of reach.

DLC costumes were also included on the disc and will need to be paid for

Many people, including myself see DLC as content to be worked on after the development of the game is complete, after it’s gone gold. Obviously since the 12 characters are already on the disc, they were put on as the game went gold. This is not content being worked on after the game is made, this is content being held back from us. It’s become apparent that more and more companies seem to be doing this, planning DLC and potentially holding back content that should be ours. We can’t confirm what content from some companies but we don’t know usually won’t hurt us unless it’s something that should have obviously been addressed. In Capcom’s case they couldn’t even do that, they put it on disc so that it would be clear to the public should it be found out. Had they kept it in their secret vault then they would have not had this issue, we would never have known, never would have complained unless it leaked. But it still would have been better than on disc.



DLC on Street Fighter 4 had a few issues but not game breaking

So how can Capcom defend themselves regarding this issue? Well in a statement they said that the DLC was included on disc as so to ensure easy compatibility between systems. They didn’t want a massive download for all the consoles just to get these DLC characters visible for each system. So by being on disc, then it should be seamless to play with other people online. Also it would save hard drive space.

Against: For one, they have already been doing DLC for their updates, though maybe not for characters yet. However they force you to update online anyways whenever they make a patch, so this could just be Capcom’s excuse for having been found out their DLC is online.

For: We aren’t sure how big these characters download sizes are, and there are still people out there that have a slow download speed. It could be hard for them to get the characters. Counter:  So what if people have slow download speed, the characters if released later should have been downloaded anyways because they SHOULD have been actual DLC. The fact they are already on sic, already made means it should have just been given to us, not locked.

For: Another issue pointed out is noted in this article. Capcom states how Xbox Live, players were able to see other players downloadable costumes even though they didn't own them. It costed money for the developper to implement this, which was covered by Microsoft. Sony on the other hand would not, so that meant Xbox Live players got a "catalogue" to see the costumes while PS3 owners could not.

Vita Exclusive

Capcom has been trying to promote the Vita version of the game

It’s been known that PS Vita was supposed to have exclusive characters not available on the xbox or PS3 versions of the game. It’s pretty much confirmed now these 12 DLC characters are in fact those exclusive characters. The PS Vita version is being released later so that means they wouldn’t even think about releasing these characters until the Vita version’s release. Now that’s fine, it’s a business model they are trying to use to encourage people to buy the Vita version of the game.

Against: They were supposed to slowly reveal these characters as the Vita’s version developed. The fact they put it on the disc without thinking of the consequences is really poor foresight. Had they held it back from the light of day and just used reveal trailers to hype up the Vita’s release like they usually do, people would have actually gotten excited. We would not have known these were already made, we would have thought they were being developed still.

For: As a company, Capcom needs to think about their pockets. Sure they didn’t think hackers would find out about their characters but even now they can’t do anything about it. Releasing these characters early would undermine their plan to give the Vita version a boost in sales, since that was it’s major selling point, to have these exclusive characters before the other versions. Although they have dug themselves in a whole at this point between angering the fans and trying to promote the Vita version, they essentially have to make a choice between keep on going like normal though their sales WILL be impacted I am sure of it or trying to make a choice to make the fans happy.

Conclusion – DLC or withheld content?

Based on the comparisons, it’s obvious to see that Capcom screwed up majorly. 12 DLC characters (Almost an entire 1/3 of the current roster) included already on the disc but not even accessible to us is pretty bad. There are going to be a lot of repercussions from some fans while others will still buy them because they still want those characters despite the whole fiasco.

Costumes and even color palettes were held back

The thing is though, should we be standing for this kind of thing? Major amounts of content that’s already complete being held back from us like this? Though we don’t exactly have a choice, the only choice you would have in rebellion is to not buy the game. It also makes one question how much other content is being held back. Sure enough not all games have “on Disc DLC” and some companies will legitimately be working on stuff post-release, but it still makes one sceptical.

For some fans we are missing 12 characters, for others we aren't missing any 

I know I talked about them “holding it back off the disc” and having people downloading it, which I think would have been way better. Sure they would be holding stuff back, but we would never have known we were missing something. The game itself is pretty complete, 38 characters is a big number and amongst the DLC characters we get lost in the fact of what we already have. If we have simply known just what we have in our current game, people would have still bought it. 38 characters, a whole new system of fighting and dream battles between tag teams from both universes of Street Fight and Tekken is a major selling point in itself. The game even got stellar reviews all around to boot. I can’t say how many people boycotted the game after hearing the DLC issue, but I know that many of those people probably would have bought the game if they hadn’t heard this.

What we don’t know wouldn’t hurt us. It would have made us more excited when we actually heard the characters announced, but now many people just want them and say the belong to use even though Capcom never specified they would be “included in the game”. It’s a really debatable topic because there are so many ways to look at it. But I truly believe things would be way better had they not put it on disc. People would not be complaining about it, they would just play the game and enjoy.

It’s debatable whether we should just run with this ethic of companies holding back content, whether or not it’s on disc or just being held within the company. We can look at it from a company point of view because they never state you're going to get specific content, then never said you would get this "x" content or this "y" content. As a company they have all the power to hold back whether anyone likes it or not. I can’t say I really appreciate this ethic usually, but I know being held within the company is a whole lot better for everyone. There won’t’ be any backlash (Unless it gets leaked),  and we won’t know what we are missing so we will just play as normal.

This is just going in circles at this point so I will just end it by saying a lot of other companies are doing this kind of thing as well but out of all them, Capcom f**ked up the most.

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