Written by Mike D Tuesday, 01 February 2011 06:00
DLC is something we’ve come to expect with our games. However, there was a day when every game released did not have DLC. Instead, we had expansion packs for our games. I could not wait until Brood War came out for StarCraft I. My friends and I were super excited to grab this expansion, which added additional units, as well as expanding the story line of the game. Now, DLC does add something to the game, but it's up for debate on whether or not it adds anything substantial to the game.
The very idea of DLC, to me, was that the content should add on to the experience of the game. It seems though, however, DLC doesn’t add anything substantial to most games and just adds extra content that seems unnecessary. For instance, many First Person Shooters release map packs. This doesn’t add much more than giving new maps for multiplayer. It doesn’t add anything to the main story, and ultimately just gives a new environment to shoot each other, and call each other derogatory names. The exception to this that comes to mind is The Sacrifice DLC for Left 4 Dead 1. It adds a substantial amount to the story line, such to the point where the ending of the game is completely changed. This is the ideal DLC to me.
Instead, most DLC seems to just give us extra maps, or extra skins, extra weapons, new multiplayer maps, etc. Essentially, if you want the “optimal” experience with said game, it becomes an $80 or $90 game. Not saying that an extra map or character skin is required, but it does prohibit a player from joining certain multiplayer games without all of the map packs.
Now, I understand that a good amount of work is put into these DLC packs, but why can’t DLC for games elongate the experience with the game rather than add on unnecessary frills. DLC such as Lair of the Shadow Broker (Mass Effect 2), Broken Steel (Fallout 3), Chapter 12 and 13 (Assassins Creed 2) and The Signal/The Writer (Alan Wake) all add on more to the story of their respective games; giving the player more options and more items to use in the game, while also giving the player more story content, allowing them to get further lost in the narrative of the game.
Another interesting way to do DLC is to tell a small story, while using the environment of the game. Many games, such as Fallout 3, Red Dead Redemption, or Grand Theft Auto 4, have DLCs that add a story that, while not extending from the main story line, offer a new mini story using the same game mechanics and ambiance. While not something I necessarily want to buy right away, these DLC packs offer more content and more story.
Good DLC doesn’t always have to be about story lines either. Sports games offer you DLC to manage your franchises. These DLCs don’t affect online franchises (which are nice, because no one will be upset about someone else “cheating” or “having an advantage”) but do allow one to help improve a player move faster, heal an injury quicker, or add stats to players. These DLCs are much like the services trainers would offer in the real life counterparts.
What feels empty to me, however, is when DLC is nothing more than a map pack, already comes on the disc, or seems to be an obvious money making ordeal. Map Packs for First Person Shooters are nice and all, but don’t offer any longevity to the game. My hope for DLC when it was first announced years ago was that games would have a shelf life longer than six months. Most of the time with DLC, however, this seems to far immensely short of that mark. Sure, having new terrain to shoot and teabag my friends in Halo: Reach is fun and all, but for me, the real joy comes from more story and more stuff occurring within the game.
With added maps, perhaps we could also see newer single player missions. Activision has already done such a good job with the story behind Call of Duty: Black Ops, why not expand on the story arc? Why not add another Agent Hudson mission? Maybe give us more content, instead of just another level for a 12-year old to call people names?
In the end, it probably comes down to “different strokes for different folks.” I just wish DLC or expansions did extend the life of a game, like it did for many RTSs or RPGs way back in the days of old. Call me old and longing for an earlier time, but DLC seems to have been made into another way to line pockets, instead of giving gamers real extra content. Gaming companies have to make money, this I know. But, perhaps adding real extra content would be nice, over extra fluff. I know I’m probably crying for perfection in an imperfect world, but sometimes DLC feels like a big waste of time.