Gaming is Dead, Man (Rant Alert)

October 19, 2009

UPDATE: Alec Meer writes on the dangers of DLC creation and in a far better way than I probably ever will:

The 10 Commandments of DLC

Aww, isn’t that cute, my first RANT ALERT blog post (Tagged as such).

Note: Both videos used here involve raised voices and (Sometimes bleeped) strong language.

“Metal is dead…”

There’s something about this intro sequence to Brutal Legend that touches a part of my brain, a thought lingering deep, deep down. A thought that says the music industry has lost itself, along with the film & television industries, the book industry, radio, etc. We’ve gotten obsessed with demographics, trying to tailor products to audiences and sell and monetise and sell sell sell. We’re not making music, or stories, we’re making product.

Content.

Money.

And on TV/Film/Radio? We’ve got the ‘Talent’. Ugh:

Doesn’t make for pleasant viewing does it.

Yeah, OK, I GET IT, you have to make a profit, businesses aren’t run on charity… (Well, except charity companies but those involve money too.)

It does seem perfectly reasonable for a game development company to have developed a game and find that after release there’re a few developers running around spare with no tasks to do. Rather than fire them, they can be assigned to producing an expansion pack which will (assuming that the completed game sells well) result in additional revenue from sales of the expansion pack.

But just as full games have gotten shorter over the years, with titles such as Portal, Modern Warfare and many other  recent games having 8 or less hours in a single player campaign, so too have the expansion packs, now known as DLC (Expansion packs still happen but they’re getting heavily displaced by DLC now).

DLC being short form for Downloadable Content… Oh dear, there’s one of those words. And honestly, I don’t mind if I feel as though it’s something that the development staff have been working on post release. Lately however there’s been a move towards developing DLC during the development of the full game. Now THAT I’m uncomfortable with. At least with an MMO when I pay twice for a game I know its because I’m paying for server costs like power & maintenance and customer service support should I run into problems with either the game or other players, I’m paying for a service.

DLC released the same day as the game that the DLC is for makes me feel ripped off. It’s not a matter of whether I’m getting an incomplete game or not, it’s the sensation that you’ve denied me content because you want more money, you’ve deliberately chosen to create two tiers of game, the standard game for most people, and the upgraded collectors edition for rich people.

And all this because those big companies allowed game development costs to spiral out of control.

So much for progress.

Meanwhile, and slightly off topic, I was browsing through one of my game design books just a few days back and came upon a discussion about the future of games. Demographics and genre labelling are something that deeply concern me on occasion and the quote in this book helps illustrate why:

“Deer Hunter revealed that people were starving for game styles that the industry hadn’t even considered making. It also showed that people would buy hunting products. Only one of these lessons was learned.” -Owain Bennallack

That quote was from 1999. 10 years later, I still think its a problem.

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