Downloadable Content Allowing Developers To Slack Off?
Back in the late '90s, while I loved all kinds of gaming - including the awesome PC software of the time - I always despised the idea of patches for games. It finally got to the point where if a shoddy game released, I'd have friends who would say, "eh, they'll just patch it," and not give it a second thought. I always remember thinking, "uh...shouldn't you be pissed that they sold you a broken game?"
Now, while we're not to the point where the big-name console titles are "broken," one can make the argument that with the rise of DLC, developers have an excuse to become lazier. Just as an example, let's say a designer is coming up on a deadline and they'd rather not miss it. They can either inform the publisher there will be a delay and work out the kinks, or...they can simply release the game on time, and then issue an update patch a little later. Then there's the ongoing argument about additional content, where some players are often saying, "well, that DLC should've been in the game." This is an extraordinarily subjective argument, of course, but the idea of broken and lackluster titles requiring later updates isn't really subjective at all, and I hope we're not heading in that direction.
In all honesty, I think one of the main reasons PC players ended up gravitating towards consoles was due to this issue. I know many people who finally realized they were always buying new PC games that didn't play half as good as they would a few months later, after some patches had been released. In fact, one dude I know wouldn't even open a new PC game for weeks after purchasing; he'd just say, "I know it's going to suck now; I have to wait for them to patch it." At that point, I'd pretty much give up on the platform in question, and I'm a little concerned that console gaming may be headed in a similar direction. As is, I almost always see a "1.01 update" or some such thing when I pop in a new title, and while it's not a big issue to download it, I always frown at the screen. Is this a good thing or a slippery slope...?
Obviously, the positive side to DLC is all the extra goodies and the ability for developers to fix their game if necessary. It's not always laziness that causes problems; sometimes, they really did just make a mistake, and DLC allows them to issue appreciated repairs. But the mere fact that it's available can easily sit in the back of a designer's made and make him/her a little more complacent. At least, that's how I see it. For the record, I currently have no problem with DLC; I love it, but I'm just looking down the twists and turns in the road...
3/13/2009 Ben Dutka