Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Other Side of the Coin - Naughty Dog Says No Thanks to Single Player DLC

Yesterday I blathered on about how Naughty Dog was taking a somewhat strange stance (or rather one that most players probably wouldn't like) in regards embracing the PSN Pass for multiplayer. From that same interview though there is something that I consider worthy of praise: the fact that when they release a game, they want the game to be finished, rather than need two or three DLC expansions down the line.

I know, I know, and no I'm not bipolar. There's nothing anywhere that says I can't damn with one breathe and praise with another, so that's exactly what I'm going to do.

While I don't necessarily agree with the way that Naughty Dog has chosen to handle the online multiplayer aspect of Uncharted 3, from that very same interview comes a couple of utterances that I can't help but find admirable. Basically, this exchange:

"KA: You mentioned the online co-op, and I know a lot of fans loved the co-op, although it was quite small, in Uncharted 2, and you said you’re expanding on that. Can we expect to see ties in with the single player?

"JR: Not really. The reason we tend not to do, or don’t do, single-player co-op content is because we’re telling this very defined story for Drake, and we want you to really feel like you’re on that mission with Drake. You feel like Drake does as you’re going throughout it, and so when we start looking at online stuff or co-op stuff to do, especially DLC, it’s like we can either make some downloadable content that’s six hours long and basically a full game, or we could move onto the next game and produce that. We have a hard time going small! As a studio we tend to do things very big."

Now, first thing is first: there's nothing inherently wrong with DLC, at least when it's done right. The thing is that most companies these days don't seem to be doing DLC right, they're doing it to make the game what it should have been in the first place. Naughty Dog are admirable from my standpoint for at least recognizing the notion that they might as well make the game right and flesh it out to its fullest potential the first time around, rather than releasing something that seems underwhelming because it's meant to be "finished" later after a couple of months and the shelling out of more cash.

For those that appreciate a more visual medium, you might have seen this picture floating around when the topic of DLC is brought up:

While I'm not sure that I completely agree with the way that DLC is being portrayed here, there is a growing inclination to see most of it as nothing more than fleshing out a game in areas that should have been more solid right from the time that the disc went gold. Certainly there is DLC that's worth it, expanding the world adding entire new classes, quests, weapons and whatnot; a good example of this is of course the WoW expansion packs, which are while not strictly speaking DLC, an admirable effort from Blizzard to keep a game fresh because a stagnant MMORPG is going to hemorrhage clients. For single player titles the issue is when to cut the apron strings and just saying "you know what, maybe all this stuff should be a sequel", but rather than doing that, some developers are simply considering DLC a seemingly necessary component that ensures that cash flow is kept up, which shouldn't be the case.

DLC should be significant, it shouldn't be just one new level, one new character, or one new weapon. It should be a cadre of experiences that cohesively mesh with the already existing game and help make it even better, not something that slaps some meat on the gaunt bare bones of a title rushed to release.

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