Tuesday, January 22, 2013

DLC and Saying Stuff

You know, I think I figured out why I hate DLC so much. Even free DLC.

It's because I think of game rules as having a lifetime. A game is simply the thing you do while exploring the rules. Eventually, the mechanics run out of things to say, and the game is over.

These days, most games don't have much to say. But the content goes on and on and on and on. I can't count the number of games where I say "well, I think I've done all there is to do in this game" and I'm only halfway through.

The game still has a plot, still has half a map left to explore... but I already know how it will play out. It has nothing meaningful left to discover. And, to be frank, there aren't any games with storylines and characters impressive enough to make me want to finish anyway.

So, when I see a game that has DLC, my first thought is "not only will the DLC fail to make the game any more interesting, it also strongly implies that the developers don't know what they are trying to say."


That was the important thing I wanted to say about DLC. Here's some unimportant stuff.

There are games where the primary draw of the game is socializing with your friends. In those games, even simple mechanics are supported by chatting with your friends. Is DLC okay in this kind of game?

Well, I don't play that sort of game, so I don't know the answer. If I want to play a game with my friends, I pick one that we haven't played to death. I pick one that still has something to say. Sometimes I pick one that I think will talk most loudly to my friends, sometimes I aim for one that I still want to see more of. But the choice is still about the game.

The idea of a giant virtual world is a fun one, but there are some fundamental problems. I think that today's virtual worlds are a big mess of different aims, and they have completely different things to say to different kinds of people. The cash shop in these games has goods aimed at each kind of player.

But in the end, if I'm going to be part of a virtual world, it'll be because I want to make things. Not simply live there in some vacuous virtual facsimile of pure consumerism. DLC and the ability for players to make things are diametrically opposed. So, for me, DLC in a virtual world says something a bit different.

In another game, it says "The developers don't know what they are trying to say". In a virtual world, it says "The developers don't care what you are trying to say".


The reason I bring this up is because I am creating diving game prototypes. The atmosphere of diving down into the depths is really compelling. But the things that experience has to say are slow things.

The experience of being in the dark, isolated, and probably a bit lost is not one which strikes instantly. It's something that grows in the back of your mind as you play. Moreover, although it is a slow thing, it is something that doesn't have infinite depth.

What I'm saying is that the diving game speaks about that kind of thing, but the sweet spot is probably 30 minutes in. Before that, it's mute. After that, you've heard it and are reaching out your hands in the darkness for something else.

So... the diving game has to have something faster to say, and something to say beyond the darkness.

And that's not so easy to plan out.


Patrick said...

If you bent realism enough you could make a pretty slick "rogue-like" out of that dynamic, in the sense that you have a range of random encounters to generate as the player makes their way lower. You have a few key factors to manage: PSI, O2, possibly items and health.

If you want it to be the zen realistic diving game about most journeys through large volumes (dark and lonely) then you should make it about rhythm.

Craig Perko said...

I don't really want it to be random. I think exploration-heavy games should be handcrafted.

Rhythm might be an interesting idea, if it's a slow pace.