Bioware’s Day One DLC Debate

Mass Effect 3

I have been reading a lot lately about the debate over BioWare’s day one DLC for Mass Effect 3, and to be honest I’m not sure what to think about it.  There are strong arguments on both sides, but many of those arguments don’t make sense to me.

1.  VOP over on Addicted Gamer argues that Mass Effect 3 went through three months of preperation for launch following the initial completion of the game, and that it was during those three months that the day one DLC, From Ashes, was developed.  During that time, presumably, the main team would be working on bug fixes to the main game while a seperate team worked on the DLC content.

This alone isn’t beyond reason.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that a second team began work on DLC well before that three months began.  I don’t feel that in this case the argument holds up very well, given that the DLC was originally announced as an exclusive part of the Collector’s Edition content which would be released on the same day as the main game.  In order to make this initial claim Bioware would have had to have known that they would need to have the DLC completed at the same time as the main game.  It stands to reason that if the standard edition game needed to be submitted for release three months before going gold, then all of the content needed for the collectors edition discs would have been needed at that time as well.

2.  Joe Juba on gameinformer argues that making the fans pay for story content that is crucial to understanding the game’s universe is a slimy practice.

Yeah, I can agree with this.  If this is true then it is slimy.  My opinion on ANY DLC, day one or not is that it should provide either fun, or flavor, and never story.  Every player who purchases a game should be able to get the whole story, period.  Portions of the story should not be withheld simply because the player didn’t fork over extra cash, and if that is going to be the case then it is the responsibility of the publisher to notify the buyer that what they are buying will not give them the whole game so that the buyer has the ability to make an informed decision from the start.

What I am not convinced of is that the player will not get the full story without the additional character.  Standard edition, non-DLC players will still get the same reveals and twists that the DLC players will receive, but without the added niceties of being able to use a Prothean character as a part of their party.  If I am proven wrong once some people have played through all of the content with and without the DLC then I will be severly disappointed in BioWare’s ethics toward their fans.

3.  Totalbiscuit argues that cutting content from a game design in order to release it as DLC is unethical.

Well, yes and no, and I think he would agree.  There are times that content must be cut from the game design due to time, budget, or other development concerns, but when the producers and designers feel that the content is worthy of completion once those concerns have been addressed.  From my experience, for most publishers the issue is always the same, MONEY.  The producers and designers look at something they believe will be a fun addition to a game, and despair that it will never be developed if the publishers can’t be convinced that they can make more money.  Is it more unethical for those producers and designers to convince the publishers to allow them to develop this content as an additional revenue stream via DLC, or to simply deny gamers access to the content because it never gets developed in the first place?

What Totalbiscuit argues is that this is not the case with the From Ashes DLC, and that the content was developed for inclusion initially and then cut out solely for the purpose of gouging players for additional cash on the day of release.  BioWare has strongly refuted this argument, and I have no way to either confirm or refute their statements.  If what Totalbiscuit argues is true, then it is a truly deplorable action that shows BioWare to be subscribing to the Activision school of thought concerning players as nothing more than a revenue stream, and they should be called out on it.  If BioWare’s statements are true then I can’t fault them for using what they can to increase their revenue from the game.

My final thoughts on DLC as a whole are pretty simple.  Don’t sell me a part of the game that I’ve already paid for, if the content is on the disc it should be included as a part of the game.  When I buy a game I want the whole story, don’t rip a part of it out so you can sell it to me later, and don’t attempt to sell me the ending to a story under the guise of expansion.  Don’t sell me or others advantages in multi-player games, let skill determine the outcome of multi-player games, not cash.  Finally, don’t lie to me.  If you want to sell me a core game where I have to buy all the content as separate downloads I am cool with that, as long as you are direct about your intentions.  F2P MMORPGs have been doing this successfully for years, and I applaud them for it.  I see no reason console developers couldn’t follow suit.

*EDIT*
Discovered an article over at Forbes that includes a few links to some interesting information.  One particular link to Crystal Prison Zone seems to back Totalbiscuit’s arguments that the DLC content was taken directly from the core game.  Take a look and decide for yourself what you think of their evidence.

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Author: AxiomXIII View all posts by
  • Vop2288

    VOP here- Just wanted to reply to your analysis of my article.

    There’s one thing you’re overlooking here. Developing, bug testing, tweeking, and getting a bit of DLC content certified and green-lit is no doubt a much shorter and easier process than doing so with a 40+ hour title which took years to create. The fact that DLC content can also be distributed, accessed, and downloaded via the net completely cuts out necessities tied to the physical copy as all that is needed is a alpha-numeric code slipped into the Collector’s Edition boxes and the content itself upload to BioWare/EA’s servers.

    Thus the concept that From Ashes could’ve very well been created, tested, and certified over a three month span isn’t in any way, shape, or form impossible/improbable. Especially considering that the DLC itself is merely made up of one level, one additional character, and a handful of conversations and dialogue.

    That being said I’m almost 100% certain that From Ashes did NOT need to be certified at the same time as the main game.

    • http://www.GameFamily.net Joshua L. Brotherton

      That is actually an excellent point.  My argument would only be valid if the additional content had been included on the collector’s edition discs rather than as download.  If it were included on the discs then I would have to assume it had been prepared alongside the initial content.

      It can indeed be more than a month from the submission of a final release build of a game until that build begins being stamped to a physical medium, which in theory could have given the developers an even longer time to complete additional content before the game could hit shelves. As someone who has worked in a studio that specialized in short development cycles I should have accounted for that.  Unfortunately I have no experience with digital distribution so I have no idea what the approval process entails there.