Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Problem With Pre-release DLC

Have a look at the comments on this article, announcing the £20 season pass & DLC for new Lord of the Rings game, Shadow of Mordor.

If you can’t bring yourself to turn off your comment-blocking plugin and trawl through the bile (and I don’t blame you), I’ve got some here.

The Season Pass content in full:
– [insert a bunch of content we cut from the game so we could sell it separately as DLC]

Oh god. I was thinking about buying this game. But seeing this has put me off as I realize I would only be getting half a game…

It looks like a great game, and I’m thinking of getting it – but I don’t want to get nickel and dimed if I want to fight Sauron..

I remember when extra content came out a year later as an expansion if the game was good. Now they make it all before the game is even released and sit back whilst they charge us to get the full version of the game.

this clearly isn’t additional content, it’s content held back from the game in order to charge you extra. If the main game cost thirty quid then that’d be ok, but not at full price.

These are pretty typical of the reaction to finding out that DLC content is underway (or even completed) for the game, before it’s released. Worst of all, in the eyes of gamers, is content already on the disc (and therefore developed alongside the standard content) – the recent reveal that Destiny DLC is in the region of 9Mb per download stirred up these comments again.

Developers reading this will probably be thinking “yes, but all of this stuff has to be budgeted for. And with the rising price of developing a AAA game, the amount of stuff that you get for your £50 is shrinking. So although this stuff’s developed at the same time, or planned well in advance, it’s being paid for out of a different pot – the DLC pot.”

While that may well be true (it’s been a few years since I’ve seen a AAA budget, but that was certainly the way things were heading the last time I did), explaining it doesn’t seem to help. Players don’t care about your budget, or how the accountants and project managers are splitting everything up. And nor should they. In the same way that it’s not the end player’s concern that Destiny cost $500m. They paid £50, they want to feel they are getting their money’s worth.

The problem with pre-release DLC is a colossal messaging cock-up between developers, publishers, and their customers. One that really needs to be resolved.

Can We Please Stop Cloning Clash Now?

Star Wars: Commander is a nice game. In it you build up a little military outpost, train an army, and then go and attack the bases of other players as well as some bases that form a loose story.

It’s Clash of Clans but dressed in a kids’ Star Wars fancy dress outfit, in short. Its “unique” (and I use dick quotes only because I’m sure another Clash Clone must have already done it) twist on the formula is that you choose a side to align with – either the Rebel Alliance, or the Empire – and this has an affect on what order buildings unlock for you, and what units become available.

The thing is, you could reasonably expect that the combination of Disney’s development & advertising budget, the evergreen appeal of the Star Wars IP to a young male demographic, and the winning core gameplay loop and monetisation of Clash of Clans, would be a blockbuster formula. But is isn’t. It has done well by most standards, but is just managing to cling on to a top 10 grossing position by the tips of its fingers, it isn’t knocking it out of the park.

Do you have Disney’s money and a great IP? No? Well maybe you should think about not trying to clone Clash of Clans then. Players are getting bored of seeing the same game over and over.

Star Wars Commander's Top Grossing chart for the first 30 days.

Star Wars Commander’s Top Grossing chart for the first 30 days.

A Couple of Passages From Creativity Inc.

A couple of passages I particularly liked from Ed Catmull’s Creativity Inc. I highly recommend reading the whole thing, I’ve found it very enlightening.

On creativity vs. regurgitation:

When filmmakers, industrial designers, software designers, or people in any other creative profession merely cut up and reassemble what has come before, it gives the illusion of creativity, but it is craft without art. Craft is what we are expected to know; art is the unexpected use of our craft. Even though copying what’s come before is a guaranteed path to mediocrity, it appears to be a safe choice, and the desire to be safe—to succeed with minimal risk—can infect not just individuals but also entire companies.

On data and an analytical approach to the creative process:

There are limits to data, however, and some people rely on it too heavily. Analyzing it correctly is difficult, and it is dangerous to assume that you always know what it means. It is very easy to find false patterns in data. Instead, I prefer to think of data as one way of seeing, one of many tools we can use to look for what’s hidden. If we think data alone provides answers, then we have misapplied the tool. It is important to get this right. Some people swing to the extremes of either having no interest in the data or believing that the facts of measurement alone should drive our management. Either extreme can lead to false conclusions.