Friday, February 10, 2012

Opinion – DLC and why I won’t be buying KoA: Reckoning any time soon

DLC, for the non-gaming literate, stands for Downloadable Content. Often after a video-game is released the developers continue working on future content which gamers can then later download. Such content serves different purposes – in ‘Halo Reach’ the developers work on bringing out extra multiplayer games to refresh the experience for players, while in ‘Guild Wars’ the developers released some bonus missions so that the game ties into the sequel Guild Wars 2, which we are expecting to be released later this year. Some DLC costs money and some is free; e.g. the formal and latter examples respectively.

This is all well and good. Generally speaking, paid DLC helps to retain fans of the game while generating some instant revenue, while free DLC increases customer loyalty and bring in new players resulting in longer term revenue.

A beautiful DLC map for Halo reach - whose design is clearly the result of skill and effort.

However, a worrying trend is emerging: DLC is more often than not being released alongside the release of the game. Take the game Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, which was released yesterday. I logged into Steam to check the price (Steam is a PC platform for buying and downloading games online) only to find I could also buy a DLC for a ‘weapons and armor bundle’. This essentially means that if I buy KoA: Reckoning, I am not buying the complete, finished product; the developers also made some extra content but they’re selling it separately.

DLC on Steam - the first of many?

Consider this within the content of the game for a moment. Part of the experience of games such as these are completing challenging quests or discovering hidden location, and you are typically rewarded with some legendary sword or armour. Yet, if I can buy with real money weapons and armour anyway, instantly this reward is cheapened. Furthermore resources spent on fine-tuning and removing bugs and glitches was instead used to make DLC.

Hero, this sword could be yours for only £3.99! No wait, £29.99 + £3.99. You need the buy the game as well remember.

What is the purpose of this DLC? It isn’t to reward fans; the game has just been released. It isn’t to draw in new customers, the game has just been released. Presumably the only and sole purpose is to milk the cash cow for customers who do want the full experience.

So what does this tell us about the game? It implies that the developers and producers are after short-term financial revenue, which raises doubt to the overall experience of the game. It also suggests that for hefty profit margins, sub-standard DLC will be frequently released. I have to ask, why would I want to buy the game now, when I know you’re going to be asking me for a lot more money? As far as I’m concerned, it makes more sense for me to wait when all this inevitable DLC has been released and I can finally buy the complete and finished package in one, genuine bundle.

There you have it. As you can tell, I am not a happy man right now. I enjoyed the demo of the game, despite its glitches. Typically glitches experienced in a demo have been fixed by the time the full game has been released, but I gain the impression that in Reckoning they’ll still be present. In my eyes at least, game developers and producers need to start considering their perceived credibility and where their priorities are when making a game.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Future tech - Mass Effect's omni-tool in real life

Sci-fi, be it in novels, games or some other art form, has been remarkable at predicting future technology which once-upon-a-time seemed completely impossible. Here's one which might not be as far off as you might think.

The arm controller thingy
Ok, so the name I've given it isn't great, and assuming Apple don't fall from their pinnacle with the loss of Steve Jobs we might witnessing the release of the iArm.

For this blog we'll call it the omni-tool; the piece of kit which is used repeatedly in the game Mass Effect. These devices are a computer microframe packed with holographic display, sensor analysis system, the ability to modify remote equipment, and the latest version of Powerpoint. Well, perhaps not Powerpoint but you get the idea. If that sounds familiar that's because smart-phones are practically just as functional for the needs of yourself, member of the public.

A further benefit is that the omni-tool makes you look badass. Hood not included.

What makes it so nifty in Mass Effect is that holographic projection of the display. Now even though almost everyone by now knows that 3D is a declining fad and should probably be kept away from smart-phones and TVs, it could be a substitute for the hologram. What would be necessary to include would be a hand and finger recognition system - akin to a miniaturised Kinect - allowing you to interact with the 3D display rather than jabbing your fingers on the screen like its 1999. Throw in the rapidly developing voice recognition software and the iAr- I mean omni-tool isn't quite as obscure as you first thought.

So when it comes down to it, our equivalent of the omni-tool is simply a smart phone attached to your arm. If the idea is peculiar to you, consider how the pocket watch was transformed with the simple addition of the strap. Given the increasing reliance on smart-phone technology having the device strapped to your arm might actually be more convenient than fishing it out from your pocket. Wirelessly controlling mentioned Powerpoint, transferring money across device accounts, playing angry birds: you name it; all achieved with greater access.
You'll just have to be patient with people while they make some calibrations.

Thoughts? Don't forget to like or comment.