When do Games Overstay their Welcome?

It was recently announced that Bioware’s Dragon Age team would no longer be working on Dragon Age 2, seemingly abandoning the planned Exalted March DLC. Bioware has stated that this team would be moving on to new projects. In other words, Dragon Age 2 isn’t worth developing for anymore. This gets to the main focus of today’s post: when do games overstay their welcome? You’ll hear constantly that today’s generation of games are disposable, meant to be consumed en masse, and never fully enjoyed. However, with the rise of online multiplayer and DLC, developers have been able to extend the lives of games that, traditionally, would not have kept the attention of players for very long at all. It is specifically the practice of releasing singleplayer DLC to extend a game that I’m looking at today, and asking: when is enough? When is it time to move on?

Um, Isabella. You have a little rib sauce on your face.

To start this off, let’s look at Dragon Age 2, since it inspired the whole post. Dragon Age 2 was not well received by many fans of the original. Stripping down customizable options such as race selection, armour selection for companions, and streamlining combat, made for an angry fanbase. This is ignoring the laziness of the dungeon recycling and the jumpy third act. There are those, myself included, that far prefer Dragon Age 2 over Dragon Age: Origins, but they are in the minority. Like all of their recent games, Bioware had planned DLC in advance. This can be seen in Dragon Age 2, based on the fact that, upon completion of the game, you will end up in Hawke’s manor and told to wait for DLC (Subtle, Bioware). DLC did come, and was relatively warmly received. However, no amount of DLC was going to change the initial impressions of the majority of the fanbase. It is here where you can see why Bioware’s decision to abandon Dragon Age 2 was a good one. You see, internet, Dragon Age 2 had overstayed it’s welcome and resources were deemed to be better spent away from it than trying to artificially extend its life through various DLC packs.

In the last DLC we were going to find out where Hawke’s above the nose scar came from
*Spoilers – It was from opening a jar of marmalade… with his face!

Next we move on to another game, which has long passed it’s expiry date; however, this one is trying one last vain attempt at recapturing its glory. I speak, of course, about World of Warcraft, also known as the single most popular MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online RPG) ever made, and the reason that every man and his dog has released an MMO in the past five years. World of Warcraft was made by Blizzard, which is probably the most reliable video game developer out there (No, I don’t accept Valve as an answer here). It reinvented the MMO genre and WoW has been at the top of the world for eight years. In this time, WoW has seen the release of three expansions. Expansions are the precursor to DLC and allowed developers to “expand” a game’s content at a cheaper price than a full game. WoW’s expansions have been nothing short of extraordinary, bringing in a huge amount of new and old gamers each time. However, that time is over. Their newest expansion “Mists of Pandaria” is almost a joke onto itself and is a far cry from the major restructuring of Cataclysm, which was the last expansion. On top of this, WoW has finally found a competitor in Bioware’s The Old Republic. MMO’s are like reality TV: they just won’t die. But the question has to be asked if expanding WoW was a worthwhile investment, especially since Blizzard is now active with their Starcraft and Diablo franchises. Should WoW be expanded ad nauseum or is it time for Blizzard to just let it die the way Bioware is doing with Dragon Age 2?

Now with 300% more furries!

How about games that we should be glad developers didn’t let die. The best example of this that I can think of is the game Borderlands, developed by Gearbox. Borderlands isn’t a particularly great game. The shooting mechanics are there and it had an exquisitely made loot system. However, the world was bland and boring and the story was unfocused. A person playing the vanilla (Original, not upgraded) Borderlands could easily dismiss it as another boring shooter in a sea of boring identical shooters. After the game’s release, a most unexpected thing happened: Gearbox got their shit together and decided what kind of game they wanted Borderlands to be, and they put this new focus to use. Borderlands is the example I use when I argue that DLC is beneficial to the industry. Not only is it good, it is so much better than the main game it is hard believe that the DLC and the vanilla game are the same at all. Instead of the boring, drab world, Gearbox made use of the wacky cell shading graphics and put in a sense of B movie fun that very few games have and fewer still succeed in. The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned and The Secret Armoury of General Knoxx and worth twice the amount of money they are sold for. However, even as an example of a game that was saved by DLC, Borderlands did outstay its welcome, as the last DLC “Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution fell flat and was a major missed opportunity, making it clear that every game outstays its welcome at some point.

This is Dr. Ned. He’s totally not Dr. Zed, and he has no idea about the cause of the zombie outbreak. 

I know what you’re thinking, internet “why don’t you show us an example of a game that didn’t outstay its welcome, but did expand through DLC?” Well I’d be glad to and I know just the game (As if I wasn’t the one posing the question): Resident Evil 5. I don’t like Resident Evil 5. I think it is supremely lazy and all of the new additions to be severely damaging, but Resident Evil expanded well, really, really well. To the vanilla game, Capcom added multiplayer to The Mercenaries minigame, and created two singleplayer missions. One of these missions “Lost in Nightmares” gave frustrated fans a dark atmospheric romp with series veterans Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine. The next mission “Desperate Escape” provided a condensed action packed segment highlighting the greatness of Resident Evil’s combat without all of the horrible post chapter garbage. After the success of these chapters, Capcom promptly stopped milking the game and moved on, which is strange as Capcom doesn’t like to stop milking rocks. Nevertheless, Resident Evil 5 remains an example of a wonderfully executed post game DLC strategy and Capcom deserves some credit for that.

They also deserve credit for so successfully destroying the awesome character of Albert Wesker.

Resident Evil 5 may have been an example of post game DLC coming together in a good way, but the best example of a properly designed game-expanding DLC strategy comes from Obsidian’s Fallout: New Vegas. New Vegas was a full and, ignoring the bugs, extremely well made game. It rarely, if ever, felt as if content was cut from the game. However, there was a lot that was cut from the game and a lot of this was repurposed as DLC. Now, to clarify, I’m not talking about content that was held back from the main game, but concepts and figures. This DLC was also planned, as can be seen by the mention of The Divide in relation to the Courier, which was the plot of the final DLC added to the game. Aside from the first bit of DLC, all of the DLC seemed to be planned in advance to give the player more of an understanding of the world, or in the case of “Old World Blues” a good laugh. Unlike Resident Evil 5’s DLC, which came out of nowhere and is totally self-sufficient, I don’t think you can play Fallout: New Vegas properly without the DLC, as they add so much to the overall game.

Honest Hearts as a whole was disappointing, but the “Burned Man” Joshua Graham was worth the price of admission

As DLC continues to become a standard part of gaming, it will be increasingly important to ask the question of when is the appropriate time to retire a game? No game, no matter how big can be expanded indefinitely. There will always be a time where the developer has to move on to their next project, but there should be a drive to make each game count and to avoid having each game be a disposable snack, to be devoured within a couple of days, before the player moves on to his next meal. Developers are going to need to work on this in the future, because gamers are a fickle lot and if they think they are being exploited via DLC their anger will know no bounds. Just look at the controversy surrounding the wrongful assumption that Mass Effect 3’s DLC was on the disk.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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