DLC done right

DLC done right

By Tymon Smektala, Techland

May 18th 2016 at 11:21AM

Techland producer Tymon Smektala offers developers advice on how to build add-ons that truly give gamers extra value

Developers need to adjust to the ever-changing nature of the industry and create DLC that customers want to buy, rather than the ones that companies want to sell.

Releasing games of any kind is a tremendous task where all the cogs of the machine need to move together and one that brings countless amount of hours of fun to gamers. We as an industry have to focus on providing gamers with added value on more than one level when thinking about future content. This can be done by adding extra story elements that expand the endgame or adding brand new gameplay elements.

Create value for money

Nowadays, there’s a slight issue with the price of DLC and Season Passes as companies don’t always seem to find the correct value for their added content. This includes Techland, too – we realised the DLC that we were creating suddenly turned into something that some of the media mentioned was almost the size of a full-fledged game.

We felt that our Season Pass could use some extra content so we included the free enhancements and re-imagined The Following. After realising that the development of this turned out bigger and more costly, we had to increase the price of the Season Pass but we believe that it’s still an incredible value for money. We announced the increase beforehand to allow our fans to get the Season Pass for the cheaper price before the new one went live. Our friends at Bethesda followed suit later, which was a great encouragement for us.

Developers need to adjust to the ever-changing nature of the industry and create DLC that customers want to buy, rather than the ones that companies want to sell.

If something doesn't add much value to the game as a DLC, you might want to consider releasing it for free. This can be anything and everything that you know that your fans like: new weapons, skins of any kind or multiplayer map packs.

After the success of Dying Light, we released a number of free DLC and other in-game items that helped us in building a great community.

Timing is everything but quality is more

It is important that your main goal is always in sight during development because of the time constraints some DLC might have. However, the most important thing is quality.

Nowadays, fans are very vocal about their expectations. If a game or DLC gets a bit delayed, most of the time you’ll get all the support you need because players want to get a great piece of content soon and not a mediocre one fast. So ask yourself the question: “Is your content worth waiting for?”

The infamous pay-to-win formula must be avoided at any cost as that can ultimately break your game. Players without add-on items will get discouraged and might even stop playing the game.

 

Finding the perfect time to release your content is extremely difficult. Depending on the content, if you release it too early you could be accused that it was just something that got cut off the main game. Release it too late and fans will get bored and will enter the “I’m over it.” stage. Of course, this can be managed easily by communicating what you have early.

The main purpose of a DLC is to add more value to the base product. It can also be used to test new ideas that didn’t make it into the full game for whatever reason. As a developer, there will be cases where there are some brilliant ideas being thrown around by the team but we still can’t turn them into reality. DLC allows some legroom for these ideas, where some ideas can be implemented based on fan feedback. Working on DLC sometimes allows for a breather and to regroup. It will also please members of the development team as it will give them the creative stretch they wanted with said ideas.

Serve the fans, not your ego

Listen to your fans. They will only buy DLC that they want to play, be it new story missions, maps, in-game items or even a brand new mechanic. Of course, consider every aspect of your DLC; making major changes to gameplay can work perfectly but can also scare your fans away. In The Following, adding the buggy to a game that features parkour so heavily was a very adventurous move but thankfully it paid off.

So focusing on community is key. Building it and listening to it will allow you to be successful and to be able to make more games.

If you release DLC too early, you could be accused that it was just something that got cut off the main game. Release it too late and fans will get bored.

Good DLC takes time and effort

Creating any kind of added content can be time-consuming and expensive. Spice up your game without DLC while you’re working on the expansion. Exclusive in-game items and special unlocks are also a great way to please your fans.

On the other hand, one must consider the balancing of these very carefully. The infamous pay-to-win formula must be avoided at any cost as that can ultimately break your game. Players without these items will get discouraged and might even stop playing the game. We introduced docket codes as a way of giving away high level weapons to the community.

Providing a fun, enjoyable experience and a great value for money must be at the epicentre of anything you do, even when releasing DLC. Remember, these products have to be the extension of your creative vision that you’ve had for your main game.