Extra Credits – Mass Effect 3 DLC

Link: Extra Credits – Mass Effect 3 DLC

Another week another episode of Extra Credits. This week sees a welcome return to the done in one format of the show as it tackles the issue of Day One DLC and in particular the Day One DLC attached to Mass Effect 3.

While I have already expressed my opinion on the arguments for and against, the Extra Credits team comes up with some more valid arguments for it in particular the diminishing number of players who will actually buy it, shown by this handy graph:

This argument is made along with the; it keeps the team working and gives you more content points that are equally as valid in my opinion. Mostly they highlight the positives of the practise and very much come to the conclusion that it is becoming a necessary evil. They do however show the worrying side of DLC which is the attachment of it to merchandise.

It is very much a grey area at the moment and something I have actually had to look into recently for the Franchise Development Doc for one of my projects. Currently this merchandise DLC is almost throwaway content like the Collector Rifle that comes with Mass Effect 3 Razor products but it is becoming more and more popular. It urges consumers to buy both the game and the merchandise for the game. It is something I caught myself doing with the Mass Effect 3 merchandise. While the DLC is very minor part of me on a very small level equates it to improving my Mass Effect 3 experience. It is a reward for buying the T-Shirt, bag, controller, etc. and that is the worrying thing. Because as Extra Credits points out this could easily turn from small inconsequential bonuses to the equivalent of the From Ashes day one DLC. So if you think paying an extra £7 for day one DLC is expensive imagine having to pay £60 to buy a bag that comes with that DLC instead. 

It is unlikely to happen but it is still a worrying thought.

Mass Effect 3 “Day 1 DLC” Controversy

While this could be worded a lot better and not in the “Shut the hell up with your complaining!” way of talking about this issue it still proves its point.

The argument is that day one premium DLC keeps a lot of the main production team in a job and working on the game for longer. It also allows them to continually generate new DLC content as a persistent production cycle for the support time for the game. Which is all good in my book. It give me more Mass Effect to play at the end of the day.

The only problem I have with the From Ashes DLC is the price. 800 Microsoft Points is £6.85 according to XboxPointsConverter and the DLC is also included in the Collector’s Edition package for the game, which is the one I bought. Not a bad price when you look at it but I think it should be cheaper for a number of reasons:

  1. This is day one content. The people who have bought the standard edition which this DLC targets have already paid up to £49.99 depending on where they got it from and if they are crazy enough pay full RRP for the games they buy. This is an additional cost that many feel they will have to buy (rightly or wrongly) to get the whole Mass Effect 3 experience.
  2. EA/BioWare can not argue that the price allows them to quickly re-coup the production costs for the DLC. This is because of the game’s use of booster packs in the multiplayer. The booster packs can be bought with in game earned currency or with Microsoft points at 80MSP (69p) or 160MSP (£1.37). The cost of producing the From Ashes DLC have already been quickly recouped by people buying 2-3 booster packs. The booster packs are also pretty much pure profit for EA because they were produced alongside development of the game’s multiplayer as an integral system. This isn’t an extra addition that adds more content to the game this is a main aspect of the multiplayer for ME3.
  3. Scarifying a week’s worth of profit from the booster packs to make the From Ashes DLC cheaper and in the 400MSP (£3.43) range would have gone a long way to avoiding all these people shouting at EA and BioWare for making the game they wanted to make. Player’s would be more likely to buy the content if they were told, “We made this but we have purposely kept the price down so you can all buy it with your copy of the game.” EA would still get their money because there would still be profit in the 400MSP price point along with all the money made from the booster packs.

Like the above image says modern game development is complex but it still does not mean that EA are allowed to charge as much as they want for the privilege of playing the game and all of its content wether it is on the disk or not. Also behaving like a child and throwing your toys out of the pram over it is not the way people should be dealing with or complaining about this issue. It doesn’t help anyone when you reduce an issue to base name calling and slurring. Just saying!

Why A Video Game Blockbuster Will Finally Allow You To Be A Gay Man

Link: Why A Video Game Blockbuster Will Finally Allow You To Be A Gay Man

BioWare and sex seem to go together like bread and butter. This surprisingly interesting Kotaku article about how the male Shepard in Mass Effect 3 can now get it on with his fellow male crew mates is worth a read. It details the history of the relationship functionality present in BioWare’s games and why they have finally included the option in latest Mass Effect game. 

It is a topic that has popped up several times over the past few weeks with BioWare usually being at the heart of the discussion due to their more progressive stance on player/character sexuality. The online response has been mixed at best and sickening at its worst. But at the end of the day it all boils down to giving the player a better experience by giving them more choice to experience the game how they want and on their own terms. Which is something a lot of games could learn from, not just RPGs. If you don’t like the idea of man on man space action you don’t have to experience it but for those who do I’m sure it is a breath of fresh air.

Weekly Update

This week has been a mixture of high productivity and extreme procrastination as I have had to meet a couple of deadlines. One for one of my Uni projects others for secret things that I am working on, that I can’t tell you about because they’re secret!

To keep the initial post length down I’m putting the Hunter of the New Dawn update and Games I have been playing sections after the jump. Please check out the Hunters section because it what I have worked on the most in the past week!

Langstroth Game Design:

As you can see I have changed things up a bit around here. The website has a new and better look which is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. The new layout should be a bit easier on the eyes with all the key info you need readily available. It also looks pretty slick I think.

You may have also noticed that there are more posts popping up relating to wider game design ideas and theory beyond the stuff I make and post about already. Future posts like this will mainly be in the form links to news articles, blog posts, videos, other people’s ideas and whole websites centred around game design. I am doing this for two reasons. The first is so I can easily re-find and go back to game design related web content I find interesting by just going through this site’s archive. The second is because I have had a surprisingly good response to what I have been doing with this site recently and this is a way of taking the site further to bigger and better heights. 

Project Superman:

The alternating of working on this and the time travel game continues this week as Project Superman takes a back seat. The work I have done on this is fairly minimal, just getting things ready to turn into the various boards. In the coming two weeks I am planning to make major headway in this design because I really need to just to keep on top of things!

Time Travel Game:

I spent a lot of time yesterday reformatting various sections of the wiki to make them easier to navigate. I also added a bit more content to the Time Travel explanation page. Which I should get finished, proof-read and locked off later today or tomorrow afternoon. The plan for the rest of this week it to get all the key information pages finished and to begin work on the main event, Key Sections, and in particular the game mechanics. Then once that’s done everything else should start falling into place.

Hunter of the New Dawn and Game I have been playing after the jump.

Hunters of the New Dawn:

Most of my time this week was taken up with finishing the IP Statement for Hunters of the New Dawn which the above image is showing off. The final document can be found by heading here. It is also worth your time to check out the preceding Market Research Document to get the context for how the idea behind the design came about.

As ever with any documents I share, if you want permission to download or reproduce it please let me know and I will give you the relevant permissions.

Completing the document has given me a very clear picture of how Hunters will work as a game and I now have a good plan of where to go with the idea which is all good. It all fits together well and the idea of simple surface level of gameplay with deeper core gameplay hidden underneath works well as one the underlying ideas behind the game. It should also work to achieve maximum appeal for the game and IP as a whole. I also decided to include and expand upon the idea of free form character customisation that I came up with for a project last year.

The basic idea behind it is that customisation is staggered and has various levels of depth to it. Initially you have almost free-reign to make the character look and play how you want. Then in the opening sections of the game you are free to change the genetic and cosmetic features of your character as and when you wish with only things like class choice being locked in place. Then once you have finished the starting area/tutorial the genetic customisation features are locked off as your character’s physical look is set in stone. This leaves you with the cosmetic features of your character being free to change as and when you wish.

Cosmetic features include:

  • Facial and body accessories (tattoos, piercings, etc.)
  • Hair style and colour
  • Clothes editing
  • Accessories
  • And more!

This type of customisation should serve as a work around to the problem I have with many games that offer character customisation, your character not fitting in with the game world. It is very easy in many character editors to make a character that looks great during the initial creation but when you start the game you realise that they just do not fit in with the NPCs of the game world or are out of proportion (for example, having a head that is too small). The only solution to this problem is to restart the game which completely breaks the flow which is so crucial to the opening sections of a game. Some games offer you a re-edit chance at the end of the tutorial but there is not really an option to road test your creation in the game world.

As the genetic customisation options are locked off you are left with the cosmetic features being free to change for the rest of the game. This is because people change their clothes, “look”, hair style and more on a regular basis and it is something that should be represented during the length of a game. Particularly if the game is set over multiple years like Dragon Age 2.

Dragon Age 2 does indeed have a re-edit option built into the game but it is in there as almost an afterthought. It is part of the Black Emporium/Project $10 content for the game. Which is badly implemented into the game and many players who buy the game second hand can only access it by paying extra for it and at an extortionate price too. The results are that many people’s Hawke ends up looking the same throughout the whole game which is set over multiple years. With only the equipment they are using changing.

Giving the player more choice and chance to make the main character their own can only serve to immerse them further in the game. It also paves the way for alternate revenue streams for the game in the form of DLC customisation packs which would negate the need for things like online passes and content systems like Project $10. Optional items and character flourishes as paid content work well for many Facebook and Free 2 Play games so why not try to make it work for a core console experience?

So all that is in the IP Statement for the game because it is one of the key features that would be used across multiple titles. With the idea that your paid customisation options are carried over into sequels (think of it as clothes instead of tracks for Guitar Hero/Rock Band). The IP Statement also covering topics such as the setting for the game. How combat will work and the basic structure for the environments and game as a whole. 

Games I have been playing:

After finishing the IP Statement for Hunter of the New Dawn I was feeling a little burnt out so I spent the next couple of days doing little bits of work but mainly playing games. During this time I managed to complete not one, but two games!

First I completed my playthrough of the sublime Metal Gear Solid. Which is a lot harder to complete than back in the day. It can be so unforgiving at times but it works because when you overcome the game’s tougher challenges you get a great sense of accomplishment. I would recommend that anyone with an interest in game design plays the original Metal Gear Solid. Just to see how much things have changed in the relatively short time since it came out. I have since moved onto MGS2 in the HD collection and just gotten to the opening of the main Big Shell mission for the game with Raiden, the Metal Gear character that everyone loves to hate!

Playing the Mass Effect 3 Demo (more on this in a bit) got me off my lazy gaming ass and made me finally finish my Insanity playthrough of Mass Effect 2. It was tough, tense and as ever fun to run through the Suicide Mission again, especially with the higher difficulty. During the playthrough I managed to make near enough all the same choices I made the first time around and managed to have everyone survive at the end. So I am now totally ready for Mass Effect 3 next month with a great save file that should give me a few bonuses when starting the game.

I have also been messing around with the ME3 demo. I have only run-through the single player part once and enjoyed it. The changes and additions work and while the game looked a bit rough around the edges I’m putting it down to it being the demo and not indicative of the final game. The multiplayer though has been a big surprise. Initially I was optimistic about the addition of multiplayer to Mass Effect, unlike the rest of the world that seemed to scream, “THE HORROR! THE HORROR!!!!!” at the mere mention of if. I am happy to say that my optimism has been rewarded because the multiplayer is good. I am surprised though that it is really good! It is much more than your standard horde mode. Mainly due to the progression systems built into the experience. There is loads to do and unlock from individual characters to bonuses, weapons and weapon mods. It has legs as a game mode that will work alongside and complement the main, single player experience. Download the demo and check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

Why Mass Effect is the Most Important Science Fiction Universe of Our Generation

Link: Why Mass Effect is the Most Important Science Fiction Universe of Our Generation

Not strictly about game design but very good reading!

It basically lays out why Mass Effect is perhaps the most well rounded and realistic (to a degree) science fiction franchise out there. One of the key arguments for its superiority is that because it is a game where player has the freedom of control to shape the game by making their own Shepard and defining their choices, it causes a deeper level of connection than your Star Treks, Star Wars and Battlestar Galacticas of the world.

It is more of an outside looking in type piece but there are a few interesting bits and bobs throughout it. Particularly about the story philosophy, diversity in the cast and the character of Shepard his/her self. This kind of story/setting detail isn’t a requirement to all games but with Mass Effect it is an integral part of the game the story is part of the design. Go check it out!