Wednesday, August 21, 2013

And it's street name is....DLC.

Ramblings Post #232
While I prepare for the future, I'm playing a few computer games. My mother would deride me for playing, but games keep the mind sharp, like the puzzles we used to do as kids, because that's all most games are: big 3D puzzles. I prefer strategy games, where they give you the tools and let you succeed or fail based upon your planning as opposed to how fast your thumb twitches. Because if your mind can keep straight a medieval empire or command a star-ship, surely a TPS report shouldn't be too much of a hassle.

I've never really been in favor of Downloadable Content, or DLC as it is more commonly called. It's where a maker of software games provides you the user with "additional" features that can enhance the game you've purchased, meaning you'll want to play it again. This is especially annoying when these "additional" items are available on day one, the first day the game is available. It's like going to to buy a car then finding out things like the radio, the seats, or even glass in the door windows are extra.

Now, to be clear, I don't really have a problem with real extras, or things you might call "cheats." Games will occasionally sell you things you're supposed to achieve through good game play, and that's okay. Everyone isn't as diligent or patient as I am. And sometimes, they sell you things that enhance how long a game will last - for instance, I'm still playing my Tiger Woods 12 from three years ago because with the DLC at the time, I have around 35 courses, some of which I still haven't played. 

This spring the usual suspects got all in a tizzy when SimCity rebooted, and the masses realized that the model was not only hopelessly broken, but we could also see the alligator in the swamp. SimCity's DLC would go on for could feel it. A fast $5 for alternate town halls. Another $10 for a resort tower. The sponsored content for $5 more. And so on and so forth.  I for one refused to buy this game. But then while we weren't looking, they (the industry) got us anyway. 

I speak of Civilization V.

I like the "Civ" series. I remember borrowing an apple computer for a weekend to play in college and waking up to hear my roommate, who had looked at me skeptically when I tried to explain it to him, cheer about his first settlement on a new continent. It is remarkably addictive. I still  have a copy of Civ III and Civ IV around here someplace. My current copy is from Steam because they had it on sale. Like a 75% off sale. But I'm not particularly happy with this new iteration, which eliminated battle stacks and in turn stretches out war which already could last 50 turns into 150 turn slog-fests. But I still played. A little bit.

NOTE: This is not my Civ counter. Mine barely has 100. But people play it like this. It's serious.
Then the "expansion packs" started coming. 

The first expansion packs were for new rulers, which meant instead of facing the same enemies every time you'd get a little variety. This was cool.  But I was barely playing the game and still hadn't met all the original opponents, so maybe in a future purchase, a few bucks here, a few bucks there, get them all. Then an expansion pack which introduced more map options, which mean changes in game strategy - islands vs continents, or archipelagos. Again, maybe in the future.  Then one that introduced religion and few more new rulers, then another with international trade and some more new rulers..hey, wait a second....

But they're supposed to make the game so great. Only, wasn't the game supposed to BE great to start with?

The last two big expansion packs, the ones that introduce religion and international trade. Weren't religion and international trade a big part of the BASIC game, way way back in Civ IV? So now we're supposed to pay extra for stuff that used to be just part of the game? Wait just a second there bucko! You've just stripped down the 2011 model, slapped on some new graphics and called it the 2013 model. Then you're selling me back all the stuff you took out...for half the cost of the original game! Do I look stupid?  But even as I gripe, even as the words hit the paper I know that I'm just waiting out next Steam Sale so that hopefully I can get the last expansion packs for cheap. Freaking pushers man, freaking pushers!  

So I guess the future is DLC.

But then the games themselves are now DLC, and not the familiar CD that used to come in a box with glorious art and contain other helpful things like instructions and maps. I must be old, because at one point I remember games that came with the strategy guide IN THE BOX. The effect of the nickel and dime business model on the consumer is frightening when you lean back and look at it. 

Barkeep, a nice rum and coke. For an extra two bucks its a premium rum? And for another dollar, an extra shot? And for one more dollar I get ice? Didn't ice used to come with it?

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