United Front producer Dan Sochan has spoken out against the practice of holding back material to release separately as downloadable content, but conceded that waiting till after release to develop DLC has its downsides too.
According to certain industry figures, successful downloadable content is as much a question of promptness as quality. As former BioWare producer Christina Norman put it in a GDC Developer Rant panel this March, "there's no point in releasing DLC a year after your game comes out when most people have already sold it back to Gamestop three times. So, that means getting it out early. That means day one DLC."
Sochan, however, feels that it's generally better to do one thing at a time. "It's certainly a challenge at the development team, for sure, because you don't want to sacrifice anything from the main game and put out a poor quality [game] so you can have day one DLC," he told OXM. "That doesn't benefit anyone. Your product is weaker, your franchise is weaker, the Metacritic score will be lower."
However, launching straight into the first add-on pack 24 hours after the game goes to press can be rough on the teams involved. "Doing it the way we did was tough as well - basically, going into it 150 miles an hour to get this game done, getting it done and then the next day saying 'OK, let's start the DLC'. People are tired and burned out."
United Front has thrashed out a workable DLC schedule for Sleeping Dogs, published by Square Enix this August - following a stream of smaller add-ons, the game's first "proper" expansion Nightmare on North Point goes live tomorrow. "We really did our best to balance that," Sochan commented. "And Square worked with us to establish our release schedule, so that we could do some simpler packs, like character packs at the beginning, then start rolling out some meaty gameplay packs a few months later. Just so that we could, again, focus on the main version of the game, get a bit of a break, then roll into the new stuff.
He noted that the choice of a goofy undead-themed pack had helped revive the studio's flagging spirits (pun honestly not intended). "I think it was easier on the team, too, because the content is quite different. Designing hopping vampires and ghouls and glowing fists, almost doing wire-work martial arts for some of the moves, was amazing for the team. It was a lot of fun."
When do you tend to buy DLC? How long are you prepared to wait for it? Read our thoughts on Nightmare on North Point if you haven't already.