Remember When Pizzas Came With Toppings?
Oh I see here you ordered the pepperoni pizza that was advertised on the website, we will get that out to you as soon as we can. Now before I send it to you would you like any of the sauce or pepperoni for the pizza? Obviously they are extra.
There was a time in my life when the pizzas I saw came with what was promised in the picture, this is also the case for video games. The trailers for video games today are a massive event for the title, trailers contain the first look at the new game or latest edition of the series.
Game trailers are meant to excite the player so much that it leaves no doubt in their mind as to if they can live without this game in their life. Most trailers today accomplish this, however one thing I didn’t expect them to do is, in an attempt to sell their title they tease you with features that are not available in the standard edition of the game.
This phenomenon has been increasing at an alarming rate and has been well discussed in the gaming community, trailers such as Destiny and Titanfall have been criticised for this. The game under scrutiny in this blog is Mortal Kombat X, I adore Mortal Kombat, I always have, however I was angered beyond belief at the three little letters uttered in relation to some of the characters in the trailer……. “DLC”.
The Current Trend -
Downloadable content has been under attack recently for being implemented without enough content to make it seem like it changes the game at all, Mortal Kombat X tackled this problem by adding a total of four extra characters as part of the DLC pack for their latest game.
To be clear, this isn’t a “dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t” kind of scenario. Even though we can commend the creators for putting a lot of content in the DLC, extra playable characters only available in the pack is taking away from the gameplay of the standard edition. In the following sections we discuss how the series has changed over time and also the reason why this change has taken place.
Unlocking Characters in the Past -
One of the most challenging and exciting parts of Mortal Kombat in the past has been unlocking all the characters. One title in the series that had the most innovative way of unlocking your characters was Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance.
Deadly Alliance was the first Mortal Kombat to have a monetary system in place, this allowed the matches between you and the computer to have more of a result along the challenge tower. The players could also use the currency by wagering on matches between each other. The purpose of the hard earned onyx or gold for example was to be used in an area called The Krypt
The Krypt was an area outside of combat which consisted of 676 coffins, all with an amount of currency displayed on the front of the coffin. The player could spend the declared amount and unlock whatever was hidden inside the coffin. The contents were a large range of unlockables including, concept art, production photos, more coins, new arenas and most importantly new characters. The characters available to unlock included both brand new characters and some of the most used characters in the game.
With such a large amount of content to unlock the game had suddenly become extremely replayable. Deadly Alliance offered more rewards for shorter periods of play time than any other title in the series up to this point, this is a trend which is now seen in almost all mobile games.
The implementation of the monetary system in the combat series was a success and both the currency and The Krypt are features in every Mortal Kombat game to date. The Krypt has been graphically updated with every iteration of the game and the function remain the same except for the one feature under discussion, the unlockable characters have been removed from the Krypt and separated under the title of DLC.
Unlocking Characters Now –
Mortal Kombat X standard edition has 25 playable characters, all of which are playable from the beginning except one. Rewards in the game are still present but have less impact on the game. Completing the challenge tower unlocks alternative costumes for the corresponding characters and coins can still be used in the Krypt for various other items. The Krypt however contains none of the new characters nor a way to get the new characters. To use the new characters the player must once again hand over their real hard earned money to purchase The Kombat Pack.
The Kombat Pack allows the owner to use an extra four characters which are not available to everyone, this inevitably changes the balance of the players interactions. The characters are balanced as best as possible in combat games however not having access to certain characters keeps the one of the players at a disadvantage at all times.
The main issue with using the DLC for extra characters is the joy in the challenge of unlocking all the characters which was set in previous titles in the series. Mortal Kombat X offers only one character unlock, the reason for this decision seems to be based solely in the fact that DLC’s are now as common as a gaming booklet in the case when you buy the game.
The Age of Downloadable Content –
The main reason for DLC’s becoming as popular in the industry as they are is mainly because we now have the technology which can allow for updates to a game such as this. Previously when a title was released the customer purchased the game and they then played the game for what it was worth as a standalone game. The next update in the series was a large period of time later where the release was the sequel to the original title. This cycle continued until the technology allowed it to change this pattern.
With the technological advancements of all areas in media, staying connected to the customer is easier than ever. This connection can be used in many different ways, one of the most common uses however is to update the game they have just purchased at an extra cost.
Communication, advertising and hardware are currently at capabilities so advanced that a lot of games have more DLC’s than titles in the series. Downloadable content can be used well however more and more it is being used to help the customer pay to win. DLC’s which change the player’s strength, abilities or the player knowledge are very common. This point again brings us back to Mortal Kombat X, they have released a feature for the game where you can purchase tokens which give you easy fatalities. As a customer you can spent 0.99USD for 5 tokens or 4.99USD for 30 tokens.
What’s that? 4.99USD is not a lot of money to spend for easy fatalities, besides they are now unlocked for good now right? Wrong, they have a token value which means every time you trigger an easy fatality your token amount drops. Therefore as customer you will have to fork out more money if you want this feature.
This is of course an optional extra for the game which doesn’t affect the gameplay, however this is part of a bigger issue. Game developers are creating situations where the player is often at a disadvantage if they do not want to pay extra. This attitude toward game creation is also affecting gameplay in many instances as we discussed.
It is hard to determine where this will progress to and how this trend will affect games in the future. As a fledgling game designer myself this area in particular is one I will be concerning myself with. As in any relationship the communication between the games company their customer requires two parties to remain stable. It has to be asked, how far will this road go before the customer drops away from the conversation?
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog, hope you enjoyed it.