Wednesday, April 25, 2012

#18: Character Analysis #1: Ulysses (Fallout: New Vegas: Lonesome Road)

Warning: Fallout: New Vegas and DLC spoilers
A few weeks back, I discussed characterization in Fallout: New Vegas. I said that the “villain” faction (because the player will almost always be directly opposed to it), Caesar's Legion, was one of the most poorly written groups out of the games factions. Though I did not explicitly say it then, I lamented the fact that the villain was so poorly written. In my opinion, the villain has to be one of the most well-written characters in a game. Fortunately, it seemed Obsidian preempted me and learned from its mistake. While I was busy complaining about the Legion, they released the Lonesome Road DLC and introducing one of, in my opinion, the most interesting and well-written characters in New Vegas. The villain of Lonesome Road, Ulysses, will be the subject of my first (and hopefully not the last) character analysis.

Before I get into his character, I need to explain his history, and it is a long and interesting one. Ulysses was originally a member of a tribe called the Twisted Hairs. The Twisted Hairs were a tribe known for their dreadlocks that symbolized every significant event in the lives of those who wore them. This tribe was eventually conquered by Caesar's Legion and conscripted into the Legion's military. In time, Ulysses began to stand out amongst his peers and became one of Caesar's elite, while the rest of his tribe slowly died out. He became a courier working for Caesar and made a promise to him that he would not kill anyone of the same profession. (I can only assume this is because either there are a lot of Legion couriers or that Caesar thinks he can use the couriers of an area after he takes over.) It was Ulysses who discovered Hoover Dam and the New California Republic, symbols of Old World values from before the Great War, for the Legion, sparking Caesar's obsession with the Dam and the war between the two factions over it.

Soon afterward, Ulysses was sent to explore NCR territory on the Legion's behalf and report back to them. It was while exploring that he discovered “The Divide,” a community shaped by Old World symbols and technology, which inspired him to wear the Old World Flag and carry an eagle staff as symbols. Ulysses saw the Divide as a place he could settle down, a place he could rebuild and begin again. Then, the Courier (the player character) came to the divide with a package to deliver. (Remember, this was before the events of the game.) The package contained Old World technology that, once activated, detonated many of the nuclear warheads and turned the Divide into yet another nuclear wasteland. Ulysses would have died if it had not been for more Old World technology springing to life to heal him. This event had two drastic effects on him. First, he developed a hatred for the Courier because it was his delivery that caused the destruction of his home for the second time. On the flip side, this event inspired him. It showed that one small, seemingly insignificant action from a single person could have a dramatic effect on the world at large.

After returning to the Legion, he learned that Caesar lost in the First Battle of Hoover Dam to the NCR. He was sent to Utah to arrange for tribals to attack the settlement of New Canaan. (Caesar had personal reasons to ask for this.) He felt sorrow for manipulating the tribals in a similar way to how his own tribe was manipulated way back when. This was exacerbated by the fact that the tribals began to wear their hair as he does. While they believed they were honoring him, Ulysses saw that as nothing more than an empty mockery of his tribe's tradition because they did not know the “history” behind it. This inspired him to leave his duties as a Legionnaire and try to change the course of history, believing that both the NCR and the Legion are both to flawed and do not know the best way to positively impact humanity's future.

He traveled to an Old World installation, Big Mountain, by tracking the weather patterns, noting that storms like the ones he was tracking are similar to the storms caused by the events of the Divide. There, he made contact with two members of the Brotherhood of Steel, an organization devoted to preserving Old World technology, directing one to the Sierra Madre Casino and having an intense philosophical debate with the other. Ulysses was hoping that the Brotherhood would know how to best lead humanity into the future, but eventually decided that they did not after having this debate. He continued to explore Big MT and met with the Think Tank, a group of scientists (well, tat least the brains of a group of scientists) who experiment and innovate in the safety of the area. Ulysses began to grow frustrated with the erratic nature of the Think Tank and finally yelled at them, “Who are you, who do not know your own history!?” At that moment, the Think Tank's collective memory came back and they recalled the America of before the Great War: Not just the nation, but the ideal. They told him about the last bastion of the Old World. Deep down in the Divide, there was an old missile silo still waiting for the launch command. Ulysses left Big MT determined to change history as the Courier had in the Divide.

As a last gesture to the Mojave before heading once more into the Divide, Ulysses was about to accept a commission to deliver a Platinum Chip to New Vegas. He was suspicious of the job, but felt that he could handle it. Then, at the last minute, he saw the name of the first person on the waiting list for the job. It was the Courier, who Ulysses assumed dead after the events of the Divide. Out of respect of his old promise to Caesar, and out of a desire for revenge, Ulysses dropped the job, knowing that the Courier would be the one to take it up, thus initiating the events of Fallout: New Vegas.

All of this history is central to understanding Ulysses as a character. He has several interesting and realistic motives for what he does during the events of the Lonesome Road. Firstly, he wants to do his best to improve humanity's future by destroying the NCR, who he sees as unable to help humanity in the long run. He does not bother with the Legion partly because he believes that Caesar will eventually tire himself out and wear down to the point where he might as be dead and partly because (and this is speculation on my part) that he still sees the Legion forces as family. With these two factions out of the way, the people of the wasteland will be able to advance on the correct path, guided by the values of the Old World.

This leads to another one of his internal conflicts. On one level, he despises Caesar for betraying his tribe, the Twisted Hairs, and killing them off. On the other hand, he does partially sympathize with Caesar and the Legion and thinks that while they cannot sustain themselves and that they do not know how to last in the wasteland, they still have noble goals. This is an interesting internal conflict. He has seen the good that Caesar's Legion is capable of, but has also experienced the worst of what the Legion can do. He has also witnessed how the Legion operates and knows that the current model is only sustainable so long as the Legion has an enemy to fight. This provides a level of depth and intrigue to his character that is quite refreshing to see.

The fate of the Twisted Hairs and of the Divide are what inspired another key aspect to Ulysses's character: His obsession and attention to detail with regards to history. After witnessing the destruction of two settlements, the people, and the knowledge of them, Ulysses understands the tragedy of lost history. This is what inspired him to learn more about the Old World, the symbols and the events of the past. He eventually took the name of a key general who defended his home in war time, Ulysses S. Grant. His reverence for the Old World is a key-aspect of the character. It is the reason he tried to settle at the Divide, the reason he traveled to Big MT, and the reason he found his motivations and the method to achieve his goals.

The last conflict with his character is the one that is the most obvious, his relationship with the player character. Because of his promise with Caesar and his desire to honor it, Ulysses is forbidden from attacking the Courier directly. This means that he needs to find indirect ways to get revenge for what happened in the Divide. He tried once by giving the player the Platinum Chip job that led to him/her being shot twice in the head and left in a shallow grave at the beginning of the game. By the time the player begins the Lonesome Road, he/she has most likely begun asserting his influence on New Vegas and shaping it the way he/she desires. This provides further motivation for Ulysses. He wants to not only shape the world his way, but to prevent the Courier from leaving his/her mark on history. This provides an interesting dynamic between the player and the primary antagonist that is furthered by the conversations the player can have with him throughout the Lonesome Road. However, just because Ulysses hates the Courier does not mean that he will not lend his ear to him/her. This is perhaps the best part of his character. Despite what has happened to him, despite his personal feelings, despite the player acting contrary to his goals, Ulysses is willing to listen and try to understand the player. The player, with either a high enough Speech skill or knowledge divined through Ulysses's personal recordings scattered throughout the Divide, can even talk him down and convince Ulysses to join his side. This speak volumes about Ulysses, more than his backstory or actions do, and makes him more than just another enemy. It makes him a good antagonist and character.

Ulysses is an example of what writing in video games should be like. He has a deep and involving backstory that ties into many of the events of both New Vegas and its DLC. His backstory gives him a unique personality that is both believable and relate-able. This is what happens when a talented writing staff makes takes it upon themselves to write detailed lore, fascinating characters, and believable interactions for the player to have with both of them. Game developers and writers should look to Obsidian and take this lesson to heart when developing the world of their games. This is arguable even more important for games because players are active participants in the world and the story.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

#17: The True Problem with Modern Gaming

The games of today have come a long way from the games of old. Graphical fidelity has greatly advanced and allows for more rich and detailed environments. The streamlining of many often-used systems in games has made gaming more accessible to the masses. Different genres and new indie titles ensure that for every individual, there is a game to cater to his/her specific tastes. Gaming has played host to a myriad of innovations. However, despite this, there are many ways in which gaming has been degressing. This week, I will be looking at the potential causes of these worsening trends in gaming.

One the main reasons that major gaming corporations cite to explain downward trends in gaming is used games. According to game developers, used games are eating too much into profits, meaning they have to produce other ways to make money (through micro-transactions, DLC, etc.). There is some truth to used games affecting profits of game developers. Gamestop is particularly well-known for this. Gamestop's used game programs are responsible for a very decent chunk of their profits. They actively try to get customers to buy used and trade in their games through sales, money-back guarantees, and special one-time offers.

While this does result in an overall loss for game developers, there is one critical detail being missed: Used games are nothing new to the game industry. For years, people have been buying and selling used games and companies have not had a problem with them in the past. Furthermore, I could argue that used games are not as commonplace as they were before. Because of recent developments in gaming, used game sales for the PC are effectively dead. There are game trading systems on services like Steam, but used games have long been absent, at least from PC gaming, for awhile now. With the advent of online pass systems, console gaming has also begun to deter used game sales. Also, the economy has been taking its toll on people's budgets, gamers being no exception. For many people, trading in and barter games is the only way to buy new games and support the developers they care about. This means that there is a possibility that used games are necessary for the industry to remain profitable in this economy. With all of this, I find it hard to believe that used games the cause of the problems in modern gaming.

So then, if used games are not the trouble, then what could be. Many people have made the argument that the problems are caused by the new level of inter-connectivity present in modern gaming. I can see where this argument is coming from. With the exception of the PC and the original X-Box, gaming never really had any sort of online service until now, and certainly not to this degree. Developers never really had the capacity to change and impact the game post-release. For the most part, the product that was released was the same product ten years down the line. Any glitches that were there on day one would still be there. Any overpowered/weak equipment in games would stay that way. This gave developers tons of incentive to test and test and test everything that got released. If they did not, then their reputation would be ruined and people would no longer buy their games. Nowadays, day 1 patches, downloadable content, and updates for games are the norm. It is entirely possible, and this does happen, for games to be horribly, awfully, disgustingly broken at release, almost to the point of unplayability, only to be patched within the first few weeks. (Isn't that right, Fallout: New Vegas?) Furthermore, it is true that content can be withheld from the game and released later as DLC. Capcom and the Street Fight X Tekken debacle have proven this to be true.

As much as I dislike this (and I really dislike this), I do not think this is the cause of all the problems. While inter-connectivity has never been prevalent in gaming, it has certainly always been present. On the PC and the original X-Box, patches and expansion packs were used. Back then, developers had this functionality. However, the problems we are facing now were not around back then. Developers never (or at least not enough to be noticed) abused the use of patches and DLC to adjust games and hide away features in the name of profit. They might have hid away buggy parts of games or worked around them, but they never fixed it and released it later. No, something had to change to start this system of overuse and abuse.

What I have come to believe is that the animosity towards used games and the abuse of inter-connectivity are not problems of the industry. Rather, they are symptoms of bigger issues. The question remains: What are the problems? I believe that these issues are caused by two connected problems: Overinflated budgets in gaming and overall bad business sense in the game industry. These two problems are born from one central problem: The gaming industry is trying really hard to emulate the movie industry, when that is a grave mistake. Games have become more graphics-intensive these last few years. The more advanced graphics become, the more people need to be hired in order to make these graphics and (more importantly) the more programs and graphics engines cost to lease. This results in budgets for modern games skyrocketing. They want cinema-quality productions no matter the cost. The problem is that while the companies do this in order to stay on the cutting edge and keep their consumer base interested, this is not necessary. The truth is that graphics are only a small, minor consideration to gamers when deciding what games to buy. We gamers only take graphics into consideration when they begin to affect whether or not they can play the game (as in, when the game is incredibly ugly and hard to look at or when they lead to high load times). I have never once heard somebody refuse to buy a game specifically because the graphics were not as good as every other game. Nonetheless, this over-inflation of the budget causes the money-grubbing the modern gaming is becoming. It pushes deadlines up and “inspires” many of the DLC schemes gamers hate.

But this is not the only problem. Gaming has become more like the movie industry when that is not conducive to business. Like movies, game sales are usually tracked in the first week, and that is what many people use to determine the overall success of the game. Also, games tend to hype up their initial release and then let the hype fizzle out after a few weeks. This is detrimental to the industry. It works for movies for several reasons. One, theater ticket sales are only a small portion of initial profits. Odds are that released movies have tie-in products as well like toys, novelizations, even the inevitable movie tie-in game (Ugh). Furthermore, after movies are released, they have alternative methods to make money. Film producers can continue to profit off of DVD and Blu-Ray sales as well as the syndication of their works on TV channels like HBO. As a result, even a movie that was a complete flop at the box office can profit in the long run.

Similar to movies, games are trying to get tons of money through initial sales. Unlike films, games generally do not have the added safety nets that films do. As a result, with the current business model, game companies have to recoup all of their losses within the first week. Combined with the high graphics budgets, this is suicide. It means that any AAA game that is not of a well known brand is almost guaranteed to fail. A normal product normally would be able to fix the situation and still make some sort of profit by changing the price or something, but games have become increasingly inflexible as of late. Most modern games are released at a flat rate of $60. Like any other product, these prices are subject to change with the market. Unlike any other product, these prices can take months or, as it often the case, years to drop there prices. Instead of adjusting to supply and demand, prices for games are nearly unchanging. Used games are not subject to this and will often fluctuate with the demands of the market. This is why Gamestop is able to profit from used games. In fact, I have heard tales of times where Gamestop intentionally opens up unopened games to pawn them off as “used” at a loss in order to clear up shelf space. This mimicry of the movie industry combined with the inability to use basic business sense when selling the finished product (not a service, to the person who actually said that) is damaging the industry.

So how do we fix these two problems. There are two ways we can do this. First, we can vote with our wallets. We can support companies with good business models and deny companies who use poor business models or unethical practices. This is not done nearly enough in modern gaming. Gamers have demonstrated an inability to live without. We do not realize the power we hold over these corporations. So, this strategy seems unlikely. The second option is to do what gamers are best at: Bitch and Moan. Bitching and moaning are not bad. It is okay to criticize game companies. They need feedback, now more than ever. As one of my favorite game commentators, Shamus Young, once said, “If games aren't improving, than you haven't been complaining hard enough.” Input from the consumers is vital to improving the state of the industry. The last alternative is to do nothing. This is the worst possible option. At the rate games are going, if we do not do anything, than game companies will eventually begin to collapse. Budgets will grow unsustainable, given time. Nobody wants this. I certainly do not want this. If I complain about the state of the industry, than it is a because I love the industry. I hate these practices because I love gaming. I write this blog post because I love gaming. I love what these companies are able to do and I want them to continue to thrive. Hell, I want to be able to take-part in the creation of games. Everyday I hear about development studios closing shop, I feel terrible for all of the talent set loose in the process. We need to change this industry. We need to make it sustainable, else we will be seeing a repeat of the Atari E.T. Incident.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

#16: Realism in Games

Any game enthusiast who goes onto the internet is familiar with this particular topic. Everyday, someone, somewhere in the world argues that “games are not realistic enough.” Although this assertion is made often, it is a somewhat disingenuous one. When game players say that they want games to be more realistic, that is not exactly what they mean. They are referring to a similar, yet together different topic. This week, I am going to discuss realism in games: Why realism is an unrealistic goal and what gamers are actually asking for.

First off, I am going to start with a statement that will sound like common sense when I say it: A truly realistic game is never going to exist. Furthermore, nobody truly wants realism in games. A truly realistic game would be a game where the protagonist would die after taking a few bullets, health regeneration would take weeks, the player would have to maintain some source of income and pay bills/rent as they go through the story, etc. This would not be an extremely compelling game. This would be real life. This would be a chore. Also, programming and rendering this would be a complete nightmare. It would take many years before we got close to completely realistic and commercially available simulation programs. Players do not want to play through real life, they want to play through interesting and dramatic, yet believable stories.

That is the key. The audience does not want a realistic story. They want a believable story. That is a subtle, yet distinct difference. A believe story is one that might not be in line with the rules of the real world (and indeed, often will not be depending on the genre), but it does have its own internal logic, or continuity, that is rarely, if ever, broken. Even if it is broken, it is only in small, minor ways that do not have a significant impact on the world. This applies not only to the world itself, (as in, how its technology/magic works, political alliences/treaties, national pollicies, etc.) but also to the characters how populate the world and take part in the events of the story.

For example, in Fallout: New Vegas, the NCR, who is equipped with guns and hi-tech combat armor, is in a battle against Caesar's Legion, who is equipped with machetes, chainsaws, and football equipment (as armor). In real life, the NCR would dominate against Caesar's Legion. There would be no question: A bunch of semi-trained marksman would destroy a group of the best-trained melee specialists in football pads in a straight fight. However, by the systems in the game, this makes sense. Using melee weapons and/or unarmed are perfectly legitimate playstyles in New Vegas and many players use them (myself included). So when the Legion is shown to be in a stalemate with the NCR, players will not question it. While unrealistic in the real world, this still makes sense by the game's internal logic. We might question the motives and rationale behind the two factions, but we do not question that such a stalemate is possible.

This continuity extends to the factions for the most part. Going back to New Vegas, this is mostly done very well. The NCR has a believable motivation because they wish to annex New Vegas to both spread their democratic ideology and to gain the resources of the area, notably Hoover Dam and the electricity generated by it. However, they have a streak of over-expanding and spreading themselves too thin. Meanwhile, Mr. House wants to keep control of New Vegas in order to keep making profits from the NCR and use that profit to advance humanity technologically and possibly space-ward. The trade-off is that he will not tolerate any faction who openly opposes him and will instruct the player to eliminate most of the minor factions in the game. These are both interesting motivations, goals, and drawbacks that the player can wrap their head around, understand and possibly support.

However, the Legion does not have a similar consistency. Caesar's Legion is a faction that subjugates tribals and adds their men and women to the army and the slave workforce respectively. They are also known for rejecting advanced technology in favor of primitive weapons like machetes and chainsaws and basic firearms like repeaters and SMGs. The tradeoff being that while the concept of individual liberty and freedom does not exist, the people are generally safe because bandits wouldn't dare to cross the legion. With regards to behavior, members of the legion are taught the ills of the society of the NCR and of New Vegas. They shun anything to do with these things in favor of a less advanced, and more demanding lifestyle, hoping to destroy the NCR and Vegas. With regards to their soldiers and general populace, this is fairly consistent. However, when you get into the upper echelons of Legion society, it begins to falter. Firstly, something that the player is able to discover as the game goes on is that the Legion utilizes systems of spies in both Vegas and the NCR. Far from shunning these places and demonizing them, the higher ups place people in places where they can influence the people there and possible steal some of the intel/technology in the area for themselves. As if that was not enough, with a high enough Medicine skill, the player and diagnose Caesar with a brain tumor. His response to this would naturally be to avoid modern medicine and try to heal himself through more primitive means or even to prepare a successor. Nope! Instead, we asks you to fix his Auto-Doc (Its a robot doctor.) so that he can use advanced technology to heal himself, going against his core anti-technology principals.

Going on the anti-technology front again, this continues to be illogical when the player asks why Caesar does what he does. He wants to use the ancient Roman Empire as a model to form his own. Thus, we reverts to using old technology. However, this does not make sense to those who have even a surface level understanding of history. The ancient Roman were not anti-technology. In fact, they were about as pro-technology as you can get. The shamelessly ripped off any good/useful technique/technology from their neighbors if it meant that they could do better. So by abandoning technology, Caesar is spitting in the face of the very system he is trying to emulate. Everything he does seams to contradict something else he is doing. The net result is that he breaks his own internal logic and becomes a caricature that no sane person would get behind. For a world as beautifully crafted as the one in New Vegas, this is tragic.

Realism as the dictionary describes it will never be a part of video games and for good reason. However, this does not mean that gamers are wrong to keep asking for games to be realistic. In fact, it is important for the audience of game developers to keep them honest and make them abide by their own internal logic. It is still very important to maintain a level of consistency and believability with the world and the characters. This is just another part of storytelling. Game developers would be wise to remember this.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

#15: DLC: How it is Being Handled and How it Should Be Handled

Downloadable Content(DLC) has become increasingly commonplace in the modern gaming industry. Most of the biggest gaming releases utilize it to some extent. Done well, DLC can bring new life to a game, extending its shelf life and keeping players engaged for longer than they normally would be. Done poorly, DLC can anger consumers and make them feel ripped off. Today, I am going to analyze some of the current trends of DLC and detail the pros and cons of each.

One type of DLC that has been brought to the spotlight recent is Day 1 DLC. As the name suggests, Day 1 DLC is content released for a game either on the day it is released or extremely close to it. There are several reasons why developers do this. For one, the time a developer finishes a game is not the same time that it gets released. When a game is finished, it “goes gold.” During this phase which lasts for a month or two, the game is sent to all the major parties involved (the game publisher, Sony if the game is a PS3 release, Microsoft if the game is an Xbox 360 release, etc.) to be tested. Before the advent of DLC, the developers would often begin production of the next project or cash in on all the vacation days they no doubt saved up. Nowadays, these developers are allowed to work on small DLC projects. Often times these projects were started earlier and intended to be part of the main game, but had to be scrapped for various logistical reasons. The other main reason this type of DLC is so prevalent is simply due to the consumer base. It has been shown that DLC for a game sells less and less well the farther away it is released from the game's initial release, so it makes sense to release it early. While this sounds good in theory, this has the potential for abuse. Companies can, and sometimes will, release content that feels like it should have been a part of the main game. Consumers can tell the difference between content that is a extra and is not necessary in the grand scheme of things compared to content that is ripped from the game and sold later as paid DLC. This generates a lot of bad PR and negative publicity for a company. As I have stated before, PR is very important. People will be more open to giving companies money if they do not feel like they are continuously being screwed over.

On the other hand, that is nothing compared on On-Disk DLC. Again as the name suggests, On-Disc DLC is content that is already on the game disc, but cannot be accessed normally. Instead, the developer releases a code to unlock it later as “DLC”. I am going to be completely honest here, I hate this form of DLC with a passion. There is no reason for this kind of content except for corporate greed. This is not so much of a business concern as much as it is a consumer rights issue. The consumer bought the disc, which contains the game. They own, and are entitled to, every piece of content on that disc. At this point, the developer/publisher no longer has any legal say in what they do with this content. (Within fair rights laws. As in, they are allowed to let people borrow/rent that content, but they cannot copy it. That would be piracy, which is a whole separate topic.) On-Disc DLC is the antithesis to this because this allows developers to wall off content that the consumer rightfully owns. Admittedly, this becomes more hazy once digital distribution gets involved, but the point is no less valid.

A very good, and very recent, example of both these trends is the “From Ashes” DLC in Mass Effect 3. For the unaware, “From Ashes” was accidentally leaked to the world a few weeks before the release of Mass Effect 3 via the Xbox Live Marketplace. The content is an extra mission and an extra character for the cost of $10 and was going to be released the same day the game would be. This was met with outcry because of the nature of the character. It can be argued that this particular character, a Prothean named Javik, is important to the lore of Mass Effect, considering that he was part of a race that wasa believed to be extinct in game and was responsible for many of the major plot points in the series. The outrage continued even moreso after it was revealed that Javik and all of his voice clips were already in the main game and a simple numbers tweak in the game code (PC only) would allow players to use him. This was particularly egrigious after statements from Project Lead Casey Hudson said that they would never take something from the game and release it later as DLC. Bioware did everything wrong with Javik. He was already on the disc, he was released day one, and he was overpriced at $10 for one character. This was a perfect storm that many Bioware fans saw as a betrayal. Things only got worse later, but that is a whole different conversation.

While On-Disc and Day 1 DLC are definitely some of the worst current trends in DLC, there are companies out there that do DLC in such an excellent way that I just need to bring attention to them. The first example of DLC done right is from Valve. Valve released DLC for Portal 2 in an extremely intelligent way. The first DLC they released for the game came out only a few weeks after the game came out, but it was not anything major. Valve released different types of hats that can be used in the cooperative campaign to add uniqueness and personality to the two robot characters. Furthermore, these hats were reasonably price at around $0.50 per hat. (Final Fantasy XIII-2, I was looking at you and your $3 costumes as I wrote that last sentence.) I can support this kind of content because it is not vital to the game and it is very reasonably priced. People who do not want it have no reason to buy it (like me) but those who wanted it bought more than enough to compensate for that. The other DLC released for Portal 2 was called “Peer Review.” This content was released well after the game came out and added tons of new puzzles for the cooperative campaign. It was sold for the low, low price of free. It was just to add longevity to the game. This was amazing because companies very rarely do this. It was basically an act of kindness to the consumer base. I do not expect other companies to do things like this, but I feel compelled to point out examples like this in an article about DLC.

The other kind of DLC I can support is the kind of DLC that Bethesda and Obsidian released for the Elder Scrolls and Fallout games. After the legendarily infamous disaster of the Horse Armor DLC (from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion) Bethesda learned their lesson. One of the most well-received DLCs to ever be released was The Shivering Isles from Oblivion. It had a hefty price of $25, but it was well worth it. It added a completely new (and amazing) world to Oblivion that was about one-forth of the size of the original game. It came complete with new side-quests, an interesting main story, tons new spells for mages (There was even a spell to revive dead bodies.), tons of new ingredients for alchemists, tons of new equipment for everybody (including one of my personal favorite weapons in the Elder Scrolls series) and was overall a massive piece of critical and commercially acclaimed content. Bethesda took the reception of The Shivering Isles to heart and made most of the DLC of all future games similarly. This is most evident in the Fallout 3 DLCs. There were five of them, each released at around $10, that all added radically new and different locals to the base game. One of them (Broken Steel) even extended the main story and raised the level cap by 10 levels. Obsidian did something similar in Fallout: New Vegas and its DLC. One of them added tons of new weapons and weapon mods that have a very noticeable impact on the game. The other DLCs each had new worlds. The difference being that while each DLC had its own, self-contained story (like the DLC from Fallout 3), they all referenced characters and locals from other DLCs and tied together in a way I do not think I have seen before. Again, with the exception of the first one (which was cheaper), the other DLCs were about $10. I have to stress why these DLCs were all good. They added something new and refreshing to the game, they are fairly well-priced, and most importantly, none of it was even close to feeling necessary in order to make the most out of the game. It is entirely possible to play through both of the recent Fallout games without even thinking about DLC. It is all side-stuff that is completely unrelated to any of the plots in the main game. There is nothing wrong with adding new and interesting stuff later on. In my opinion, that is the spirit of good DLC. It is supposed to breath new life into games by adding new and interesting stuff.

DLC is a double-edged sword that has become an integral part of modern gaming. Companies have demonstrated both the good and the bad of adapting this new way of extending a game. It is the responsibility of the consumer to keep the corporations honest by seeing through the bad and rewarding those who get DLC right. If you disagree with the way somebody is handling their DLC, then do not buy it. You are only supporting them if you do. This is the essence of capitalism. The consumer rewards companies who do things they like by doing business with them.