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CEEGS 2014 presentation: DLC

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I searched the forums for CEEGS 2014 before posting this. I know I'm still very new, and my opinion therefore does not hold much weight. If this is in any way inappropriate, I'll delete it or I'll ask a moderator to do so.

Watching the BIS case study presentation on DLC that was linked in the SITREP #00123 got me to thinking about the viability of crowdsourced funding and stretch goals. Bear in mind I think the current DLC model is pretty good. In this complex activity, it REALLY helps to put new content in front of the player so they can kick the tires and try it. The marketing and sales industries know full well how people prefer to have something tangible to try, or at least to visually inspect.


Some early access models already use the crowdfunding goal and milestone model without attaching a total dollar amount to visually show their their commitments and percentage progress. In my scenario, a DLC or other major new game upgrade would not begin significant development until the minimum reserve price is met to ensure the project can achieve its minimum necessary functionality (a safeguard against vaporware?). BIS could internally determine (i.e. not publicly discussed) required and optional target goals for funding projects and components. Fans could indicate by voting with monetary pledges on whether a DLC is a success, so that BIS could either kill the project or budget for more time/features to make the DLC more feature-complete for the same price to get closer to the aggregate fan-based view of what is "fair" content for the price.


Now a big DLC update thus far has:

  1. Core updates to the base game (for everyone to benefit)
  2. Major fixes to the base game (again, universal benefit)
  3. DLC content additions (with the preview/access lock model, of full benefit to DLC buyers and still lots of partial benefit to all the people who have not yet paid for the DLC)
  4. The looong tail of bugs, subsequent fixes, and resultant unintended new bugs (99 bugs - 1 bug = 127 bugs and all that jazz)

BIS is a business, and we have no rights or expectations that they'll transparently reveal their numbers or goals beyond what serves their needs. I get that. But if BIS internally figures (15 people on Project X * 20 hrs / wk * 9 months * $30/hr = $$$$ nominal cost + additional fudge factor), then they could conceivably set the project at that $$$$+margin price tier on the crowdfunding. As with Kickstarter, everyone sees progress bar showing the total and component funding progress, but the final publicized total project is only charged when enough people pledge/reserve funding to greenlight the project. Keep a half dozen small and large projects in the crowdfund pipeline, and something almost like a consistent revenue stream could at least supplement traditional product/DLC sales.


The feedback tracker provides one potential candidate list. Long-standing issues that just can't be prioritized for Reasons could now be quantified for all parties to see:

  • Ponds
  • Fixed wing aircraft handling
  • Jackrabbit tanks
  • Building/object clipping
  • AI buffoonery mitigation (compromising and balancing against bogging down even a multi-threaded processor, which brings up...
  • Modern CPU/GPU resource optimization at a core engine level -- multithreading without bugs is a very expensive and challenging thing
  • Radically expanded weapon back end modularity so for example a base AK-47 class item can have new functions similar to addPrimaryWeaponItem, but for folding stocks, foregrips, rails, etc.

Why should BIS provide optional line item progress bars on mandatory components of a project? It would help non-programming fan base to partially understand the relative difficulty (as measured by partial percentage completions) of something the fans want added or fixed. In business-speak, this would help to manage the customers' expectations and potentially mitigate though not completely eliminate (alas!) the less-well-informed complaints about how "your game suxx!" As people pre-purchase/pledge money for the DLC, fans will have a visible milestone map showing how close the project is to funding its first critical components. So if a DLC turns out worst case to not be popular, it MIGHT still be funded but at only a bare bones 80% completion. OTOH, if the DLC project is funded in excess, additional stretch goals for content can be added and fulfilled.

But they could just as easily NOT provide the component milestones if that causes more public confusion, anger, and grief than it is worth. Just one minimum reserve goal to be met, then only additional stretch goals for fun, less consequential optional add-ons that enhance the game more but wouldn't break the game if not funded. Tiered early access games sometimes already do this.


And as well, if it doesn't introduce too much complexity, add unique perks for higher-tiered premium supporters.


Jiří Zlatohlávek included many caveats in his presentation that suggest BIS is very concerned and interested in giving fans good base game features and solid DLC value, while still figuring out a fair way to pay their employees. Love it or hate it, Arma 3 tackles some pretty big challenges with bugs and (lack of) features that meaningfully bothers someone in the fan base. Bugs and all, BIS probably has sunk a couple 100,000s of hours into the game's development. The largest mods I use probably have something like 60 people working on them total, for another 100,000 hours or more since the game's release. (For reference, 2000 hrs is a nominal year of full-time employment, which earns an average of $40,000 a year in the US)


Personally, the base game and any DLC past or anticipated future are WELL worth the price I paid. I have played 550 hrs since I bought this game earlier this year, which works out to something under $0.10 / hour -- or $0.30 / hr of actual gameply since 2/3 of the total time has been spent in the editor and scouring the wiki and forums for scripting help.


Caveats: If this does not apply to you, please do not yell at me, b/c I am not talking about you specifically. I will probably receive a lot of "You're an idiot, BIS should fix their most egregious bugs before I will pay them another dime," "I paid $60 for this game plus DLCs, so I've padded their pockets enough already!" and so on. Many of us already do the following 1) and 2), but:

  1. Cheerfully pay BIS for their work. It's not 100.00% perfect, nor even 99.99% by a long stretch. But it's very playable, enjoyable, complex, and represents a lot of work. Sometimes we lose sight of that when a rash of bugs temporarily breaks the game badly for us (looking at you, 1.42).
  2. Thank the modders for their free labor equal to YEARS of work and experience.
  3. Pay the modders..? (yes, I know how well THAT worked out on Steam Workshop with the monetization experiment)

BIS's Make Arma not War competition had a similar effect as a lottery/contest reward system hybridized with contracting freelancers for paid work-per-piece delivered, via mods. So modders effectively work on spec, with only the best work being rewarded; everyone else goes back to the drawing board to hopefully get a chance to try again.

Just some late night ramblings.

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