Posts filed under ‘BlazBlue’

The Fight Over DLC In Fighting Games

Downloadable content in fighting games has historically been a superfluous service, generally restricted to cosmetic changes like additional character costumes or colors.  That’s why, when Arc System Works announced they were going to release meaningful DLC to increase the lifespan of their latest fighter (BlazBlue: Continuum Shift), I was pretty excited.  However, not all is gumdrops and chocolate fountains here, as the first downloadable character dropped this week and spurred a fair amount of backlash.

I understand the complaints: 8 dollars seems a bit steep for a single character when there is no single-player material to go along with it, the character in question wears clothes so comically skimpy that it smacks of a cheap “sex sells” marketing ploy, and the character becoming available so soon after the game’s release raises concerns about ArcSys withholding content to make a quick buck.  These are valid concerns, and I too was disappointed in the lack of single-player integration for the new character.  The timeframe for the character’s release is a bit questionable, but I think it makes sense – there’s a good amount of time after a game goes gold that this development could have fit in, especially with localization.  Though the purchase is for an unlock, the character was included in a patch and was not on the original disc – an important distinction.  As for the prurient marketing ploy, well… it’s hard to argue with that.

Seriously, this is fan service bordering on self-parody.

That said, I still support the direction ArcSys is going with their new DLC.  How can I say that?  Well, perhaps it’s a matter of perspective.  8 dollars seems like a lot in this instance, yes, but if you were to purchase all 3 downloadable characters, you’ll still have only spent $64 on the game – barely breaking the usual retail price of a new title.  When combined with balance patches that are still purportedly free, this constitutes the main body of changes that would go into a subsequent installment of a normal fighting franchise.  $64 is going to be lower than whatever you pay for two separate games a year apart, which is the alternative that ArcSys is breaking away from with this DLC.  Casual fans can just pay $40 for the basic game, and they won’t have to worry about having an outdated model in a year.

Hell, even if you decided not to pay for any downloadable content, you can still play against these characters online – a point I haven’t really seen mentioned.  It’s actually a pretty nice deal: if you see a character you have no interest in playing as, you don’t have to buy him, but you can still face off against people online who use him.  In this case the downloadable character just becomes free DLC.  From your standpoint, it’s as though you bought the character – you wouldn’t have played as him anyway, just against him.  The only downsides to this are that your friends can’t use the character if you play local games, and there’s no real way to get a feel for any given character to see if you’d want to play as them (outside of playing against them or watching videos online, which gives you some idea but not the full picture).

There is plenty of other DLC for the game that’s more clearly a cash grab: additional colors, different announcer voices, even pay-to-unlock-stuff-that’s-already-in-the-game options.  It obviously makes them money because they keep doing it, but hey, you don’t have to buy that silly stuff if you don’t want to.  I think it’s important to draw a line between these cosmetic downloadables and the more substantial content already mentioned.  The former are questionable, but the latter signify a welcome change in how fighting game series are run.  When the alternatives are a new game every year or maybe even (god forbid) a subscription-based program, I’ll take this DLC model every time.

(Reposted from Platform Nation)

August 10, 2010 at 7:25 pm Leave a comment

Why haven’t you played BlazBlue yet?

blazblueNo, it isn’t a misspelling. Yes, it is an absurdity. But beyond the over-the-top character designs and convoluted anime-style plotline is a fantastic 2D fighting game that looks great and plays better. Taking a step back from the tangled mess of advanced techniques that their previous fighter, Guilty Gear, had become in its later iterations, Arc System Works has taken a much simpler approach to their new game. Immediately apparent is the small character roster and comparatively slow gameplay. However, these few characters are more original, and have more depth, than the rosters of most other games, and the reduced speed makes the game less about reflexes and more about out-thinking your opponent (This reduction in speed can be seen in other gaming franchises as well. The change from Super Smash Brothers Melee to Brawl comes to mind, for instance. It seems that in the GameCube/PS2 era developers were making games faster simply because they now had the processing power to do so, and now they are realizing that a slightly slower game is more accessible and appealing for the majority of gamers).

Now, this is not to say that ArcSys has abandoned their competitive community. On the contrary, the game is still quite geared toward this scene, as evidenced by how closely they have worked with both members of Dustloop (the online Guilty Gear community) and arcade-goers to help balance and introduce the game to newcomers. Furthermore, a new version of the game, Continuum Shift, has already been announced (for arcade release first, and consoles later) that bears numerous balance tweaks and two new characters. Despite its flaws, Guilty Gear stood as one of the most well-balanced fighters on the market due to this very strategy of rereleasing the game to accomodate for the evolving play of the competitive community.

Ragna

Heroism is one part courage, two parts ridiculous hair.

However, I worry that this strategy may be slowly becoming outdated, and I hope that ArcSys has the foresight to change with the increased freedoms that technology provides them. The most obvious of these changes is to release subsequent versions of the game via DLC. Beyond its convenience, it would be a financially sound decision for the company: I believe that more people would be aware of and willing to purchase an online add-on than they would an entirely new game, and the consumer would benefit from the lower price insured by DLC’s circumvention of manufacturing and shipping costs (There may actually be a fee for distributing wares online on consoles…though I’m sure disc-based production is still more costly).

Furthermore, I hope that ArcSys will not tie themselves down to the arcade standard of measuring competitive play in the future. Though I realize that the arcade scene in Japan is much more alive and robust than ours in the states, it seems that once our online capabilities have pushed input lag completely out of the picture (it’s still a problem on PSN and XBL at the moment, as even a frame or two can make a difference in this genre), the online community will become a much more competitive place, and a much larger (and international) pool from which to draw contructive feedback on the game. Eventually I like to imagine a system akin to those found in popular MMO’s: the company analyzing the current online metagame, and regularly “patching” it to ensure that characters are balanced properly. However, we are still some years away from being able to realize this goal, and at the moment, ArcSys is still leading the pack.

September 29, 2009 at 6:57 pm Leave a comment


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