Saturday, April 11, 2009

how to do episodic, downloadable content

horse armor! hahahaha Hey guys!

So we’re sorry about posting a little… inconsistently this week. When it rains it pours. To make it up to you, I present to you a post Joystiq did about something Fallout 3 developer Bethesda said about downloadable content – create it in “smaller, digestible chunks.”

Hey that is a good idea! And a good design philosophy which can apply both to downloadable content and to episodic content. Sam and Max and Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People developer Telltale Games also get it right, releasing a number of “episodes” at a regular pace which come together in the end to make a full game. It’s a great way to do things, and it fits in with the way many people actually play games – a little bit at a time, sometimes not all at once.

You know who, for all their virtues, doesn’t do this right? Valve, natch. In the time since Half-Life 2 released in 2004(!) we’ve been treated to two extensions of the game in the form of “episodes.” Valve takes so long to craft these, though, that they feel too short to be worth it. To top it off, we still don’t have all of the game that will probably end up referred to as Half Life 3 when complete – in the intervening time, nearly any other studio could have delivered a new game on a new engine to replace the rapidly aging Source, but we’ve waited nearly as long as the gap between HL2 and the original Half Life, without so much as a mention of the third and final episode.

Valve does fantastic work and they’ve released a ton of worthwhile games since Half Life 2, but it’s still not hard to see their episodic content experiment as a failure, or at the very least a missed opportunity. Keep it shorter, keep it digestible, or don’t bother next time, okay guys?