Defiance and I are having our first fight

I’m excited about the SyFy show Defiance, coming in April. And I’m excited about the Trion game of the same name. I can’t talk a lot about why due to an NDA but I have been in a beta weekend and I’ll leave it at that. I have the game pre-ordered.

But today came news that is giving me second thoughts.

Defiance is an MMO shooter. It costs $60 but has no subscription fee. All indications are that it’ll have some kind of cash shop. I’m basing this on the fact that pre-ordering Deluxe versions get you bonus items like

  • +5 Increased inventory space
  • 30-Day scrip boost
  • 30-Day XP boost

Those sound like things you’ll be able to buy in the cash shop, don’t they? And that’s fair… with no sub fee Trion and SyFy need some way to pay for keeping the servers up, right?

But all along we’ve heard a ton about ‘transmedia’ and how events might start in the TV show and end in the game, or vice versa. That suggests an ongoing stream of new content in the game based on advances in the TV show. I was pretty excited about seeing how that works out.

Today however, we got word of a Season Pass for DLC. $40 gets you the first 5 DLC packages. Here’s what they say about DLC:

Join the fight and save big on 5 DLC packs with the Defiance Season Pass. Enjoy a new playable alien species, new weapons and vehicles, missions, and rewards � plus a bonus Hellbug Combat Cap and Lock Box � a 20% savings!* This is the ultimate package for the true Ark Hunter!

And now I’m concerned. If we’re getting new missions and species via DLC, does that mean all this ‘transmedia’ stuff is going to be in the DLC that we have to pay for? At that point, isn’t this just a subscription, basically? If you watch the show and some big event happens and then you log into the game and find out to access this new content you have to pay $10 for the DLC to get it… I mean it isn’t literally a subscription… you could just skip out on that new content. But the transmedia aspect is one of the unique things that Defiance is bringing to the table.

Now, let’s be fair. It might be that there will be plenty of new content dished out in addition to the DLC, and if that’s the case I’ll be less concerned. But right now it isn’t clear.

I think Trion needs to be a lot more transparent about what sorts of content we will get outside of paid DLC, and exactly what that $40 is going to get us.

$60 box price (standard edition) + $40 Season Pass + cash shop to upgrade things like inventory slots… suddenly Defiance is sounding pretty damned expensive.

In general we gamers need to make more noise about this kind of thing. Publishers urge us to pre-order or buy season passes and they often are very light on the details about what exactly we’re paying for. Even looking up at that list above… +5 Inventory Slots. What does that mean? Does a basic account have 100 slots, in which case +5 is a mere 5% bonus? Or does a basic account have 5 slots, in which case +5 is a 100% bonus. We don’t know, but we’re supposed to trust the publishers and pre-order anyway.

Publishers: If you have faith in your game, give us all the information we need in order to make informed decisions.

Of course as I said, I’ve pre-ordered… so clearly I am part of the problem.

Dragon Age DLC Pricing

Over the weekend I went through the two current DLC packs for Dragon Age: Origins. I didn’t really plan it, it just happened that I liberated the Warden’s Keep on Saturday and got Shale into my party on Sunday. It got me thinking about the cost of DLC.

The Stone Prisoner (which adds potential party member Shale) costs $15 while Warden’s Keep costs $7. The upcoming Return to Ostagar will cost $5.

Some folks think these prices are too high, while others consider them fair. I can kind of see both sides of the argument. When I’m determining value in a game, I basically break it down into a cost/hour number.

So in support of the pricing, if I spend $5-$7 for a piece of DLC and it entertains me for an evening, that seems ok. Going to a movie is going to cost me a lot more than that. Going to a meal still more. I could get a Starbuck’s Latte for $5, or I could spend an evening going through this content.

Looking at it another way, though, how does that $5 compare to the entire game? Dragon Age (PC) lists for $50 and has what? 60 hours of gameplay? (I’m guessing..I haven’t finished yet.) For ease of use let’s assume it’s a 50 hour game. So that’s $1/hour. Does the Warden’s Keep contain the 7 hours of content it would need to match the value of the main game? No, it doesn’t. Of course there’s more than just the adventure of recovering the Keep from the forces of evil. You also get some unique items and some storage space. Putting a dollar value on that is tough.

The Stone Prisoner is even harder to gauge. From Bioware’s point of view I can see why they’d price it so high. It’s another NPC in the game, with new art assets and animations, new (and considerable) voice talent, and both the quest to free Shale and his NPC quest. Plus potentially more voice acting from the other actors to react to Shale (guessing here too…I don’t use him).

So I can understand how this content was costly to produce. But I’m not sure that’s going to matter to most gamers. Will they get 15 hours out of Shale? Rescuing him is pretty fast (maybe an hour). I don’t know how elaborate his personal quest is, but neither does the potential buyer.

Bioware has promised 2 years worth of DLC for Dragon Age: Origins but (as far as I know) they haven’t really gone into detail about what that DLC will be. Will the story be extended or will it all be “side story” stuff? Will we see more NPC companions?

If the Stone Prisoner costs $15, how much would a short add-on campaign that’ll last you a few evenings cost? Twice as much? $30? Over half the price of the game? That seems crazy.

Maybe Shale was priced high just to drive customers to one of CE or Deluxe versions? The Collector’s Edition is $60, so it costs less than buying the standard edition + the Stone Prisoner DLC.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what we get with Return to Ostagar. $5 seems like a good price for a chunk of DLC. If I spending an evening having fun playing through Ostagar, I’ll feel like I got my money’s worth.

How about you? Where’s your comfort zone when it comes to paying for DLC? I’ve used Dragon Age: Origins to illustrate this post, but feel free to comment on DLC costs in general.

Bioware announces Return to Ostagar DLC for Dragon Age: Origins

So it seems someone else may have survived the Battle of Ostagar, but this person was captured by the Darkspawn (rare, but it does happen. Bregan was captured, after all). Now this individual has escaped and he or she is looking for help from the Grey Wardens.

Yeah, that’s pretty sketchy, but thus far Bioware has revealed only a few details. We do know the just-announced Return to Ostagar DLC for Dragon Age: Origins will cost $5 and should be out ‘this holiday season.’ In it, you’ll head back to Ostagar for some payback, the chance to find the king’s arms and armor, and get another chance to recruit BarkSpawn into your party (actually my dog is named Milo but so many people seem to name theirs BarkSpawn, I coudn’t resist).

Hopefully we’ll get more details soon. Stay tuned!

Payback time!

Rock Band DLC: Skullcrusher Mountain!!!

Woot! This week’s Rock Band DLC is a 3-song pack, for $3, that includes:

* “Skullcrusher Mountain” – Jonathan Coulton
* “Livin’ on the Corner of Dude and Catastrophe” – MC Frontalot
* “Shhh….” – Darkest of the Hillside Thickets

All are masters, and all proceeds go to Penny Arcade’s Child’s Play Charity.

Time to let my rampant JoCo Fanboyism run free….