Monday, June 17, 2013

Zelda and DLC

In a recent interview on Nintendo Life Aonuma says that DLC is something they are considering - I always wanted to talk about DLC in Zelda, so why not now?

I must say that I do not have many games that support DLC. I'm a PC gamer, where DLC doesn't really work because of modding (unless you use Steam or something) - you make real expansion packs here. Or the DLC is free entirely, like the Bonus Packs in the Unreal Tournament series. Not counting the Nintendo 3DS I only have one console that did follow the modern trend of DLC, which is the Xbox. Which I only bought (for cheap) to play Unreal Championship 2 - The Liandri Conflict, which is a great game, probably the best console arena shooter, but that came with a flaw. While the DLC was free, it was on disc DLC - a really bad way of making DLC, basically content gets cut from the original game and you have to pay for it afterwards (even though it's on the disc that you've already paid for). That's a no-go and luckily nothing Nintendo would do. But I didn't have a broadband connection at the time and I honestly didn't want to pay for Xbox Live (ugh), so I had to mod the Xbox to get the stuff that was already on the disc...

The way I see it DLC has one big advantage and one big misadvantage. And you really have to weight this for Zelda.

DLC keeps the game fresh

This is the deal. You love a game, but after a while it becomes boring and you move on. But suddenly a new level gets released (ideally for free) - and of course you're going to check it out. And it's awesome. It really gets you back into the game, you're starting to have fun with it again and return to other older maps as well. It revives your passion for the game.

But that really only works for games, which you would play continuously, usually a multiplayer game. For me it was Unreal Tournament (2003/2004/3), where new free levels from both the developers and the community would heat up the game again. Another big example would be Minecraft. While it doesn't have any form of DLC, it gets updated regularly and the new content keeps you going. Next update will have horses and I can't wait to ride through the endless fields of my world. It brings you back into these games, that you stopped playing for different reasons.

However, this only works with games that you can play over and over again. Like a multiplayer shooter. DLC would be perfect for Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. - download new race tracks, carts, characters and stages. I think especially Mario Kart can be a lot of fun online, but for me it gets boring fast. So, I only play it occasionally with friends. Games like Mario Kart 7 would really profit from DLC. But for some reason Nintendo prefered to add DLC to New Super Mario Bros. 2 instead, which frankly didn't work so great and felt like a rip-off. And now they're considering Zelda?

Zelda is a very closed game with a start and a finish. It's a game that you intensively play for a while, let's say a couple of weeks depending on your free time. And then you reach the end, maybe collect all Piece of Heart and then finally put the game aside. Maybe you pick it up again one or two years later and replay it. Which again will be only a short time period, where you actually play the game. Zelda is not a game that you keep playing continuously. And throwing in DLC would probably work in a similar fashion. You play the new content, finish it and then you leave. It doesn't keep you playing non-stop, so the main advantage of DLC isn't really there for Zelda.

And how should Zelda DLC look like anyway? They could add new areas and dungeons. Like for example the Color Dungeon that got cleverly added to the DX version of Link's Awakening - however, what would you gain from it? The Color Dungeon gave you new tunics. But if you already reached the end of the game, those new items aren't worth anything unless you decide to replay the entire game. Even if it's newly created content, it would feel like it got cut from the original game and added afterwards. And with Zelda you really want the full and closed experience right from the start. They can't just suddenly add side missions to the game (even though I wanted this for OoT3D, but it's too late for that).

New content would have to take place after the finished game. Maybe as an additional challenging quest that takes everything you've learned from the game and further explores the storyline. Like the Palace of the Four Swords in the GBA version of A Link to the Past. That dungeon can't be accessed after you've beaten Ganon (and Vaati) and it offers a new quest with ultra challenging bosses, where you collect the shattered pieces of the Four Sword and where you get a new ending sequence. Something like that could work potentially.

Another great possibility would be a downloadable 2nd Quest. Something like Master Quest for Ocarina of Time. How many times did I complain that Zelda games don't come with a real 2nd Quest anymore? They could fix this with DLC.

And if there's multiplayer, they could just release DLC for that. Let's say A Link Between Worlds gets a Shadow Battle mode similar to Four Swords Adventures, which was really fun. But it could get become boring fast, unless Nintendo regularly adds new arenas that keep people going. Or let's say they really make a new Four Swords game with the Between Worlds engine, there they could easily add new areas like the did in the Anniversary Edition. So, for Zelda multiplayer DLC would work great, definitely.

DLC will be lost over time

One of Nintendo's biggest strengths was always that they created timeless games. You can still pick up a GameBoy, get your hands on a copy of Link's Awakening (maybe you have to replace the battery, but mostly it's still fine) and be able to enjoy the full experience. It's timeless. And old Nintendo systems are so robust, they'll survive anything. When talking about the whole DRM issue that Xbox One has, Miyamoto compared Nintendo's products with your favorite toys that you would like to keep (source). And it's really like that.

But with entering the digital age, Nintendo risks to lose their timeless value. Link's Awakening can be still played and fully enjoyed twenty years after its release. But will you be able to do the same with A Link Between Worlds on the 3DS in twenty years? Servers will shut down eventuelly. If I buy a Xbox now to play Unreal Championship 2, there's no chance of legally obtaining the extra levels and characters, because all Xbox Live servers for the old Xbox are down. I have to go through the hassle of modding the system to get the content. And I'm lucky that there are actually people, who put it on the internet, and that Microsoft hasn't taken them down yet...

So, let's say they add new digital content to A Link Between Worlds. It will be lost over time, unless they make a re-release that includes the content. With a game like Mario Kart this wouldn't be so bad. Even if you decide to pick it up in twenty years, you most likely do so just for fun. You probably won't even notice that it's missing some downloadable tracks. But with Zelda you want the full experience. You want it all. You're not picking up the game to play only half of it.

So, with a game like Zelda, where you want a full and closed experience, DLC doesn't really seem like an option. But let's wait and see, what Nintendo has in stores here. The DLC for New Super Mario Bros. U turned into its own full game, New Super Luigi U, which is a good sign. And if you think about it, the creation of Majora's Mask originally started out as add-on content for Ocarina of Time for the N64DD. This also spawned Master Quest. So, with Nintendo, DLC could turn into something big. Let's just hope this will be the case with the first DLC for a Zelda game.

1 comment:

Eli Salt said...

I think that the only Zelda game that I could see DLC being really great in is Majora's Mask since the masks could just be silly rewards with no real help towards dungeons but they could still fun to use. Also, because there were a couple characters that you didn't get to really know over the course of the game, like the astronomer, so it would be nice if they remade that game with some DLC. Then again, it would be nice if they remade that game at all!