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My name is Uriel. I work as an SAP/MM functional analyst. I am also a GNU/Linux enthusiast, programmer, web developer and gamer.

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When DLC Practices Go Too Far

uvazquez Blog

We gamers from this generation are so used to the term 'DLC' that we often don't pay the attention we should to it. It has become so common that we fail to see the potential danger of this practice and the ultimate destiny of the path it is currently on. In the last few years we have seen several examples of why this practice is not good for anyone, neither the customer, nor the companies themselves. Remember the infamous "Horse Armor DLC" for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion? What about the DLC which isn't actually DLC but rather a paid code to unlock content already in the main game, like the ones for characters in Street Fighter X: Tekken? These are only the most notorious examples of the many, many disasters this practice is bringing to the game industry.

What is DLC?

DLC, short for "downloadable content", is a pack of resources reportedly not in the main game at the time of its release, which are set out to provide an extended gameplay or features to said game, adding replaying value to it and potentially more revenue in future sales, and distributed via Internet through many publishers. At least, that's what the definition says.

However, in practice, DLC is something else. It's a bundle of content which is released equally to all customers which own the main game, either they bought the DLC or not, as a form of an update, and the DLC pack itself is the key to unlocking the content for the customer. So, either way, we're all getting the DLC, downloading it, waiting for the download to finish, wasting space in our hard drives. The only difference is that if we don't pay for it, we don't get to use it. Of course it will still be there in our devices. After all, it's just an update.

What is the main difference between DLC and Expansion Packs?

We all get the DLC. We are required to, so we get the latest fixes and are able to play online with friends or with other people. So our versions coincide with the servers and other clients.

Expansion packs, on the other hand, are only installed on demand. You buy the expansion pack, you get to install it and play it. You're not required to download any content you don't own. Also, expansion packs tend to be longer than DLC and expand the gameplay further. Take into account games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and Starcraft II with its first Heart of the Swarm expansion. Sure, Skyrim expansions are labeled as DLC, but they act as an expansion pack. And sure, we are required to update our content to Heart of the Swarm to play Wings of Liberty, but the campaign and special units themselves are not downloaded at all unless you purchased it. You will not be able to play Heart of the Swarm games because you won't have the content installed.

Why DLC practices have gone too far

Companies are starting to charge the users for every single thing which used to be included in the main game and are, in fact and most times, included in the game already. For example, Borderlands 2 is charging people for every single character skin, several character classes, several missions and gun packs, which are already downloaded as an update because without that you won't be able to play online with people who own the DLC. Imagine you bought the main game and want to play with a friend who bought the Mechromancer pack. You will need the files with the Mechromancer model, the code for it, to be able to play with him. Thus, it's already packed with the main game. However, even though it's wasting space in your hard drive and you took the time to download it, you don't get to use it, just because you don't have the code which says "Hey, this guy paid for it, he can use it!".

These skins, classes and weapons used to be included as unlockables, making people want to play and replay the game. For example, to unlock a certain character in Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, like Sub-Zero and Scorpion, we needed to pick up a collectible and then win the game. This made people want to search for the collectible and actually beat the game to beat it again with another character. That kept the game alive.

Other things like special guns or skins were available for people who managed to complete certain feats in-game, like reaching a certain level or defeating a certain boss without triggering a given action. Things that made the feat rewarding in some way, like a trophy. It has been now replaced by flashy texts with sounds, called "Trophies" and "Achievements", which don't give you anything at all in terms of content or replayability, but just a flashy badge you can show off to people.

However, now you just flash your credit card or wallet and you can get the character and a skins you want. You don't even have to play the game. You just pay and it's there.

Some other games, like Saint's Row: The Third and Sleeping Dogs even went as far as to sell people bundles with in-game currency, which actually removes gameplay since you can get the best stuff earlier without working your ass off in-game.

The Free-To-Play Method

Many companies have found out that selling people who already paid for the main game minimal stuff is wrong. So they found a solution, or not so much: don't charge for the main game, just make them pay for the in-game stuff.

There are so many examples of this practice that it's hard to name them. You get a limited gameplay from the game before you're asked either for your credit card or for an in-game elite currency which is... yes, with your credit card.

Of course you can get a lot of fun from the game without buying their stuff... at first. But then, after a long while, you'll start seeing people who have a complete advantage over you just because they invested real world money in-game, and will make you want to pay for the same stuff too. Finally, you will either leave the game unharmed or go down a path where you'll spend money for everything just to have the complete experience. Want to fight a certain boss? Pay up. Want that awesome dragonscale armor? Not unless you gives us your money.

The Pay-To-Play Hybrid

Some companies went even beyond that. Not only will they charge you for the main game, they will also make you pay for a lot of stuff in-game too. Take World of Warcraft as an example; you pay for the game, you pay for its expansions, you pay the monthly fee to be able to pay - which supposedly covers up the costs of server maintenance, technical and in-game support and so on -, but you'll also be asked to give them 15 bucks for a cool armor, or 25 bucks for a special mount not obtainable in-game. Seriously?

Don't forget other infamous examples, like Infestation: Survivor Stories, also known as The War Z. Not only did they charge people for the main game - even misleading several customers with promises they have yet to fulfill and promising content that would never be in the game - but they also opened an in-game store where you buy stuff for a currency you buy with your real world money. And the worst part is that if your character dies... you lose the stuff you bought! They even went as far as charging people for an early resurrection of their character because if your character dies you would have to wait 4 hours (it has since been reduced to a 1 hour cooldown, but the early revive button is still there with its fee).

The Special/Collector's/Digital Deluxe Edition/Pre-Purchase Bonus/Exclusive Retailer/Platform Method

Some of the game content is not even available for new players who were not fast enough to pre-purchase a game, or didn't have enough money to afford a collector's or special edition, or didn't have enough luck to live in a country with a certain retailer. Many of the DLC for many games are included as pre-purchase only bonuses; others are only available for people who spent more on a given game (like the Diablo III angel wings, which are not available for anyone who didn't buy the collector's edition which is no longer being sold); some of them are even only given to people who bought the game through a certain retailer, like the special Grand Theft Auto V DLC which was given only to people who pre-ordered the game through Gamestop, a game store which is available in only a few countries, leaving other people outside of the content forever; and don't forget about the Knightfall DLC Pack for Batman: Arkham Origins which is only available for the PlayStation 3 version of the game, leaving people who own other platforms without being able to even taste it.

The Tricky Season Pass Method

Some companies decide to put on sale a pass which will unlock all the content, past and future, for the customer, for a reduced price than buying it separately.

However, many times the season pass doesn't get you all the content, but only a reduced quantity of it. For example some of the season packs get you only four of the DLC and not the rest, making you buy another pack or the DLC one by one.

The Several Pack With Shared DLC Method

Games like Tomb Raider have made available several packs with discounted DLC bundled in them. However, many of the DLC found in one pack are available in another, and you either need to get the DLC separately or buy the pack with the DLC you already own, which not only doesn't reduce the price but also doesn't give you an extra copy of the DLC either. The worst part is in the rush some people don't even notice they are paying for something they already have paid for because of the insanely large amount of DLC there are, which is hard to track.

Why It's Bad For All Of Us

It may not be hard to understand why it's bad for the customer, who is constantly asked to pay for stuff or even purchasing a game through another method than the usual just to get the complete experience, and sometimes he won't be able to get the full game because of the platform restrictions.

However, it's odd that this practice is hurting the companies too. Sure, they are getting more money now. But that's just in the short-term. In the long run, customers will start losing respect for the company, which will then lose customer fidelity and will make less sales in the future. Many times people have given up to getting the full experience and are getting the game either used, or on sale, or not at all, just because they don't see the point anymore in buying their stuff if they have to keep paying to play the full game.

I for one have started the policy of not buying a game again from a company which makes excessive DLC or pointless DLC for unlocking stuff, specially if it gives advantage to people who pay more. I've stopped playing several multiplayer games I used to love because of that.

How We Can Fix It

Companies should start giving free DLC or making longer and more worthwhile expansion packs instead of insane amounts of nickle-and-dime DLC. Paying for a skin is ridiculous; make it an unlockable. Paying for a class is ridiculous too; make it unlockable as well. If you need more revenue to cover the costs, bundle them, make extra gameplay out of it, give several hours more of gameplay to the main game and then sell it as an expansion pack. People will buy an expansion pack that gives you more than 8 hours of gameplay, but won't want to pay for a gun skin.

My advice is that you always point to customer fidelity. The revenue will come alone by itself if the customer loves you. And I sincerely hope more companies adopted this again to make gaming good again.


Post-it note Review #2 | Age of Empires II: HD Edition

uvazquez Blog

Good ol' Age of Empires II is back! Or sort of; perhaps not so much the 'good' part, but certainly the 'old' part. Why is that, thou may ask. Well, my friend, thou art exposing the major flaw of this game: it's still almost the same. ALMOST.

Making a port of an old game is not easy; you have to contemplate many aspects: keeping the same gameplay dynamics, but updating them with the features this generation has to offer. For example, this port adds Steamplay for easier matchmaking, rooms, achievements, and - the one that excites me the most - Steam Workshop support, for mods, maps, textures and sounds. Yay, now we can customize our game with a single click! Well, sort of.

Maybe it was a badly stablished development cycle; maybe it was that they rushed the final release before accuratelly testing every detail; or maybe it was they just wanted to fish for money with the pre-sale. Whatever the reason for this, what we have here is an incomplete product. And one can see it when doing what Age of Empires was made for: playing with somebody else, online. It's choppy, laggish, even playing in LAN; sometimes it makes the game rather unplayable. If you ever were into RTS games, you know that you need to have a steady connection to properly react to the events in the game. However, since giving an order will be around 3-5 seconds behind the unit actually carrying out that order, due to the delay, your plans will be destroyed just for losing those seconds. Imagine you get attacked by the enemy or wild animals, and you react quickly enough but your units don't obey right away; you'll end up losing units, resources and time.

There also seems to be some bugs with the Workshop system; unsuscribing doesn't remove the mods. Not even unload them. It's like after you installed them you'll have them forever. And game rooms, even if set to private, will be public to anyone, so if you just want to play with friends you'll have to kick everybody.

Finally, achievements don't work properly. Two weeks since release and they're still bugged. Yesterday I won a bunch of achievements without even meeting the requirements; and trust me, I didn't meet them, I was just playing around with the map editor, and didn't even test the map, and I won the "destroyed 100 buildings in a single fight" achievement; I mean, come on.

I sincerely hope this will get updated, patched and finished in time. Don't get me wrong-- it's a fun game and I love it just as I loved it before. But come on, you can do a better product to meet the expectations. I know you can fix it. Make me proud.

Graphics: 6/10 (because they changed some textures... for worse)
Gameplay: 8/10 (single player plays fine, the problem is with the multiplayer)
Coding: 4/10 (choppy and needs a lot of work to fix)
Replayability: 9/10 (if they fix it, it will make a very fun game to play with friends)
Customization: 7/10 (if they fix Workshop it would be at least a 9)

My overall score: 34 out of 50 | Buy it when on sale

(NOTE: this will get updated as (and if) they fix the client)

Post-it note Review #1 | The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

uvazquez Blog

At the moment of writing this I have over 86 hours played in this game and still I'm not even near 50% of completion. Dragons, swords, bows, magic, being the chosen one in a land full of mistery, I mean, what else do you need in a game? The gameplay is perfect, the graphics are gorgeous - except for the ocassional shadow glitch, but nothing you can't fix with a mod -, and it has Steam Workshop for easy mod installation to make it even longer and better and prettier.

Each DLC is worth every single cent, because it expands the gameplay A LOT, and by A LOT, take my word, I mean several hours more for you to waste on this game. Even though it has the bugs you can expect in a game developed by Bethesda - and yes, there are lots of bugs and glitches - you DON'T EVEN CARE because THE GAME IS SO FUCKING AWESOME you'll not be paying attention to the bugs.

A giant map, literally thousands of quests to do, skills to master, monsters to kill, books to read, dragons to slay, spells to learn, and places to explore, from dungeons to towns, a lot of replayability - believe me, you won't finish this game with only one character, you will be creating several to choose every single side possible in each conflict and making each choice you can to learn the whole story -, a magnificent lore, and the amount of mods available, make this game - along with its DLCs and expansions - one of the BEST GAMES EVER and a MUST BUY, from casual to hardcore gamers.

Graphics: 8/10
Gameplay: 10/10
Coding: 7/10
Replayability: 10/10
Customization: 10/10

My overall score: 45 out of 50 | MUST HAVE

Giveaway | Railworks: Train Simulator 2013 on Steam

uvazquez Blog

Hi all,

I'm giving away a copy of Railworks: Train Simulator 2013 on Steam.

Includes 8 items: Train Simulator 2013 , European Community Asset Pack , Great Western Main Line Add-On, Somerset & Dorset Railway Add-On, East Coast Main Line Add-On, Ruhr-Sieg Line Add-On, US Community Asset Pack , Cajon Pass Add-On.

This is a thank-you gift for all the wonderful people in SteamGifts, who realized that the best way to enjoy gaming is to share with others. Since DRM and copyright laws forbid us from sharing the actual game box with friends, it is good to know that we can always rely on the simple but wonderful gesture of the gift. Giving and receiving just for the love of gaming, without further intentions. No greed in the middle, just generosity.

This is what gaming is all about, at least for me, and I hope to many more.

To enter the giveaway click on the following banner:

User Posted Image

Feel free to join with your Steam account. Regrettably, no giftable copy on Desura. But no problem, I will post another giveaway soon and probably will include a Desura key!

Desurium: working with the community is important

uvazquez Blog

An interview with the guys behind Desurium, the open source version of Desura, stated their position against DRM in games (along other digital goods).

In the interview they also mention how they came to the decision of releasing Desura's source code under the Free Software license, and how is the work with the community.

The full interview can be read here.

Steam for Linux will launch Open Beta next week

uvazquez Blog 1 comment

Valve, creators of the number one games online distribution system, Steam, will be opening their Linux client beta to everybody next week. Making the client available for everyone who wants to try it is possible due to the 'stability of the client', Valve has stated.

“The Open Beta will be available to the public and will increase the current population from 80K to a higher number,” they wrote in a message to the closed Steam for Linux Mailing List.

To go even further, all Linux-friendly games are now showing their system requirements under the "Linux" tag in their storefront page. Among the list of games which are available for Linux at the moment, the only ones who made into the beta are the following:

  • Amnesia
  • Dynamite Jack
  • Eversion
  • iBomber Attack
  • Killing Floor
  • Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45
  • Serious Sam 3:BFE
  • Sword & Sworcery
  • The Book of Unwritten Tales: The Critter Chronicles
  • World of Goo

Some of these games are already available for Linux on Desura, so if you don't want to wait until next week you can grab them right now from the Desura store.

Leading the list is the top-rated horror adventure Amnesia: The Dark Descent, which was finalist at the 2011's Independent Games Festival. It already lists its requirements under the Linux tag at their storefront page.

Anyway, this game has already been available on Desura for Linux for a long time, and, in fact, it currently leads the "Most popular" section.

The same with the other award-winning indie game, World of Goo, which not only has updated their storefront page but they have also released their demo of the game.

But not only indie games are coming to Steam for Linux next week. There are other titles which have been released in the closed beta and are at the moment only Steam-available, developed by big developers.

Serious Sam 3: BFE and Team Fortress 2 are two of the other titles which will be released next week. No doubt that the release of Team Fortress 2 as the debut of the Source Engine (developed by Valve and used in many of their games) will give a green light to the coming of other titles, such as the Portal franchise and Left4Dead, as the latter has been confirmed by Valve in their Linux blog.

However, for us Counter-Strike fans, there are no official words from Valve of us Linux users having Counter-Strike: Source and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive on our desktops any time soon. But there's always hope and, as Valve have already stated their plans of developing a console based off Linux to bring Steam to the living rooms, and the release of Steam's Big Picture feature along with the Linux client, I do believe we will hear comments about this any time soon.

In the meantime, we will have to settle with this - which is in fact GREAT news already as it is - and expect next week's update to try it in our computers. For now, all we can do is sit tight, watch the video below - by OMG! Ubuntu - and wait.

For those who want to know more about this so called Steambox console I recommend you to read this article at Kotaku.

Metro 2033 Giveaway by THQ

uvazquez Blog

THQ is giving away keys for Metro 2033 on Facebook. Just "Like" the page in the app and they will give you a key. The key can be redeemed on Steam.

In 2013 the world was devastated by an apocalyptic event, annihilating almost all mankind and turning the earth’s surface into a poisonous wasteland. A handful of survivors took refuge in the depths of the Moscow underground, and human civilization entered a new Dark Age.

You are Artyom, born in the last days before the fire, but raised Underground. Having never ventured beyond your Metro Station-City limits, one fateful event sparks a desperate mission to the heart of the Metro system, to warn the remnants of mankind of a terrible impending threat. Your journey takes you from the forgotten catacombs beneath the subway to the desolate wastelands above, where your actions will determine the fate of mankind.

Grab your key now!

Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition Giveaway at GOG.com

uvazquez Blog 2 comments

Duke Nukem 3D FREE for 48 hours on GOG.com as a Happy Holidays gift!

Duke Nukem, the politically incorrect celebrity and ultimate alien ass kicker, defends Earth and its babes from alien invasion.
He is a can-do hero who realizes that sometimes innocent people have to die in order to save Earth, so accuracy of gun fire is not a real concern to him. This is the award winning game that helped define the FPS genre and introduced unparalleled interactivity and a talking main character.

Take the fight to the aliens in Hollywood, Los Angeles, a moon base and alien spacecraft. Defeat the aliens, so Duke can get back to some R&R with a stogie, a warm belly and a bottle of Jack.

Atomic Edition is the most complete version of the game that includes fourth bonus episode, new weapon and enemies.

Duke Nukem, the King of FPS, the legend of video games, the best politically incorrect shooter ever, now compatible with Windows 8 and Mac OS X, is COMPLETELY FREE until 14:59 GMT on December 14. DRM-FREE, once you download it, it's yours forever! Go grab your copy now!

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