The Bittersweetest Thing

Lead Writer of BioWare's Dragon Age game series, lover of fan tears. This is where I blog about game development, fandom, and narrative design. Anything I say here is my opinion alone.

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On Plots Returning as DLC

A question from your fans on nuts and bolts of game writing: so, if you have to simply cut out some really good plot just because of word budgets or line budgets, is there a possibiblity that it will return in some DLC? — fan question

Sort of. We cut an entire plot chain in DA2 (about the Coterie thieves guild, tied mostly to Varric) and always thought we might one day bring it back as DLC. The problem is one of context—PRC (post-release content) is either add-on (it is designed to be playable after the game is completed, even though it might optionally also be accessible during the game) or add-in (it adds to the content of the game itself, meaning you have to play through the normal game to get to it).

With add-in DLC, such plots would be easy to preserve, but most of our story DLC has been add-on. That means we’d need to re-write a bunch of the plot anyhow for it to make sense, which makes the savings of doing so questionable. You start to wonder if it just wouldn’t be better to start over from scratch.

Mind you, there was a big plot which was our third DLC for DA2 which was then cut and added into the DA2 expansion. Then, when the expansion was cancelled, was put into DAI. Completely re-written both times, of course, but the idea of it was preserved. So it does happen.

Shale is probably the best example of something which was cut for budget reasons and then returned as DLC. There were too many lingering issues for us to complete it in the main development timeline, but those issues were few enough that they could be resolved in the period during DAO’s certification (which is a shell game as far as most people are concerned, I know, but it makes sense if you understand how such timelines work).

Some people might complain at cutting something only to bring it back as DLC, I suppose. Lacking that option, of course, the content would simply be cut and never see the light of day at all. That’s what happened in the days before DLC, though I suppose some people are simply happier being ignorant it ever existed (as opposed to facing the spectre of a “complete game” requiring additional purchase). I get it, though I’m unsympathetic so long as the original game is full and fun and completable as-purchased.

Notes

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