Indie developers are the starving artists of the video-game world, often brilliant and innovative, but also misunderstood, underfunded and more prone to writing free-form poetry on their LiveJournals. We at Joystiq believe no one deserves to starve, and many indie developers are entitled to a fridge full of tasty, fulfilling media coverage, right here. This week, Ben Kane of Going Loud Studios shows us the satirical side of indie gaming with DLC Quest. Bet you can't guess what it's making fun of.
What's your game called and what's it about?
It's called DLC Quest, and it's about a quest for DLC. No, really! It's a satirical look at what happens when DLC goes too far, forcing the player to "buy" DLC (using in-game coins) to unlock core features like animation, pausing and moving to the left.
What inspired you to make DLC Quest?
DLC practices throughout the gaming industry have been rubbing consumers the wrong way for a while now and seem to be getting worse. I wanted to make a dig at some of the worst offenders but by the time I got around to it, there was enough material to make a whole game about the topic.
Which company, game or moment was the final straw that pushed DLC Quest into development?
When the Physical Warefare pack for Battlefield 3 was announced, there was a big outcry that its contents would imbalance the game and thus put players who didn't pre-order from select retailers at a disadvantage. It was a big deal because the marketing made the add-ons sound vital and Battlefield fans (myself included) are a passionate bunch. DICE later announced that the pack will be available for free, some two months after launch.
I figured I'd lampoon the pack by making my own "DLC" for a game I was working on at the time. However, I was so behind schedule that I decided to shelve the idea until later. I kept adding more and more notes to it though, so that was the seed that eventually grew into DLC Quest.
What's the coolest aspect of DLC Quest?
Probably the part where I make a joke about the industry and everybody has a good laugh, and then they go a bit quiet as they realize it hits just a little too close to home. That, and seeing people beat up the sheep. Everybody does it!
How will DLC Quest be sustainable past its initial comedic roots?
DLC Quest is a short and sweet experience that has its fun and then gets out of the way before it overstays its welcome. That said, there's more to the game than just the "buy DLC to unlock basic features" hook -- thankfully the industry provides plenty of things to mock.
Do you have any solutions for AAA companies to stop the mismanagement of DLC?
Despite what it may look like, I'm actually a big fan of DLC when it's handled properly. As long as developers don't withhold necessary gameplay features, don't cut content to make it premium DLC and don't give players who buy DLC an advantage over others, I think the DLC will be well-received. If you treat DLC as a way of allowing your super-fans to buy more content rather than a way of squeezing more money from regular customers for expected content, everybody wins.
Why develop independently, rather than work for an established company?
I've worked for a big company before (Hi, Skate team!), so I know a bit about what I'm giving up to work independently. That said, I love being able to have total control over what I make. I also have a bit of a love-hate relationship with all the different hats you need to wear as an indie developer -- it's tough being responsible for every aspect of making and selling games, but it's fascinating to always be learning something new.
Do you see yourself as part of a larger indie movement?
More and more you're seeing mainstream gamers becoming aware of these alternative developers. It's great to see, because indie devs really embrace that kind of connection and feedback with fans.
It's really starting to feel that way, yes. The rise in popularity of indie titles, as well as the recently exploding "bundle" concept, has pushed indie games to the forefront of gamers' minds. There's a certain "chic" quality to supporting indie developers that appeals to some consumers, but more and more you're seeing mainstream gamers becoming aware of these alternative developers. It's great to see, because indie devs really embrace that kind of connection and feedback with fans.
It's a relationship that I think gamers are latching on to as well. If you want to talk to AAA developer, who do you contact? And what are they really at liberty to say? But if you want to talk with say, oh I don't know, the DLC Quest developer, you just email email@example.com. And he'll probably reply, too. That's pretty cool.
Sell your game in one sentence:
Without a doubt, the best part is [Purchase the Biting Industry Commentary Pack for 50 coins to read this].
Fans have been clamoring for a PC version of DLC Quest. Who am I to resist?
Where do people get it?
You can pick it up on the Xbox Live Indie Games marketplace, on the Xbox website or by saying, "Xbox Bing DLC Quest" on the dashboard. It helps if you have a Kinect for that last one, because otherwise you're just talking to your TV.
With any luck, you should be able to pick it up for PC in the very near future as well.
DLC Quest is available now on XBLIG, but is coming to PC (and Mac, it looks like) soon. Don't delay -- play a game where you have to download everything today (No, that doesn't limit you to DLC Quest, but obviously that's the one you should play).
If you'd like to have your own shot at converting our readers into fans, email jess [at] joystiq [dawt] com, subject line "The Joystiq Indie Pitch." Still haven't had enough? Check out the Pitch archives.