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Joystiq interview: Downloading Criterion's thoughts on DLC

Jason Dobson

Over the course of the 2008, Criterion did its best to win over our hearts, though as fond as we are of Burnout Paradise it was the UK developer's knack for releasing quality DLC that kept us coming back. In a market where most games are shelved weeks -- if not days -- after first spinning up, Criterion managed to keep its open-world racer relevant all year long with a steady stream of downloads, adding night driving, motorcycles and a host of new online challenges.

This tradition looks to continue well into 2009, with famous cars, inflated toys, hot rods and now the fuzz all slotted to pull out onto Paradise City streets in the coming months. Now, with a newly released Party Pack under the hood, and PC gamers racing against the flow of traffic with a keyboard and mouse, we spoke with Burnout Paradise senior producer Pete Lake to get his thoughts on why we just can't seem to let go of the steering wheel.

So, with all of this DLC, is it costly for the team to make? I mean, how can you get away with almost all of it being free?

When we finished the original Burnout Paradise we -- as a studio -- made a commitment to support the product and our customers. We balance the development cost against bringing in new people to play the game and finding more exciting ways to entertain them. As we move into 2009, we begin releasing our new Premium content packs which we feel offer people even more incredible experiences in Burnout Paradise.

And now you've released the Ultimate Box, a PC exclusive, at least here in North America. Why release the PC game so long after the initial console release?

"Our goal with each piece of new content is to change the way people think about and experience our product."

In 2008 we have supported the original Burnout Paradise with a number of free DLC updates which have changed the game in huge ways. The Burnout Paradise experience, as we start 2009, is vastly different to that offered last year. We also know that over 50% of people don't yet have access to an internet connected console; releasing the Ultimate Box now allows us to share the last year of content with all the customers who haven't been able to follow our releases or all those who are just hearing about Burnout Paradise now.

As a bonus for all the people purchasing the disc we've included the Burnout Party mode, a great round the sofa, pass-the-pad game mode. Burnout Paradise: Ultimate Box is also our first outing on the PC, bringing the great Burnout experience console games have been enjoying for years to a whole new audience.

How does all this effort put into DLC affect the inevitable sequel, or does there need to be a sequel? I mean, can Burnout Paradise simply continue to evolve through DLC? Does Criterion and EA view it instead as a platform?

We haven't talked about a sequel in the studio. We are far too busy building on our existing game. When we decide to support our products and customers we don't enter into it lightly. We have plenty more game-changing content updates coming as we enter 2009. As people continue to discover and enjoy Burnout Paradise we will continue to find the best ways of supporting them.

So does DLC keep players playing the game rather than moving on?

We hoped it would, and with each release we are watching our telemetry to see how many people are returning and how they are interacting with the product. The response we continue to get is incredible.

When we released the Bikes update in September last year we had our highest number of users playing online since we released in January. Any game team in the world would be happy to have that volume of people playing their software after nice months of release.

How do you think DLC affects players? Does it constantly bring new players to the game?

I hope it benefits both new and old players; our goal with each piece of new content is to change the way people think about and experience our product. From new online Freeburn game modes to play with your friends to all new motorbikes we are seeing both new and old players returning to Paradise over and over again.

Finally, one of the more interesting batches of DLC coming is the 'Legendary Car' pack. I'm curious if there are any legal hurdles the team had to jump through here. Does this fall under 'parody?' Also, were there any other 'legendary' cars that didn't make the cut?

We are very excited to be releasing the Legendary Cars -- they add a whole new way to experience Paradise City and are even better when you take them online. Legal hurdles? All of the Legendary cars are customized versions of our original Burnout Paradise vehicles.

As with all our DLC we have many more ideas than we have time to implement at any given moment. Hopefully everyone will love driving these cars and we might get a chance to develop some more. Make sure you let us know what you all think.

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