The Average Gamer

Impire Dev Joe Fricano Talks DLC Strategy

Impire ArtworkImpire and DungeonLand producer Joe Fricano ran an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit last week. In response to questions from Redditors, he discussed the DLC development process, made sensible comments about reviews and gave some advice on getting into games development.

When asked about features cut from Impire and Dungeonland to be sold as DLC:

Joe Fricano: I promise you that nothing was “CUT” from the full game of Impire for any nefarious or dubious reason. The game you get if you buy the release of Impire today contains exactly what was intended from the beginning (and what was possible with the budget and timeframe of the project). The only concession that has been made is that of multiplayer which we are releasing in a beta-state. (We figured that since Impire is mainly focused on single player you would rather be playing it sooner than later and that instead of holding back the whole game or just patching in MP later, your wishlist ideas and feedback is invaluable for us in trying to give you the best experience possible. And while I can’t promise a fully-fledged skirmish AI, the team IS looking into ideas on how to implement some kind of solo-play skirmish functionality in the future.)

In regards to “Day-1 DLC” (and I’m not speaking of Impire specifically or for every game project out there, but games in general), after a game “goes gold” (but before it gets released), a team will, if they are not reassigned to a completely new project, focus on post-release polish (in case new bugs are discovered), small DLC packs or larger expansions for the base game. This holds true for programmers, artists and designers alike. Extra content, whether they are smaller DLC packs or larger expansions have budgets and project plans of their own and are not scoped into the base game, thus cannot be automatically included “for free” as if they were because their development needs to be sustainable- the people making them need to pay the rent even after GM.

Impire - Ritual

Where do we draw the line at how much content to include in a game-? What if day-1 DLC wasn’t released immediately, but included in a larger expansion pack to be released several months later? It would still be finished early and you would still be paying for it- just in a larger chunk later down the line. So why not release it early if it works better for the game? Extra content that is given away “free” comes with a cost to the budget of a project- sometimes it can be done (to give something back, as a gesture of goodwill or for whatever reason) and sometimes it can’t. I can’t speak for the entire industry of course, but here at least, we try to be as transparent as we can instead of dealing in greedy shenanigans.

When asked why critics didn’t receive a version of the game so that reviews would be out before release:

JF: You will definitely start seeing reviews soon. We don’t really control when reviewers decide to release their reviews of the game but you are of course fully within your right to wait until they start appearing before purchasing. I’m very much looking forward to hearing what people have to say about the finished game!

On getting into the games industry:

JF: If you have an idea like that in you I would advise you to go out there and make it happen on your own somehow. Gather a few friends that want to make it too… get in touch with programmers… try some community game-making.
The honest (sometimes hard) truth is that no one in games gets hired because they have a good story idea and very rarely does ONE designer get to make his or her own “dream game”. You have to realize that there are SO many people banging on the doors trying to get in. Every single person in the games industry has ideas they want to see realized so it’s very hard to get yourself heard. The best way to make that happen is to strike it out alone and just DO IT, any way you can. When you have proven yourself tenacious enough to do so, you will have a much easier time to get noticed. Working with games is fantastic a lot of the time, but it’s no cakewalk. It’s just this ginormous boiling pot of creativity and collaboration where you need a stubborn but humble approach.

And specifically how Fricano got in:

Impire - ButtscratchJF: The cliché answer would be that I just kinda ended up her by accident, wouldn’t it? But that’s not the truth, haha.

I started out wanting to tell visual stories. The film industry wasn’t really my cup of tea- the more I learned about how it worked the more I realized that I wouldn’t be happy there. I had always been a heavy gamer (home computer focused… loved my C64, Atari and Amiga…) so setting my sights on games seemed like a good fit. At first I did what most rookie writers do- tried to force linear narrative into technology that deserved SO much more. These days I’m a lot more careful and conservative about how narrative in games “should” work. Which is kind of ironic since Impire has such a strong focus on the narrative- but the script was one of the funniest I had read in a LONG time so it feels justified.

You can read the full Joe Fricano, Senior Producer at Paradox Interactive AMA over on Reddit.