DLC, Games, and the Cutting Room Floor

I realized lately that DLC and games changes the importance of things left "on the cutting room floor in games" . . .

Part 1: The Pieces forgotten

I was watching some Zero Punctuation theater, where the ever-amusing Yahtzee noted that the game Dark Void seemed to be assembled from parts of a game that was interrupted during development. These parts were meant to form a more complete game, in his theory, but interrupted for some reason, the company slammed them together into what game they could.

This had me thinking about the game Borderlands, which I adore, and has had a lot of extra content. The most recent update as of this writing, noted at Kotaku as The Secret Armory of General Knoxx got at least a few commenters speculating that some of the DLC for the game was composed of elements initially not included.

It struck me that games often leave a lot behind – just like movies. There's unused art, characters, items, environments, and so forth. These have to be left out for various reason from time to complexity to money. In some cases you can make an entire game out of leftovers (which may have been the case with Dark Void).

Normally these elements from the "cutting room floor" would languish, being forgotten, appearing in other games, or maybe expansion packs.

Now that DLC is increasingly common and accepted, the cutting room floor leavings get a new life. If a game is successful, a game creator can take all the leftovers, polish and expand them, and have DLC available. I expect a significant chunk of DLC out there is from "leftovers."

Unused levels mean new expansion packs. Unused art means downloadable costumes. Unused enemies can be turned into a challenge mode or special fights. Unused art can even become a free downloadable or set of desktops.

It's a lot like DVD extras. You can throw all sorts of things together and mine them for opportunities.

Part 2: How will this change?

However, DLC is now normal and expected. The cutting room floor may be a useful source of DLC, but as that continues, it will change how people regard cutting things out of games.

Will game creators file away deleted game elements more carefully knowing it may be DLC?

Will the very act of game design change because expandability and downloadability is now expected? Will the cutting room floor be diminished, replaced with a ranking of content for inclusion?

Will players forgive content included later, understanding the game design process, or assume that DLC is being used to exploit them?

Will rushed games, like the aforementioned Dark Void, become rarer, replaced by games released with free or low-cost DLC to allow a game to come out and then have its value increased?

The cutting room floor is a source of content. I expect it's going to change.

– Steven Savage