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The production process or: How I learned to stop worrying and love Day 1 DLC

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Day 1 DLC has become a common point of contention between gamers and developers. But it should be a celebrated addition to the games we love.

Drawing parallels with another industry, most people understand a movie's basic development cycle. Somebody writes a script. Or somebody is contracted to write a script based on a concept or book. Or… well, usually, not much happens until there's a script.

Once there's a script, the pre-production process begins. A director must be found. Actors must be cast into roles. Concept art must be created. Funding and shooting space must be found (usually provided by a studio). The shooting schedule must be determined (which can get complicated if a number of busy big name stars are in it). Props need to be made.

Then there's production: the filming. Everyone gets together in a warehouse, or a green room, or Tunisia, and stuff gets done. If the movie will have CG, there's probably a team of animators working on 3D models and movements from the concept art and storyboards.

During this stage, the script writer is available (assuming s/he isn't also the director), but spends most his/her time writing another script.

Finally, post-production. The scenes are edited together; a herculean undertaking, a 2-hour movie can have thousands of hours of film to sift through and stitch together. This is the stage where "deleted scenes" come from. Something that was filmed, for one reason or another, is left on the cutting room floor instead of put into the final film. Sometimes, these will end up on as special DVD bonus features. For instance, Dogma ends up being something like a four hour movie with all its deleted scenes. The CG is integrated into the final scenes.

During post-production, the actors, prop makers, costumers, stylists, and basically everyone from production except, maybe, the director are off doing something else; editors do not need stylists for their job.

Following post-production, the movie is screened to small audiences to gauge reactions. It's sent to the MPAA to get rated. The editors make small adjustments best on the screenings and any concerns the raters have. Then the movie's released.

But let's say, for a moment, that there's a side character in the film that the writer likes, but his story doesn't quite fit into the flow of the overall movie. So, during production, the writer makes a short script for a scene that further explores this character.

He shows the director, and, following production when the director isn't doing anything anyway, the director gets the relevant actors together, some prop guys, costumers, stylists, and an alley behind the shooting warehouse, and they shoot an hour of film that's ultimately edited into a 10 minute short about this character by the post-production team while they're waiting to hear back from the screenings and MPAA.

Ultimately, the short is finished before the main film, so they decide to release it on iTunes and Amazon Instant the same day the film comes out for $1 to recoup costs, and to include it on the Special Director's Cut Extended Deleted Scenes Edition of the Bluray.

We've seen this happen with webisodes. Fans love webisodes. Fans wish there were more webisodes.

Why are we gamers different? When offered more, why do we often cry foul? Realistically speaking, Day 1 DLC isn't a piece of the main game that was cut out for which we're getting charged. It's either something entirely new that the pre-production team thought up while the programmers were making the main game, or its a "deleted scene" that was dropped to the cutting room floor and resurrected.

Do we want to go back to the old days, the bad days, the all-or-nothing days? I remember playing Fallout 2, over and over and over, trying to save the ghouls of Gecko north of Vault City. But it turns out that it's impossible to ally Vault City and Gecko because the content just wasn't finished. And there's a whole bunch of cut content in Fallout 2 with unfinished pieces scattered throughout the "finished" game.

How much of this could we have gotten if Fallout 2 was made in the days of DLC? And how many gamers would have whined that it wasn't included in the main game and Black Isle was just nickle and diming them for something they "deserved"?


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