Hey guys! This entry’s gonna come a day early, because I’m at a conference and will be really busy tomorrow. Today I’ll be talking about a game called Dragon’s Dogma for the Playstation 3.
In case you guys aren’t familiar with the game, allow me to give you a brief description of it. Dragon’s Dogma is an action RPG from Capcom inspired mainly by Western fantasy. After creating your character (selecting gender, skin tone, height, voice, and lots of other physical characteristics), the game opens up in the coast town of Cassardis on the Gransys peninsula, which is attacked by the mighty dragon Grigori. Your character, armed with nothing more than a rusty sword he/she picked up on the beach, attempts to face down the dragon and is promptly defeated. Rather than killing you outright, however, the Dragon instead plucks your heart from your chest. Through his magic, you don’t die but become what is called an “Arisen”–a warrior who can only die in battle and who is tasked with killing the Dragon.
You then choose a class (Mage, Fighter, or Strider, the last being a bowman-daggerman combo) and set forth to find Grigori and win your heart back, saving the realm along the way. The gameplay is fairly standard for an ARPG; you have a stamina bar that depletes as you run, attack, or jump and cling on to things, you have both a personal character level and a class level; increasing the latter earns you new skills and access to advanced classes), but what really makes it interesting is its “Pawn” system.
Essentially, soon after the beginning of the game, you have the opportunity to create a helper for your character. You can create this party member exactly like you’d create the player character, choosing his/her appearance, gender, class, voice, and so on. The thing is, this helper–called a Pawn–is entirely AI-controlled. It will learn and grow as it fights beside you over the course of the game; in game terms this means its AI will shift according to your playstyle. If you fight in melee its AI will encourage it to fight up close, if you cast magic its AI will encourage it to cast magic, and so on.
Now, here’s where the multiplayer and DLC aspects come in. There’s no dedicated multiplayer or PVP in Dragon’s Dogma as there is in, say, Demon’s Souls. However, in addition to your main pawn which you create, you also have the option to hire up to two additional pawns in your party. Sometimes these pawns are generated by the game, but if you have an Internet connection you can actually download and use the main pawns other people have created! You can also upload your own main pawn that you created to the server, where other people can use him or her in their quests. You and the other players can rate the helpfulness of each others’ pawns; those with five-star ratings will obviously get hired more than those with one-star ratings. And you want your pawn to get hired, because if he/she helps out other people a lot, you’ll get things called “Rift Crystals.”
Rift Crystals, or RC, are essentially Dragon’s Dogma’s online currency, like gold pieces are its normal in-game currency. You can spend Rift Crystals to hire pawns at a higher level than your character–it costs 0 RC to hire one at your level or lower, but any higher and it costs progressively more RC. Also, you can spend RC to buy certain items like appearance alteration coupons or AI-changing potions. In the original Dragon’s Dogma, that was pretty much all you could do with Rift Crystals. The game had DLC (downloadabel content), but that was mainly quests, extra equipment, and so on you’d just have to buy straight up with cash.
With the release of the expansion pack, however, Rift Crystals became much more important.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen introduces a new area called Bitterblack Isle. It’s filled with super tough monsters, but the rewards are also great, as the enemies drop powerful equipment and the shops sell amazing enchantments.
The catch, however, is that close to everything costs Rift Crystals. The new shops have their prices in RC, not GP, and to use any item found in Bitterblack Isle you must first purify it with Rift Crystals. Given how important rift crystals are now, Capcom has allowed you to purchase them from the online shop for cash.
To be fair, though, this isn’t as bad as it sounds, because Rift Crystals are now much easier to find in-game in the new expansion. They drop constantly from enemies and chests, and one set of quests that was originally DLC but now comes bundled with Dark Arisen can provide hundreds of thousands of Rift Crystals upon its completion. So really, gamers won’t actually *have* to buy RC. They can, if they’re really desperate, but it’s already so common within the game now that they probably won’t feel the need to.
Given how much RC players can get for free with just a bit of effort, then, it seems to me that Capcom’s DLC model for Dark Arisen is actually fairly ethical. If they really wanted to bilk their players out of as much money as possible, they would have made Rift Crystals extremely rare, so that fans would have to buy RC with real money to progress throughout the expansion. Since, in actuality, RC is so easy to find, Capcom isn’t forcing anyone to pay for more than what they originally paid in store, really. Now, there’s undoubtedly a lot you could criticize Capcom for (its treament of the Devil May Cry and Megaman series, for instance), but in the case of Dragon’s Dogma, its business model actually seems adequately ethical rather than unnecessarily greedy or dishonest.
Of course, one has to wonder if it’s effective, in that case. I haven’t bought a single Rift Crystal package, and I doubt other people have either, since RC is so common anyways. I get the feeling Capcom isn’t gonna be making a lot of money off this sort of DLC, though they should be able to maintain decent profits from the sale of the expansion itself. Still, it does give one pause. If “ethical” DLC doesn’t make much money, it stands to reason that we’ll see increasingly more “unethical” (i.e intrusive, almost necessary for gameplay) DLC in the future…;_; What do you think, blogfriends?