Feature Cut Content vs. DLC and the Total War: Warhammer Dilemma

The Chaos Warriors add-on pack is being released on day one, so why are many gamers upset?

Daniel Cooper


By Daniel Cooper @danielcooper179

A long, long time ago in the world before the advent of sites such as Steam, games were almost exclusively on discs. When a game was released that was typically the end of it. Any tweaks and fixes would have been incredibly difficult to implement. To add new content, developers would create expansions that would be sold on separate discs; these would function much in the same way as DLC, except it was usually beefier to warrant purchasing a whole new disc. If you're familiar with the original Starcraft, StarCraft: BroodWar was an expansion pack and also an entirely new game.

As the gaming industry has evolved, DLC has become far easier and quicker to implement and as such is released in bits and pieces in smaller chunks. However, because of this, its definition has become somewhat blurred. DLC could be something as simple as a cosmetic re-skin with different character model colours; but it could also be an entirely new campaign complete with all new story, factions, etc. DLC can be anything -- provided that it's extra.

As DLC has become more prominent in games, and the extra content is now often toted as a pre-order bonus at launch, something new has started to creep into the gamer's vocabulary -- namely "cut content." The two aren't intended to actually have anything to do with the other. Cut content refers to content that was included within the original game but was cut by the developers before the final version of the game as it was either unused, unneeded, or improved upon in some way.

Total War: Warhammer

The definition of "cut content" on the Fallout wiki:

Cut content refers to content which is not used (cut) either directly or indirectly in the final version of the game. From debug menus, to unused music, graphics, enemies, or levels, many games have content never meant to be seen by anybody but the developers - or even meant for everybody, but cut due to time/budget constraints, or otherwise not being interesting. Most of it can still be found in the game files but is inaccessible within the game itself."

On the other hand, DLC provides extra content on top of the base game with the intention that it will keep gamers playing the same game for longer and help fund more content to keep the game going. But if DLC is ready for consumers at launch why isn't it included in the base game? What if the extra content was actually taken from the main game? If the base game was only 80% off the "finished" product and gamers had to purchase the rest in DLC.

Which leads me to the purpose of this article.

I've been following various Steam forums for the upcoming release of Total War: Warhammer, a game in which I'm incredibly excited to see released. I've always been a fan of both franchises and seeing them both merged is somewhat of a dream come true. I can only say positive things about Creative Assembly's conceptual decision to take on the realm of fantasy universes. Maybe one day there will be an official Third Age game. And delving into the world of fantasy is something that fans have been asking for for years, but we'll have to wait until Total War: Warhammer's release to see if the mix of Total War and fantasy lives up to everyone's hype.

Total War: Warhammer - Demigryph
The Demigryph are part eagle, part lion.

With that said, if you take a look at the forums there is an enormous amount of criticism over the developer's decisions for the game leading up to its launch this April. This is understandable; merging two different IPs means catering to two very different groups of fans with different wants and expectations. Of the various outcries, the one that baffles me the most centers around gamers' anger at Creative Assembly's decision to release a DLC pack on day one, one that players can get for free if they pre-order. It's a standard pre-order bonus.

However, many are claiming that it's cut content from the main game, content which Creative Assembly or Sega are trying to milk for income. It's somewhat justifiable. The DLC pack Chaos Warriors introduces a new playable race to the game -- one that was already in the game to begin with (if unplayable, with a smaller roster, no campaign quest line, and with no Lords).

To stoke the fires even more, many have made it known that the Chaos race are the ultimate evil in Warhammer's world and think that their inclusion as DLC is asinine at best. It would be much like a Third Age game without Mordor. The lore of the game's period actually centers upon a prophesied Chaos invasion to bring about the end of the world. Unfortunately, I don't believe this argument has any foundation. The developers chose which races they thought belonged in the game's first component of the three-part trilogy and unfortunately for some that's just how Total War: Warhammer was intended to be released. Additional content can't be considered "cut" simply because others -- who aren't making the game -- think it should have been included.

But lore aside, the vast majority are upset that the DLC will be released in tandem with the game's official launch. If the Chaos race are already in the game -- albeit in a more incomplete form -- and are intended to be there, why is it being sold as DLC? It's all because of how games are made now-a-days.

The game's Creative Director, Mike Simpson, explains in the blog post:

So in Total War: Warhammer's case, we had our four main playable races sorted, and we've planned for Chaos to have a big role to play later in the trilogy. But we really wanted Chaos Warriors in the main game, even without DLC - to give a big, bad end of game 'boss' enemy Race for all players. But we couldn't do that within the resources for the main game. So we added it as the pre-order incentive that also gets sold on day one - making Chaos Warriors fully playable but also giving us the extra resources to add them as an AI race for everyone."

The Chaos race were never cut from the main game. For this to be true they would have had to be included in the main game, and I can see no reason why I should not believe what they're telling us on their blog. The funding allowed for the main game made adding a fifth playable faction unfeasible. The sheer cost of making all of the teams is why Total War: Warhammer is being shipped as a three-part trilogy. And unfortunately, the Chaos simply weren't in the original list of the four playable teams included. But, I truly believe that the people who are making the game are just as big of fans as those who want to play it, and they want all of the Warhammer races.

Total War: Warhammer - Grimgor Ironhide

So instead, they brought in another team and dived into a separate budget to make the extra content -- a separate budget reserved for future content to prolong the game's lifespan. It's made in parallel but not as a part of the original, base game. The idea of what should be in the base game is compounded when fans know that eventually the trilogy will include all of the factions. But by that logic, this also means the other twelve races to come (including the Chaos DLC) are also "cut content" -- which they aren't. Total War: Warhammer will be its own entity as a game and should be judged as such, as stated:

To release DLC within that 6 months after release, we have to start on it well before the game is finished. It's outside the scope and budget of the main game, but it's developed in parallel. We hired a whole extra team to do this because in total it's almost as much work as the original game."

As such, the DLC pack was never meant to be a part of the original conceptual design. For any game content to be considered "cut," it has to come from the original base game and its resources. Instead, Creative Assembly's Brand Director, Rob Bartholomew, clarifies exactly what's included in the Chaos Race DLC pack:

The Race Pack enables you start a Grand Campaign as the Chaos Warriors, with a much-expanded roster and extra Legendary Lords to choose from. The AI will then also take advantage of this expanded roster if you play another race in opposition."

These extra features are just that: extra, and they exist as content that you can purchase on top of the game, as only four teams were intended to be playable upon release. Whether or not day-one DLC was a good idea to implement, considering fans' shaky faith in the company and the general outrage on the forums, is an altogether different question. Creative Assembly will have to find a way to restore long-time fans' faith in their products before the game's launch this coming April, something I doubt they can achieve with content add-ons.

Images courtesy of Sega.