Bungie (Sorta) Explains Why Some Of Destiny's DLC Is On The Disc

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For weeks now, Destiny players have been glitching into walls and finding secrets that they weren't meant to see. Buried in the game's files are all sorts of hidden zones that you can't access normally, some of which will be used for Destiny's upcoming downloadable content.


That's right—Destiny has committed one of gaming's cardinal sins: On-Disc DLC.

On-disc DLC—that is to say, content that's on a game's disc but is locked until you download more files and potentially pay more money—has become taboo in the video game world for a number of reasons. For one, there's the whole psychological element—if you're paying for a video game, you'd expect to be able to access everything that's on the disc you bought. More importantly, the very idea of DLC being ready in time to ship alongside the main game would imply that the game's developers cut out that content to be sold separately.

Of course, there are all sorts of possible factors in play here—there are scenarios where parts of a development team might start work on DLC while other members of the team are finishing up the main game, therefore allowing some early assets to ship with the disc. In this case, it's clear that most of the unfinished zones aren't quite fully baked yet, and there's no clear evidence that Bungie cut out planned content just to sell it later.

Sill, just the words "on-disc DLC" are enough to make some gamers' skin crawl. So Eurogamer asked Bungie president Harold Ryan about it:

I'm sure you sure the recent leaks with players able to see a lot of this planned content already in the game. Based on what you've told me, a lot of that doesn't seem to be in The Dark Below.

Harold Ryan: There's a bunch of shared-world content we've shipped on the disc specifically to limit download sizes for people. Both inside the US and all over the world, how much you download on your local home internet connection can be a problem, and even how much storage space it takes up on your console.

So we share a lot of assets across all the activities in the game. When people get into areas that aren't unlocked right now, they're seeing pieces we built and shipped ahead of time, but they're by no means the finished experiences or even the finished content.

But when we can get into these areas already and see this content, there's a feeling at the content is finished, cut and saved for DLC.

Harold Ryan: No. Eris and her story were built over the last three months, long after the game was done. For example for The Dark Below, that included the activities and the bosses and all of the polish of it.

Satisfying explanation? Irritating non-answer? You be the judge.



For anyone who's not sure how this works, here's a quick primer (source: I work in game development):

When you make a big, open-world style game like Destiny, there's a lot of stuff that goes into what is essentially pre-visualization.

Nothing is made at this point, but even at this stage in development there's some ground-level work being laid for future expansions. This is normal in any game that's expected to be spun into a long franchise. You go in knowing that things are going to be adjusted and tacked on after launch, and you do this for a lot of reasons; the primary one is so that you can plan around it, and plan how launch content is going to connect up to content you add in later.

Think the Marvel movies. The Infinity Gauntlet showed up briefly in Thor. The Collector also showed up in Thor in a post-credits. Loki's Staff has the Mind Gem in it in The Avengers and they haven't even gotten into the whole Infinity Gem thing at that point. We're already setting up for Civil War. Apparently Marvel's planning on bringing back Howard the Duck for some reason. Blah blah blah, you get the idea. None of these movies exist yet, but they're dropping seeds and hints for them in current films because they know these movies are coming down the line. Plans are already in place, and they're laying the groundwork for them. In movies it's easter eggs for viewers to find; in games it's rough content for planned expansions that exist in the game data to be built off of later. The idea is the same, though. They're laying down information now to be utilized down the road by content that isn't finished yet.

World of Warcraft is another good example, for those who play that. Hyjal was in the game (and accessible via wall-jumping) for years before it was opened up to players. Same with the Caverns of Time. The Emerald Dream is *still* in the game files and is still not accessible to players. You can debug you way in there but all it really is is some placeholder stuff. Upside-Down Karazhan still hasn't been used and probably never will — it morphed into the actual Karazhan that's in the game now, and the leftovers are just a vestigial early draft that hasn't been pruned from the game data for some reason. There's nothing to actually do in any of these places. All they do is indicate that somewhere down the line, this content is going to be updated and made playable, or that that was the intention at some point.

Bungie's got the same idea. They may have said "Okay, here's what we've got for the base game, and we're planning on, say, four major expansions. Where are those expansions going to be? Okay, let's put them here, here, and here. Hey level designers who have already completed stuff on the main game and have nothing to do besides fixing bugs, can you get started on some rough groundwork for these levels so we know what we're working with?" This content, more often than not, gets semi-finalized in a rough state by the time the base game is going to ship. Bungie may not have known all the minute details of what was going to be in a given expansion, but they've definitely got the groundwork laid out. The levels exist in a rough state, and there's planning for what's going to happen. The VO, the items, probably the enemies, the quests, and a lot of the bug fixing and fine tuning obviously hasn't happened yet.

That "finished" content that they're reasonably sure isn't going to change dramatically, though? That goes on the disc. It's inaccessible to the players because it's not done; it's not finished content that's locked behind a paywall — which is what people are complaining about when they complain about "on-disc DLC". That's a totally different thing.

tl;dr On-Disc DLC and Empty Maps of Future Expansions are not the same thing.