Nick D. laments the growth of the industry away from director’s cuts and towards downloadable content.
What is the number 1 reason for North American gamers to pick up the Final Fantasy X and X-2 HD Collection? It’s because these are the international versions of the games, versions loaded up with goodies that the North American audience has never had the pleasure of experiencing until this release. These games, my friends, are director’s cuts, and I fear that these kinds of games are disappearing from the industry due to several factors, principally the emergence of DLC and the growth of multiplatform games as the standard.
A director’s cut is when a game is rereleased or ported onto another system with a whole slew of new content including story and balance changes. This is how one distinguishes it from an enhanced port. Final Fantasy VI Advance included a new translation, but little other content aside from last minute, late game fluff. It’s just an enhanced port. Lunar Silver Star Story Complete brought massive changes to the game including a revamped and expanded story. This is a director’s cut.
The existence of a director’s cut of a game, I would think, stems from the process of porting in many cases. It’s a way of giving gamers who had to wait more bang for their buck. This was certainly the case with the international versions of Final Fantasy X for example. But, other times it’s because the developers seem to simply want to keep working on a game long after release.
Porting, as a staple of publishers, is less common nowadays. Since the last generation, it has been increasingly common to release games as multiplatform instead of releasing on a single platform and then porting to the others. Games like Resident Evil: Code Veronica X only exist in order to entice PS2 gamers to play the older Dreamcast game. Without porting, the impetus to provide a director’s cut has been reduced quite a bit. Porting older games onto handhelds is more often the case of an enhanced or direct port like in the case of Chrono Trigger for the DS. Porting from the PS2 generation leads to HD versions, which are mostly upscaled ports with achievements/trophies.
The reason why director’s cuts are fantastic is because they give gamers a larger glimpse at the intentions of the game developers, and they provide interesting new balance and gameplay ideas. For example, Resident Evil: Director’s Cut added in new modes and enemy placement. In competitive multiplayer games, we often see this kind of advancement through patching. However, it is still the case that most single player games are release it and patch only when necessary. Publishers rarely want developers to be tied up with patching a game with new features when it is much more cost effective to add these new features via DLC.
Downloadable content allows developers to keep adding components into their games, while making a tidy profit from consumers who are willing to pay. While director’s cuts required whole new physical releases, DLC gave developers the opportunity to slowly attach new pieces to a game without the cumbersome requirement of a reissue. DLC also gives gamers choice over director’s cuts. People who didn’t like the character Wesker were still going to have to suffer through his new story segments in Resident Evil: Code Veronica X. Whereas, if you don’t like Tiny Tina, maybe buying the Borderlands 2 DLC Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep is a bad idea.
In many ways, one can see the Game of the Year, Complete, or Ultimate editions of games as the director’s cuts of the modern era. These are rereleases of popular games with all of the DLC included on the disk, thus providing an expanded game for those who missed all of the DLC goodness. These editions, like director’s cuts, arrive long after the launch of the original game and are, generally, better and cheaper than the initial release.
But DLC expands games. It doesn’t refine them. For example, The Last of Us DLC Left Behind is a prequel story that adds new gameplay and story, but it doesn’t interact with the main game. Final Fantasy XII: International Zodiac Job System completely revamps the gameplay of the main game, bringing in fixed job classes, refined abilities, a better summon system, on top of having tacked-on new modes. DLC’s job is to provide new experiences. A director’s cut gives you a new spin on the original.
The climate of the industry does’t seem as conducive to director’s cuts anymore. Several PC and PS3 ports to the PlayStation 4 have been released under banners such as “Console Edition” and “Apocalypse Edition”. However, from what I’ve seen, these are nothing more than ports without the rearranging content that makes director’s cuts catnip for fans. It’s simply too convenient to shift content around nowadays to justify the cost of recreating a game different enough that it can sell to new and old fans alike.
Perhaps this is a good thing. The industry is more streamlined and tools like patching and DLC exist so developers can modify their games at will. Nevertheless, part of me wishes that sometimes developers would be given more incentives to overhaul the systems in their games. Patching is great, and I love how some developers have used it like in Civilization V or Warframe, but there isn’t much incentive out there for most developers other than to use patching to fix bugs. Porting used to give an incentive for developers to crank out a better game, and I for one miss the opportunity to play more international versions of Final Fantasy games. But that’s just me.