A brief study on DLC in The Sims 4
I've been an avid player of EA/Maxis' "The Sims" franchise since its very first entry, and it was one of the first serious PC game that I ever played. However, recent decisions made by EA have caused a fair amount of distrust in the community, and that distrust is largely centered around the always-contentious topic of DLC.
The Sims 4 regularly releases DLC packs in three different flavors: Stuff Packs are small $10 packs. They contain a good handful of new items in a specific theme, as well as one special item that has new interactions of some kind to add to gameplay. Game Packs are $20 packs that add a specialized chunk of new content, such as the ability to go camping, and a slew of new items to accompany the theme. Finally, expansion packs are $40 DLC packs that augment the game in a deep and meaningful way, often changing gameplay on a fundamental level. The Sims has used a similar model to this for previous sims installments, however, the $20 game packs are new to The Sims 4. Most players love these mid-sized packs, as they allow the Sims developers to add new gameplay experiences to the game that haven’t been available in previous renditions, since many of the game packs focus on experiences too big for stuff packs, but not expansive enough to demand a full expansion pack. They also provide a cheaper option for players who are looking to extend their game without spending as much money.
However, a few practices have been causing distrust within the community. This list isn't perfect - I have little knowledge of EA's business details or bottom line, so take this with a grain of (slightly salty) salt:
1. Item sets separated between packs
The “My First Pet Stuff” pack is an extremely contentious piece of DLC in the community. Putting aside the complaint that it's a "DLC for a DLC" (something that could be executed very well under the right circumstances,) the pack contained several items that are the exact same style and colors as a bedroom set available in the "Cats and Dogs" expansion pack. Given that this stuff pack only came out a couple months after the "Cats and Dogs" expansion, many players are upset that this set is split up across two separate purchases.
While augmenting existing sets in the game is good practice (it was recently executed well in the "Jungle Adventure" game pack where a wall pattern was added to match a floor pattern already present in the base game,) releasing half of a set just a few months later comes off the community as a cash grab, degrading player trust. In general, sets introduced in a DLC pack should be complete within that DLC pack so players feel like the value is worth their money.
2. Poor Quality Control in packs
Quality control in the DLC packs for The Sims has always been spotty. In all fairness, The Sims is a massive game and bugs will always be present, but the number of game breaking bugs in a $40 expansion pack should always be zero. When the Sims 3 World Adventures expansion was released, it was a full five days before I could even launch my game again. In more recent packs, recent items in the Sims 4 packs have had poor quality control that haven't been fixed in a reasonable amount of time. For example, an archway added in the "Cats and Dogs" expansion has a loose polygon face:
This item, released in November 2017, still hasn't been patched as of March 2018, and other items, even items present in the base game, have similar loose faces, broken shadows, and weird lighting. The recently released “Get Famous” expansion pack featured spelling mistakes within the game descriptions, and buildings in the new world missing essentials such as toilets. Simply fixing these issues in a timely manner (or having a bit better quality control before release) would make the community much more confident that they are getting the studio's best work.
But, one thing that The Sims team could keep doing is:
3. Keep up the free updates
It isn't all bad news! The team does a lot right with the franchise, and introducing new features for all players through free updates is one of the best examples. Since Sims 4 was released, the Team has added pools, toddlers, basements, more options for roofing, and various small events and items for holidays. Most recently, an updated added more skin colors and hairstyles to improve players' ability to create diverse sims. These updates assure the community that the game is still alive and well, as well as improving the Sims Team's ability to add new features via DLC packs.