“Game critics” often talk about putting critical plot points in DLC, and then when they describe the story in said DLC it’s clear that the original game’s story works perfectly fine without them. But that makes me wonder where the story in the DLCs came from. Is it usually a cut-for-time-or-budget thing, like other early DLC? Ideas that came later (and if so, how much does player feedback affect things)? Ideas that the devs wanted to work in, but that would just clutter the original narrative?

Good DLC story content tends to be stuff that meets these general criteria:

  • Is self-contained (i.e. the critical path of the core game remains a complete experience)
  • Adds additional context and lore to the main game
  • Is sufficiently large in scope that the players feel like they have accomplished something
  • Has some fanservice for the core fans (Optional)

These requirements generally mean that any ideas for the DLC can start from bits and pieces of cut mainline content, but often needs some significant massaging in order to get it to a point where we want it. We might repurpose some quests and some rewards for the story DLC, but we may need to combine several pieces and rejigger some of the story in order to get to sufficient critical mass for the DLC to feel substantial enough. It’s usually easier to start with concepts from cut content, since we’d already started developing it before we realized it wasn’t high enough priority to finish. 


We also can’t always repurpose old content for the story DLC. Like.. for example, if there’s some sort of new unifying game mechanic in the DLC or expansion (think artifact weapons in WoW Legion), we may need to build content around that new mechanic and old stuff might take too much effort to repurpose. The concept behind the old stuff might not fit or might not be fun anymore because the game design went a different direction from when we originally came up with the cut content. The cut content could also be too big in scope - a major game mechanic or element that we don’t have room to fully flesh out within the scope of the DLC. That sort of idea might actually be back burnered for a new game or full expansion, rather than DLC.


Generally, what we care about is creating a cohesive, engaging, and self-contained experience that lasts for at least a couple of hours. We have a limited amount of development time to do that, so we try to fit what we can into it. That prioritization means figuring out what we can repurpose from the cut content pile and what we need to build that’s completely new. That’s mostly up to DLC leadership keeping tight control, maintaining a good vision for the content, and coordinating with the mainline development leadership.

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