Experimenting with Oblivion led Bethesda to the "substantive" -- but not excessive -- structure for Fallout 3's DLC, says Bethesda VP Pete Hines.
The company's work on popular first-person RPG Oblivion produced some extremes in terms of downloadable content, with the $2.50 Horse Armor pack being a famous PR misfire.
But Fallout 3's DLC costs $10 per discrete expansion, and often takes 4-5 hours to play through. Speaking as part of a larger Gamasutra feature interview, Hines explained how their experimentation on Oblivion helped get things right:
"We did the entire spectrum for the most part. We did small things and then we did the really huge thing [with The Shivering Isles for Oblivion].
We did what I think was the first ever full expansion on a console for download. We looked at what we liked and what we didn't, and what the people liked.
What we discovered was that we want to be able to do stuff that doesn't take a year to come out.
All these people are out there playing our game by the hundreds of thousands on a daily basis and we want to be able to bring those folks something they could do in a much shorter time frame, rather than just saying, "See you next year."
That instantly ruled out doing a big expansion because those things just take so damn long to do."
According to Hines, the Oblivion expansion Knights of the Nine was the first time they felt they had the DLC length and value tuned correctly:
"So we started looking at the biggest stuff we'd done that people really liked, but that we could do in smaller, digestible chunks. That's where we came to the Knights of the Nine model -- it's substantive and it adds multiple hours of game play and new items.
But we can do it in a time frame that allows us to get it out without waiting forever. That's what we've gone for with Fallout 3."
You can now read the full interview with Bethesda's Hines, including lots more background on how the company feels it brings long-term support and value to its brands by post-release content.