EU4 - Development Diary - 19th of May 2016

Hello all, time for another EU4 dev diary!

I'm Catalack, the producer of all things DLC for all PDS in-house titles. This time I've been invited to talk a bit about the production process of our DLC's - that is; content packs, unit packs, music packs... any type of pack really. These are usually released alongside the expansions and most of the time involves cosmetic content.

Buckle up!

How DLC's are born
First off there is always the brain picking. This is the part where I hunt down the designers for what type of content they actually want to accompany the next expansion. In EU4's case this usually means Johan, Wiz and in more recent times DDRJake. This step has a varying degree of difficulty since some projects have a detailed wish list with ideas already, and some don't. Sometimes it requires making designers sit down and iron out details over an after work beer. EU4 has a well thought out plan for future content packs though, so it's usually no sweat. CK2 on the other hand…

It does also happen that I put together my own suggestions for what should go into the packs. These suggestions still need to be looked at by the designer, but it usually means less work for them.

It can look something like this:
7KtY6yL.png



Brand Team Says Yay or Nay
When the designer or product owner has given their thumbs up on the content, it's off to the Brand Team for a final confirmation before production starts. This is the part of the company where all the different parts of the organisation syncs up. Devs, sales, marketing, production etc, and it's the final threshold for any type of content that will at some point reach our customers and players. The Brand Teams at Paradox are usually very quick to respond to any type of situation and while we agree with each other most of the time, it has happened that some content needs to be cut or altered for various reasons.


Production begins
When a pack has been approved by all relevant instances, it's time to decide who does what. We have a couple of really talented in house artists and composers, as well as third party studios who sometimes help out when our in-house resources are too strained working on main expansions rather than cosmetic DLC.
Usually the work is split between both in house people and outsourcing.

Worth to mention here is that we try to also make use if our dedicated community, as we have several third party content creators who are fans and modders. Collaborating with them gives us both an excuse to pay them for their dedication, as well as opportunities to work with people who actually knows our games, rather than a random outsourcing studio who might have the technical know how, but not be familiar with games such as ours. I'm amazed at what some of them go through for the sake of making our games better. Cudos.


Historical Research
This is a topic I expect many of you are interested in! Content production always begins with extensive research and mock ups. Both me and each content creator put in a lot of time on doing the research for each piece of content created. We have a lot of history buffs both among artists and scripters, so this step usually goes pretty smoothly.

The only problem is when sources lead back to... our own games and wiki.

Here's an example of what a mock up can look like:
PNtYx2T.jpg

One of my personal favorites. The Cossacks was really fun to work with.

Good sources can sometimes be really hard to come by, and can affect the end result negatively, as we saw recently with the Mare Nostrum Content Pack.
We recently hired an artist specifically for the purpose of keeping track of outsourced material and DLC creation. I'm happy @Carlberg has joined the team!


When the art happens
After the mockups are approved, 3D work starts. This is sometimes a challenge since we have to balance the restrictions of Clausewits with a proper level of details to make units quickly recognizable at a distance - since most people play with camera zoomed out.

Example:
1Wwf8VJ.jpg



Final prep and the deep dark depths that is the Steam Backend
When all content is done and delivered, I package it and make sure everything works in game. Then I leave it in our QA departments capable hands, and wait for release to come around.

That is when I must enter the Steam backend jungle. If you ever apply for a job where the job description says "experience with steam backend", turn around and run. Unless the position is at Valve because then I urge you to please take the job and update the steam backend and make it a bit more user friendly!

Anyway, here I set up all relevant depots and give them fake names to prevent data mining/leaks among other things.
Coming up with fake names is one of the highlights of this step:
HV5gQ6V.png


Not to worry, just before release I give them their proper names!

It’s usually around this time that we also post renders on the forums and get some feedback from you guys.
Example:
jNMe0mX.jpg



Rinse Repeat
And after release, the whole process starts all over again! I usually have all of the different projects up and running at the same time, and so I'm always in the beginning, middle or end of any one DLC cycle.


And never once is it boring.


//Catalack
 
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I for one buy every cosmetic DLC, I god damn love their look and always try to play with one nation that have skin for, but one thing is missing. When you create your nation, you make a choice for their army look (Western, Eastern, South American... etc.), but I'd love to use what I buy, so would it be possible to have an update to have the choice to use the cosmetic I buy, like you'd have French unit, English Unit, etc.?
 
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Catalack

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When you create your nation, you make a choice for their army look (Western, Eastern, South American... etc.), but I'd love to use what I buy, so would it be possible to have an update to have the choice to use the cosmetic I buy, like you'd have French unit, English Unit, etc.?
I'd also like that actually. I'll forward your suggestion!
 
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Em Ay Ef

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Often it's about money, for example if there's a sale we might want to add more, or if we have a release parallel with something else we don't want to compete with we might make the Content Pack smaller than first planned. Sometimes though it's that we realize that content didn't fit because of reasons we didn't first think about. These are obviously a bit of a sensitive topic to discuss so unfortunately I can't be more specific than that.
thanks for that answer nonetheless, it was pretty specific. :)
 

WolfAleron

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The math does work out, although I don't have the numbers available to me right now. One of many the reasons is to keep the cost of the expansion down, as more people buy expansions than they do cosmetic DLC. Some people also aren't interested in anything other than new features, and some people might not be able to afford the new expansion, but is interested in modding and playing around with new units.

i never buy cosmetic DLC's. I do not need them and don't wanna pay money for them. So yeah, thanks, for that.
 

PikeStance

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i never buy cosmetic DLC's. I do not need them and don't wanna pay money for them. So yeah, thanks, for that.
The irony is the DLCs that add features may actually be worth price (15.00- 20.00USD) if they actually had the accompanied content and/ unit pack as part of the package. It will largely depend on how many features were added and how much useful and noticeable cosmetics, If Paradox has a weakness it is the state of their DLCs. I do commend you on your work. The models are beautifully done!
 

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The irony is the DLCs that add features may actually be worth price (15.00- 20.00USD) if they actually had the accompanied content and/ unit pack as part of the package. It will largely depend on how many features were added and how much useful and noticeable cosmetics, If Paradox has a weakness it is the state of their DLCs. I do commend you on your work. The models are beautifully done!
Don't forget that much content is put in the free patch which easily could have been put in the expansion. That does make the expansion weaker than it could be, but on the other hand it allows the modular expansion structure in the games and I think it is great that PI are making as much free as possible. When you buy an expansion you are also paying for the free patch being produced; something I don't have a problem with. Though opinions obviously differ on that point.
 
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PikeStance

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Don't forget that much content is put in the free patch which easily could have been put in the expansion. That does make the expansion weaker than it could be, but on the other hand it allows the modular expansion structure in the games and I think it is great that PI are making as much free as possible. When you buy an expansion you are also paying for the free patch being produced; something I don't have a problem with. Though opinions obviously differ on that point.

What you write is strange given the fact that the expansion DLCs are well over 150 USD for a game that retailed for about 40.00 USD. Moreover, Paradox does not patch games for free to be charitable, they do it because it is good business sense.
 

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What you write is strange given the fact that the expansion DLCs are well over 150 USD for a game that retailed for about 40.00 USD. Moreover, Paradox does not patch games for free to be charitable, they do it because it is good business sense.
The game has received content continuously for almost 3 years by now; how many other games are supported to that extent for that long? Such support will over time raise the total price tag considerably.
So you can't just compare the base game price with the price of all expansions without remembering that there is something like 8 expansions and the game is completely different than it used to be back in 1.1.0 (release version).

And my point was that without the expansions PI wouldn't be able to continue making so many patches. Look at games from the old time; there you only got very few patches per game/expansion. 3 if you were really lucky. EU3 had 4 expansions and only got something like 10 patches in total over the 6 years it was supported. And there could be years between patches. Plus you needed to buy all expansions to continue getting support: The new system where much of the content which previously would have been pay only is in a free patch means that you no longer needs to buy all expansions to get support.
 

PikeStance

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The game has received content continuously for almost 3 years by now; how many other games are supported to that extent for that long? Such support will over time raise the total price tag considerably.
So you can't just compare the base game price with the price of all expansions without remembering that there is something like 8 expansions and the game is completely different than it used to be back in 1.1.0 (release version).

And my point was that without the expansions PI wouldn't be able to continue making so many patches. Look at games from the old time; there you only got very few patches per game/expansion. 3 if you were really lucky. EU3 had 4 expansions and only got something like 10 patches in total over the 6 years it was supported. And there could be years between patches. Plus you needed to buy all expansions to continue getting support: The new system where much of the content which previously would have been pay only is in a free patch means that you no longer needs to buy all expansions to get support.

At the risk of ad naseum,...
The purpose of a patch is to fix a problem with a game. It is good marketing to this as i already said. This is something that all good companies do. Plus, I do not think you should be bragging they made o10 patches. It actually shows a lack of attention to details that they have to fix something 10 times. It is hardly something you should be bragging about. Anyway, games are actually patched today because the expectations are higher, and/or in some cases, games are produced before they are ready. However, some of this is consumer driven as the demand for games as increased overtime. The gaming industry is highly competitive. It is essential that companies ensure that the consumer is happy with their product or they will lose out. From a marketing perspective, it is also to separate the aesthetic modifications from the functionality functions. Paradox is not unique that they patch and support their games.

Of course, nothing you wrote actually addressed the real problem I raised which had nothing to do with paradox being responsiveness or unresponsive to market demands. There are 9 expansions that add function to the game totaling $125.00. Sure, the total of expansions has changed the game, but the change in many cases were minimal and only when you look at the total changes do you see a significant change. It is hardly significant to equate these changes to 3 times the value of the game. Unless you think the game is worth over 150 USD. Again, Paradox is not unique. Other companies, IMHO, overprice their DLCs by at least 50% of the cost. In this is in cases, where the expansion actually does radically changes the game (e.g. Wrath of Sparta for Total War Rome II).
 
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...Unless you think the game is worth over 150 USD. .

I've played this game for over 1000 hours. I played eu3 for 5348 hours. That means I've paid roughly 15 cents per hour for top quality entertainment in eu4, and less than 3 cents per hour in eu3. That makes this by far the second cheapest entertainment hour on the market for me.

(You probably know the first.)
 

PikeStance

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I get up at 6:00, by 7:00 I am at work till 4:30 ish. I may play 1.5 hours a night. However, I go to the gym three nights a week, so I would probably not play at all. that"s about 6 hours a week. However, I play slightly more on the weekend, but I could also have less time during the week. I have more than one game and I actively mod another game. This also takes up my free time. I am married, so my time away from her limited.

I have been on steam since 2010ish and I do not think I have 1000 hours if you add up all of the games i owned. The only game not counted would be Medieval II in which I beta tested Rise of the Three Kingdom mod. However, that would still put me under 500 hours total I think in about 6 years. I also have other hobbies and interest and I do not think I need to spend an inordinate amount time to justify the cost of something. It is great it works out for you. However, the value of something is not always calculated by how often you use something. Which reminds me, I really should go golfing... at least go to the driving range where I can at least fantastic only to forget it for the course.
 

Dasmani

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To be fair, 99% of that time has been on pause letting the soundtrack play while I did maths.

But value is entirely subjective, and there's no way to say objectively that the DLC is overpriced.

Except the Horse Armor DLC for Oblivion. No one is paying $10 for armored horses when you can mod that in for free.
 

PikeStance

"Your ally now threatens us"
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To be fair, 99% of that time has been on pause letting the soundtrack play while I did maths.

But value is entirely subjective, and there's no way to say objectively that the DLC is overpriced.

Except the Horse Armor DLC for Oblivion. No one is paying $10 for armored horses when you can mod that in for free.

With such an attitude I have to wonder why you bothered to respond to my posts at all. I never said anything about being objective. I stated that based on the work put into the development of the game and the minimal amount of functionality added to the game that I believe the DLCs are overpriced. I really do not see how much time spent playing would necessarily justified the cost when that is not even a factor in marketing. Popularity is, but playing time and popularity are not equitable terms.
 

Emiliana

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I know i'm very late but "Italian Go-Kart" haha
 
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Bjerregaard

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I would really like to know more about your research process. When you posted the request for any info on Odoyev, i couldn't for the life of me find anything in our university database, and i'm still oblivious as to where you found enough to make it a independent state.

Best regards, an aspiring PDX research manager.