I feel compelled to write more here...sorry for the wall of text...
In light of the Leaders DLC, I think the entire modding community sees the same diliema you do. They are just not certain how you plan to tackle the problem. You've cracked game wide open to free modding (which is awesome) but that in turn has the consequence of closing off the 'magic' of the game, as anyone can now release their own 'DLC'.
Essentially you've put yourself in competition with...yourself. That is the problem. To take an example, Hellion's Black Market mod:
I'm going to pick on Hellion as his mod ROCKS. Why do I talk about his mod and not the loot DLC? Because he's running at 120+ new items and it seems that every update comes with more. DLC03 unfortunately doesn't even come close, and that's understandable. Hellion offers his for free, out of the dedication and appriciation for the game. You need to charge in order to pay the bills and make ends meet. Again, very understandable. However, we still live in reality and that reality currently dictates that people will not pay for what they can get for free.
This brings us back to the Leaders DLC. After reading the threads, it appears the general consensus is that it's the least-liked release to date. However, I don't think it's because of the content. I think it's because, for the most part, anyone in the modding community could have done it. Thus, to stay 'competitive' with yourself one of two things needs to be done:
- Restrict modding ability so that your 'magic' is more magical than the modders....which I'll say right now would probably cost you dearly in the modding community should you choose this route.
- Become creative...very creative...releasing DLC that modders cannot do, or seem to be unwilling to do. I think this is the direction that has pots of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Going through your past DLC:
DLC01: Map Pack -- For the most part, (Parrotmath is the exception that I am aware of) modders haven't touched maps and stamps....especially stamps. However, modders could which means it needs to be more magical. The 5 maps you released needed to be unique; with props or sandbox-scenario quests or unique starting positions, or something that 'raises the bar' so to speak and gets the modders thinking in a different light. The stamps themselves I don't think anyone has touched and as such would be a perfect candidate for another DLC release. Modders could have no gripe against that type of DLC because they themselves haven't touched it. If/when released however, I'd also recommend that you spruce up DLC01 and when advertising DLC06 say 'oh and by the way, for those of you who have not purchased DLC01 yet, it has MORE'. You're hitting one and a half birds with one stone. Sure, you're given some free stuff to the half of the market that as already purchased DLC01, but you are also seeding encouragement and that half will be more likely to purchase DLC06 as a result.
DLC02: Quest Pack -- Another perfect example of a DLC07 oppertunity. More modders have explored the realm of questing though, so if you plan to have a second quest pack DLC, it's going to have to be a very good one; stuff that the modders cannot do or have not thought of. Unique. Epic quests. Epic rewards. Again, add more to DLC02 and avertise the pair.
Quest idea: Using one of the 5 boats designed, have a Secret Island quest: Your hero meets an old mystic in a village hut. She speaks about a mystical island off the coast. Your hero needs to find a port. Finding the port casts 'create beach' spell on a nearby square and grants you access to a boat. You take the boat to find the island (that is also generated at the start of the quest), where you have another one or two points, to get some awesome treasure or even an awesome spell.
Event idea: A mountain rumbles out from the ground (raise land spell till mountain). The player needs to resolve why this has happened. Journey to the mountain side where there is a quest point. It reads 'You climb the mountain side...and beyond; finding a castle in the clouds and an unfriendly host. A tactical combat then occurs with a 'clouds look and feel' and you fight a Storm giant family for a ......
Concept idea: Challenge your staff with homework. Once per week have them shell out a quest/event idea. Collect all the ideas after 6 monthes. Add 5+ quests/events to DLC02 and 20-30 quests/events for the new DLC. Reward the staff member who 'wins' the competition.
Concept idea: Request quest/event ideas from the community. We like working for free.
Lastly, very imporant: Toss in cutscenes. Emmersion into the RPG element of the game is incredibly important.
DLC03: Loot Pack -- Unless you plan to add very unoriginal items, I wouldn't even bother. So many modders have sunk there teeth into this one that you cannot compete anymore. However, what modders are doing (with the exception of Hellion) is releasing loot as part of other mods. 'Here's a quest mod....and you get two or three pieces'. ' Here's a new faction...and you get two or three pieces'. You've done the same with DLC05 and I think that's the best way to approach the release of new loot. About the only other thing I can say to this one is 'get rid of the bunny slippers'
DLC04: The Dead World -- This was your best attempt, however I think your feet got away from you a little bit. You attempted to release an expansion as a DLC. I'm not sure what else I can say about this one other than don't give up. Historically you've been a star example admitting to... road bumps and imo, this should be no different: Bring it back to the drawing board. Streamline the DLC. Make it so that the AI can play the undead faction. Watch the praise from the community hit you in the form of future DLC purchases. And then learn from your...road bump. Never release such a complex DLC again.
DLC05: The Leader Pack -- I won't beat this one to death as I've already offered my thoughts here in how to expand the DLC: http://forums.elementalgame.com/453766/page/1/#9, reply 9 (which is an update of reply 6). I essentially suggest for you to offer players an open palette to explore unique custom sovereigns....to go beyond the 10 leaders provided. I presume that minor changes made to this DLC up front could easily accomplish this. Let your players explore the custom sovereigns. Add in a few more mounts, a few more particle effects, a few more unqiue bodies (with bonuses/penalties), and 1 or 2 more weaknesses to go along with the 3 benefits you've added and POW....a REALLY good DLC.
In the end, I hope I do not disuade you from persuing further DLC releases. Players are looking for 'Polish' right now....I do hope that you are willing to revisit past DLC releases aswell. Looking forward to future DLC