Your Demo Sucks

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Your Demo Sucks

Have developers forgotten the purpose of a demo?

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It's been so long since I've played a demo to make me want to buy a game. I'd say Star Wars Battlefront. While it didn't give any story info supposedly because the devs thought everyone knew, it introduced the mechanics well and showed the players it was a class based capture point style game.
Anyway, Shamus, I always enjoy your writing.

Answer: inFamous, it showed the comic cutscenes which were intriging but I mostly just noticed the ace lightning powers and jumping around the city.

The last good demo I played was probably Warcraft 3. It had extra levels just for the demo (which were later released in The Frozen Throne).

Or maybe it was Audiosurf, but that's not exactly a demo. Just 10 songs of the actual game.

Yah, I miss the good old days of the demo. You'd think they'd at least make the level the first level because that'll be the one that trains you how to work everything, but no. Nowadays, demos are just the most attractive sections of the game.

The last demo I played that made me want to buy a game was the Company of Heroes demo. It's one small cluttered map that causes the game to end really quickly and leave you wanting more.

I noticed that a couple of years ago there was some evidence towards "trial" versions of the game, where you'd play the full game for a preset amount of time (i.e. 1 hour) and then it would lock up and suggest you fork over $40. Then it seemed to fade away. I don't know if I like them, but they're certainly better than this "Let's just give them 1/2 of the middle-most level of the game" idea. I actually just saw a better version of this in an indie game: Cortex Command which allowed you to play the tutorial for an unlimited amount of time, and all the other levels for six minutes.

The best way to have a demo would be to give the player the game but only get to like, say, an hour into it.

That way you start from the beginning, understand what is happening, and learn the basic mechanics of the game play. Then the demo ends further into the game, leaving you at a point where you want to know what's happens next.

Basically, a good demo is one that doesn't feel like a demo. One that feels like your playing the actual game, including the foibles the game may have.

The last demo that got me to a buy a game was the one for Plants vs. Zombies. It gives you the actual game, let's you play it for an hour, then tells you to buy it. As soon as the demo ended, I bought the game.

Serious Sam was the last game that made me run out and buy the game. I think the only game demo I've played since then is RE5

Aquaria´, bought it 3 hours later. And thats pretty much it as far as I can remember in my whole gaming career. Other then that, most demos are only useful for hardware benchmarks and even in this aspect they try to cheat recently.

So I came to the point where I wait until a game is available as rental or a friend got it, because the demos are less then useful most of the time and I don't want to get post from lawyers because I downloaded a potentially bad game. And since games usually come at a low price at this point, it's the publishers loss.

Interestingly, the Wolfenstein 3D "demo" (ok shareware episode) was much more entertaining (especially at the time) and did the trick than most of the modern demos combined.

As for the last demo -> purchase story, that would be FEAR2. Although it was awfully short, when i played it i was "i want it now, i want it NOW!". Of course *any* demo that makes you want the game badly would feel short. But most demos are criminally short nonetheless :-P.

The previous one was Aquaria. That was actually a two hours demo(!). At some point i was wondering if they distributed the full game by accident :-P.

Answer to the last question: Plants vs Zombies.

Okay, so they call it a trial version, not a demo, but still, it served the same purpose.

Well, I've yet to play a demo that has changed my perception of the game so much that I will buy it, although Bioshock had a demo that got pretty darn close. Sure, it's just the first level or so, but isn't that quite fitting for a demo? As mentioned in the article, the start of any game always presents a bunch of elements that will be important for the rest of it, such as characters, setting etc.

So why not just use the first level as the game's demo? It might be the easy way out, but then you almost definently will get some sort of story explanation as well as some gameplay demonstration.

P.S. The one reason for not getting Bioshock despite the demo is that my friend already has it on PC, and that I'll simply play it at his house...


Answer: inFamous, it showed the comic cutscenes which were intriging but I mostly just noticed the ace lightning powers and jumping around the city.

Maybe this also, but somehow I got the demo in french, so I didn't understand what was happening except for "they're hurting you, hurt them". Actually took away some of my will to buy it right away...

Freelancers demo made me buy it. God I adored that game.

That's more than you would think. Recalling, I bought World of Goo and Overlord on grounds of the demo (they actually made we WANT to have it in the first place). I was pleasantly surprised especially with the latter, because when I played the full version, I realized the demo had given me opportunities you actually don't have that early in the game, so that was really well done. Plus it came with the opening "cut scene" AND a tutorial. That's a lot for no bucks, other than that it made me pay twenty to get it.

Other than that, you're dead on, I've long lost count on the demos I played only to find out that they sucked and can't be trusted. Which is, essentially, why I pirate - DISCLAIMER: I buy the games if I like them, I relly do. Even if it means getting a worse version of the same, like with Mass Effect, which I bought after beating my pirated version.

King's Bounty is the last game where the demo sold me. The demo is the entire tutorial plus the first 'map' - you could probably get several hours of play out of it. In fact, there was so much content in the demo that I didn't even finish it - but I got more than enough information about the game to let me know I wanted to play the real one.

Also, the latest demo for Wolverine on the Xbox 360 was also quite good. It didn't motivate me enough to buy the game, but it impressed me enough to make take notice, and I might pick it up in the future. Again, it's the entire first level (ending on a cliffhanger before the boss fight)

Answer: inFamous, it showed the comic cutscenes which were intriging but I mostly just noticed the ace lightning powers and jumping around the city.

You weren't interested when lightning was involved!?


Culture shock. Where we live, we worship lightning!


I say it was Company of Heroes, which was the last demo making me wanting more.

Demos are good at detering the game trying to be sold.

Anybody remember the Lunar Silver Star Story Complete (longest title ever) demo for the playstation? It was basically the first few hours of game. Literally. Once you beat the demo you could continue everything with the main game. Fucking A.

Unbelievably, the best demo I've played was the Iron Man demo, and I never bought the game...

Well me and skate 2 had this thing

I saw a few videos of it
wanted it
tried the demo
the 6 minutes it gave were just enough to fool around slappy's enough to convince me to buy it

haven't regretted it since

Red Faction Guerilla great demo but that was the story demo not the multiplayer demo... or plants vs zombies aah "there's a zombie on your lawn"

Savage Moon off the PSN, completed the demo and brought the game there and then. Spent hours on since (about 3 days ago that was).

Just before then I played the UFC demo on the PS3 then went and pre-ordered it.

I agree completely that the demo for Resident Evil 5 was terrible, I was uminh and aring about getting it. Played the demo and didn't even consider buying it.

Amusingly, it's been many indy game demos that have sold me. Besides the Plants vs. Zombies demo (popcap is evil --- no other explanation for the addictiveness of their games --- and I wouldn't call popcap indy), I've bought Audiosurf, defense grid, ifluid, oddworld and mr. robot based on their demos. I havn't bought Osmos, cogs, braid or "And yet it moves" based on their demos (which is fair) although I'm on the fence about the latter.

As for mainstream games, I bought FEAR 2 based on it's demo. Interestingly, the demo isn't in-game content. It gives a good idea of what the game is about, but it's flow is a contrived glue-together of several bits of the real game.

It may also be worth mentioning that having encountered a hacked copy of Half-life 2, I was so impressed with valve that I bought their complete pack awhile back. In escence, the hacked copy was a demo :).

Crysis, mount and Blade and max payne are the only demos i have really tried out. The last one i played was empire total war and that just put me off.
Mount and blades demo is massive. It give you till around level 20 before it ends, and you can take as long as you like to get there, and you get the entire game. It really sold me on the game and it lets you experiance most of the thigns that are possible in game.

The last demo I played that did it's job was actually quite recent. The Phantasy Star Portable on the PSP was a good demo. It let you play a few of the first levels. Could repeat till you reached level 10 or completed a specific level. Gave enough story to make it interesting too, and had the full character creator.

Triple AD:
Red Faction Guerilla great demo but that was the story demo not the multiplayer demo... or plants vs zombies aah "there's a zombie on your lawn"

The multiplayer demo is out now, go download it. NOW. ITS AWESOME.

The demos for Geneforge and Avernum are always great. They give you a huge chunk of the full game, with the option to buy the full game once you've reached the limit. In Geneforge, that's an hour's gameplay if you rush through it. In Avernum, it's about the same size as a normal game.

Dark Messiah of Might and Magic.

There was some reveal at the beginning, then your mentor dude was like, "Okay, now, there's some baddies, and you should kill them." So I killed them. And then I restarted the demo and killed them again. I just loved fighting them so much.

But, I tend to only care about gameplay. If the whole demo had just been a short control tutorial, then combat, I'd have been fine.

And the RE5 demo you highlighted here sounds perfectly okay to me.

The last demo I played was Mirror's Edge, I now know to never trust a demo.

After playing the Red Faction Guerrilla demo I went and pre-ordered it. I was probably going to do it demo or otherwise though.

Last demo I played was also Mount and Blade. The only restriction on the demo was the player could not advance past character level 6. The entire map was unlocked as were all missions and NPC's. I played the demo three times before I broke down and baught the full version. I was not disapointed.

The demo hinted that I would be able to reshape the political land scape by starting/ending wars, raiding caravans, and sieging castles. However as a level 6 character I wasn't strong enough to do that sort of thing. I tried but fail miserably. After building up a character to level 35 I was going about doing all those things I wanted to do in the demo and discovering new things while I was at it.

The demos for Mirrors Edge, Valkyria Chronicles, Eternal Sonata and Bladestorm all convinced me to buy the respective game. I don't think console demos are any worse now than they used to be... I remember that issue of the Official Playstation Magazine (£4.99 by the way) which gave you two rounds of Tekken 3 before resetting itself.

Ironically, the last game that actually instilled a feeling of wanting in me where there was none before was Mirrors Edge. Or possibly the demo for Red Faction: Guerilla.

Interestingly, later Tomb Raider games are VERY good at this. The anniversary edition is about a half-hour, and ends with her guns pointed at a frigging T-Rex! And underworld also shows off the better bits of the gameplay before plunging her off a cliff to end it. I bought those games... because of the demos.

Recent good demos: Civilization Revolution, Too Human (BETTER than the full game), Bioshock, Sins of a Solar Empire, Mirror's Edge.

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