280: You Can't Judge a Game By Its Trailer

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I'm a lot more weary about buying a game without having played a demo ever since I got Bad Company 2 to find the 1 player mode stinks and people were too good online.

And it's increasingly frustrating to find most of the big name games on the PC are no longer getting demos, and the ones that are only appear on Steam.

With console games, there is always the option of renting.

With PC games, demos are nothing short of necessary.

You can't rent PC games as far as I know. And even if you want to be surprised, nothing is a better judge of how well you run a game than running the game itself. And nothing is more disappointing than coming home with a game only to find out that you can't play it.

We can read trailers, especially gameplay trailers, in the same way we read movie trailers... We do it to see if the setting, story and gameplay is something interesting for us.

Demos help, but they are not all that good. Demos are very succinct versions of the gameplay, and can only be useful if they are made to represent the actual game. Demos like Brutal Legend misslead more people that it helped, even if its existance helped improve sales by creating awareness.

This... When I played the Brutal Legend demo I thought the game was going to be this great Action-Adventure style game. After it came out and I saw it at a friends house and there was all these RTS elements to the gameplay, I decided to not buy it and was really happy I didn't pre-order it.

Demos only help if they are a true reflection of the core gameplay. Trailers are nice, but I prefer game trailers that show actual gameplay and not just cutscenes..

Seriously. I cannot agree more.

About the Darksiders demo: yeah, it showed you how the game actually played, but it also completely ruined almost two hours of play time when you buy the game. It's like you've been playing a game for two hours without saving, and then your pc/console crashes. You'll play these two hours of content again, and the rest of the game won't be less fun, but I think everyone will agree that those two hours, which is about 10% of the game, suck balls. Even though they were probably fun if you had not played the demo before. Long demos are great if you are not going to buy the game (even though you like the demo), but they are a really bad idea if you áre planning to buy it.

Also: for a lot of games demos would be a great thing, but I think you're forgetting all those games where the experience can't be grasped with a demo. For example, a game like Shadow of the Colossus. I played its demo on a games convention years ago, and it bored the hell out of me. You were riding a horse in an empty world, and you no idea what to do or where to go. And even if, by luck, you did find a giant to kill, the fight won't give you a slightest idea of the emotional experience that SotC is when you actually play it.

The same goes for a game like Tales of Symphonia, or the 3d Zelda games, or every other game that is more than the sum of its parts: when playing a (good) demo you'll probably have an idea of how the combat works and how the game looks like, but that demo wouldn't even hint at the whole experience of that game.

Nor do I agree with your point about trailers: a trailer doesn't tell you how the controls are, but that's why a trailer is not a review. It only complements your view about a game, and most gamers know that you need more for a proper judgement. Therefore, a trailer can definitely be a good thing to expand your knowledge or gut feeling about a game, even though it's not the full experience. If I see a picture of someone unknown to me, that picture won't make me 'know' that person, but that doesn't make me proclaim that a picture is useless for this cause. How about you?

I'm a part of the group that ignores most of what it sees in trailers. I too find them highly misleading and lacking in worthwhile information. But, I'm afraid they do their job of selling a game quite effectively. Just browze through the comments section tagged onto the release of new trailers and you'll read endless short and highly excited exclamations from gamers who sound like they're hopping up and down like agitated monkeys.


That looks awsum!

Cant wate to by this!!!

I literally laughed aloud upon watching that trailer for Reach. At first, I was thinking that they had made a Halo movie or something, but no, they had to use their pyrotechnics budget on a freaking live action trailer for a GAME. What's the point if you won't be playing as those characters or interacting with them?

Bungie sure has gotten silly lately.

On another note, there was another Deus Ex trailer that had a lot of gameplay footage in it. Shit looks so cash.

I totally agree, I got suckered into thinking Fable III was gonna be just as good as Fable II because of all the hype, and that was a bloody AWFUL game!

the problem is, the few RPG demos I've played don't really do justice to the finished product. Trying to fit a huge game into a tiny chunk doesn't work, especially when you've got 101 different mechanics on offer. I mean, if you played a GTA demo, or Fallout demo, would you walk away thinking that game was any good?

The only demos that have REALLY impressed me are UFC undisputed and Enslaved: Odyssey to the west.
(there's reviews for a bunch of demos on xbl here http://www.digitaltarmac.com/home/2010/11/14/xbl-demos.html )

I'm in the camp that considers a demo almost essential before buying a game. In addition to all the things mentioned that pertain to the "gameplay" aspects (technical, as "how is the control scheme (keyboard customization, etc.)" to artistic, as "how interesting is the story", "how are the animations, sounds, etc."), there is also the "compatibility" aspect. Will the program run on my computer? If yes, how well does it run?

None of these compatibility aspects can be gauged by watching a trailer. Anyone replying "read the required/recommended specs for the game" should take a look at all the possible hardware configurations (graphic, sound, cpu, memory) and compare this to the simple list that is usually presented as the game's specs. Those specs are a rough guidance, but nothing more. How often do you have forum posts that go "My computer is way beyond recommended specs, I can play similar titles on highest settings, but game X just crawls on my PC."

I can't play Gothic 4 (Arcania) on my PC, because there seems to be a problem with my graphic card (confirmed by forum posts from users with the same problem). Amnesia runs at around 0.05 fps. Pathologic repeatedly crashed (on my previous PC) after 5 minutes with some sound error. To be precise, I don't know if the above is true, I should have said that the *demos* of those games behaved that way. Nothing of this I would have ever known if I had only watched trailers of those games.

Why seem demos to have come out of flavor? The video game industry has matured and expanded its target population since 10-15 years before. Budgets have risen immensely. You simply can't reach that many people by a demo as you can with "traditional" advertising online, in game mags or on tv. Advertising/PR is always about *control* of information flow. From big budget productions like Starcraft II and now Diablo we get carefully timed information snippets.

Ten years ago, a publisher website might have a 10 day countdown to the release of a new game. Today, they have 10 day countdown to the *announcement* of a new game. 15 years ago, discussion was about doctored screenshots in preview material. A typical explanation was that graphical feature X was planned at that time, not yet implemented, so faked on the preview screenshot. Later feature X was canceled, but nobody seemed to have informed the PR department. So a faked screenshot ended up not only in the preview material (understandable) but on the back of the box. 10 years ago we had back of the boxes that consisted of 6 pictures, 5 of them from cut scences and one from actual gamplay. Today we have the word "gameplay trailer", which only exists because there are other trailers that do not contain gameplay elements, something that would not have made sense to me 10 years ago.

Game marketing is now in the same state as marketing of other consumer goods: It misleads anywhere it can, tries to sell a product not by its features (that would be boring) but by some emotional grip. With the advent of the internet and widespread availability of costumer reviews for almost anything, it is now much more important that you put the message "Buy this game!" into the heads of as many people as possible at launch. A pre-release game demo would directly undermine that, because the potential customer could now form his own opinion. A post-release game demo is probably seen as a waste from a marketing perspective, as all the buzz is already over. This ties in greatly with the fact that games work like hollywood movies: The "opening weekend" is all important and after a few month sales have probably trickled down to almost nothing.

There is a way to track is someone playing a demo went on to buy/rent the full game. And it's ridiculously easy.

Download Demo - Play demo - Earn achievement

or just have the demo unlock something in the full game you'd otherwise never get.

Easy way to get people to actually try demos (achievement whoring) and sell more games.

"You Can't Judge a Game By Its (teaser) Trailer" thats what I told the multitude of haters at dtoid when they saw the original teaser trailer for binary domian.

Darksiders... shame the full PC version was bug riddled and broken and without a single patch. I call that taking the money and running

It is possible to make a trailer that captures some of the essence of a game, I just think that publishers don't have the incentive to do it. The trick may be to show what the game feels like, instead of trying to show the game.

Some of Eve Online's trailers have been praised and criticized at the same time. Praised because they give an impression about what the game can feel like, and criticized because the footage in the trailers were nothing like the in-game graphics.
The Dominion trailer is a good example:

Of course no trailer or marketing material can be trusted. The publishers decide how honest they like to be. But it can be made descriptive.

"Dead Island" is everything I have to add. Awesome trailer, pre-beta release as an actual end-user version of the game's PC port. Hooray.

news flash; CGI cinematic trailer is not a good representation of the game lol

Speaking of deus ex....wasn't there also a gameplay trailer of it which was pretty accurate?

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