Demoman

When doing a trawl throughout a my various forums I noticed a link to one of my friend’s blog. This is one that I used to read, and I thought it would be fun to look over his few posts, and thus I found this one. For those few of you who decide not to click that link (Why not? He’s more affluent than me), he talks about the fact that demos are somehow non-existant. Even though he’s give his two cents, I felt that since I’ve started this blog, I think its fairer on him to just give him a pingback on a post instead of attempting to condense my feelings in a comment.  

Just an image with a big yellow box to prove my point.

When I first began gaming, my Dad had about 30 demo disks from god knows how many years ago. One that still sticks in my mind to this day is the demo of RoadRash. All it had was one level, and I can remember it pretty much perfectly. Consider the fact that I haven’t played it for about 4 years and you’ll understand how powerful a demo can be. Consider further that games are expensive and when you don’t have any money and £5 seems like the whole world’s wealth, you understand why you want a demo of a game. Nothing is more annoying than spending £30 then discovering that pile of silicon you just bought is a pile of crap. Even worse is the fact that because I couldn’t afford to get a better computer  I didn’t want to spend money on a game that my pile of silicon couldn’t play.

I really can’t understand why developers don’t understand the fact that demos are powerful things that make gamers happy people. They evidently don’t. Its plain to see that demos are obviously not seen as good a tool as they used to be. 5/6 years ago, most big games had a demo that came with it as well. Now, well, I’m interested to see how good Assassin’s Creed is. Of course, I don’t want to buy it in case it sucks. I also don’t want to download it. So, currently, Assassin’s Creed (This is both of them) is missing out on a purchase. I would like to know how good these games are, and one of the best ways of seeing whether it fits my playing style is by getting to actually play it. Wow, shock horror there.

Too many games also make the mistake of just giving you the first 2 levels as well. The easy levels, the ones that are easy to sleep walk through straight away. I don’t want to be shown the first level of the game. I want to see various bits of it. XIII was released and the demo that came with it had 2 levels, the first one, and I think the 6th one. It took out any spoilers, and gave me a bearing on both the heavy action sequences, and the little bits of stealth. Guess what I bought a week later? So a good demo gave me good enough reason to shell out the money to buy the game. I enjoyed it, it was my playing style and it was awesome. The fact that developers aren’t seeing this is more proof that developers are becoming more and more closed-minded.

Burnout is another example of a game demo that convinced me to buy the game (The fact it was reduced from £30 to £12 had only a small amount to do with it). The Burnout demo I urge you to go and try, just to see how demos should be done. They gave you the full game for free. Just with a timer. PopCap do exactly the same thing. Every game demo that you play is restricted to one hour, and you get to see as much of the game as you like. It’s easily one of the best things to do for an arcade style game. I’m trying to think of the best way to demo the other type of game. For that we have to go to one of the greatest games that I’ve ever played: Dungeon Keeper.

The Dungeon Keeper demo is available here if you haven’t played it. The reason I’m pointing it out would be more apparent if you have actually played the game. For those who haven’t (You really have missed out on a great game) the Dungeon Keeper demo is only one level long, and this level doesn’t exist in the full game. It was bespoke just for the game, and if Bullfrog still existed now, I’d find the programmers and shake their hands. That little bit of effort put in by Bullfrog of creating another quick level allowed me to see the full range of what you have to do in most levels. If they’d just given me the first level, then all I would’ve discovered is how to build a treasure room and look after flies. In the demo, I got a chance to look after most of the low-level creatures and see most of the rooms.

Is it seriously that hard for people to create a level? What has happened to demos? Why can’t developers look at demos as a way of allowing gamers to see their products without getting misguided views? My only current reasoning behind why demos don’t exist is because developers are scared that we’ll see their game for what it really is. Could it be that the developers don’t want to show you how their game is played so you don’t know about that bad optimisation and voice acting? I know of several people who turn to piracy just to see how these games actually play. If they suck then they’ve just lost time. If they’re good then they buy the game and support the developer. I personally don’t think they’re bad people, but that’s just me.

Demos are a great tool, and its time that publishers and developers realised that.

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  1. This is your best article yet by a long way. It’s focused and gets your point across. Well done sir.
    Keep plugging at it, work on your article flow, and keep it up.

    • Thanks very much. I’ve often thought I haven’t given my ideas enough justice, and hearing that it looks good from the reader’s point of view as well makes me happy man.

  2. For me: Theme hospital demo -> Got the game as soon as I could. I do sorely miss bullfrog.

    Nice article man, don’t be disheartened if people don’t comment or read things you feel to be your best work and such.

    • I’m under no illusions that people read this. I just like getting an email that isn’t spam in my mailbox 😀

      I don’t think I ever played the Theme Hospital demo. I did buy the game though. Was it the same as Dungeon Keeper?

  3. Comments are a bastard and completely unpredictable. I find that generally, a slaved over 1000 word review wont get a comment but some stupid video of danny dyer will. Fucked up.

    I bet more people read it than you think, and also it’s as much about quality of reader as it is quantity.

    • I still like the email…

      You’re probably right in terms of quality not quantity. People just writing ‘LOLZ YOU FAILZ AT WRTIING’ would be both annoying and painful to read. Though as far as I’m concerned, I’m writing for two reasons: 1) To prove I can set myself deadlines and keep to them, and 2) To have fun. The nice comments are a nice icing on the cake. Though everyone knows the cake is a lie.

  1. December 10th, 2009
  2. December 17th, 2009
  3. August 20th, 2010
  4. December 2nd, 2010

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