Demos - Preparation advice
Think how many times you’ve started to play a demo then somewhere only a few moments into it suddenly out of nowhere, it crashes due to a development error, frustrating isn’t it? One of the most important things you must ensure when releasing a demo of your game is that it actually works, I know that this may sound obvious but it happens so many times not to mention it at the start of this.
Try to locate as many errors or bugs you can yourself, don’t leave it up to the unsuspecting player to do this as it will more than likely put them off downloading the next demo. This isn’t something you want to rush towards also; even though it does look good for your game to have a demo but keep in mind it will also look bad upon you for not presenting it well.
The easiest way to spot these errors is by playing the game yourself from the ‘new players’ point of view and keep in mind that although you may know what to do next, the player wouldn’t have a clue unless instructed. Things like trying to go through doors you’re not meant to or even going to areas that shouldn’t be available till later on in the game, this is a problem that many players find confusing and normally results in them getting lost and giving up.
Remember it doesn’t take much for the player to close the game, keep them on the right path and don’t let them even consider quitting the game.
If the Demo itself is in the Beta stages and most bugs and errors haven’t been filtered out yet, don’t you think you should let the player know this? After all you’ve presented this as a Demo, similar but not the same as something in the Beta stage. As I see it, Beta testing can be done not just before the Demo or the complete game is ready for download, if you feel that you’ve reached a landmark in development it may be a good time to check the game up to that point. If you have selected certain people to Beta test for you then send it along to them. If you’re wanting the player to Beta test and find these errors and such for you then call your download a Beta, ask for the ‘when, where and how’ so you can eliminate it. Don’t make them think it’s a full working Demo.
A good factor about Demos that can make the player feel like they want to play the full game even more is where the Demo ends and I don’t mean where you’ve finished up to. Think about it, what would be the best place or situation to leave the player in? How would you feel if you’ve been running backwards and forwards from town to town, learning and listening to instructions, then without warning “Thank you for playing this Demo.” appears, would you not prefer to be left in suspense, questioning what is going to happen next?
Look at your story and see where moments like this occur, if you’ve not reached that stage yet then don’t panic, don’t rush the rest of the game to get to that point. If you do then the player may even give up playing before getting to that point. There’s nothing worse than a Demo that doesn’t fully represent the quality of your game.
Put real thought into each and every Demo you do, and how you want the game to come across to the player, remember this is their first chance to play the game. Updating every time you get something done will more than likely lose peoples interest in the game, especially if the player has to start over from the beginning just to reach the point where the Demo ended last time and there is only one additional map. Would you re-download a whole game, just to see one insignificant advancement?
As a final note on Demos, try to remember that this is what will make the player decided if they want to play the full game or not, make it count and make it fun.
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