The Trouble With Demos

The demo stands alone. In all of entertainment, with the possible and fairly rare exception of novel samplers, there’s nothing quite like it – it may be based on the same principles as a movie trailer or a single, but the execution and the eventual effect is entirely different. A movie trailer is a mash-up of the film’s best moments – often to the point that the film itself simply can’t measure up to that ninety seconds of concentrated bombast. A single is, in theory at least, the most immediate track from an album, the song that demonstrates that artist at the height of their abilities.

A demo? It’s got to do so much more than simply look cool or sound catchy.

It needs to convince you that this is what you want to spend 10, 20, 100, infinite hours playing. It’s got to be fun, it’s got to be challenging, it’s got to be aesthetically impressive. It’s got to make you want to spend $50 there and then.

And yet, so often, it’s just a slice from the front of the game – the slow bit from the start, the tutorial that tells you how to look up. Unless the developer’s created a custom level – a very rare practice – they don’t have much choice on the matter. Watching a film or listening to music is primarily a passive experience (for the sake of supporting that argument, I’ll not mention how often I have to draw my curtains so the people at the bus stop outside my window can’t see me dancing in my chair whenever itunes shuffles up something wondrous), something easily made to stand on its own, but most every game involves escalation of difficulty and complexity. It’s a deadly gamble to dump some middle or late-game content into a demo as a) without a few hours of prior context, it may prove entirely inaccessible and b) you don’t want the player to feel he’s seen everything and thus not bother playing the game.

I hear tales that people still play the Battlefield 1942 and Quake III demos online to this day, as they included enough of the games’ best weapons and maps to satisfy a number of players until, apparently, the end of time. Whoops. More recently, I’ve no idea how many people honestly didn’t buy Crysis because the demo inadvertently included every weapon and vehicle in the game, but I really can’t imagine it helped sales.

There are plenty of good, exciting demos that encouraged me towards the full thing. Bioshock’s a fine recent example – while I was immediately disappointed by its linearity, witnessing the plane crash, the spectacular first sighting of Rapture, inside and out, and those haunting strains of Django Reinhardt made for perhaps the most profound omigodomigodmustplaythisnow moments a demo’s ever given me. This says more about Bioshock than anything else – there aren’t many games that set so strong a scene, so quickly. Its demo was an introduction to its world, a true teaser. So many other demos are all tutorial and no trousers. And that can hurt them.

I’ve a specific, if very unlikely, recent game in mind: Timeshift. It certainly wasn’t A Great FPS. It was only sometimes A Good FPS. But it was, eventually, Quite A Fun FPS Regardless Of A Boatload of Missed Opportunities And Genre Stereotypes.

I smiled wryly when I spotted Yahztee picking on it as an example of an FPS that tries too hard during his recent Painkiller re-review. His stance was that Painkiller was refreshingly undiluted man-shoot fun in an age when every other FPS took itself too seriously. I personally felt Painkiller was too damned bland to achieve even that, but if it scratched his itch, fair enough. Timeshift, late last year, achieved exactly that effect for me.

There were a lot of terribly clever FPSes out or due out last Autumn/Winter, and Timeshift’s absolute simplicity – while finer control was on option, those time control powers boiled down to a single, context-sensitive button to be pushed in the event of either disaster or puzzle – proved to be something I swallowed up happily in spite of myself. And so I mentioned that I’d had fun with it down the pub, and several people regarded me with something like horror. What was wrong with me? Timeshift was clearly a piece of shit, they thought.

This theory was based on their having played the demo. So, confused, I played it myself, despite having already finished the full game. Immediately, I saw what I’d forgotten. The game’s first hour or two were terrible. The worst kind of FPS cliche, all corridor-crawling and firmly-bolted fake-doors, miserable grey walls and shameless Half-Life 2 plagiarism. If I’d have played only that, the red mist that so often comes for me would have had me deem Timeshift a 4 or a 5 out of 10. (I went 7 in my review, but I can entirely understand why others would go for a 6).

What the demo didn’t show was what the game became at about the three hour mark, the stuff I had in mind when writing up the review – it relaxed, stopped taking itself quite so seriously, and turned into a vaguely Max Payne by way of Serious Sam giggleathon. Wideish openish spaces, hordes of enemies and explodey things and the ability to pause or slow-mo time made it into a playground – there I was, dropping grenades amidst large packs of frozen men, slipping away and slipping back into real-time to watch the fireworks. Or freezing the game, stealing a weapon from an enemy’s hand then sniggering as he cried out first in confusion and then in terror once reality resumed. The crossbow whose bolts exploded a couple of seconds after impact offered endlessly hilarious torso-splitting. There was even a quad bike you could use to sail off ramps and over cliffs in slooooooow moooooooootionnnn orathyperfastspeed.

Absolutely, 100% meat-headed, and my enthusiasm waned in the game’s last few hours, but I had a load of fun in the middle. I’d never, ever recommend Timeshift over COD4 or Bioshock or HL2E2 or Crysis, but as a stop-gap FPS snack – yeah. Perhaps, had the demo consisted of one of the better, later levels, the game wouldn’t have sunk almost without trace.

That demo, though… Horrible, horrible. I just couldn’t believe it was released to promote the game. Only a fool would want to buy Timeshift after playing just those twenty miserable, monotone minutes. Timeshift went through a fairly torturous development process, being redesigned at least a couple of times and switching publisher halfway through, and I can only presume those earlier levels were either leftovers from a poorer draft or a misguided attempt to stamp some kind of theme and atmosphere – i.e. one purloined from HL2’s vision of a dystopic future – onto a game that, later, didn’t really have one, outside of comedy killings.

So, why was that first, dreary level made into the demo? Well, because demos generally aren’t treated as movie trailers are. A trailer’s a whole piece of work in and of itself, a team of editors and producers finely constructing a couple of customised minutes that show the film at its absolute best. A demo, generally, gets made during the short time between a game’s development being completed and the game going on sale. Only the very rich or very motivated will be able to come up with something tailor-made for promotion (memorably, Half-Life: Uplink, for instance – which came out quite some time after the game itself) – and so they just slice a convenient chunk off the top, stick a Click Here To Order The Full Game on the end and bung it out there.

You could make a custom level that will show the game in a better light and enrapture the existing fans, but will it really pay-off? Most likely, the publisher isn’t paying you any extra money for it, and you desperately need a holiday. Tutorial, first level, done. Maybe a slightly later level if it doesn’t ask anything out of the ordinary from the player.

The Witcher, released in the same month, is similar – its demo was generously massive, but the early portion of the game it included was widely agreed to be significantly inferior to what came later. The devs couldn’t exactly slip in something from 20 hours in and expect players to work out what to do, however. What choice did they have, bar creating a whole new mini-adventure?

Even the Crysis demo, which had the good fortune of being from a game in which its first level was in some ways its best, smacked of time-pressured slapdashery – how did no-one notice it contained the entire game’s aresenal and script? Presumably, because no-one put all that much effort into the demo.

That this seems to generally be the case is a shame. It’s got to have hurt some games. Indeed, one of the points that some pirates used to justify their proclivities during the comments pile-on a couple of weeks back is that they don’t feel demos are representative enough of a full game, and so they torrent the full thing to establish whether it’s worth buying. Or so they claim. Do they really buy it if is? I dare not conjecture.

Their point seemed more that a demo can make a game seem better than it is, does not hint at the dozen hours of repetition and difficulty spikes that could follow a strong starting level, but I rather feel the opposite is true. COD4’s another good example – the aptly-named Bog level in its demo very much made it seem like Just Another Bog-Standard Modern-Day FPS, not even hinting at the artful 24 riffing of the narrative or the epic setpiece levels. COD4 proved to be a massive hit, of course – but I don’t think the demo played much part in that. Enormously positive reviews and word of mouth seemed to be the secret of its success. Indeed, so many of the most popular games go without demos at all – the Halo series, TF2, The Sims… I suspect if the demo is to remain a foremost motivating factor in purchase decisions, it may need to try something a little a different than the norm.

…Which is all a very long-winded way of saying I’d love to see someone at least try the movie trailer, hyper-edited approach, just to see what happens. It could very well end up like ROM CHECK FAIL, of course.


  1. brog says:

    It could very well end up like ROM CHECK FAIL, of course.

    Best case scenario.

  2. Hieremias says:

    I gotta admit, I don’t really play demos. Just too lazy, can’t be bothered, especially when they weigh in at 800+mb for fifteen minutes of gameplay. I get that it’s only supposed to be a trial, but to me word-of-mouth and positive reviews from sources I trust (read: not IGN) goes further than a demo.

    I can’t remember ever deciding to buy a game based on a demo. Maybe UT2k4 would be the closest, but I was pretty sure I wanted to buy it anyway.

  3. SwiftRanger says:

    I guess that awesome E3 2007 trailer really did something for CoD4 as well, just like the fact a lot of people knew it was Infinity Ward’s game again. A proper demo always beats anything though.

    Anyway, heard so much about TimeShift I gotta try it, it’s been lowered a lot in price by now.

  4. roBurky says:

    The Half-Life 2 demo skipped from the intro sequence to ravenholm, which was pretty good, showing off the bits that made it different to other shooters.

  5. Sam says:

    I think the last demo I played was, in fact, the QuakeIII demo… and yes, I actually did buy the full game, despite the demo being quite playable by itself.
    As Hieremias noted, I really can’t be bothered to download a gig of demo for less than 20 minutes gameplay.

  6. Wholly Schmidt says:

    Well now I want to play Timeshift. Great.

  7. Mo says:

    It’s a difficult problem to get right for sure. As a developer, I’m torn between giving away the good bits, or “saving” them to surprise players later in the game. That’s one of my pet-peeves with movie trailers … what’s the point of giving away all the good bits? Don’t you want your audience to be even a little surprised by the movie?

    Giving away some of the good bits (ie: the later levels) tends to ruin the pacing of the game. Also, I’d get annoyed if I played later parts of a game, and bought/registered the game because of the demo, only to be thrown back to the earlier levels we skipped over in the demo version.

    I think a good solution is to design your game with a demo in mind. Decide what the demo will consist of (eg: the first x levels) and then work towards making those levels encompass what your game is about (ie: introduce most, if not all, game mechanics), make the levels interesting/enticing, all while still saving some good bits for later.

    Easier said than done though! :)

  8. James T says:


    Like most things in life, a demo will only be really effective (ie, informative) if you put the hard yards in, and many studios can’t afford to/don’t want to do that, so, there ya go. I’m right behind the idea of demos, but they just don’t always work for every game.
    I find the representativeness of a demo is often dependent on the game being really good — Deus Ex and Half-Life, for example — as a rich (DX), or at least very solid (HL), game mechanic (I’m avoiding the word ‘gameplay’ here since apparently ever-so-unfashionable these days) can be represented fairly aptly within even a very shrunken arena; a slightly perverse situation, as a demo’s supposed to allow you to evaluate a game, yet if the game is lacking, then the demo is less able to forewarn you (see Bioshock; got totally sucked in by the demo, but there was no way 2k could’ve communicated within it that the game would stay exactly that shallow thenceforth) There’s probably a name for that kind of paradox…

    Anyway; no happy solution. Hooray!!!

  9. Kast says:

    Absolutely. Half Life: Uplink is a real touch stone with any mention of demos. What with the millions of dollars being thrown at big name games, and the great investment involved, you would think someone in marketing would recognise the benefit of a well orchestrated demo.

    FEAR had the closest thing to this that I can remember: the first two or three levels had been re-cut. Iirc, it didn’t change the gameplay much but at least you came to the full game relatively fresh.

  10. Feet says:

    Halflife Uplink isn’t even on Steam!

    For shame, I fancied giving it a go after reading this article. I have fond memories of playing it off a mag disc “bac’ in th’ day”.

  11. cliffski says:

    demos are essential. games are such a personal thing, it’s not always enough to trust reviews. what bugs me are
    a) devs pretending they cant technically make a demo of the game (yeah right) and
    b) demos that are the same size as the full game, and over a gig. Sorry, but I can’t be assed to try your game in this case.

    Nice article, I must give some thought to doing such a system with my games…

  12. dhex says:

    timeshift had moments of great potential overshadowed by halfassery.

  13. Flint says:

    I used to download tons of demos, but nowadays I get hardly any, even from games that interest me. They’re too damn gigantic these days, I’m not spending hours downloading gigs of stuff for a short preview.

  14. FP says:

    Anyone else get 4-5 paragraphs into this article before finally realizing it wasn’t about the demos for a game called “Idle Thoughts”? No? Just me then…

  15. Valentin Galea says:

    @FP: Me too! :)) Especially that screenshot which i didn’t recognized at first

  16. James says:

    “It’s got to make you want to spend $50 there and then.”

    $50? I like that Britain’s best games journalists have a games blog that’s making a good name for itself in a largely American market, can we have pounds please? :)

  17. Cooper says:

    Demos have made me spend my money, and saved my money, pretty equally over the years. I wish developers would take demos more seriously.

    Surely print media could hold some sway in this? I can’t be the only one who decides whether to buy this-or-that mag this-or-that month – or not – depending on the contents of the DVD?

    In which case, where are my exclusives? Whilst demos limited to one magazine went with internet distribution – I remember the old Amiga mags would often sell themselves on exclusive levels and extended demos made by the devs ‘for-that-mag-only’.

  18. Leeks! says:

    I think the simplest, but most difficult solution to the conundrum of creating a demo that, at once introduces the player to the game’s mechanics and also shows off the best parts of the game is to make the intro sequence of the actual game better (a la Bioshock).

    While this would certainly be hard, is it really that unreasonable? Most successful products of any other medium have a hook (movies, albums, novels), and why shouldn’t video games? All the games I’ve played over the past year that really blew my socks off all had one of these areas right up front–Bioshock, CoD4 and even Portal, to a lesser extent.

  19. Yhancik says:

    @ FP : I had the same thing for a couple of seconds :p

    The Sims had a kind of demo ; it was a character editor with a limited library – much like the upcoming Spore Creatures Editor…
    And what about that ? They’re showing one very specific part of the game, but a part that can/might be pretty important for some/many players. See all the people who are mostly interested in Spore content creation ;)
    Will it help to sell the game ? I think it does.. so the job is done ?

    (Demos I played the most, probably : Carmageddon and Interstate 76.. it never was the same)

  20. Mman says:

    Agreed with the article; Unless I’m REALLY excited for a game (E.G. I NEED to play it now), or if it truely may affect my opinion of whether to get a game (if I’m completely on the fence). I’ve stopped bothering with demos, because, as well as taking ages to download, half the time they are terrible and horribly unrepresentative of the game they are based off.

    Half-Life Uplink is definitely one of the best I’ve seen, too bad more games don’t do that, as a “side-story” is the perfect way to show a lot without spoiling the game at all. The FEAR demo was also good in that regard, as, while not new content, it stuck together interesting set-pieces from the first few levels (including letting you play with a few things you only get later on in the actual game) and gave you a good overview of the game without spoiling much at all; it was a good example of showing a decent amount without taking tons of effort to produce.

    Then again, nowadays I feel the same way about most trailers; they only get a lot more interest from me on the basis that it takes very little time to check them out.

  21. Zeno says:

    Since I have a low-end graphics card, I use demos to see if I can run the game at all.

  22. etho says:

    Someone mentioned FEAR, and I agree, that’s the closest to a movie trailer I’ve ever played. It was just bits and pieces of several different levels, but it worked on me anyway. I’d love to see more games use the “best of” approach, but I can understand the developers not wanting to take time away from the actual game to fuss with the demo.

  23. Corion says:

    I will not buy a game unless it has a demo or I have played previous games by the developers and know what to expect (i.e. Valve).

    Unfortunately, having played a demo, I often buy games I later regret – Unreal Tournament 3, for example. The demo levels were pretty good, but in the full game the levels were absolutely horrid (layout and gameplay wise), at least, compared to what I had expected of it.

    I do always take demos with a grain of salt – but chances are if the game has no demo it’s not worth buying anyway.

  24. The Shed says:

    There have been some great demos over the years, and of course some awful ones. The best demos I can recall are probably the Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory one, the Ico one, the GRID one and a few others, but those are the ones that spring to mind. Sometimes bad games have really fun demos- usually kart games- Crash Bandicoot Cart had a brilliant demo, but the full game was sub-par.

  25. Dinger says:

    Books have demos; it’s called ‘browsing before you buy.’
    If a developer can’t build in a demo, they need to send their project lead back to full-time coding. If a publisher can’t ensure a decent demo, they need new marketers.

    Fine article; it’s why I read RPS.
    (P.S.:isn’t it ‘tortuous?’)

  26. Al says:

    All this, and no mention of the “Cannon Soccer” demo that was, I think, on the cover of an issue of Amiga Format that had a mini-version of Amiga Power in the middle of the magazine? It was a two level demo (oh yes), and the first superbly was set around a football pitch- with most of the enemy being Sensible Soccer player-sprites. The real sting came from the goal mouth- the keeper had a missile launcher.

    It was a superb concept- neatly introducing Sensible’s new baby whilst referencing their previous glory.

    Best demo ever.

  27. Mattress says:

    “So many of the most popular games go without demos at all – the Halo series…”

    Can no one remember the full level demo of the sublime Silent Cartographer? The demo that was the cornerstone of the major marketing campaign that launched Halo:Combat Evolved?

    Of course subsequent sequels didn’t need a demo, but it’s much easier for a franchise with strong brand name to go without a demo (especially when you blow 50million on marketing). Also worth noting perhaps the lack of a Halo3 demo may have had something to do with the length of the full game – it was a very short but gratifyingly sweet game.

  28. runningwthszzors says:

    reply to James T

    I think its interesting how you commented on Deus Ex’s demo. While I hadn’t had a chance to play it myself, I do remember being nervous about playing the game after trying out the Liberty Island level. The stealth seemed arbitrary, the gunplay seemed severely nerfed, silent takedowns seemed stupid, and death seemed too easy (tranq darts, anyone?).

    Having just finished the game, those concepts now come second nature to me. Its a great game, and even though the first level is good training, the gameplay in DX just doesn’t pay off without the storyline. The DX demo might just be off putting.

    On the other hand, the Painkiller military base demo was amazing. While I still consider Serious Sam better, the insanity of fighting massed baddies is not seen in too many other fps games. If I were a reviewer and I only played the demo, I’d give the game a 9/10… though the first levels were pretty awful.

  29. The Shed says:

    The silent cartographer was certainly sublime- but it was also practically the best level in the game. To my mind, none of the sequels have captured the pinnacle of genius that was Silent Cartographer in Halo.

  30. Larington says:

    I was pretty much sold on buying Anachronox, based on the demo (From a PCGamer disc no less). I wonder how many people never went from the Enemy Territory Quake Wars single map demo/beta up to the full version…

    With regards to Deus Ex, the demo actually left me expecting a game where I go from place to place solving crimes (Putting right what once went wrong, heh) so at first I was actually sorta put off when in the full game you get completely caught up in a linear progression of the main plot, leading right up towards the end, fortunately the story was good enough that I was easily able to overlook the apparent linearity.

  31. Radiant says:

    One of the best things about the xbox360 is the ready availability of demos on it’s live service.

    Instead of searching out that bit of food you saw run in the bushes earlier as is on the PC; all you have to do is sit on your arse, run out of bought games to play, look around, turn on the console and see what new demos are out.

    Yes; Live is a clunky piece of shit but that impulsive aspect of ‘demos right there’ made me check out games I would never have actively sought out based on screenshots and useless 7-8 out of 10 reviews alone [ie. Jericho] .

    Back on topic I checked out the Grid demo on Live and was immediately overwhelmed by Project Gotham Racing deja vu.
    It was such a disappointment; I was hoping for something fresh and what was on offer in the demo was a pretty run of the mill racer.
    Sure there maybe more to the game, /after/, but the only nugget of joy I found in that ‘experience’ was that I finally managed to get some bird to refer to me as ‘Chief’ for a nick name.

    Take THAT Clifford Blezinski

  32. Dean says:

    I think the easy availability of demos on the internet is why they’re so naff these days. Back in the days of PC and Amiga magazines having 2 floppy discs on the front, that meant the developers were competing to sell the best demo to the highest selling mag. There’d only be room for 2 or 3 a month, even though there might be 15 games being reviewed. As such, the developers seemed to make more of an effort.

  33. wyrmsine says:

    I became an Unreal Tournament devotee (until, y’know, recently) thanks to the complete and total weak sauce of the Quake 3 demo. Say what you will about the engines or later products, but Epic turned themselves into instant id competition with that demo. Instead of one level of uninspired design and palette (with only one enemy!), UT offered two of their best levels and their mutator system to boot. I’d like to see more like that…

  34. Ginger Yellow says:

    Bioshock’s demo could have stopped at the point, about 30 seconds after the game gives has given you control when you realise it’s not a cutscene any more, and it would still have been one of the best demos of all time. I was gobsmacked.

  35. ShaunCG says:

    I enjoyed the Timeshift demo on XBL, and do want to try out the full game – on the cheap. It was unimpressive, but fun. I wonder if different playing styles are significant in this. I’m a creeper, not a gung-ho type FPS player, so through being cautious I got to play with the more fun bits of the game. And being able to steal weapons from enemies and have them surrender to me was really quite wonderful; far preferable to me than the usual shoot-in-the-face method of interacting with hostile NPCs.

    I guess this makes me a fool. ;)

  36. Bema says:

    I never realised how awesome that Iron Man trailer actually is…

  37. wcaypahwat says:

    What annoys me is when demo’s are better than the actual game.

    Similarly, thief 2. The demo level was so much better than it was in the completed game.

  38. Cooper says:

    That’s precisely the kind of effort I was refering too. Bullforg’s Syndicate expansion – American Revolt – had an exclusive level for Amiga Format. Fire & Ice had a special ‘xmas’ version of the demo, not sure it was an Amiga Power exlcusive or not – seperate graphics, enemies & levels. I don’t remember the sensible soccer / connon fodder crossover, but I do remember a sensible soccer version with england v germany and a bomb, not a ball. Not sure where from, but probably AP.

    Ok, so the internet makes ‘exclusives’ difficult (though maybe not impossible) and capacity of dvds means there is less need for competition. Surely, though, if we all have good, positive memories of certain demos, HL Uplink et al. – that counts for something?

    Damn it. now I’m gonna have to find a copy of that coverdisc and kick a bomb at some Germans.

  39. Javier Candeira says:

    I loved the Quake II demo. Architecturally it included only the first one (or two?) levels, but with more advanced weapons and enemies.

    Architectonically, these first rooms are arguably some of the best in the whole game: the carefully arranged debris, the come-from-behind-through-the-water setup for one of the early battles, the glass-breaking and scripted-air-raid micro-setpieces…

    Yes, it may be outdated. And it had a limited palette. But I loved Quake II from the first moment I played that demo.

  40. James T says:

    I think its interesting how you commented on Deus Ex’s demo. While I hadn’t had a chance to play it myself, I do remember being nervous about playing the game after trying out the Liberty Island level. The stealth seemed arbitrary, the gunplay seemed severely nerfed, silent takedowns seemed stupid, and death seemed too easy (tranq darts, anyone?).

    (Heck, tranq darts are the last thing I’d use unless I’ve already cleared the area — the guys run around panicking and stirring up trouble for ages! …But I digress.) Although I think the DX gunfighting is unfortunately compromised (aiming fidelity increasing with gun skill is OK, but like you say, the guns are nerfed, even if they do kill you pretty good on Realistic), but I thought the stealth was perfectly well-behaved, if a little crude (no shadow/night cover, amd since you can only pick up bodies with empty inventories, they evidently chose to make bodies ‘unsuspicious’ to NPCs, so a bit of a step back from Thief). I guess the utility of the DX demo partly depends how much you enjoy the gameplay itself (a subjective thing, after all), but what it also does is show how open a lot of the levels are — Liberty Island, like quite a few (albeit not all) DX maps, is open beyond the point of there being, say, ‘two paths’ — sure, there are some bottlenecks to ingress into the Statue — that’s inevitable — but when you’re out there wandering around, there’s all sorts of strategies you can apply to take down the NSF, because there are so many vectors of attack, so many places to hide, the option to lure enemies with a noisy takedown, or thump ’em silently so they never see it coming, or even ghosting (I think Youtube might host the playthrough where a fellow completed the game using no inventory items (including weapons) — there are some minor ‘exploits’ in it, but nothing to the degree of the ‘Havok levitation’ which renders HL2 speedruns such a bore). So that breadth, I think, is a good example of what the game offers apart from its story.

  41. RichPowers says:

    Demos are extremely important for PC games. I can’t rent PC games or resell them. Once I drop $40 or $50 for a PC game, I’m stuck with it. Glad you mentioned the BF1942 demo. I was so impressed by the Iwo Jima map (battleships!? carriers!? planes!?) that I upgraded my PC just to play it at max settings.

    Larington: Played the ET:QW demo, thought it was crap, went back to TF2, and now won’t even by ET for $13 shipped. The demo saved me from spending money on a product I simply didn’t enjoy.

    Anyone else disappointed that Steam isn’t a clearinghouse for any and all PC game demos? I hate going to crappy, ad-ridden download sites just to browse demo catalogs.

    One last thing: please don’t make your demo 8 GB. And please make sure it uninstalls without crapping up my system.

  42. tentacleraep says:

    To be honest, I do pirate games, not as much as I used to back when I still went to school but I still pirate. That doesn’t mean that I don’t buy games.

    I have had a few games that had awesome demos (those with a custom level) where I have bought the game and been utterly disappointed, and as you say, there are a lot of demos that don’t live up to the real game.

    I have a couple of games that i have bought after completing a pirated version of the game, like Supreme Commander and Forged Alliance (which i incidentally haven’t even put in my dvd drive yet just unpacked). I did buy Crysis after playing the demo but that had more to do with me just loving the suit and the graphics, and I believe that the demo shows off the game beautifully.

    Then the main reason that I started pirating games was that to buy a game while growing up I would need to go to the nearest game store, and that was about 40 minutes by car and then hope that they would have a game I wanted, and convincing my parents to drive me for 40 minutes to check what games the store had was pretty hard, especially when i could get a lot of games for free from a friend.

    Nowadays I can just log onto steam and buy a game and I will get it as fast as if I was torrenting it, that is a very helpful thing when it comes to combating piracy.

    I have pirated every BF game until today and I have bought them all except for 2142 but that is because I get a strange error from the gfx-engine in both BF2 and BF2142.

    We live in an On demand world and if pirated stuff is the only available on demand stuff, then you cant even try to stop it.

    Also, the copy protections of today need to be scaled back, I had Bioshock two days before launch (played 2 hours, got bored and uninstalled) so the horrendous copy protections schemes didn’t stop me from torrenting it, but a game like Splinter Cell: Double Agent (which I bought without torrenting) wouldn’t run on my computer for half a year since it was conflicting with some burning software I had installed, which means that i would have gotten less of a problem if I had just pirated it and not bought it.

    (Also, I’m sorry if there are any misspellings or grammatical errors in my post because my post is tl dr)

  43. Sucram says:

    The Quake III demo is actually on the computer I’m using right now. It’s small, runs fast on these old office machines and is easy to setup and get in to.

    I feel putting the full game on might just over complicate things.

  44. Chris Nahr says:

    “I enjoyed the Timeshift demo on XBL”

    And I enjoyed the Timeshift demo on PSN. In fact it made me buy the full game (though at a reduced price, and I haven’t played it yet).

    What’s supposed to be wrong with the demo? It showed a competent if not stellar shooter with a fun timeshifting trick, which as I gather is exactly what the full game is.

  45. cliffski says:

    “Then the main reason that I started pirating games was that to buy a game while growing up I would need to go to the nearest game store”

    Thats the extent to which you give a damn about the hard work that people put into the games then? They worked 60 hour weeks for 2 years to make it, but if you have to put your shoes on to buy it, its not worth the effort, so you steal it.
    nice attitude,

  46. Alec Meer says:

    I know I mentioned piracy in the post, but let’s stick to demos here and do the usual piracy good/bad shouting another time. Thanks.

  47. tentacleraep says:

    Look I support developers, I am the one of all my friends who actually has bought a lot of games, I have like 76 games (mods not counted) on my steam account, I bought AoC Collectors Edition three days ago, since I have money and the ability to actually buy games that don’t require me to beg my parents to drive me to the nearest game store (as I said 40 minutes by car) just to check if they have the game .

    But as Alec said in the article demos don’t usually view all the sides of a game, some games don’t have demos at all. How am i supposed to know if the controls are going to be really shitty without being able to try it out before I buy it? Most retailers don’t let you hand the game back and say “The game really sucked balls, I couldn’t play it because it was so bad, can i have my money back?” (And I have felt that way some times).

    When I go to see a movie I usually know a bit about what I am going to get,I will probably also have seen at least one trailer checked genre it is, what actors and who made the film, that will tell me some of what I can expect from it.

    When it comes to games, it turns into a wholly different issue, since I can’t just go buy a John Romero game and believe it will be awesome because it is an action game and its made by John Romero, then I would have ended up with Daikatana, one of the most advertised games and one of the biggest failures as a game ever made.

    If I want to buy a car, I’ll probably read up a bit about it, then go try the car, not just sit in the seat, not just look at the car but actually drive the real actual car I’m going to buy, not a scaled down car with just two gears and a smaller engine.

    When I buy a game I expect to get 20 hours of enjoyment out of it, not just two hours of “What the fuck is this shit?”.

    I cannot trust a reviewer to tell me if I will like a game or not, I like some strange games and some mainstream games, and I truly hate some of the “best” games out there.
    If I buy a game that got 9/10 or more, I’ll expect quite an awesome game , and if I think its shit, ill be really disappointed.

    But don’t misunderstand me, I do spend a lot of money on games.

    Also, sorry about the long rant about why I pirate games, Ill stop now.

  48. Meat Circus says:

    Bu…but! Piracy shouting is our reason to exist…

    You know, I can’t think of a single time in my life where a demo has clinched my decision to buy a game. If I download a demo, I’m pretty certain I plan to buy the game already.

    And the last time a demo dissuaded me from buying a game was way back in my Amiga days.

  49. Paul Moloney says:

    ” I can’t rent PC games or resell them”

    Maybe not in the shops, but there’s always eBay. Prices for newish games seem to hold up relatively well. I’m an inverterate horder, though, so couldn’t imagine selling mine.

    I tried the TimeShift demo twice and just couldn’t get into it. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad game. On the other hand, the Bioshock demo amazed me – think I played it three times. But when I eventually got the whole game, it didn’t wow me as much, and I’ve yet to complete it, having completed a few other games in the interim.

    The Crysis demo was a terrible one in the sense that it was poorly optimised and gave a bad impression of the game; I played the demo and found even on my relatively new system, it looked rubbish. I heard the actual release game was optimised, borrowed it and found it did indeed run better, so bought it. But I can imagine many others might have been turned off by the demo and never played the game.


  50. AbyssUK says:

    Demos are required pieces of the puzzle for me, I am strange I like strange games, no reviewer is like me so I need the demo to know… otherwise i’ll just BT it.
    If developers are going to be lazy and not release a demo then am gonna be lazy and not go down the shops.

    I’d rather dl demos (safer quicker and easier) to try out games but sometimes stupidly the demo comes out 2-3 weeks after release! Now that really cheeses me off.