Crysis 2: The importance of a demoCourtesy of the I.G.D.A.
To start off: In February of 2003 the IGDA (International Game Developers Association) survey of publishers revealed that the single most important aspect of a product submission is the game/code demo. The survey further found that a large proportion (77% of respondents) would be unlikely to sign up a game without a demo. Surprisingly many developers (especially new companies) fail to grasp the importance of the demo. Many consider that the work done to create a polished and well-presented demo is time that could be better spent working on the game. Much of the code needed to create a good demo will never be used in the finished game. It is written simply to “paper over the cracks” – to cover those elements of the final game that have not been implemented yet and to prevent the demo from crashing. The IGDA’s survey shows how wrong this attitude is (And many publishers and developers alike have failed because of it).
For a commercial developer, seeking to secure publisher funding is one very important factor, creating a demo for your target audience to test is of vital importance.First off: What is a demo?
Demo - it is a sample code/graphics/audio that demonstrates key elements of the proposed game. - Depending on the genre of the game this could be an entire game level or part of one (FPS), a single race track with a couple of cars (racing) or a few locations/rooms with puzzles (point and click adventure game). Obviously the larger the demo which has more features, the easier it is for a publisher to understand what you hope to achieve and the easier it is for them to make a decision. However the scope of your demo will mainly be governed by the time/resources you have available. The main difference between a good and a bad demo is quality of design, feedback and implementation.And here are the objectives of a good demo:
1. To demonstrate key game play and design elements of the game.
You can’t show the entire game (if you could you wouldn’t be pitching to a publisher for funding) so instead select a few key game play features. Depending on the resources you have available for your demo, you would only be able to include a few examples of these game play features. The key is to pick the most impressive/vital ones such as scrolling, collisions, level links and a few of the actual platform features and then create a small environment that shows them off well. Bigger is not necessarily better exactly because you have a limited set of features. Taking a large level and filling it with only a small set of the proposed game features will make the demo seem empty and boring. By limiting the size of your environment and filling it with your few examples you create a better feeling of playability.
2. To show the publisher that you are a creative, professional and competent developer.
The demo needs to start, run and exit gracefully and contain the minimum number of bugs. This is because the non-technical staff at a publisher (marketing, PR, sales, finance) are likely to view a demo that contains bugs and take it as an indication of the (poor) quality of the finished product. If a game feature is not finished/working properly then don’t include it in the demo. Filling a demo with a large number of malfunctioning features simply isn’t a good advert for your game or you teams abilities. Less but better is the key.
Include a nice title screen and, if the publisher needs to make any options selections to run the demo, ensure they are presented on a well-designed and well implemented menu. Hide any programmer initialization information behind a simple and neat “loading please wait” screen. Programmers may find it useful to display frames per second or the current start up status of the game code but this doesn’t make for a well presented demo. Turn it off or hide it. End the demo with a nice “congratulations you won” screen or at the very least return to the title screen gracefully. Also remember to clearly display your teams name/logo and contact details on the demo in case the accompanying documentation gets lost.
3. To prove that you are capable of producing a game demo of an acceptable quality.
Non-interactive video presentations are no longer acceptable as demos with which to secure the necessary deal. (The common mistake) Too many publishers have signed up such projects only to find that the developer was unable to do the necessary programming to realize the vision. Previously burned publishers now want to see interaction in action before they will sign a project (Like EA for example). Unfortunately this means that the developer must shoulder the cost of developing demo technology with which to produce said demo.
4. To demonstrate how much effort you have put into your demo.Conclusion
Just presenting the demo in its complete form may seem like a good idea but it isn’t. To generate the best results you need to clearly show the amount of effort that went into creating the demo. Taking the platform game example again, start your demo with a blank screen then quickly turn on background display, then the player sprite, make him move (animation) and in so doing reveal new engine features (animating background or moving platforms). Then end by inviting the user to take control and experience the demo environment for them-selves. In this way you ensure that all your efforts are clearly displayed to your audience and in so doing you increase the perceived size of you demo.
Producing a high quality demo can be a lot of work but it is the single most important item when attempting to win over the interest of your target audience. There will always be limits on the resources you can invest into a demo but the more effort you make the more likely you are to secure their support. More interesting research
- Also publishers view a demo as an indication of your teams design and programming abilities and the likely quality of the finished game and any developer who ignores this does so at their own heavy financial peril.
The Latest in Gaming research shows:
The ability to demo a video game is of crucial importance and has a big impact on most consumers' game purchasing decisions. This was even more important than price, although price became the #1 factor when buying games as gifts.
Interestingly, the biggest takeaway from the study was that although price can play an important role in a consumer's game purchasing decisions, being able to "test drive" a game was found to be particularly important. The results of the game and word of mouth also factored into consumers' game purchasing decisions.
And A Happy New Year Everyone and Happy 2011, "The Year of Crysis 2"
From and Presented by: Black_Angel 6.66
(Important Note: The latest thread, ( poll*A Demo: When and How ), only answered when and how to this thread. This thread represents the "Why" for the Demo.