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Bug-Filled Demos Are Game Anti-Marketing? 49

Thanks to GamersWithJobs for their piece discussing early, bug-filled releases of videogame demos (actual link here, broken website referrals currently in effect.) The author points out that if the downloader "...doesn't like the demo, the player will probably skip the game which will hurt the publisher in the end. That makes me really wonder why some of them appear to insist on early trial versions." He concurs that sometimes PC demos are 'leaked' from magazine cover-discs, but wonders "why such a poor representation of a product would be released anywhere in the first place", and concludes: "I tried to understand the reasons for the release of rather 'flawed' demos, but short term gains such as marketing deals or market timing are usually clearly outweighed by the overall consequences."
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Bug-Filled Demos Are Game Anti-Marketing?

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  • by BoomerSooner ( 308737 ) on Monday October 06, 2003 @08:25PM (#7149099) Homepage Journal
    The opposite is true too. The Thief Demos are as good as the game (and both Thief I & II had levels not included in the full game).

    People don't clamor for a demo until the marketing hype has gone too far.
    • I experienced the same thing with the Carmageddon II demo. Once you tweaked the config file to let you play more than 15 minutes, it was nearly as good as the full game.

      I bought the full game, but by the time I got the package in the mail, I wasn't very hot on playing anymore. I played the full game for a while, but nearly all the cool stuff was already played out in the demo (crazy jumps and crashes). The game really was just the physics engine and incredible car damage model, after that, it's just a m
      • On the other hand the demo for the original Ufo: Enemy Unknown had me playing and playing again drooling waiting for it to be released. It had one level and only a default layout but it sure was fun.

        Then when I got the full game I had already mastered the basics and could now enjoy having a full squad, weapons of choice plus of course more then 1 map :)

        Sure bugfilled demos can be bad. But only if I think the company is unlikely to fix the bugs. We are PC users, bugs don't scare us. Bring them on.

  • Link weirdness... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Vaevictis666 ( 680137 ) on Monday October 06, 2003 @08:35PM (#7149184)
    the link from the article brought me to a /. mirror of an older article on GWJ about the HL2 code leak... But it's the same URL as what I get from GWJ's main page - maybe they're filtering referrer-from slashdot?
  • by neostorm ( 462848 ) on Monday October 06, 2003 @08:35PM (#7149187)
    The bug-ridden demos only represent the bug-ridden final products that suddenly populate 90% of the industries releases.

    People have come to accept that games are buggy, which scares me, because they whine and complain about it but continue giving away their money to the same publishers that poop on them time and again. So the only thing that will change in this scenario is the publics acceptance of poor craftsmanship.

    • I'm not sure if all people have come to accept it. Personally I think that the buggy untested releases are actually just a way for the publisher to shoot himself in the foot. I can't help noticing that well designed, well balanced and relatively bug-free games actually sell better.

      Note that I don't only talk about bugs. A game where the engine is ready, but half the story has been cut out, the interface is still a sorry mess, and the difficulty curve throws random "bang, you're dead!" situations at the ave
  • I appreciate that Devil's Whiskey is a game that runs on Linux, and the authors are very open source friendly, but in the end, it's still a proprietary game they wrote for money.

    The demo was more like a public beta test. The game was basically unplayable, major bugs everywhere, and really annoying gameplay (I'd like to make it two steps from the pub before getting my lvl 1 party slaughtered!). Yes, it was a big turn-off in regard to later purchase prospects.
  • by Allaran ( 557295 ) on Monday October 06, 2003 @08:44PM (#7149252)
    This doesn't seem like a huge issue to me. I only play a demo to get a feel for the game, to see if the graphics and the gameplay appeal to me. Unless the demo is so riddled with bugs that it is unplayable (in which case I can't imaging why the demo would be released in the first place), I can forgive a few bugs for a chance to sample the game prior to release, just like a beta test. If the game goes GOLD and the bugs are still there with expected patches, that's where players get irked!
  • well, actually (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Joe the Lesser ( 533425 ) on Monday October 06, 2003 @08:52PM (#7149300) Homepage Journal
    I think the bigger problems these days is bug filled releases, not demos.

    Remember MOO3? The AI was so buggy, it couldn't win even if you never did anything.
  • UBI Soft Demos (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:00PM (#7149333) Homepage Journal
    Ok, we all know games are not coming out perfect, a few bugs. But UBISoft has made some mistakes releasing demos with enough problems to warrent a new demo release. You dont throw the baby out with the bathwater. When 10 new games comes out, which one are you going to buy? Demos, trailers, movies, commericals, reviews are going to get people. If a game is good enough with 1 level to get people to buy it, its worth the money.

    Ive been burned the last few years on hype. I wont even buy before doing research now. 15 minutes of research can save me 50 bux. Demos get more time.
  • Definitely! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tom7 ( 102298 ) on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:10PM (#7149388) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, I agree. There are so many games out there that I don't have time to waste if it's going to be buggy. Case in point: I couldn't get the demo for XIII to work at my LCDs resolution (note to game developers: just support every reasonable resolution!! It's not hard. At a very minimum, support standard LCD resolutions like 1280x1024, because it will look like shit if it has to up-sample to display on a LCD!), and my mouse was like 100x more sensitive than it should have been, making it impossible to aim at anything. Despite that the demo did look cool, but in general it drove me away more than it attracted me. Rabid fans will love the game when it finally comes out no matter what, and, believe it or not, nobody else is actually sitting around checking the website every day to see if there's any new news. We can wait!
    • Actually the XIII single player demo has that bug on a lot of people's systems, LCD monitor or not. The work-around is to press alt-enter to play in windowed mode. Obviously this shouldn't be an issue at all and likely gives many users a bad impression. (the fact that once I got the demo in a playable state it wasn't any fun didn't help either :P )
    • Well, I imagine that 1280x1024 can be problematic due to having more than one aspect ratio in common use.

      On CRTs, which are typically 4:3, most people will stretch 1280x1024 to fit the entire viewable area. Since 1280:1024 is not equal to 4:3, when so stretched, that resolution uses non-square pixels, and anything that assumes square pixels will appear slightly distorted.

      On LCDs that have a native resolution of 1280x1024, typically square pixels are used, and hence the screen has an aspect ratio of 5:4.
      • I hadn't thought of that, but, I also hadn't noticed any aspect-ratio issues in any of the other FPS games I play at 1280x1024. Certainly any distortion is better than the sampling that my monitor does when game pixels aren't in 1:1 correspondence with screen pixels, which looks really, really bad!

        Fortunately in 3D engines it's a simple matter of applying a different viewport transformation to stretch the image to different aspect ratios, so this could just be an "advanced" option for those who care about
  • Demos are obsolete (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Forkenhoppen ( 16574 ) on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:11PM (#7149392)
    In the old days, the game development schedule went as follows:
    - finish game
    - release game
    - rework a demo
    - release demo
    - work on expansion
    - start sequel

    Nowadays, the schedule goes:
    - leaked copy
    - work on game
    - release game
    - warez version available
    - finish game
    - release gold edition
    - start sequel

    The nice things about leaking a beta are:
    - you don't have to actually customize anything
    - it's completely not your fault if it sucks.

    Between the warez version coming out right after release, and the number of leaked betas from E3 or whatever, I think the market for official demos has completely dried up. Especially considering the longer development times for products nowadays, and the fact that most of these companies live hand-to-mouth.
  • Q3 Test (Score:4, Informative)

    by molo ( 94384 ) on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:13PM (#7149404) Journal
    When Q3A was in development, the ppl at iD issued a Q3Test package which was more of a technology test than a demo. It was meant to test rendering systems, drivers, etc. The gameplay was totally not an issue. The NPC bots didn't work. Multiplayer barely worked. It was also issued cross-platform, for Windows, Linux & MacOS.. each platform had a number of issues.

    None of the problems stopped Q3A from being a commercial success across all of the above platforms. Indeed, I would think that the release of q3test actually helped the popularity of the game.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • Re:Q3 Test (Score:3, Informative)

      by Pyromage ( 19360 )
      I think it is interesting to note that here, the Q3Test was explicitly NOT a demo. It was truly a beta, in a way that many official, supported, released demos are unoficially betas.

      I don't have any problem with companies running open betas. The problem is only when they start to release demo versions that are untested and buggy and then use *those* versions as an open beta. It's one thing when they *say* it's buggy and a test release, it's totally another when they say it's the product.

      And good companies
  • Is this about demos or released games?

    The discription of a buggy product turnign people off just seams like most actual packaged releases to me.
  • The numbers say it didn't hurt StarWars too bad to release an entire game at beta status. Who's so worried about demos?

    Besides, if you steal the source code to certin long awaited games not to mention any names, you can debug, write patches, hack, and write mods for games ahead of time.

    Demos suck.
  • It all stems from.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Monday October 06, 2003 @09:19PM (#7149439) Homepage Journal
    ... release dates being scheduled around trade shows.

  • I know the fact that the Tron 2.0 demo locks my system certainly convinced me to not buy the retail game. What happened to just releasing a crippled version of the retail game, ie. Wolf3d?
    • If you could get the demo to work, the gameplay was awful and nothing like the actual game. I got the actual game after seeing some good reviews of it and it turned out to be a darn good game. Guess you can't judge a game by it's demo. I still don't get why they even bother with the demos though.
  • "He concurs that sometimes PC demos are 'leaked' from magazine cover-discs, but wonders "why such a poor representation of a product would be released anywhere in the first place", and concludes: "I tried to understand the reasons for the release of rather 'flawed' demos, but short term gains such as marketing deals or market timing are usually clearly outweighed by the overall consequences.""

    See, you're looking in the wrong place. Many of these corporations don't really care how their games do in the lo
  • Way back when, MacSoft released a pre-demo of Fallout. The demo was based on early code and the performance was so bad, it put many people off buying the game.

    Performance on the final game was pretty reasonable. However, a lot of people skipped buying because of the horrible demo.
  • Not only do half-baked demos hurt a game's pre-release reputation, but they can also waste months of valuable game development time, which in turn hurts the final product. Unencumbered game development makes better finished games. Finished games make better demos.
  • Here's a text mirror, since there's some broken redirection stuff at the main site after a previous Slashdotting.


    Buggy Demos - How To Anti-Market A Game
    Posted by: Spunior on Monday, October 06, 2003 - 09:26 AM EST

    Experienced demo trouble lately? Patch required? You're probably not the only one. Read on for a brief look at quick publishers, the concept of second-class consumers, local releases and why they are a disservice to both sides.

    Demo bugs aren't something we haven't seen before. However, Ubi Soft seems to be on a hot streak lately, having released three demos in the past weeks which either required a patch, are crash-heavy or look somewhat unfinished. In one case they complained about the early availability, in two other cases functional "US demos" were promised. First of all, a demo release depends on what the publisher demands. The developers aren't too keen on releasing early trials as they are only snapshots of what still is unfinished code and since they also have to dedicate resources for the production of them. It seems that Ubi's PR department believes in what actually seem to be rather questionable concepts.

    Local release: The Beyond Good & Evil demo apparently made its way onto the internet from the CD featured in the French mag Joystick. Magazine demos leaking into the web is something that happens so frequently the marketing sections had to be aware of it. Now there's quite a number of players who have trouble getting the trial running without crashes. Which brings up the questions why such a poor representation of a product would be released ANYWHERE in the first place. Joystick is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) mags in France. Even under the illusionary premise that the demo is not going to be made available for download on the internet, there would still be quite a few subscribers who would experience the aforementioned problems. It's definitely a shame this happened with Beyond Good & Evil since the PS2 version I got to play at the Games Convention was very entertaining.

    In the case of Lock On: Modern Air Combat it appears that the marketing department also needs to get some information on the release date of certain media outlets. Ubi Soft producer Matt "Wags" Wagner on the demo release.

    I have no idea why it was released before ECFS. The plan was to release CD versions atECFS on 05 Oct and online on 06 Oct with mirrors. I hope to know more on Monday after I talk with Paris. However, it sounds like Gamestar jumped the gun and released it before they were told to do so. There's nothing more I can say at this time, but I hope you enjoy this early taste.

    I'm quite sure Gamestar wouldn't have put the demo on their CD without the approval of the publisher. The monthly mag ships to stores on the first Wednesday of each month. Which clearly was October 1st this month. And subscribers naturally receive their issues on the weekend before that. Well-known fact since we're talking about a magazine here which has a reader base of several hundred thousand people.

    Euro twits: Now in two cases the publisher was quick to point out that there will be functional US demos available soon. Now the nature of the internet - which seems to be new to Ubi - makes information and data basically accessible to everyone and everywhere. Which means that US gamers are likely to download the Euro versions as well instead of waiting for the 'proper' release to show up. There's something else that makes one wonder: under the assumption that Euro demos will not run in NA (look forward to the 'enjoyable miracles' Digital Rights Management might provide), why would releasing a buggy demo in Europe look like a clever idea? The EU PC games market is on par with the NA market, not to mention the growing ones in Eastern Europe. Quite a number of PC titles - especially certain genres or products developed in Eastern European countries) sell a lot better here. For instance, in the case of Vietcong or Ubi Soft's very own
  • Check out the "buzz" surrounding the 3.5E D&D turn-based RPG Temple of Elemental Evil (developed by Troika, published by Atari). The game shipped too early with many obvious bugs. Atari was supposed to release a demo within a week of the game coming out, but once there was a 10+ page thread on their official forums with descriptions of bugs, they kind of shelved that plan.

    I guess it works both ways. In this case, better to let someone just hear about the bugs than to give them the chance to experien
    • Some enterprising fans have already reverse engineered much of the engine and have released a patch that corrects many of the bugs (as well as putting content that was removed to at Atari/WoTCs request back in). I think it's a pretty fucking sad state of affairs when a publisher not only releases a game before it's ready (not just a little bit, but a LOT before it's ready), but gets beaten to a patch release by it's users. And thats even assuming that there will be a patch, Atari was being bitchy about that
  • Bug-Filled Demos Are Game Anti-Marketing?
    Well, duh! I don't need an article to point that out. Why do people even take the time to write such non-sense?
  • I wonder if most of the demos gamers receive are actually intended for mass consumption. It seems to me that those in the industry, (i.e. potential publishers, supporters, gaming mags, etc,) would be much more tolerant and maybe even expectant of early demos, which of course may be buggy.

    As a consumer, (I hate that word,) I've found myself rather tolerant of buggy demos, as I truly do understand that they probably aren't a reflection of the end product. What does irk me is when I play a flawed demo, but o

  • While I hate buggy demos/releases......I'm sure MANY people out there don't care if a demo is buggy. They simply assume "hey....its just a demo, I'm sure it'll be fixed in the release like they said". Of course.....many gamers are wisening up and realizing that those are empty promises.

  • by Mike Hawk ( 687615 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2003 @01:32AM (#7150822) Journal
    Wow, the gamers do it again.

    So which is it? Should a publisher put out a demo before the game is gold or after?

    If they put out an official demo before, OF COURSE its not final code. In fact, at least part of the development team has to stop working on the main sku to get the demo out so it slows both projects down. So the demo gets into gamers' hands before the game hits the shelf, but everyone gets pissed off because its not bug-free.

    If the official demo comes out after the game ships, everyone complains about that and uses it as an excuse to infringe the publisher's copyright and download a warez copy. Huh.

    How can the publishers make you happy when you don't even know what you want?
  • I work for a game company, and I get to talk to developers. It's the marketing people. They are usually neither engineers nor gamers, and all they want is a marketing "product". They think of the game in the same terms as concept art and feature lists, some negotiable tangible item that can be used to gen up customers.

    Since they don't actually "play" the games, they don't really know what they're doing, but they have enough power (especially if they are in-house) to demand most everything they want.

    • Someone gets to the point of the issue, mod it up!

      I used to run a team of games testers and I finally left the games industry in disgust at just these kinds of attitudes from management and in particular the marketing people.

      In short, the games industry is run by people who have very little idea of what constitutes their product. They dont play games and they dont understand the software development process. This would be no bad thing if the typical games industry manager were capable of taking on board

      • here, here! marketers who have no knowledge of an industry (in this case, gaming) have absolutly no business whatsoever marketing those products. You don't have marketers for cars who don't drive. You don't have marketers for TV shows who don't actually watch them, oh... wait... yeah, you do, damn UPN marketing. but you have marketers for computers and games who have no clue about what they're selling, and people wonder why this industry is in chaos... damn marketing. back in the day when game developin
      • Ha Ha...

        I'm a programmer, who JUST had a run-in with marketing at work. It was not pretty...

        We create and support an on-line application used by a variety of different offices. These offices use our program to disseminate information to the general public.

        Marketing wanted to add a new 'feature' which would be promoting our products, over those of our customers. I 'suggested' many times that we should make this an option- not a locked-in feature. During the initial meeting with marketing, they laughed
  • I tried to understand the reasons for the release of rather 'flawed' demos, but short term gains such as marketing deals or market timing are usually clearly outweighed by the overall consequences.

    This comes as a suprise to whom? I've yet to see a company in the software field where a single dollar today wasn't valued far more than a C-note tomorrow.
  • "yeah , I played the (enter any upcoming big release)-game. I got a demo from my friend, I'm so 733T that I play games before they are built... bla bla bla"

    In this fastmoving scene like the gamedevelopment todays stuff is allready old ...
    So a bunch of kiddies who want to bragg against their friends DL these demo's. Oh and BTW. it's free so why not...
    Also as mentioned elsewhere game development cycles seem to take longer now.. how long have we waited on the next release of unreal2003 [hot.ee] while their marketingm

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