How to make a demo

Discussion in 'Non-Maker Specific Tutorials' started by Tuomo L, Apr 5, 2016.

  1. Tuomo L

    Tuomo L Oldbie Veteran

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    First of all, let me start by saying, you probably should never make a demo. In fact, I'm starting this by discouraging you against such silly idea. Before you get the pitchforks, you should see this video.

    The fact is 99% of the RPG Maker games I've played have been totally awful and done massive disservice to the game. I was a RPG Maker reviewer for quite few years and over the tons of games I played, I only played one haf decent demo which stood out because of its gross out violence and mature themes but even then, it kinda broke my third rule which did dissapoint me a lot when I got so invested in it. The demos are relics of the past what with internet being stock full of information that you can already give great idea of your game, without playing a single second of the game by simply using youtube alone. Instead of dedicating time and resources to making a demo, you should focus in marketing and polishing your game. Promotional videos that show gameplay and things dev talks are infinitely much more useful and personal than just making a poor demo and thinking that's enough. If however you're totally set to the path that you wish to make a demo, I'll give you some sage advice that will hopefully help.

    Golden Rules for making a demo

    Never start from the start

    This is the reason most of the RPG Maker demos fail. They have you play the slow start with your starter town and ages long text story and blah blah blah. This not only does reflect the overall game you are making very poorly, since most of the time the start of the game is not like the rest of the game but it also means when they get the full verison, they'll have to most likely play through the boring segments over again, which WILL turn people off your game. The only expections is very unique ways of starting a game but for most part, you should start somewhere middle, hopefully with all the important main characters already avaivable, to better give the player an idea of the overall idea of the game and the characters. 99% of the time, you want to start in middle and not from the start and no, you having original characters and you wanting to show their personality more isn't a reason enough to start from the very beginning.


    If you have complex gameplay elements that need explanation, you should have a picture at the start of the game that has all the controls listed and layed out for the player to pick up and play your demo from the get go, not after tons of tutorials and forcing them to do things.

    If you want to go and make a demo from the start, go Bayonetta route. Leave out all the cutscene elements from the start and introduce the story through gameplay, skip any unncessary cutscenes and keep the action flowing, leaving the player wanting much more when the demo is done.

    Don't make your demo too early

    Another critical failure is starting to make the demo when the game is still under work. If your game is not even in alpha stage, a demo is way too early to be released. A demo should reflect how your game is like, if you make a demo too soon (A.K.A "Everything will probably change") then it's not a good demo and will leave a very bad impressions on the player. You should make your game at least to beta stage, so that enough stuff are there to stay. It also means you can easier crop a portion from the main game for the demo, such as from middle of the act 2. If you are selling the game, set the game store and such stuff up first, you can link to the game store and give teasers about the full game at the end of the demo.

    Your game should be almost completely finished when you release a demo or in ways that you are 100% certain you will not change or alter aside maybe adding few tiny cutscenes or minor things like graphical filters or such.

    Never make a long demo


    Sonic sez; your demo's too loooong!

    A demo is meant to be a short, quick look into what makes your game special, to start interest and to gather following. Even though there's no time limit for a demo length, generally 30 minutes or so should suffice. I have seen some people make like 4 hours long demos which is going to piss off a lot of people when they've played already that long only to meet a brick wall of "see you at full version, btw your demo save file will not work in full version either, lol." Again, keep it short, keep it simple and to the point.

    The longer you make your demo, the more likely you're not able to get players interested in your full version, because they already have the free version. You also are shooting yourself into foot because it takes more time which you could use to make full game instead. Too long games also have the chance of massive backlash when the demo ends and often leads the player into hating your game for "pulling the plug" just when things got good.

    I'll play a 30 minute long full game over 5 hour demo any day. In fact, I have a personal rule that if your demo is over 2 hours, I will not play it.

    If your game is already free, don't bother with a demo

    The main reason for a demo is to give interest to your upcoming game and to give a buyer an idea of what the full game is like, before they are going to buy the game. IN theory, the demo is a way of a consumer to see the product before purchase and to help improve your sales. IF your game is already freeware, there's even less value in a demo since it's just a shorter and sometimes, less polished full version which has the same free price tag.

    Seriously, there's absolutely no reason to make a demo of a free game. The price is exactly same as in the full game, free. Your player will not benefit at all for playing the demo as opossed to the full version.

    Even worse, many times when people make demos, they never finish the game once they get the initial response. That or they just do 360 and completely begin to remake the game, wasting time to catch up to the point they were at when releasing the demo. For a prime example of this, compare Destiny's Call demo to Destiny's Call complete. The DCC version is shorter, has added tacked in features for "because..." reasons, had hunge, sleep, etc systems that weren't really explored in great edetail and generally feels a lot more toned down and shorter experience than demo, even literally ending the player's progress when trying to enter a tower by a message of saying "Stay tuned for part 2" and leaving the player to wander the map forever instead of the actual ending credits that demo version had. Also the demo lasted past the tower scene and far longer past that point the DCC stopped. Notice stopped, because there was no ending and the game didn't really end, you just couldn't progress anywhere anymore. DCC is the prime example of everything wrong with RPG Maker demos, the demo was released years before the full game with every single resource being placeholders and then the whole game began to be remade from the very first scene with every resource and feature changed, only for the game to stop even before it got halfway to the part it had been before starting to redo it. The game ended up never being finished and all we were left was a poor "episode 1" of the full game, which brings us to the next point...

    Consider episodic format instead


    Hope you liked our game, now buy episodes 2-5 to it as well! (Image from Jago Comics)

    Okay, okay, before you get the pitchforks at me again, hear me out. One of the reasons people have also made demos is that they have wanted to hear feedback and see reactions to the game they've made. This is especially true for the freeware demo games. There are multiple benefits to releasing your game in episodic format as opossed to demo version. First of all, once finished with one episode, you can release it and ask for feedback and use this to help fix issues in next episodes or if very major, polish them in the first episode. Then finish second episode, release it and so on and forth. This way, the playerbase and the reviewers will help you shape your game and it will be a lot more effective than releasing tons of demos and people won't be as angry to play a long episodic game, as opossed to overly long demo. This way you also build much more interaction with your audience and maybe establish long term fans that may even translate to future customers if you ever make a commercial game.

    When making episodic game, MAKE IT EPISODIC FROM THE START. This is literally a decision you have to make before starting to make your game and you can NOT go back to this idea if you have already made a demo and you'll have a hard time in cutting the game into naturally flowing episodes if you haven't planned the game around it. DCC aside, I have seen more times than one where first we get a demo, then the maker decides they should rework the whole game from the scratch (because their standards have grown), with literal years being used to carefully craft things scene by scene only ending up with a shorter "episode 1" version instead which feels more like an after thought rather than something the maker planned in the first place. These games are also never finished and will forever be remembered in a poor, unfinished light instead of what could have been a fun game experience, had they just finished the game years ago. Making episodic format games should be done more in likes of The Way series.

    That's all for now! If you have thoughts or suggestions or want to share your own thoughts, you're more than welcome to as I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on this subject matter!
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2017
    EpicFILE likes this.

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