Thoughts on demos:
Goddamn, I love and hate them at the same time.
Demos are a strange and wonderful commodity. They’re the free samples of the gaming world. Anyone reading this should already know this.
I always judge demos by the same criteria I judge normal games. A lot of times you’ll see “Not representative of actual product” stamped somewhere in them (PSP demos are notorious for this). I say “Balls to that!”. Barring an early release demo (Which I like to treat more like a beta than a demo), they’re showcasing their product to you, and if they feel that it’s not important to address a few issues like balance and bugs, then it reflects poorly on them.
I give early demos a grain or two of salt, depending on HOW early it’s released. A week is a fine time for a demo. Both the player and the dev get to test the game out, and it helps with a better product in the end. Demos that arrive, say, a month in advance are more likely to slide by with major things than a week one. Crashes, unbalance, I’ll give it more strikes than I would a normal one.
If the demo’s released same-day as the game, and it isn’t fun, regardless of the reason, it’s the developers fault for showcasing a poor product.
I’ve played plenty of good demos. When I was on the cusp of becoming a hardcore gamer, my first demo was the Half-Life 2 demo on steam. I was poor, and couldn’t afford the game, so I picked the demo apart like a vulture. I explored the console, cheats, and every manageable effect I could (I had a button to set people on fire and my number keys were bound to spawn NPCs). That demo was a goddamn Tank. I can count the number of reasons it crashed on one hand: NPCs that didn’t actually exist in the demo, spamming entities, and, my personal favorite, making everything explode at once (I played on a poor rig and abused the ENT fire commands.)
Demos were sources of good times I had when I didn’t have much to play. (Hoop-stick syndrome, a common entertainment problem faced by early settler children.)
I’m referring mainly to PC demos in this article, because they can fix things in those.
Next up, I’ll tell you about a BAD demo.