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18 Feb 2014

Developing a Perfect Demo For Your Next Trade Show

For the last few days, I have been discussing the best ways to set up an awesome booth at a convention/trade show and how to have a booth that works for you. It’s all great advice that is worthy of checking out, yet the importance of your booth centers around your demo. Without an awesome demo that not only educates the masses regarding what your game is all about but is also entertaining, it doesn’t matter how awesome your booth actually looks: if the demo sucks, so will your  booth and your appearance as a whole.

Thus, developing an awesome demo is vital to the success you will have at conventions/trade shows. What can you do to ensure your demo is top-notch? Follow the tips below to have a demo that you can be proud of!

Ensure core gameplay/design elements are demonstrated

In other words, make certain that your demo shows off the key elements of your game! It may sound like a no-brainer, yet many demos have you played in the past that fail to achieve this? Way too many I’m sure. A demo is supposed to highlight what is awesome about your upcoming game, and should be treated as a selling point for those playing the game. That’s exactly what a demo is too: a selling; a pitch to invite players to purchase your game.

By including core gameplay/design elements into your demo, you will be essentially telling players that if they enjoyed the demo, there is a lot more where that came from. A demo should leave players hungry, and that brings me to the second tip:

Leave them wanting more

In other words: don’t show your entire ‘hand’ in the demo. There’s nothing more irritating than playing a demo, only to buy the actual game and discover I played the best parts in the demo. It’s kind of like how a movie trailer shows the best parts of the movie, causing moviegoers to come away angry. Don’t do this! Your demo should leave the player wanting more, and when they finally play the game? They should be blown away by the final product. Believe me, when a writer plays your demo at your booth, writes a positive first impression, and then finds the actual game even more impressive than the demo, it’s going to persuade at least one player to buy your game, experience it for themselves, and hopefully become a fan of your work. In the end, that’s all that matters.

Bug-free is the way to be

This should go without saying, but it’s worth stating anyway: your demo needs to be completely bug-free. When players play your game, there should never be an instance in which your game stalls, messes up, or does not work properly. The demo needs to load, play with grace, and exit without faltering at any moment. A cool, crisp, and fluid demo is vital to your demo’s success, so do your part to ensure your demo is 100% free of any bugs, mishaps, and so on.

And the best way to ensure you have a demo that is free of bugs?

Playtest, playtest, playtest!

It is imperative that you playtest every facet of your demo before allowing it to be played at the next convention/trade show. Ask your friends/family to playtest the demo, tell them to be brutally honest with you regarding how well it plays, and encourage them to detail any mishaps in your demo such as bugs, confusing parts in the demo, etc. You want the demo to play fluidly without confusion, and the most important part of all? You want everyone to have fun when playing the demo.

For tips on playtesting the right way, check out these two posts.

Think like a player

When developing your demo, continue to ask yourself the following question:

“If I was a player, would I find this fun? What would my impression be of the demo so far?”

Keep the average player in mind during the development of your demo. If it’s too confusing for the average player, consider toning down the difficulty. If the demo tries to accomplish too many things at once but ultimately doesn’t accomplish anything, fix this by using the first tip in this post. Playability is key when developing a demo, as is the fun factor of said demo as well. Think like a player while practicing the rest of the tips in this list, and you are going to have a solid demo that will accomplish the most important goal of a demo: leave the player craving more.

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