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17 Feb 2014

Run a Flawless Indie Game Demo at Your Next Conference

Last Friday, I wrote about how to showcase your game at a video game conference or trade show. Complete with some great tips regarding how to set up an awesome booth, interact with those passing by your booth, getting an audience from the conference/trade show, and so on. Yet, I didn’t go too in-depth regarding how to show off your indie game via a demo at the next video game conference and/or trade show.

Thus, that’s the topic of today’s article. What do you need to know before you set up your booth and show the audience your indie game demo? Use the tips below to find out for yourself (and stay tuned tomorrow as I detail how to develop an awesome demo!).

Never trust wi-fi

Never allow your demo to depend on bandwidth; for that matter, never allow anything in your booth to depend on the bandwidth provide by the venue. When you have hundreds or even thousands of people trying to use the wireless connection at the venue simultaneously, even the venue with the best bandwidth will slow to a crawl. If your game relies on grabbing data via wi-fi/4G, ensure you have the local files needed to showcase your demo so you won’t have to constantly grab data. Nobody wants to wait on poor loading times to play your demo.

Have a video of you playing the demo readily available

Hopefully you will never have to show this video during the conference/trade show, but if for some reason everything goes wrong and nobody can play your demo, the next best thing is to show off a video of you actually playing your demo. People are going to be disappointed because they cannot play your game, but by showing that your game is actually playable and what the game will be like, you’re going to still get interest about your game anyway.

I don’t have to tell you that you are preparing for a worst-case scenario with this video, so to ensure you never have to use this video:

Ensure the machine running your demo is working properly

When you have a demo that isn’t going to rely on wi-fi, you need to also ensure that your PC/Mac/Linux Box is also working properly. You don’t want to use a computer that’s five years old, hasn’t been scanned for viruses in six months, and is going to be lagging the entire time the demo is played.

Rather, you want a computer running your demo that is used primarily for demos. Sure, you may have to pay a large sum to purchase a new computer that will run your game(s) smoothly, yet it’s well worth it in the end. You want to have solace that your game will be running smoothly at all times, so buy a new computer before the conference/trade show.

Alternatively, if you have a decent computer that will run your demo properly that is not being used any longer, feel free to format it and reinstall everything from scratch. It won’t have that new computer smell, but if your game isn’t resource heavy and it runs it properly, one quick format is all you need to have a machine that will run your demo properly.

Limit the amount of time players can play your game

There’s nothing more irritating than seeing a line of people waiting to play a game. If you have been to a conference/trade show, you know what I’m talking about. There’s always some idiot that hogs the demo for 20-30 minutes, while everyone is waiting in line to play. This drives away people waiting to play your game and makes the people waiting in line annoyed to play the game. Give players a few minutes to play the game, yet don’t allow them to play it as long as they want.

A timer on your demo may be beneficial, but if you don’t want to show a timer counting down how much longer a player has to play the game, keep a rough estimate of how much time has passed, bring the player aside once they get to  a good stopping point, ask them if they have any questions, and allow the next person in line to play the game. It’s a good formula for letting people understand exactly what your game is all about while allowing the maximum amount of attendees in a day to play your demo.

Have more than one person at your booth, but not too many

When you go to a conference/trade show, there are lots of booths that have only one person handling questions/giving answers/ who plays their game. That’s a lot to handle for one person! If you made your game by yourself, then it’s understandable that you are the only one that is going to handle all of these tasks throughout the day, but if you have another team member that helped to develop the game? Bring them along with you! Both of you can bounce answers off of one another while trading off who helps to coordinate who is playing the demo. There’s a lot of tasks that go on at a booth, and you’re going to be glad that you have a helping hand.

However, ensure you don’t have too many people in your booth. Too many talking heads discussing a certain topic in different ways is enough to make anybody’s head spin (it’s happened to me more than once), so to eliminate any confusion, keep the amount of people showcasing your demo to a minimum.

There is a lot more information to provide (meaning a part-two on this topic will be written in the near future), but until then, I want to hand this topic over to you guys. What do you guys do to ensure your demo is flawless at annual conferences/ trade shows? Let us know in the comments below!

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