A Demo Is Worth a Thousand Images

When you present a game it’s okay to tell about the game, show images and video clips but nothing beats letting user experience and evaluate the game by themselves.

Yesterday I talked with Edoiki game artist after he had read my idea for a new game mode. I had explained the game mode idea in our forums, but before artist had a chance to say anything I asked him if he would like to test the demo. “Sure”, he said.

The gameplay was made roughly in just few hours and all the unit graphics on the screen were placeholders, and even the user interface code was far from being polished. Before we could start, I needed to explain some rules and meanings like “blue color means dead unit”, “red is for civilians” and so on. In this alpha prototype there was nothing expect the core game mechanics made for two players.

We took couple of quick matches that took a few minutes each. Here’s the comment he wrote to our project’s discussion forum:

“hum-hum, game description text seemed a bit vague for a description and i was just about to complain on the down sides of it (as usual)…but once we got playing with the actual game, it all were clear and obvious, and it was a whole bunch of fun and excitement too…seriously, it ROCK’S AND KICKS (bottom)! Brilliant!!! “

While I was pleased to see his reaction, I must say that this lesson about letting user experience the product really hit me. Design documents are okay, but before players can fully understand what the game is all about you need to have a demo.

Some marketing specialists might recommend “showing instead of telling” but I really think “experiencing instead of showing” beats that. Rather than just giving a sales speech, let the customer experience your product.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. We are an arts organisation who are a charity , providing creative education in the community to those in need. We are artists and educators, but are interested in getting into producing electronic games to produce some income. We would employ someone to do the job , as we have no computer skills, but we have routes into education. Is this a mad idea , or would someone be interested in this as a job, to create games, some of them educational to produce money for the greater good?

  2. True-true, when covincing customers to test your demo, it might prove to be a difficult trick no matter how good your idea might be…usually it requires some eye-candy to catch attention. The problem is, that very often many games are based ONLY on the eye-candy and nothing else, due to, well.. you tell me (and I’ll save my rants for further due):D

    However, making memebers of your team interested about your ideas and so on, is worth of millions in productivity. If one feels he’s part of making something that he truely enjoys and likes, it sure as hell gives a nice punch to start making things to improve it.

    And yes, I might have been that over enthusiastic artist. ;)

  3. I agree. I take a slightly different attitude about it:

    The primary goal of my game site (www.monolux.com) is *not* to sell my games.

    It’s to get them to download the free demo.

    Pretty much everywhere I say “buy it now” I also say “try it free” to let users know that they have that option, because it is my best tool to convince them. Even on my “store” page I’m pushing the free demo.

    But the descriptions and screenshots (AKA the “show and tell”) is all about convincing them to download the free demo. The screenshots and videos are just as important.

    To this end, I’ve often thought about re-designing the site so that there’s no “Store” accessible directly from the homepage. Only free demos.

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