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How much to put into the Shareware version?

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Hello, until now I never sold a game as Shareware, in fact I only completed one game so far and it was freeware. Our next game will be much more complex and we want to give it a try as a Shareware release. Now there's a question which has perhaps been answered long before ;) but still there are some questions about that question ;) The question is, how much should be playable in the demo version? Our game will be split into 4 episodes, and following the old classics like Doom or Duke Nukem, the best idea seems to make the 1st episode available for free and the other have to be purchased. ...but... How should the 1st episode be designed then? If it's too easy, the player might think "ahh crap, I don't want to have it THAT easy, and I think the full version might be just the same, I'm not gonna buy that %$§! game." On the other hand, if it's too hard, the player might never finish the episode and could think "ahh crap, I haven't even finished the first levels, so why should I need the full version, I'm not gonna buy that %$§! game." and then he forgets all about this game and perhaps won't get back to it. Have you ever thought about something like that and what are your experiences / what were your decisions? (Of course the best way would be making it neither too easy nor too hard, but how could I achieve that?) Nice greetings ZeHa

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1. Solve the difficulty issue by having multiple difficulty levels.
2. The best demos are the ones that leave you wanting more of the game. A good way to do this is to have the demo end just before the player reaches the end of the level so that they need to get the full game in order to find out what happens.

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Deciding on what to include and exclude is a marketing art.


The part you give for free must induce people to buy. If they are completely satisfied with what you give them, they won't buy. if they aren't excited about it, they won't buy.

Also, remember that they aren't buying the program, they are paying for the difference between the two versions.


Already mentioned were limiting how far you get get in the game. Maybe they can only complete one level, or end it right before a major milestone. You can be time limited, perhaps only allow playing for two hours. You can be run limited, perhaps only allowing the app to be run 5 or 10 times. You can be crippled, having certain major features visible to the player and obviously disabled with a big "buy today!" icon. You can have a short term full version, so you get the full version for a certain number of days or runs, then the nice features become crippled once they are used to them. Use anything you can image to induce people to buy.

Finally, remember that you can adjust it later. It is easier to offer more later than it is to restrict it later.

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Well I think in my case the best option would be to restrict the amount of levels. But at first I thought I'll give away the first episode, but now I really think over that again. At the moment I can't estimate how many levels there will be per episode, but it could be about 20, so perhaps it would be wiser to restrict the demo version to episode 1, first 5 or first 10 levels.

Another possibility perhaps would be to let the player sneak into every episode (except the fourth, this can only be played when the first three are completed) and play the first 3 or 4 levels of each. But of course the episodes would all start easy, so the overall experience of playing the demo version could be "game is too easy".

Yet another possibility could be to tell the player "you can play 10 levels altogether. Whether you play the first 10 of the first episode or rather the first 3 of the first, 4 of the second and 3 of the third is up to you".

What would you think about that?

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@ Obscure:

The different difficulty levels would be a very nice idea, unfortunately not possible in our game (a big amount of gameplay will be solving puzzles, and you would have to design "alternate" levels to decrease / increase difficulty, we can't just "reduce the amount of enemies" or something).

But anyways thanks for the idea, it's a good thing for future games perhaps :)

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You could implement a hint system. If the player clicks for a hint once they get an obscure hint. If they click again it is more obvious and if they click a third time it is even more obvious (almost explains what to do). Let the player choose how they want to play the game.

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Interestingly enough, me and the older shareware guys (I prefer not to mention any people or company names) were discussing this very subject last Tuesday. Our general thought of todays episodic's is that while there is a good amount of game play and for only $19.99 the general reaction to these games are that people do not feel as though they are getting a full game. We couldn't decide whether is was due to the pricing of the episode, or the feeling of not getting a full version of a game. Perhaps both.

If you recall in the first episode (shareware) of Doom, there was a full game to play with a final confrontation to satisfy the players need for completion, but leaving them wanting more. Our conversation went on to talk about a recent episodic, that is really good, but has a huge cliff hanger of an ending. This wouldn't be so bad, if the next game was ready to be sold upon completion of the first. This really leaves the player in a frustrated frame of mind IMO, and if they have to wait another 12 to 16 months for the next episode, I think interest will be lost, even for a $19.99 game. Not to mention that the technology may be different from episode to episode if enough development time passes.

I guess what I would want is a model like the old days of shareware, Good solid full episode to play with a satisfying end, but with a logical continuation for the follow up episodes, ready to be bought and played. Worked back then, should work now.

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