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Norman Barrows

How to limit demo of rpg game

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What are good limitations for a playable demo version of an rpg?

 

For shooters, one free level is traditional.  But open rpg's aren't organized into levels or missions per se.

 

The game in question is Caveman a rpg / person sim hybrid:

 

game description:

http://www.gamedev.net/blog/1730/entry-2258672-caveman-v30-general-desciption/

 

screenshots:

http://www.gamedev.net/gallery/album/593-caveman/

 

dev journal:

http://www.gamedev.net/blog/1730-caveman/

 

website:

https://sites.google.com/site/rocklandsoftware/

 

In the original version, the demo let you play for one game month, only included 3 of 50 types of animals, and could not load saved games. a few other features like artifacts and getting additional band members were also disabled.

 

I'm planning a public beta soon, and am creating a demo version for that purpose. the demo will also be the primary means of marketing the game.  

 

this time around, i'm thinking just limit the demo to only playing games for 30 game days.  its a rpg, so its all about getting stronger. limiting the game to 30 game days is sort of like limiting a regular rpg to 3rd level max, then the  game ends. Obviously, any rpg worth playing, one will want to play more than just up to 3rd level. so for the true target customer, there would be plenty of incentive to get the full version instead of just playing the demo forever.

 

does this sound limiting enough? should i limit it more?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I think your 30 in-game day limit works. It lets you get a feel without giving away the whole game. This does assume that your whole game lasts well over 30 in-game days. What would an upper limit look like, if there is one?

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there isn't really a right anwer here, it depends on what part of your game are the "fun" ... the key is that the demo needs to include enough of the "fun" to get people into it and appreciating it and wanting to play it more.  But the "premium" access needs to get these people (the percentage willing to pay to enjoy more of your game) to see paying for your game as worth it.  One option is the time limit, but the exact time frame is VERY tricky.  Because many people get done / bored with most games in a short amount of time, while others don't get hooked until they have commited more to it.  Limiting features is tricky, because it takes away things that may be what was needed to show them your game is worth anything.

 

A common suggestion for RPGs is to limit area, or whatever other aspects of your game are large creative objects.  Partially because if they like some and see them as polished and fun, they will assume the others will be too.  The other reason is that download size is key, so you often need to remove a significant percentage of large things, else your download will be too large to function as a good demo.  If these are terrain type, animal types, whatever ... just make sure you include enough of them to have a COMPLETE and FUN game ... that will just get better with addition.  Don't hobble your game.  I'd say something more like 10-15 / 50 instead of 3 / 50.  And maybe only half of your terrain types and textures.  (leaving some of the most challenging / advanced terrains and creatures for the full version).

 

Also of course, advancement.  I don't know exactly how this operates in your caveman game ... but only letting them advance to 50-75% of the max level of progress is probably a good thing for your goals.  It would allow you to inform them when they've "beaten" the demo and should move on to the full version for more challenges and more rewards ...

 

But once again, the details all depend on your game, your goals, your audience.  And also, on which gamble you are willing to make (giving away too much, too little, etc).

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This does assume that your whole game lasts well over 30 in-game days. What would an upper limit look like, if there is one?

 

you can constantly recruit new band members.  you can have up to 10 band members at once (like a household in The Sims).

 

the game ends when all band members die.  so the game could theoretically go on forever, over many generations of band members.

 

individual band members have an average like expectancy of ~50 years.  but even in the original version, i never played any game for that long.    all that kind of stuff was tested by editing a game to bring it up to that point.

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A common suggestion for RPGs is to limit area, or whatever other aspects of your game are large creative objects.

 

 

good point, the world map was hard coded, not random in the demo of the original version.

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The other reason is that download size is key, so you often need to remove a significant percentage of large things, else your download will be too large to function as a good demo.

 

original demo version from 2000 tipped the scales at 50 meg zipped.

 

demo of new version tips the scales at 80 meg zipped.    (no sound files yet)

 

world map is procedurally generated, so hard coded world doesn't reduce assets.

 

only reducing number of animal types and object types will reduce assets.   and assets are global with maximized reuse, so the relation of animals/objects removed to assets removed is not one to one, its many to one.

 

back in 2000, when the original demo was 50meg, there was a one level demo of a AAA shooter out at the same time, might have been MOHAA2, and it tipped the scales at 300-600 meg zipped. so i think i'm ok on DL size, except perhaps for dialup..

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Also of course, advancement.  I don't know exactly how this operates in your caveman game ... but only letting them advance to 50-75% of the max level of progress is probably a good thing for your goals.  It would allow you to inform them when they've "beaten" the demo and should move on to the full version for more challenges and more rewards ...

 

no classes, no levels.

 

~45 skills with experience points for each skill.

 

no experience point limits.

 

skill bonuses (level bonuses based on exp) are exponential in experience required.   so the "exp for a given level" in a given skill is a function of the "level" squared.

 

skills also go down over time (you get rusty).

 

so you can never "max out" your "level" in any skill.      

 

30 game days is about enough time to learn the skills to make a stone knife and that's about it.

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But once again, the details all depend on your game, your goals, your audience.  And also, on which gamble you are willing to make (giving away too much, too little, etc).

 

well, the links and post above pretty much describe the game.

 

the goal is to make a downloadable demo for beta testing, then once testing is done, clean it up and use it as the downloadable demo for marketing the game. I've always done the self-publish thing, and a downloadable playable demo is the primary means of marketing.

 

the audience is hard core rpg players. the game's emphasis is on character development  so letting them develop a character only so far seems like the logical limitation. its setup so they can load and continue to play the saved demo games in the full version. so if they want more, they plunk down say $20-$35 dollars, and get the full version, load their saved game, and keep on playing.

 

as for the gamble, its like a genie in a bottle or pandora's box, once its out there, there's no getting it back.   so its much safer to err on the side of too limited.

 

selling games all boils down to this question in the potential buyer's mind:

"how much more game do i get, and for how many $'s, than i already have now for free in the demo?"

 

if you give away too much in the demo, they never buy.  and then you'd have to make major improvements just to compete with you own free demo!

 

DRM is another concern with the genie in a bottle / pandora's box issue.

 

CAVEMAN version 1.3 from 2002 replaced key CD DRM technology with  hardware serial number and password DRM technology.

 

The serial number / password technology got cracked by a guy in Germany as i recall, and was posted to a warez board operating out of Zaire, which was hosted on servers in Russia.

 

Sales dropped to almost zero, and i had to fold the company.

 

So needless to say, having been burned once, having sufficient DRM, even in the beta, is a real concern.

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Have you considered looking into an early access beta for your game? 

 

Some people are even willing to pay to play an unfinished product as long as you're willing to listen to their ideas and feedback. 

 

This trend seems to be growing more and more popular with the rise of kickstarter and greenlight. Even big publishers are starting to adopt this method instead of building Demos.

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Have you considered looking into an early access beta for your game? 
 
Some people are even willing to pay to play an unfinished product as long as you're willing to listen to their ideas and feedback. 
 
This trend seems to be growing more and more popular with the rise of kickstarter and greenlight. Even big publishers are starting to adopt this method instead of building Demos.

 

that's basically what this beta/demo will be.   

 

the plan is to use it to recruit some testers for an early access private beta that will continue until release.   

 

usually i have some testers already lined up by the time the early access beta rolls around. but not this time.

 

perhaps i could just post on appropriate site to recruit testers. but even then, betas must be limited, or time bombed, etc. unless it someone you know and trust not to give away two years of work.

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