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  #1    
Old September 21st, 2013, 09:19 AM
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There's a number of questions one could ask when considering a game demo or beta. This is the thread to discuss them.
  • What is the difference between a demo and a beta (and an alpha/release candidate/other terms)? Is there a distinction here in the Game Dev section, or is it just a personal naming preference?
  • What tends to be included in a demo and/or beta? What do you think should be included in them?
  • What are the advantages/disadvantages of releasing them?
  • Should they be released at all?
Answers below!
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  #2    
Old September 21st, 2013, 12:27 PM
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Most of it is preference, but I've seen here beta used sometimes to describe a Pokemon game that is in development that you can play through with the first x gyms, but that technically isn't correct. When you have a beta, you have a completed game, but not completely cleaned of bugs. I call all incomplete releases demos. I don't completely like the idea of demos in fangames, since they are intended to show off new features. In Pokemon fan games, there aren't that many new features to add to make a good demo. I'd just assume to wait and play the full game.
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Old September 21st, 2013, 07:00 PM
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Coming from a Game Dev/Comp Sci student, the differences are pretty clear to me.

An Alpha is an incomplete version of a product distributed only to developers of the project for internal development and testing. They are (extenuating circumstances aside) never seen by anyone else.

A Beta is pretty similar, except that they're usually much more developed than an Alpha and are distributed to non-devs for testing and other feedback. This is often invite-only and private, but on occasion Beta testing is done publically. Beta testing is usually accompanied by some kind of forum or other similar service in which the testers post their feedback and interact with the devs.

On the other hand, a Demo represents a completed product or something close to what the completed product will be. They are usually bug-free thanks to completed Beta-testing, and are distributed publically with the intent of drumming up publicity and demonstrating what the finished product will be like, what features it has, etc. The amount of gameplay is often limited by some kind of timer, level limit, restricted advancement, etc.

How exactly this applies to the Essentials community might work a little differently. It is pretty uncommon for a game to be developed to completion like in the professional industry. Instead, we might consider applying these definitions to each sequential update of a game.

So, for instance, Game A might be developed up to say the first Gym. The builds that the devs use are Alpha builds. They might decide that it's time to produce a demo, so they put together a build and privately distribute it to a few trustworthy people outside the dev team to test. This build is a Beta. They may create several Beta versions during this phase to address the feedback they recieve. Once they are happy with the state of this Beta build, it might be released as a Demo to the public.

Then, with the Demo released, the devs will go back to internal Alpha builds as they continue to develop the game, until such time that they decide to create another public release and go through the process of distributing Beta versions and eventually another Demo, this time with more content. And so this repeats until the "Demo" that they release is the entire game.
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Old September 22nd, 2013, 06:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maruno View Post
There's a number of questions one could ask when considering a game demo or beta. This is the thread to discuss them.
  1. What is the difference between a demo and a beta (and an alpha/release candidate/other terms)? Is there a distinction here in the Game Dev section, or is it just a personal naming preference?
  2. What tends to be included in a demo and/or beta? What do you think should be included in them?
  3. What are the advantages/disadvantages of releasing them?
  4. Should they be released at all?
Answers below!
1. jim42 explained very well. In this forum is just a naming preference, but with Beta intents, because the developers going releasing "Betas" while them are making the game.

2. Around an hour of actual gameplay. For me is important to include some of the main features of the project, as well a secret boss or something in this style to provide some kind of challenge to the players, since the first part of the game must be the easier.

3.
Advantages:
  • Very easier to people understand and sense how your game works.
  • You get the demo/beta feedback that can be useful to improve the game.
  • People like demos/betas, so this probably raise your game popularity. This may be important to win more contributors.
  • This forces you to have some gameplay time. If you give up from the project, is easier to just put a final boss (or a few game content) and give up of it.
Disadvantages:
  • You need to lose a time making a playabe demo/beta, upload it and correcting some impactant bugs. Time that you may use to advance in your full game.
  • Only shows the first part of he game. If the best part is the last one or the main features are introduced latter, people will have a wrong idea of your game potential.
  • This is almost incompatible with serial ways of game devolpment (in example: making all maps firsts, then the systems, then the custom sprites, etc...)
  • Should people who played the demo/beta can import the save to the full game? If yes, you need to handle some future changes to enable save games import (in example, if you put a tree in the game, the player may be stuck in this tree). The players also miss changes done in the first part of the game. If no, all the players need to play the same part again, that may annoys some players.
By the way, I see very more cases of developers who lost the will of making the project after a demo/beta that the devs who gets motivated after a demo/beta release. Maybe this is because there's a huge number of abandoned projects and very few full games.

4. This varies for game and developer. For a game divided with 8 Chapters/Sagas (but with a single game file), may fill good a game with the demo/beta of the first chapter. For me, the disadvantages are more impactant that the advantages in a Essentials context. Essentials has several interconnected systems and pokémon mechanics, so a future release several things may be changed like the items positions, hidden items, pokémon locations, trainers parties, item prices among others, so several things are very better to do in a serial context to balance these things well through the game.

I am only against releasing three or more different demos/betas. This may gives a big task to the developers to prepare the demos/betas and the players to follow these releases.
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Old September 22nd, 2013, 06:57 AM
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From my own personal experience, releasing demos/betas were incredibly benefical. The feedback, compliments etc surely give a huge motivational boost. Believe me, seeing lots of LPs of your game popping up on youtube is amazing, so are livestreams. Seeing the download number is also pretty good for your ego.

Sharing the fun you had making your game with other people without having to wait (and work hard) for years to do so is very good. If my game is close to completion is partially because of the feedback. (In fact, I got back of a hiatus because of a LP that made I miss developping Uranium and motivated me to get more of it done).
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Old September 22nd, 2013, 08:05 AM
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People here use the terms "demo" and "beta" interchangably. They have different meanings, as jim42 says, but for the most part Game Devvers either don't know or don't care about the distinctions. It seems to me that betas are more for testing purposes, and demos are more for showing off.

A game demo is a demonstration of what your game is about and what it's like to play. It doesn't necessarily need to be "the first X hours" of the game, and in fact, it's probably better if it isn't and is instead treated as a separate thing to the final finished product. FL has listed a number of reasons why being able to carry on from a demo into the full game is a bad idea (requires more effort to support saves made in the demo, the player will miss changes made to the start of the game, etc.).



Anyway, what are people releasing and why? It can't be denied that the main reason they release a demo is for publicity. The fact that they can also use their demo as an open beta and receive bug reports for it is a bonus, but I don't think that's the main reason people release demos. They want to show off what they've done so far.

I find when I put out a new version of Essentials that I suddenly become less enthused about it. It's a "job done" mentality, and is a strong demotivator even though you know there's much more to do. On top of that, having people tell you what's wrong with your demo saps your will even further. Because of this, I'd say that releasing a demo can tend to be detrimental to productivity.

If you must release a demo, we Then come to the point I alluded to earlier: what's in the demo? The first chunk of the game, commonly using Gyms as endpoints. How often have you heard "playable up to the second Gym"? Maybe Gyms are good way-points, I don't know. Maybe it'd be better to end on some kind of cliffhanger, such as when you just enter a new town/big area (which is visible but not accessible, to tease the player with more to come).

That's not my point, though. Why must a demo be "the first chunk of the game"? Many game demos in the real world don't give the player the first mission or two to play through, because the beginning of a game is generally boring because you can't do anything yet. There's also the problem of player fatigue - if they've already played the first X hours of your game, they're going to be dulled when they have to replay it in the final game. Why not omit the very beginning part, start the player at the second town with a sample party, and let them play from there? This lets the beginning be new to them, may well give them some information which provides context to comments they saw in the demo which didn't make any sense at the time, and by the time they reach the demo part the pacing has picked up enough that they don't mind replaying it so much and will have more options to follow (e.g. different Pokémon).

Let's go further than this. Why should the demo be a copy of some chunk of the actual game? How about changing some things, like moving a building around or having different wild Pokémon? The contents of the XY demo were thrown together entirely for the purposes of the demo, and the only part of it that might be in the final game is the map design itself (not the NPCs or wild encounters). In this case the demo really is just showing off what you can do (ride Pokémon, Mega Evolutions, some Gen 6 Pokémon). The XY demo has some restrictions on what you can do too, such as being unable to gain Exp. Most importantly, the XY demo doesn't make you want to play the full game any less because there are no spoilers (any revealed part of the plot that isn't in the game's description counts as a spoiler, even if it seems unimportant).

The benefits of doing something like this should be obvious. It means you can work on whichever maps you want, rather than being forced to create them in order. It means you can make changes to any part of the game later on without worrying about breaking demo savegames (because they'll be unsupported). It gives the player a better experience when they finally play the full game. You can stitch together whichever things you want to show them off without worrying about how that cluster of features will affect the whole game (because they're only stitched together for the sake of the demo).

So there's some ideas for you.



Should people release demos at all? Personally, I'd say "maybe one or possibly two towards the end of production, in the stitch-together style, for the sole purpose of advertising". The only things you can really show off are the mapping, story and maybe some new features/redesigns if you've done those, and you shouldn't be including the story in the demo because spoilers.

Any actual testing of the game (mechanics, mapping/eventing, etc.) should be done in closed betas by recruited beta testers, whose job is to thoroughly test every aspect of the game and who would be able to recognise potential problems (and ideally have access to the source to help them). A beta tester operates differently to people who'll download/play a demo, who will just play through it casually and might jot down some of the bugs they happened to spot. That's why you shouldn't rely solely on "outsider" reactions.

A demo is a publicity stunt. If you find yourself wanting to resort to it in order to boost your motivation, you need to look at why you've lost that motivation in the first place instead of trying to top it up.
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Old September 22nd, 2013, 11:04 AM
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Maruno arguments are great as usual. The comparison between fangames demos and the XY demos is a very good way to understand the diference between a truly demo and a beta.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Maruno View Post
A demo is a publicity stunt. If you find yourself wanting to resort to it in order to boost your motivation, you need to look at why you've lost that motivation in the first place instead of trying to top it up.
In my opinion, the main goal of a developer must be to make a good full game rather than a good demo, but I see several situations where this isn't true.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ~JV~ View Post
From my own personal experience, releasing demos/betas were incredibly benefical. The feedback, compliments etc surely give a huge motivational boost. Believe me, seeing lots of LPs of your game popping up on youtube is amazing, so are livestreams. Seeing the download number is also pretty good for your ego.
I also have a similar experience, but with releasing only the full game rather than demos.
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  #8    
Old September 22nd, 2013, 02:02 PM
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I will admit, most "demos" or "betas" are just short incomplete games used to get publicity and followers. I'm guilty of this myself. But the publicity certainly helps with morale and motivation. And when you're making a game for free, it's really all you've got.

Of course, releasing these "demos" is a good way to get constructive feedback. I've revealed a few "proof of concept" builds highlighting new mechanics, and the feedback I've gotten was very helpful. It's best to find out what works and what doesn't as early as possible, so you don't waste time creating lackluster content.
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Old September 23rd, 2013, 03:12 PM
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Fangames take a lot of time to make, and most don't get completed. demos are a great way to keep people interested in the project and keep people interested in the project and to show off your progress. I don't really see much downside in it.

The only "downside" is polishing up your gaming and fixing all the bugs. But you'd have to do that anyway at the end of the project. It's much more managable if you fix up a bunch of bugs with each release, rather that finishing your game, then deciding to do bugfixing (which is something I did on my last project) The sheer amount of bugs can be very demoralising. It was truly exhausting, and some bugs were very deep and took a long time to get out. eventually, I was sick of the bugs and just gave up.

If you're builidng a game in a linear fashion, then making a demo is very easy, add in all the content you want, block off areas that players shouldn't reach. do testing. release.

In regards to beta/demo I basically use Betas as release candiates. So before a demo is about to get released, I put out a beta, and players bugtest them. I fix up the bugs release an updated beta. rinse repeat until it appears that most bugs are stompted out, then turn it into a Demo. A polished reperesentation of the game thus far.

Another nice sideeffect of demoes is the recent phenomenom of Let's Plays. totally random people uploading youtube playthroughs of your game, which other random people watch. They both increase publicity greatly, AND allow you to see how a person plays through your game. I modified a lot of things around the first hour of my game because I saw areas which were problem spots with people, and which encounters were too difficuly.
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Old November 4th, 2013, 11:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maruno View Post
There's a number of questions one could ask when considering a game demo or beta. This is the thread to discuss them.
  • What is the difference between a demo and a beta (and an alpha/release candidate/other terms)? Is there a distinction here in the Game Dev section, or is it just a personal naming preference?
  • What tends to be included in a demo and/or beta? What do you think should be included in them?
  • What are the advantages/disadvantages of releasing them?
  • Should they be released at all?
Answers below!
To me, a demo is a demonstration of game play. A demo usually limits how much of the game you get to play, and is merely for introductory purposes. This is mainly for consumers.

A beta/alpha is a generally a release candidate (as you mentioned) in which players get to experience a complete world which is not necessarily restricted by available game time so much as it is bugs and hiccups. These generally are used for feedback purposes, as a means to refine the game for official release. This is mainly for developers.

I am not sure if there is a real distinction within this section, and it does bother me from time to time. My understanding of what they are is primarily based on experience with various different official games.

A demo, in my opinion, generally consists of a compact scene from the game that includes an introduction to features, plot and game play to give the player an overall feel of how the game will play. A release candidate on the other hand, generally consists of the entire world and plot to give the player a chance to find any bugs and provide feedback to correct the issues.

There are not really any disadvantages for releasing either in my opinion, at least not in the way of getting the information out. Consumers like demo products so they can experience what it is like to play the game. Developers like release candidates so they can receive feedback for bugs and various other development issues so they can fix them for official release.

I firmly believe that a release candidate should always be released. It provides critical information to developers. A demo on the other hand, I think is entirely up to the developer, as it is a product generally for the consumer rather than the developer. DarkDoom3000 makes a good point about Let's Plays that is something that can work out well for developers as well though.
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Old November 5th, 2013, 02:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maruno View Post
There's a number of questions one could ask when considering a game demo or beta. This is the thread to discuss them.
  • What is the difference between a demo and a beta (and an alpha/release candidate/other terms)? Is there a distinction here in the Game Dev section, or is it just a personal naming preference?
  • What tends to be included in a demo and/or beta? What do you think should be included in them?
  • What are the advantages/disadvantages of releasing them?
  • Should they be released at all?
Answers below!
As a commercial Game Programmer, I'll answer the following questions.

An Alpha is a Feature Complete Stage, which means that nobody cares about how your game looks like, as long as all features are fully implemented, and you have at least 1 playable Level.
Stuff like Menus, Credits, Level Clear, etc. are none of the importance for now.

A Beta is practically a complete game, all Features AND Assets have to be completed.
All you see in the Beta is what you see in the Final product, but they can possibly be subject for change, that's what I'll explain in the next paragraph.

A Release Candidate is a Stage where you do all the legal paperwork (Age Ratings, Publisher Agreements, Translations, Lot Checking (if releasing on a Console/Handheld), etc.), as well as QA Testing.
Based on the feedback of QA Testers, you'll provide eventual changes to a game.
For the most of the time, the changes are based on Level Design, but it might occur a Tester says something like, "The wall is to scary, change it!", so an Artist needs to make a different Texture for that wall.

Now up to the second question.
There is a difference between a Demo and an Open Beta.
Open Betas are usually provided by PC/Mac/Linux, Web, or Mobile Developers, where the general public provides them a feedback, instead of their own QA Team (if they have any).
A Demo is usually provided when the game is almost ready to go on sale, so people can try a section of the game, in order to be satisfied enough to buy it.

The answer of the third question is basically already included in the second question.

As for the forth question, it's all up to you to release them or not.
When working on a Console and/or Handheld, make sure you notify Nintendo/Sony/Microsoft much ahead of time about that, Lot Checking for Demos is the same as for the Full Game.
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Old November 7th, 2013, 12:26 PM
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  • What is the difference between a demo and a beta (and an alpha/release candidate/other terms)? Is there a distinction here in the Game Dev section, or is it just a personal naming preference?
  • What tends to be included in a demo and/or beta? What do you think should be included in them?


- A Demo is for demonstration purposes, it should contain a small part (not necessarily the beginning to point X) of the game to show what it's like, this way the consumers can see if they like the game and proceed to get the full version if they still want it.

- An Alpha would be an early stage of development, the game doesn't need any `extra` features (such as MKGirlism stated: Menus, Credits, Level Cleared, ect.), but should however still need all your essentials of the game created (basically the main purpose of your game), if there are any bugs it's okay as long as they aren't fatal bugs the will happen without fail (as this is still an alpha).

- A beta would be a game with most those extras added in that was excluded from the alpha, and most those bugs sorted out, the game should be nearing completion and the there should be very little bugs left.

- A Release Candidate would be a game that is fully developed as far as the main story and main features are concerned. A Release Candidate also has proper lisencing for the game (again borrowing that from MKGirlism)
  • What are the advantages/disadvantages of releasing them?
Advantages to releasing can be:
the consumers can give back feedback for things such as glitches, what they think, features (even though a release isn't needed for features), and things that may make the game better (such as adding another control scheme, changing the stats of this item, ect.), and it can also attract people to get the full version.

Disadvantages to releasing can be:
People might badger you for a next release, it might detract people from getting the full version because of a bug or something, needing to decide what sections you want to reveal or have inside the demo/beta, and for people who are lazy, actually taking the time to only include the parts you want inside the release packaging it and distributing it.
  • Should they be released at all?
- Yes, No, Maybe, it all depends on a few things: as a producer do you want a pre-release of it? and if yes, you should at the very least be ready for an alpha, no sooner than that, anything before shouldn't really be released and anything after that is really up to the producer to decide.
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