Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sunday Thoughts - Demos and Shareware

I downloaded and tried out the Yo-Kai Watch demo the other day and thought it was pretty alright. I actually thought the "watch" part referred to watching the yo-kai but apparently the main character has an actual watch... I quite liked the combat system, where you can get as involved as you want to be. Far from Pokémon where a lvl 3 Rattata and a lvl 50 Mewtwo take about as much effort to fight because of menus and text. I think it's a game I would have fun with, but it didn't wow me enough for me to want to buy it right away. The fact that I had just played a demo probably gave me more thought than the actual game did. I tried to remember the last time I played a demo of a game, I can honestly tell you I thought they were an extinct beast of the video game industry because I have completely missed them.

I could be completely wrong about this, but my idea is that demos used to be a thing of the computer game scene and has more or less switched to the console scene. I haven't heard of a computer game demo, or trial if you prefer to call them that, in ages. I could just have been living under a rock regarding that though, maybe they've been around all the time. I know of online-game trial periods of course, in a sense they are definitely like demos, but for some reason limited to the online games nowadays. Back in my day you got demos and sharewares (remember them?) for computer games and you rented games for consoles if you wanted to check them out. I don't recall being able to rent computer games, but maybe that was just a backwater Sweden limitation. I would mention playing games in video game stores, but since they're disappearing as well that is becoming less and less of an option. Not to mention, they might not front the game you're interested in.


Speaking of shareware, apparently also known as demoware, I haven't really come across that in video games anymore either. It was actually a style I quite liked as it often let you try a lot of, sometimes all of, the features of the program but limit it in some crucial way. My best memory of this was playing Escape Velocity (an amazing game that would get a remake if I ever became president), and if you didn't pay for your copy an enemy space ship would become increasingly annoying until it just flat-out destroyed you, thus making playing the game really difficult. But up until then, which I assume was triggered either by some sort of built-in timer or area in the game, I wasn't limited in any way. I would love this system for modern games, does anyone still do this?

The last demo I can remember playing was Wolfenstein 3D, we're talking mid 90's here! Admittedly my little brother did most of the playing since he was way more into shooting things than I was back then. The demo only contained the first three stages but I'm not even entirely sure that we realized this was only a tiny part of the game because we definitely treated it as a full-length game and played it over and over, yet never asked our parents to buy it. That might be because they probably never would have although I wonder why they let us play the demo in that case... The "final boss" of the demo was a dude so hardcore it required full blasting of the secret miniguns to get down, but he was probably not particularly difficult in actuality.

Always felt sorry for the dogs though -

And now it seems consoles have taken over the demos, or at least Nintendo has. I think it's great. I often end up watching gameplay videos online before buying something to get an idea of whether the game will be fun for me or not, even if the trailer/information on the game seemed really promising. I've made too many mistakes in the past of judging a game by its cover, getting overly excited about something only to be crushingly disappointed when starting to play (yes I am looking at you Unlimited Saga). So what better than to actually get to try some gameplay? For me it's only win-win.

But I do miss the times when you'd get a demo-CD with your favorite video game magazine, the best thing about that that gets lost a bit with the modern style of downloading demos, is that you got a bunch of games that you might not have tried out otherwise. Since they were on the demo-CD you probably ended up checking them out and so there was a chance to find fun games you'd never look twice at otherwise. I guess the modern equivalent are the bundles in which at least I have found loads of great games I would've never had heard of otherwise (Darkout is a great example).

I don't know why computer games don't do demos anymore, or if they do I don't know why I seem to have completely missed it. All I hear is about pre-ordering stuff. But before I pay 60 euro for a game I might not enjoy, couldn't I get to play it for a little bit?


  1. I remember those demo disks you used to get in PC Game magazines (I had totally forgotten about those until I read your post). I remeber playing Wolfenstein way back. A friend of mine had the one with 7 (if I remember correctly) different levels. I remember playing one time and I got to the level boss (a Hitler type guy in armour with a mini gun on each shoulder). He came zig-zagging across the room while I stood there blasting him. Just as he closed on me I ran out of ammo and out pops the knife. Both me and my buddy thought I was completely screwed. But after stabbing him twice he went down. That was one of my most memorable gaming moments ever. It was a complete blast.

    1. Yes that's the guy! It might've been 7 levels, I always thought it was just three, but it's a long time ago now. Hah, the knife saves the day at the most unexpected times, sometimes it's among the strongest weapons in a game.