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I'm a fairly unexperienced game developer, (despite having some coding abilities) as i never really had the opportunity to launch more than 1 "finished" game. So in terms of getting the word out, marketing or even getting usefull feedback of players, i have very little experience.

Now, i'm working for almost 3 years on a game which i'm developing in my spare-time. Despite its pretty long development cycle it is a fairly "simple" game.

The question i'm asking myself multiple times (and more frequently as time goes on) is: - When should i release a demo? (Should i release a demo at all?)

I don't want the players to play it now and loose interest afterwards after the game finishes. (as it will take maybe another full year until it is even remotely finished.) But at the same time i know that i have to do something in terms of marketing (it is going to be a free game, but i would like to reach as much people as i can) as despite the 3 year long development cycle, not many people know about this project. (Which isn't really optimal, as i have a potential target audience which i know would like a game of this type.)

My strategy up to this point was to simply develope it in my spare time, not having a demo at all and only showcasing (meaningfull) progress of the game in youtube videos (This videos are released every 2 or 4 months, depending on how much time i have to develope the game...) and only release the game after it is more or less finished.

Its a very strage scenario for me to be in. I would love to let people know about the project (like every other dev), but at the same time i fear that people will be put down by its quality (alpha-state) and that they aren't going to be interested in it afterwards after they played it. (The only thing you can currently do is to "free-roam" > no objectives whatsoever.)

So my question is: Am i to worried about this stuff? Should i release a demo? (Now or later after it's more polished?) What are your experiences in releasing games or using demos?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Josh Jan 28 '15 at 16:38

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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Releasing unfinished versions long before the release of the finished version is becomming increasingly popular among indie developers and even larger studios under the label "Early Access".

The advantages are clear:

  • Obtaining new financial capital before the product is finished
  • Intensive playtesting by the community to find bugs and get feedback
  • Generating hype
  • Testing if the game is marketable before spending the whole development budget

However, there are also some disadvantages:

  • The early access buy-in is usually lower than the final price, which means that the early access buyers generate less revenue than they would have paid when they would have bought it on the actual release day (although the generated hype during early access usually makes more than up for it)
  • While the software is in early access, the developers must provide support and regular updates which add new features to keep the community interested. This greatly reduces project planning freedom.
  • When your game doesn't offer much long-time motivation and replay value, the developers risk "burning out" their community with a long early access phase. When they finally release the game for full price, the popularity might already be beyond the peak.
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As the Game is free and you seem to love what you are doing but you want attention for your Game without disappointing someone, I would recommend sharing as much of your work as possible to as many Persons as possible.

I'm a Webdeveloper and one thing I've learned since I'm working highly professional, is the importance of a short feedback cycle.

I love the Idea of "Lean Startup". Basically this Guy did a MMPORG and collect his experiences, advantages and mistakes he did with that Project. One main principle was to share the Product as often as he can to his customers. But the really Important thing is, to have channels to measure the reactions and improve the Product every time with the next iteration.

Even though I'm a Webdeveloper we use this Principle every Day to stay in our Business.

The other aspect I like, you could use as well is open sourcing your Project. That does not mean, that everyone can break your Code. In fact with tools like Github, you can share your Code, other People can contribute and you decide wether you want the changes or not.

And as soon as you integrate some changes into a stable Branch, you can provide a Download link to the current Demo/Preview/Early Access/Alpha Version to your followers. Also a Project Page (a Blog works well), is always nice, to keep the Followers up to date.

So Basically this answer only tries to help you to decide more into the direction of an early demo by solving the Problems @Philipp mentioned like:

  • updates on a regular basis
  • burning out the community

If you follow these Principles it may happen that your Game become maybe as popular as Minecraft. So release often, collect Feadback and Improve your Product as often as possible, that would be my advice.

If your still afraid delivering sth. broken or not complete, try to show, the possibilities and the Goal you want to achieve. Maybe also provide a small Roadmap with Tasks you want to finish as a prioritized list.

Hope I could help you out.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Very interesting. The way you describe it, it makes sense to release a demo. Although you pointed out that should be able to update it (more or less) frequently in order to show progress to the potential playerbase. Now the problem is that i'm a student (i have very little spare time) which sometimes forces me to stop development for a few weeks. I have this weird development cycle where nothing happens in a few weeks and then in 2-3 days i work like a maniac and add something new to the game which can sometimes be its own milestone. \$\endgroup\$ – Lewa Jan 28 '15 at 21:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ As to the Open source idea: Would be interesting to do so, but my problem is that this game is going to have multiplayer support (is also going in the direction of competetive multiplayer) so in order to prevent any potential cheating/hacking. So yeah, burning out the players is one of my concerns as i can't deliver the rapid development cycle. \$\endgroup\$ – Lewa Jan 28 '15 at 21:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ The Idea of current encryption and security mechanism, is to make the algorithm/mechanism public and share a secret. To prevent cheating you could use other clients to verify if a certain client is moving correctly or do this verification at the server. Otherwise if your playerbase is cheating afine, they can hack your game nethertheless Also even if there are some weeks/months, you are not able to contribute anything, maybe others have the time to do so and you have at least the time to approve these changes. \$\endgroup\$ – CansasCity Feb 7 '15 at 18:28

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