How long should a demo be?

I recently updated my demo for my story and realized that it’s a pretty substantial word count. I thought about it and started to wonder, what exactly is the sweet spot percentage a demo should be relative to the entire story?

There’s a lot of factors I realized I had to consider such as how much of the story I want to reveal to the public before release. Another one was that I realized that if I choose to just work on my story with no more updates, there’s the case of lack of feedback since nobody on the forums can read it.

Overall, I guess it’s a matter of balance. I want readers’ feedback, but at the same time I don’t want to reveal too much of my story. I hope I’m making sense with this post. I would appreciate answers from both readers and authors!

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If you’re planning to publish through Hosted Games, your whole game will have to be available on the forum for beta testing. I believe that experienced authors who have published through them before have sometimes been able to do a closed/private beta instead, but for the most part, everything HG publishes was available in full on the forum for a period of time before it was submitted. When you submit your game for publication (or when you get a contract to publish), you’ll take down the demo.

The advantage you get from having a community of enthusiasts helping make your game better will far, far outweigh whatever sales you potentially lose from people playing the game in full during the beta phase and deciding not to buy it.


I don’t think your word count is a problem. I’ve seen longer demos posted on this forum (at least the ones on Dashingdon before the full version was released on HG/CoG). Public betas are (cmiiw) mainly for finding bugs and other major issues, i.e. making sure the game is playable and not rife with issues upon release. You could do a private beta if revealing the entire story is a concern.

Might want to check out this thread as well:

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Here’s a link to a few of the “beta testing” threads where similar concerns have been talked through before:

In years of authors discussing this issue, I’ve yet to see any evidence of significant numbers of customers sitting out a game because they got to forum test it first. The forum community is a small fraction of the people who buy CoG/HGs; many are predisposed to buy the games they test, as a way of supporting the authors.

Different authors feel differently about the quality bump that comes from developing their games on the forum – but for my part, I’m very pro-forum.

My own game was available in full on the forums for testing for many weeks before its final beta test and release, and still became one of CoG’s bestsellers when it came out.


Hmm, I was never concerned with sales when it comes to this topic. I was more concerned with my story losing the surprise factor with what happens because they read it as it was gradually built. However, after reading this, I guess it would be nice to have a gradually growing audience seeing my story be built.

Ohh, I know private betas existed but I generally thought that was for when a game is near completion or is finished. Never knew you could have it so early. Hmm, I don’t think I would do a private beta though, I wouldn’t want people to feel obligated to read my work out of volunteering

Ohhh I see, this is very good insight. Thank you for the link and the advice! I never realized that a whole game could be out in full for the public, I thought that was the case with private betas only. It’s really good to know that from your experience the forums were beneficial for you.

Thank you to everyone that responded. After some thinking, I think I will just keep updating the demo on the forums gradually until the story is complete. I think it’s pretty important to have a community where they can provide decent feedback and after reading the responses, having a forum audience is more important!


People like re-reading stories they like, even if they remember the surprises. I wouldn’t worry about that too much, unless you give away too much spoilers before you release the actual parts of the story where they happen.


Remember, most of the people who eventually play your game won’t have played the demo, so it’s at most a few dozen people who won’t experience your game the way you intended, and thousands who will. The people who read and comment on WIPs are choosing freely to do so; they value their ability to provide feedback more than they value an unspoiled reading experience of the final product.

And remember, you’re writing interactive fiction for a reason. It should be an active goal of yours to tell a story that’s worth reading even if you already know the basic plot. Look at Evertree Inn and Sordwin - they’re mystery novels, and who or what is responsible for the scary events doesn’t change between one playthrough and the next, but many of us still enjoy playing them over and over because there’s so much character development and subplot and exploration that it can’t all be done in one playthrough, and we’re still discovering new things and revisiting beloved characters even after the “surprise factor” is long gone. If your story is significantly less enjoyable without the “surprise factor,” you’re probably doing it wrong.


Ooo, I agree with this comment. I guess it should be fine as long as I don’t just blurt out everything in a dev blog and such .3.

I completely agree with your statement on the surprise factors. Most media I end up consuming, I’m already spoiled on it, yet I still find them really enjoyable.