Exactly what the title says. What is important for you as a reader/player for a Choice of Games demo?
A CoG demo or an HG demo? In CoG I just expect a few chapters since the authors are not required to hold a public beta, or post their progress in the forum in any way.
For HGs I like to get a sense of the setting, characters, and story. Not a huge amount of detail early on, but just enough that I can figure out what the game is actually about. As the development progresses the demo should get longer, but I wouldn’t expect the entire game to be put up either.
I think I should also ask what you all would like to see in a regular game demo. Outside of COG or HG
For CoG demos, my expectation varies on whether the IF has already been published or if it’s in the process of being published.
In the former, I probably expect maybe one or two - maybe three if they’re feeling generous - chapters of the story. What’s important to me in the published CoG demo is this: does it live up to what was promised in the advertisement? If it does, I probably will mark it in my “to explore” list. If not, I’ll probably not buy it and that’ll be that.
If there’s a CoG that’s in the process of being published, and therefore has a public demo (like the CoG WiP sub forums), I’ll expect it to be similar to a beta test for a prospective title for the HG label.
In an HG demo, my expectations are looser, so to speak because of the varying quality from story to story and how authors will operate their own beta tests. Some might have a cut off point in the public demo but will have the “full length” version for private beta testers (i.e. Wayhaven Book II) while others might not.
It works similar to my expectation to a CoG demo in that, I expect there to be enough content to sink my teeth into. I need to get a good feel of whether or not what the author is “selling” is what I’m looking to “buy”, so to speak.
If a demo is from an author or a part of a series that I love/know, then I’ll probably give the demo more leeway because I can trust the author is going to deliver on what they promised.
For example, if I want to play as a superhero, I’d play Fallen Hero rather than the Heroes Rise trilogy because the former “sells” and “delivers” upon my expectations of what a story about heroes “should” roughly be about.
In a good demo, definitely a good hook (whether that is the prologue or the beginnings of the first chapter), a decent level of customization and an introduction to the world of the story and a few characters. Doesn’t necessarily have to be the ROs, but ideally I would like to meet at least two or three characters with major influences in the story.
Ultimately, a good demo should make you want to save your progress so you can come back as it updates.
To that, it would have to be “proof of concept”, a good hook if there’s reading involved, and hopefully very few to no bugs impeding the former two.
With these game books, the single most important thing for any author–experienced, or new–is understanding the purpose of a rough draft. You don’t need to be ‘perfect’ to get the job done as far as showing what you want to share in a demo while getting a feel for how the code works, and where you want the story to develop. Stressing yourself over every last spelling or grammar hiccup will just slow your progress, and make it hard to look forward. Keeping the story going, so to speak.
For a regular game demo, I look for a hook and a protagonist that if imagination is stretched is relatable. I have played several demos for computer or game systems where I turn off the game after the first 20 minutes because the story and/or character isn’t relatable.
In a choice game or hosted game I like to see that the initial choices make a small difference. If it is a demo (or free first 3 chapters of a completed game) I might read the first few choices multiple times in the first half an hour to see if choosing different options make a difference in what comes next. If an emphasis is placed on something being important and nothing changes regardless of what is chosen I normally don’t get past the first group of questions.
If it is a demo, I then I would try again at a later point to see if it changes. If it is a finished game, then I just don’t play it. Choices can have small significance and the outcome might be slightly different. But if the outcome is identical on 10 different playthroughs of the same set of 6 plot focused (important) questions then it doesn’t feel like the choices matter. The stats might be different but if the story doesn’t change then it feels off.
A hypothetical example is if I am in a police station and I am asked a series of questions and each one I follow a type of path… whether it is… cooperate, curse, refuse to answer, or insult the police officer. If all those choices change only the stats but not how they respond to me it feels shallow.
That might be more than what you are asking for though.
An awesome end to a demo is really important to me. I want to be wide-eyed, dying to know what comes next–and in particular, I want the demo to end with my having made a dramatic choice…and then the demo ends before I see the results of that choice. That will get me to buy a game, most of all.
For published games, demos that are fun even without buying the full game definitely encourage me to buy the rest of the chapters. I think part of that fun is choices having narrative impact that can be explored in the demo, like @DPerna mentioned, as well as gameplay aspects (like stats or dice roll fights) being introduced in those early chapters to get a full understanding of what type of game we’re actually getting into.
For the testing demos on the forum then I mainly expect the author to note what choices or routes are still a work in progress or what’s been updated from last time since even the first chapters that will eventually make up the published demo can change during this time. Depending on how far the game is, I’ll also start looking at the story as a whole and not just as a demo or chapter by chapter.
What I expect from a CoG demo is to have enough from the free chapters to get an idea of plot, setting, majority of characters introduced and possibility of romance budding.
Characters, plot and romance is what keeps me interested, so if the demo introduced these elements, as a buyer, I could better determine whether I want to invest money on the rest of the chapters.