5 simple tips for demoing games at events

2014-09-26 14.18.01

As I’m getting ready to demo Last Voyage Of The Orlova at the Opium Torenkamer Festival, I’m adding some extra features to the game to make my life easier during the two weeks it will be there. Demoing a game at an event may seem like a simple errand: put the executable on a computer and let people go wild. But there are a few things you can do to make everything go smoothly:

Make it easy to reset the demo

Not everybody will finish a demo at an event, and you don’t want the next person walking straight into a running game and missing all the onboarding and tutorial content. You want each person to start fresh, generally, to reduce the risk of them not understanding your game. So add a Reset/Restart option in the main menu, or an inactivity timeout that does it for you automatically.

Make it easy to remember the game

If people DO reach the end of the demo, you want to send them off with some kind of next action. That could be a flyer with the website URL or download link, but I like to include that in the demo itself. Show a nice splash screen with the name of the game, URL, release date and maybe some screenshots from the rest of the game. Add a QR code to make it even easier. And after a minute or so, loop it back to the start of the game (see above).

Know which platform you’re demoing on

This may seem like a no-brainer if you’re only building to one platform, but if you support both windows and mac (and linux), you might want to check which system you will be demoing on. You’ll need a different executable for each, of course, but it’s the small things that can get ya. For instance: button mappings for a controller are different between different platforms for some crazy reason. Your Xbox Controller might work fine on your windows laptop, but half the buttons won’t work on a Mac. And even screens can be a pain; Your laptop may only have an HDMI port, but if the screen needs a VGA port, you need an extra cable.

Make it easy to analyze

If you won’t be at the booth all day (and even if you will), you might want to add some analytics to the game to make reviewing all the playtest data easier. This is super duper easy to do in Unity, so there’s really no excuse. You could track important game events like how many people finish the level, how long it took them, or which route they took. Basic data like that is always nice to have.

Make it hard to quit*

This won’t always apply, but if you’re demoing on a PC, it’s good to make it impossible to leave the game. Disable the Quit option in the menu, and if your game supports both keyboard+mouse and controller, demo it with a controller so no one can alt-tab out to the desktop. And if possible, put the PC case behind lock and key, so nobody can access the USB ports or otherwise.

Doing some or all of these things ensure you can focus on showing off your new game and engaging with potential fans, and not dealing with the technical difficulties.

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