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The art of building amazing demos
John Cooney - Director of Premium Publishing at Kongregate - @jmtb02
Hi I am John Cooney.
Director of Premium Games at Kongregate
(A cross-platform publisher and web games platform)


I am al...
I move quickly so I’ll post this deck at developers.kongregate.com
30 Minutes Ago

I abandoned helping
team currently
assembling our 

booth demos right now
at Indie Arena Booth… 

to talk ...
Make amazing demos!
An amazing demo is a 

sessionable, enjoyable, playable, and honest representation 

of the full game experience
Much of b...
Why create demos?
• Show off your game. Getting players in your game to
Gamescom and other amazing events
• To get feedbac...
WHERE do we demo as developers?
• Player-facing events. Expos like PAX,
Gamescom, EGX
• Business-facing events. Events lik...
Preparing your event demo
Your ultimate 3-step action plan to a great event
demo:
• Step 1: Make the player Comfortable
• Step 2: Maximize player En...
Step 1
Creating Comfort
Comfort starts external to your demo,
fostering a human relationship with
the player
“Hi, I am the creator of this game, I hope you love it!”
• Identify that you are the creator! Be excited!
• Interact! Play...
Hand the controller to the player.
It’s one of the most cathartic experiences you can have as a
developer.
Don’t drop it o...
Only offer the best control scheme you got.
• Keyboard + Mouse
• Controller
• Mouse only
Hide everything else! Options are...
Don’t make these bad charts.
They’re fun to make but they
confuse the player. Memorizing
controls is not fun.
Instead. Sho...
Read player engagement and body language.
• Some players want to be left alone.
• Some want to constantly ask questions.
•...
Remove screen-based distractions
• Disable OS notifications (seriously)
• Hide cursor for controller play
• Play in true fu...
Make sure your demo space is accessible.
• Wheelchair accessibility
• Controller/keyboard adjustable
• Approachable monito...
Make some sound choices
Headphones are better for solo play.
• Expo noise is LOUD, headphones isolate sound
• Have an easy-to-reach volume knob if...
Speakers are better for group play.
• Much easier for players to talk/interact
• Competes with ambient noise, its
going to...
Step 2: Maximizing minutes of enjoyment
• Your player is now comfortable. EXCELLENT.
• Enjoyment is about providing an excellent,
memorable gameplay experience, f...
Controllers
• An Xbox controller has 19 discreet inputs, which
should you push first? Start the demo with the
primary input...
Respect player’s time. 

Their time with the demo is limited.
• Story is important but monopolizes time. Try to
set preced...
“How long should my demo be?”
• Generally I recommend 5 to 10
minutes in-person, but potentially
longer (10 to 30 minutes) for
downloadable demos
• Demo...
• Make a clear breakpoint in the demo Removing the
awkward moment of “Ok, please stop playing now”
• “Thanks for playing!”...
By the end of the demo, your player should
know the following:
• Basic controls/feel
• Core loop
• Game difficulty and prog...
By the end of the demo, YOU should know
things as well:
• Is the difficulty right?
• Did the player perform as expected? Wh...
Demoing VR
• Wipe the headsets before each play or get a
VR Cover.
• “Is this comfortable?” Help the player get
acclimated to VR, man...
Step 3: Creating Action
The demo is over.
This is a golden minute to captivate your players with
next steps.
Players are excited. Your game is eit...
“Would you like to sign up for our newsletter?”
• Email newsletters are great for keeping
players engage. Lots of good app...
Should I sell a copy right there at the demo? 



Maybe. Probably not.
• Tax implications of making in-person retail
sales...
Downloadable Demos
Good news. Your event demo will be pretty good for
downloadable demos as well. Just a few things to
think about.
How are demos different as downloadable?
• You are probably not in their house watching them play
• The internet is at the...
When should I release an online demo? Depends.
• Kickstarter? Along side. Builds confidence in
players that its a real game...
Recommend places for demos:
• Steam
• itch.io
• Gamejolt
• Kongregate (webGL/HTML5)
You need to still get out there and
pr...
Demoing for Business
Feel free to use an expo-style demo for business
conversations.



However, 2 major caveats:
“Would you like me to drive?”
When pitching to a publisher or
platform, let them know that you’re
willing to play the demo...
Laptops for demos.
• Low-power mode is AWFUL. Most
common error I see in demos. Plug
your computer in or disable.
• Charge...
Final Takeaways
Optimize for player setting
One demo does not fit all. Expos are different from business meetings
from online demos. Craft ...
Your demo should represent your game in the best light possible, and
honestly
Your goal is to show a finite, vertical slice...
Earn player action
Provide a demo that energizes your audience. They’ll want to look
forward to your release date, or be m...
Thank You
John Cooney - Director of Premium Publishing at Kongregate - @jmtb02
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The Art of Building Amazing Demos

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Creating public-facing game demos (especially at expos and cons), comes with granular approach and human interactions. Learn about practical steps in developing your demo and providing the best experience for your gaming audience.

Originally presented at Devcom 2017

Published in: Business
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The Art of Building Amazing Demos

  1. 1. The art of building amazing demos John Cooney - Director of Premium Publishing at Kongregate - @jmtb02
  2. 2. Hi I am John Cooney. Director of Premium Games at Kongregate (A cross-platform publisher and web games platform) 
 I am also an indie developer • 100+ titles released with +1b plays worldwide • Flash games veteran
  3. 3. I move quickly so I’ll post this deck at developers.kongregate.com
  4. 4. 30 Minutes Ago
 I abandoned helping team currently assembling our 
 booth demos right now at Indie Arena Booth… 
 to talk to you about demos
  5. 5. Make amazing demos!
  6. 6. An amazing demo is a 
 sessionable, enjoyable, playable, and honest representation 
 of the full game experience Much of building an amazing demo are 
 tiny (often game-external) tasks
 that don’t take much time
  7. 7. Why create demos? • Show off your game. Getting players in your game to Gamescom and other amazing events • To get feedback. Be able to collect feedback and see players engage, whether online or in-person • A marketing chip. A way of generating buzz about your game, whether during Kickstarter or post-launch • Test launch. Demos are also a demo for your launch experience. Sometimes we call them “open betas”
  8. 8. WHERE do we demo as developers? • Player-facing events. Expos like PAX, Gamescom, EGX • Business-facing events. Events like Devcom, Casual Connect, GDC. For publishers and investors. • Online demos for marketing the game (Steam demos, Kickstarters, etc)
  9. 9. Preparing your event demo
  10. 10. Your ultimate 3-step action plan to a great event demo: • Step 1: Make the player Comfortable • Step 2: Maximize player Enjoyment • Step 3: Generate Player Action
  11. 11. Step 1 Creating Comfort
  12. 12. Comfort starts external to your demo, fostering a human relationship with the player
  13. 13. “Hi, I am the creator of this game, I hope you love it!” • Identify that you are the creator! Be excited! • Interact! Players LOVE being able to interact with the creator! • Sometimes your interaction with the player is more powerful than the actual game (no offense to your game) • Be nice even though you’re probably exhausted and overwhelmed
  14. 14. Hand the controller to the player. It’s one of the most cathartic experiences you can have as a developer. Don’t drop it on the table and point at it. Handing the game controller to the player is important, literally handing off your game is good practice for launch
  15. 15. Only offer the best control scheme you got. • Keyboard + Mouse • Controller • Mouse only Hide everything else! Options are paralyzing, don’t offer options!
  16. 16. Don’t make these bad charts. They’re fun to make but they confuse the player. Memorizing controls is not fun. Instead. Show a simplified version on a control card below the monitor. Just the basic controls (move, jump, etc)
  17. 17. Read player engagement and body language. • Some players want to be left alone. • Some want to constantly ask questions. • Some are tired and fussy. Engage with players the way they want to be engaged.
  18. 18. Remove screen-based distractions • Disable OS notifications (seriously) • Hide cursor for controller play • Play in true fullscreen (no application bar) • Thwart exiting the game (seriously people check their emails)
  19. 19. Make sure your demo space is accessible. • Wheelchair accessibility • Controller/keyboard adjustable • Approachable monitor with removable seating • Be helpful and accommodating!
  20. 20. Make some sound choices
  21. 21. Headphones are better for solo play. • Expo noise is LOUD, headphones isolate sound • Have an easy-to-reach volume knob if you can, set to LOW and let the player adjust up • Clean them! • Remove the microphone (who are they talking to?)
  22. 22. Speakers are better for group play. • Much easier for players to talk/interact • Competes with ambient noise, its going to be expensive for good sound • Nothing to clean!
  23. 23. Step 2: Maximizing minutes of enjoyment
  24. 24. • Your player is now comfortable. EXCELLENT. • Enjoyment is about providing an excellent, memorable gameplay experience, fast • This is accomplished by providing a frictionless, seamless, correct length experience.
  25. 25. Controllers • An Xbox controller has 19 discreet inputs, which should you push first? Start the demo with the primary input • Make sure your real buttons match the UI counterparts • Offer y-axis flip from the pause menu, don’t bury it
  26. 26. Respect player’s time. 
 Their time with the demo is limited. • Story is important but monopolizes time. Try to set precedence but not tell a wildly long story • Skippable cutscenes • Checkpoint progress before difficult portions/boss fights • Limit incredibly repetitive actions • Learning through experience, not 10-page tutorial reading
  27. 27. “How long should my demo be?”
  28. 28. • Generally I recommend 5 to 10 minutes in-person, but potentially longer (10 to 30 minutes) for downloadable demos • Demo should be short enough to not make people in line wait forever, multiple computer/console setups help • End your demo after the peak of enjoyment, don’t let the demo run forever Understand the enjoyment curve then cut the player off after peak
  29. 29. • Make a clear breakpoint in the demo Removing the awkward moment of “Ok, please stop playing now” • “Thanks for playing!” is a very happy, clear signal. Players naturally will put down the controller with this messaging • Remove false breakpoints from the game. End of level screens and similar will cue the player to leave the game. Simply head to the next level automatically and don’t wait for player input to go to the next screen.
  30. 30. By the end of the demo, your player should know the following: • Basic controls/feel • Core loop • Game difficulty and progression • Art style and tone • Sound direction and design Your demo doesn’t have to actually show these, but can allude to their existence
  31. 31. By the end of the demo, YOU should know things as well: • Is the difficulty right? • Did the player perform as expected? What was unexpected? • What was their emotions throughout the experience? • Was there bugs? Compare and contrast all data points.
  32. 32. Demoing VR
  33. 33. • Wipe the headsets before each play or get a VR Cover. • “Is this comfortable?” Help the player get acclimated to VR, many players have never engaged with VR content before! • Mirror the game to a screen for others to see. • Consider setup time into demo length. VR requires time to set up/take off/clean, lines can take forever.
  34. 34. Step 3: Creating Action
  35. 35. The demo is over. This is a golden minute to captivate your players with next steps. Players are excited. Your game is either out or coming soon. Take advantage.
  36. 36. “Would you like to sign up for our newsletter?” • Email newsletters are great for keeping players engage. Lots of good apps for this (iPad is good). Internet is often bad at large events, so using an offline app is better. SignUpAnywhere is great. So is pen-and- paper. “Here have a button!” • Buttons are cheap, easy to make (or get printed), and mean that the player will have a physical connection to the game (and have a visual representation of your game to wear and share).
  37. 37. Should I sell a copy right there at the demo? 
 
 Maybe. Probably not. • Tax implications of making in-person retail sales are muddy. • Having to make change, take credit card. • Holding up waiting players while you make a transaction. • It could make sense, just weight your options, there’s implications.
  38. 38. Downloadable Demos
  39. 39. Good news. Your event demo will be pretty good for downloadable demos as well. Just a few things to think about.
  40. 40. How are demos different as downloadable? • You are probably not in their house watching them play • The internet is at their fingertips! • Anonymity = More critical and honest feedback • Social media call-to-actions! • Click a link to buy/preorder the game • Broader range of hardware requirements, settings to support • Players will want you to fix bugs • Download/install friction
  41. 41. When should I release an online demo? Depends. • Kickstarter? Along side. Builds confidence in players that its a real game, influencers can get involved early and promote the Kickstarter. • Before release? Sometimes. Its a marketing chip and can generate excitement for the game before launch, but a bad demo experience could jeopardize your launch. Read your hype. • After release? Definitely. If you haven’t created a demo and have a work day to create one. Creates a round of buzz.
  42. 42. Recommend places for demos: • Steam • itch.io • Gamejolt • Kongregate (webGL/HTML5) You need to still get out there and promote your demo, can’t set and forget.
  43. 43. Demoing for Business
  44. 44. Feel free to use an expo-style demo for business conversations.
 
 However, 2 major caveats:
  45. 45. “Would you like me to drive?” When pitching to a publisher or platform, let them know that you’re willing to play the demo for them. Sometimes you’ll be asked to drive. Practice talking and playing, its an important skill.
  46. 46. Laptops for demos. • Low-power mode is AWFUL. Most common error I see in demos. Plug your computer in or disable. • Charge your laptop, batteries go quick! • Used wired controllers to skip trying to pair/replace batteries in wireless controllers
  47. 47. Final Takeaways
  48. 48. Optimize for player setting One demo does not fit all. Expos are different from business meetings from online demos. Craft carefully.
  49. 49. Your demo should represent your game in the best light possible, and honestly Your goal is to show a finite, vertical slice of your game 
 that represents its true gameplay
  50. 50. Earn player action Provide a demo that energizes your audience. They’ll want to look forward to your release date, or be moved enough to purchase a copy. Create actionable items for your players. Keep them excited!
  51. 51. Thank You John Cooney - Director of Premium Publishing at Kongregate - @jmtb02

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