Demo Impressions

Given what I’ve read about Positech Games, the author seems to love honest and constructive feedback. I first found out about Positech via the Slashdot article “Game Developer’s Response To Pirates” I suspect (and hope) that this has been the source of a lot of new attention on these games. I know I never would have heard of them otherwise.

I love good simulation games, and what little I read about Democracy 2 reminded me a lot of one of my old favorite games, “Capitalism”. I was also especially pleased that a game author whose very livelihood depends on people paying for something they could easily (and illegally) download was willing to abandon the “warm fuzzy” of DRM and the annoyance it causes to paying customers. (And honestly, it really does only annoy the paying customers since the people who pirate the game never have to deal with the DRM…) I’m almost willing to buy the game just to reinforce that clue factor!

But enough soapboxing-- on to my impressions of the demo…

The good:

  1. I love the “No DRM” logo. It makes it clear that this is the correct version and the DRM has been removed.
  2. Excellent “how to play the game” section
  3. I like the concise and helpful windows to guide me through playing
  4. The artwork is much better than I expected from an indie game. This is often pretty klunky.
  5. Using the “speed” of a connection to reflect how much of an effect an item has was very clever and intuitive

The bad:

  1. It’s not always obvious whether a positive or negative influence on something is good or bad. Perhaps some color coding could help here
  2. A bit more guidance in the early part of the game would help, even a walkthrough of a very short game would be appropriate
  3. It ends WAY too early. It did not leave me wanting more. It left me angry that I never got to explore the game. I suspect it’s enough to limit this to one scenario-- the turn limit needs to either be MUCH larger or eliminated.

Number 3) was the killer for me that got my wallet put back. It kinda seemed fun, but how could I tell if I was on the right track? Were my attempts at fixing the crime via GDP growth going to succeed or would my economy collapse under the weight of its own deficits? There does not seem like there’s any way to find out via the demo.

Thanks for the feedback. I fully intend to extend the demo quite a lot, but I am so squashed with work in terms of finishing the current game (kudos 2) that I haven’t got the time to do this properly yet, although I will try and do so very soon. The last thing I want to do is get it wrong, and introduce any bugs when I change the demo length.

I agree, the Demo is very short. I took a rough chance on buying it. Fortunately it was better than I expected.

Thanks for the feedback on my feedback. :wink: After more pondering, I thought of one more possible suggestion for a demo that would strike a better balance between exploring the game fully and giving away so much that folks just want to play the demo.

How about in the demo, only selected policies can actually be changed? This would have two benefits:

  1. The game would be simplified somewhat-- ideal for beginners and
  2. There’s a clear advantage to getting the full version (oooh, more knobs to turn!)

Some thought would need to go into which policy changes are excluded so that the demo remains playable, but this might be a way for the turn limit to be eliminated entirely. (Even a single 4-year election cycle seems too short to me when some policy changes would take half that long simply to go into effect-- much less how long they might take to really improve popularity…)

I’ll keep checking back for the extended demos. I certainly understand how tricky it can be to balance priorities, and I don’t fault you at all for ensuring that when it’s done, it’s done right.

Well, that might be the flag to eliminate some of the policies that can be changed in the longer demo. Rail subsidies are right out, and getting enough political capital for the big law changes are probably eliminated as well. Perhaps leave the buttons in there, but say that you can’t change these in the demo?

Yep, greyed out or some other non-annoying temptation would be perfect. I don’t recall rail subsidies in the demo, so it’s probably already simplified somewhat (or they don’t apply in that one scenario). A pop-up saying “you can’t change that in the demo” would get annoying fast, but either greyed out, crossed out, marked with a “D”, etc. would work well for this idea.