Misleading Game Demos

I’m one of those gamers who has the severe stuttering problem with Dark Messiah. It’s been a week and a patch still hasn’t come out. This stuttering situation is the same problem that occurred in Half-Life 2, and was a problem for me in The Ship and the first SiN Episodes game. Other games using the Source engine has given the stuttering problem to other gamers. Which is why I am not confident it will get fixed by Arkane or any other developer who likely realized that sales of their games will be hurt by this stuttering problem inherent with the Source engine powered games.

With a non-existent refund policy on Steam, it’s “shame on me” for purchasing The Ship and SiN Episodes without trying them out. My mistake? Wanting to support the developers. However, when I can’t enjoy those games, it makes it a moot point when supporting the developers, because I had basically donated the money to them, which isn’t what I wanted.

So what is a gamer to do? Piracy is certainly not an option, that’s a road of ingratitude I don’t want to traverse, so I figure I only buy games in which I played the demo and enjoyed it. Then I can dip into my pockets, and fork over my hard-earned money to the developers to support them, and also enjoy their game.

There’s one problem, though. Suddenly there’s a bad trend, where game demos that don’t represent the final product, and which entirely defeats the purpose of a demo; that is to demonstrate what the product will be like so you can make an informed purchasing decision based on your experience. The Dark Messiah single-player demo, and multiplayer beta test ran superbly for me, at my default LCD resolution, with all the default settings suggested. I really, really enjoyed the demo and hurriedly preordered the game. I had looked forward to Dark Messiah for over a year, and couldn’t wait to play the whole game.

Unfortunately, when I preordered Dark Messiah on the basis of my enjoyment of the demo and multiplayer beta test, I ended up with an unplayable, unpleasant game. The stuttering problem was terrible, and even at the lowest quality and audio settings that is possible, it still made the game unplayable. I tried different sound cards, different driver revisions, even a reformat and clean install of Windows XP SP2. Nothing worked, or minimized the problem. Another example is the Battlefield 2142 demo, which was fine and dandy for me, but was bug-ridden and not very fun when I bought the retail release. There are many other examples, but I’m sure other gamers here have also experienced this for themselves.

What is the point of a demo, then? Are they no longer representative of the final product? if so, then what is the point to putting the time and effort in creating one, and releasing it to the public to play?

My only option as a gamer to protect myself from wasting money, and supporting a practice in a PC gaming industry that will only hurt the industry and the consumers who enjoy it if it keeps up, is to wait for a slew of reviews to indicate whether a game is worth my investment. This means no longer supporting game developers I like, but only the ones that actually makes a game I will enjoy.

This means developers of games I bought, like The Ship, SiN Episodes, Defcon, Dark Messiah etc. will no longer get my support until I know for sure they release a fun, largely bug-less, and stable game that warrants my purchase. Because obviously demos are no longer a safe way to discover for yourself if they’re worth the purchase.

I’m certainly bitter that I can’t enjoy Dark Messiah when I bought it, and still can’t a week later. But most of all, I’m disappointed that it has gotten to this point. I’m always positive when it comes to the PC gaming industry, but the misleading demos is a trend that is becoming more a problem, rather than less.

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