The point of this article is to discuss a popular item for a debate in any gaming community - demos. As with most things, demos have their advantages and their disadvantages. On the one hand they help publishers and developers promote their game to a wider audience, other than those who are avid fans of a series. However, with demos, you have to get the balance just right; you want to give your a audience a big enough taste of the game for them to make their own judgement, but you do not want to put too much into it, else you risk people just playing the demo instead of buying the retail version of the game.
With the coming of Renegade, the option to download the demo a week or so before the release prompted, (apart from huge queues at Fileplanet) a wave of publicity that surely did the game a lot of good and got it noticed by the First Person Shooter community, who are sometimes a little ignorant to titles unless they come with 'Unreal' or 'Quake' as a prefix in their title.
The demo also undoubtedly stopped the mass circulation of Warez. For those of you who do not know what I'm talking about, Warez is illegal software - copies of programs which are often circulated before a games release by third parties in an attempt to show people what the game is like, make profits for themselves and to gain some form of superiority over the publishing companies. The Renegade demo stopped this kind of piracy because people just plumped for the official option, when it was there to be had. A good example of Warez getting out of hand was just before the release of Yuri's Revenge when thousands of fans downloaded it to see what the game was 'all about'.
Perhaps Westwood's reason for releasing the Renegade demo was to prevent another such situation - where fans were just downloading the warez to get a taste of the game. Unfortunately, they weren't getting just a taste, but effectively the whole game - minus the cinematics basically. The release of the Renegade demo was indeed a large step for Westwood; it was the first time they had released a demo for any of their games for several years - particularly the Command & Conquer series. Another contributing factor that could have influenced the release of the demo was marketing - Electronic Arts (EA) advertised Renegade on a scale not seen by any other C&C game. Maybe the fact that Renegade was a new genre for Westwood, not part of their proven C&C RTS series, meant that Westwood/EA thought a taster would be the best idea to interest the masses.
Now for another big, meaty discussion; one which is bound to crop up in the coming months. Will EA-Pacific be doing a demo for C&C: Generals? As most of you will know, this is the first time that another division of EA has produced a C&C title. I for one am eager to see what they can do. One way of showing us precisely what they can do is to release a demo. But don't get too excited just yet, as the Alpha date of Generals is not until July, so a demo or a beta test will not appear until at least October in all possibility.
In my opinion, a demo for Generals is not only quite likely, but it would be advantageous for EA-Pacific - if they get it right. The major 'enemy' EA Pacific would face when trying to make a demo would be time - to be precise, a lack of it. EAP have made several statements about the release date for Generals - and how they plan to stick to it. Releasing a demo would mean some extract work; so the question is - does that release date of Quarter Four, 2002 include some time set aside for making a demo available?
Releasing a demo which would undoubtedly be circulated on the front of most popular games magazines as well as on the internet for download, would bring some 'new blood' into the CNC Community. Another factor that would be favourable is that, as discussed earlier, a demo would mean little or no warez activity. Introducing new people into the community as a result of C&C: Generals would also make the future for Red Alert 3/Tiberium Twilight even rosier.
"What would they put into the demo of Generals to make it just enough of a taster?" I hear you scream berserkedly. Well, my suggestion would be to include up to three missions (preferably one for the Americans, one for the Chinese and one for the Global Liberation Army) which only use the basic armoury of each side. Also one skirmish map where you could play as an entire side, such as the Americans, but not have access to the others. This would, in my opinion, just initiate those 'ummers and aahhers' into thinking that the C&C community is not just for the hardcore Real Time Strategy gamer who likes to see his tanks in nice straight lines, but its also for the gamer who likes a challenge and who wants to become a part of one of the most successful gaming series of all time.
So, to conclude.. the Renegade demo was a good idea and it certainly worked in both the favour of Westwood and the game. There has, as of yet, been no official word on anything in regard to a Generals demo just yet. However, I must stress, that they [EA Pacific] know the fans want it, and, after seeing Renegade rocket to number one in the game sales charts, surely EA Pacific will employ some of the same 'tactics' - one of them being to release a demo.