Are Demos Misleading?

With a whole batch of big titles dishing out promotional (playable) demos for their gamers who are struggling to contain their excitement for something, it got me pondering on the interesting question of their relevance. I will confess now that I rarely hesitate in starting the download myself, but I’m aware that some people find the content the developers/publishers let you try out, misleading if not approached in just the right manner.

The main sorts of issues that frustrate these people are things like, how a story driven game that leans heavily on its character and plot development cannot be done justice in a 15 minute section from the middle of the games narrative. The events and decisions you will make (particularly in an RPG) being starved from the experience that accumulates into the masterfully crafted puzzle that you will remember after the credits roll. It’s a tricky situation for the devs because a demo can be so unlike the finished piece, it can completely misrepresent the tone of the game.

Another problem is that of quality, too often you will have the opportunity to play a title (even after the full game is out bizarrely) where the level of excellence (which can be a subtle but powerful selling point) is nowhere near the standard you will ultimately pay for. Obviously this is understandable because the game comes out later (normally), but perhaps they should finish the game then put up a demo? And why don’t they update the demos after release so they’re as close to the actual game as possible?

However these things aren’t always a problem though, some multiplayer demos serve their purpose exceptionally well, giving players a taste of the online play (where emphasis is on competition rather than aesthetic). In some cases, players just want to get a feel for the game and the little imperfections are just happily ignored.  It all depends on how well informed the person is, the more they know about the game, the more likely they will understand what they should be looking for/at.

But what do you guys think of demos on the whole? Do they impact your decisions at all or do you rely on other means? (e.g. reviews).