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Column: Why Live Gameplay Demos are a Lie

We are in the heart of E3 and if you’ve been keeping up with it you have without a doubt seen some pretty amazing things. Some great new sequels, exciting new IPs, and some old friends with a new look. With companies coming fully prepared to put their best foot forward to impress the world you can bet they have tested and rehearsed everything down to the tee. The big press conferences will show you pieces of games to make you believe you want to buy their product because that’s what the whole conference is about. Many games have live action demos showcasing, most commonly, the multiplayer elements of them, but there is a problem with these demos: they’re lies!

You have to understand, they don’t want to show you how the game is likely to get played, they want to show you the most fun, most innovative, most appealing version of the game. A live tech demo of a tennis game for example might have a rally with multiple volleys, however a more accurate representation would be a lot of serves and maybe a couple of returns and very few actual volleys. Unfortunately volleys are much more fun that just repeated serving. So these more fun experiences are what you will get. A couple of the games during the conferences had excellent examples of this.

The first example was a brand new IP from Ubisoft called For Honor, this 4v4 medieval melee simulator puts you and three friends in the middle of a huge battle between vikings, knights, or samurai. The gameplay demo culminated in a 2v2 fight in a small arena overlooking the larger battle down below. The fight took place slowly and methodically with two seperate duels taking place simultaneously. When a victor was declared in one it became a 2v1, then a 1v1, until finally there was a champion. The problem with the demo is the way they were playing looked fun but was extremely unlikely to be the most optimal way to play the game to win. Some combination of less finessed dueling options, different ways to actually win the match apart from elimination, or that the scenario presented is just not likely to happen in a real match with real people trying really hard to win. Its not just competitive demos though, co-op ones are equally full of misinformation.

Tom Clancy’s the division is a highly anticipated open world co-op rpg. A gameplay demo was shown of a group of three people crossing into a zone in which you can at any point come across other players and actively decide to attack them and steal their loot, join them to farm the area, or simply wander away. This group of three stumbled across a group of evil npcs which they were about to engage when two new players came up behind them, after a brief moment of tension and worry the new duo engaged the evil npcs and were joined by our original threesome to make an enterprising group of five roaming around farming this treacherous region of Manhattan. I won’t spoil what happens because it was actually very cool to watch unfold, the problem is that that situation is almost never going to happen.

People will more often then not be playing with friends they already have, and any new people they meet there are most likely not to trust at all. So the betrayal aspect is negated and because of that a lot of the excitement is removed. Also the game is an RPG after all so any lower level character will be at the mercy of any high level players they stumble across. Without playing the game it’s hard to say for sure, but the risk of moving out into this area will likely boil down to whether or not you stumble across a higher level player who is going to take advantage of you.

Remember people E3 isn’t about you, it’s not about the developers, its not even about the games! Its about money, yours becoming theirs specifically, and the whole event is just the longest commercial that you have been tricked into watching. So next time you are watching gameplay and thinking to yourself how good it looks, consider what the game will actually play like.

Tyler Morse is a Contributing Editor for

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