Well, the demo version is out the door and getting ready for it’s debut on GameSpot later today. It’s the first time we’ve ever done a demo and we made it even harder on ourselves by trying to do it while we were working on the full product. Not many teams can pull that off (or so I’m told), at least pull it off well. We certainly learned a lot and will apply those lessons in the future.
I’m excited to read the reaction to the demo, although I’m sure it will be far from universal praise. We know the demo is a little rough around the edges but we only had so much time to smooth them out. It was a tradeoff–wait until the entire project was done and release a demo mere days before you could buy the product in stores, or risk a (hopefully) small amount of criticism by releasing the demo early in order to satisfy the apparent hunger that exists in the marketplace. As a result, it has some bugs. For instance, a few times the aircraft in the demo have loaded with a black, opaque windshield–perfect for IFR training but not so great if you want to be able to see the awesome Sint Maarten scenery! Another bug causes the sim to appear to hang while loading AI traffic after flying a few missions (though you can press Esc, quit and restart). Since these didn’t happen consistently we couldn’t isolate and fix them and so I imagine they’ll crop up “in the field” as well. Such is the nature of the pre-release demo business, I guess.
Of course our challenge was made even greater by the desire to fit the demo on a single CD (for things like bundling with magazines, tradeshow giveaways, etc.) when the full product will ship on 2 DVDs! We had to leave some stuff out purely for space reasons. (Remember that while you laugh at a car driving down the highway with no body, just a chassis. Oh, yeah, it’s in there. <g>)
Releasing early also meant the demo lacks some of the final performance optimizations that people will see in the final product. In fact I just saw a check-in today that made we wish we’d had another day. Oh, well. I’ve been told that people who regularly download pre-release demos of other games take this in stride. I wonder if the Flight Simulator devotees, who probably aren’t part of that group, will handle it. Mostly likely they’ll try dragging the “sliders” all the way to max. My response? “Doctor, it hurts when I do this…”