The Stanley Parable Demo – Hands On

My introduction to this hands-on is nearly symbiotic with the game I ended up playing.  It was random, out of nowhere, quirky and I don’t think I’ll ever be quite the same again.

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I was stood outside the press area at the 2013 Eurogamer Expo in London.  A tall, thin gentleman approached me. “Excuse me, sir? Have you ever heard of The Stanley Parable?” He brushed his hair out of his face to reveal two large bags under his eyes – I knew a game developer when I saw one.

Like many, I’d heard of the original mod for the Source engine but never actually found myself in a position to play it.  The gentleman introduced himself as William Pugh and explained that his laptop bag contained a demo of the newly created stand alone version of The Stanley Parable.

Before I knew it, I was sat in a remote corner of Earls Court where we could secure a plug socket, ready to experience one of PC gamers most anticipated projects. I’d had stranger Thursdays, I’ll admit…

Opening the demo up I’m soon made aware (through the excellent stiff-upper-lip narration by Kevan Brighting) that the demo probably has nothing to do with the final product. You are presented with a factory-esque setting which is explained as the process which helps create a game demo like that of The Stanley Parable. You are politely asked to take a number from an abandoned ticket machine and wait your turn to tour the facility. After exploring a number of corridors which are adorned with artwork from the “Great Game Demos of History” you are presented with the viewing room where you are politely asked (again by the voice of Mr Brighting) to wait patiently for 20 minutes.

After being unable to stand still and trading some amused looks with my host for this demo I soon discover that breaking this rule will continue the tour of this demo facility. I’m later presented with Emotion Booths which, when activated, emit screams of despair and hopelessness to convey emotions through the demo and game itself. I am also shown a helpful little illuminating sign which reminds me that I am in a demo. The level design and layout of this demo all seems fine and very well built. The narrative leading me through one room to another with nicely placed one-liner jokes and very British quips.

It is at this point that I am asked to make a choice in the demo, to see if I have enjoyed the demo I am asked to push a “Would Buy” or “Would Not buy” button to reflect my final choice about the demo. Being pleased with the demo so far I decide to go for the Would Buy option. It is at this point (and I assume the same if you chose the Would Not Buy option) the demo begins to ‘glitch’ and the rooms are presented in a different and ruined state. It’s a nice graphical representation of a demo going awry which given the numerous gameplay demos I have experienced which failed during gameplay was genuinely funny.

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You find yourself running through this factory, still accompanied by Brighting’s disembodied voice. To an escape elevator. This is where the demo ends. I leave the demo not feeling cheated or shortchanged but intrigued. William Pugh and the team he works with have put together a clever demo for a game whose narrative (I’m assured by Mr Pugh) is untouched by the events that transpire in this demo. It’s a taste of what the company can do and personally it’s very refreshing. Too many times I’m presented with a demo of a game which includes scenes that are completely out of context and hard to relate to. This was something diferent. This was The Stanley Parable Demonstration.
The demo I previewed is currently available on Steam as you read this by clicking here and the full version of the game is due for release shortly thereafter.

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