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playtesting and variations

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johant
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Joined: 12/31/1969

Hi,

I have for the first time got people to blindtest my game. They have to read the rules and figure it out without any help from me.

There are a couple of things i would like them to playtest. The problem is that for them to do so they would have to play it several times.

After playing the game once you cant really say that you have tested it.
You cant on the other hand ask them to play it five times, i mean its kind to just play it once or twice!

//Johan

sedjtroll
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playtesting and variations

Was there a question in there?

Blind testing is something I haven't really done any of yet. I tried explaining All For One to a group so they could play it without me (I was across the room), but I did a lousy, rushed job and they were playing wrong as a result. I don't actually have the rules printed out or organized (something I'm working to fix!)

I have been lucky enough to get several playtests of Terra Prime in lately: last week, Thursday, Saturday, and today. They are not blind tests at this point, and I'm still tweaking things. I'd like to send it to Johan soon for blind testing.

- Seth

johant
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Joined: 12/31/1969
playtesting and variations

you are right Seth!

I want the playtesters to play the game as much as possible but since they have other things to care about (children etc), how am i going to get it playtested properly?

I want them to test a few variations but then you have to play it several times, how am i going to get them motivated to do that?

The questions is stupid, and thats why i only wrote how i felt about playtesting. I thought playtesting was something that was fun, but i start to think that it is just frustrating if you havent got lots of people that
could help you with it. As a matter of fact i have had people to help me but it would me different if they were as devoted as i am.

The reason why there are people that could work with game design is spelled "help with playtesting" ;D

sedjtroll
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playtesting and variations

I think for Blind Testing, you should probably have already tested the game a lot with yourself there, to make sure the bugs are out (as much as possible). It IS tough to get people to play different versions of a game that's not even published yet. I am thankful when I get to playtest my games, but often people are not interested.

- Seth

johant
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Joined: 12/31/1969
playtesting and variations

good point there!

I have added a couple of things i would like them to adress, and that is probably a bad idea when it comes to blindtesting!

The ones that are going to test it are gamers so its a bit different.

Thanks

Johan

Scurra
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playtesting and variations

sedjtroll wrote:
I tried explaining All For One to a group so they could play it without me (I was across the room), but I did a lousy, rushed job and they were playing wrong as a result. I don't actually have the rules printed out or organized (something I'm working to fix!)
Especially considering how many times I've sent the rules to you. But hey, it's the same situation here. One of the reasons I generally write a formal ruleset first (before I try to do anything else with a game) is because it means that I have a copy with me when we finally get around to the crash-and-burn playtest :-)

As for persuading people to playtest games? It's mostly a matter of building up trust with a group so that they know you well enough to give things a go. I know that some groups mix playtesting in with "real" games (this is sometimes interesting as the group then ends up discussing all the flaws in the "real" game along with yours!) I'm lucky to have a core group that has two nights, one for "real" games and one for playtesting. And there's an important stage of testing when you need to be physically present and watching a test [but not participating!] before you can really have a proper "blind test" with a group when you aren't there to answer questions! (A number of commercially available games don't seem have done that middle stage properly; but hey, the BoardGameGeek would be a dull place without that :)

sedjtroll
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Scurra wrote:
sedjtroll wrote:
I don't actually have the rules printed out or organized (something I'm working to fix!)
Especially considering how many times I've sent the rules to you.

That's all well and good... until something changes!

Besides, half the time the rules you send me are wrong ;P

Quote:
But hey, it's the same situation here. One of the reasons I generally write a formal ruleset first (before I try to do anything else with a game) is because it means that I have a copy with me when we finally get around to the crash-and-burn playtest :-)

I try to keep a copy of the rules in some form - usually a thread on BGDF (see Terra Prime thread in the Game Play Testing forum for an example). However if I don't update the rules, I have to go through a long thread of posts to figure out what I wanted them to be. For TP I've been constantly updating the rules in the initial post, so I'm using that as my sort of rulebook.

For All For One I usually did update the rules actually, but they weren't super well organized. I tried to keep them online, so I had access to them at work as well as at home.

But the point is, yes - it's good to have something written down, so you can refer to it. Makes for fewer mistakes where half way through the game you say "crap! I forgot that you can't actually do what I've been doing all game... no wonder I'm winning!"

- Seth

Hedge-o-Matic
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playtesting and variations

sedjtroll wrote:
Was there a question in there?

Blind testing is something I haven't really done any of yet. I tried explaining All For One to a group so they could play it without me (I was across the room), but I did a lousy, rushed job and they were playing wrong as a result.

- Seth

Hey, I think I was playing that time! Hi, Seth!

Well, I just have to say that Blind tests are a test of the rules as written, not the system they embody. After a game has had enough playtesting to feel absolutely solid, try a blind test of the written rules on someone new. i suggest the following:

First, have someone just read the rules for clarity. Just to see if they feel like they understand the mechanics.

Next, If they feel they understand, have them explain the game to the members of their group, and report back to you after they play. Note: you shouldn't be there when they play the game. They must rely on the written rules, rather than ask you, and their frustrations should not be influenced by your presence. If they come to feel the rulebook sucks, that's important to know, and you shouldn't be there to go to bat when the written rules fail. See if the intent of your rules was followed.

This can be done after they feel they know the rules. Have them play a game with you present, and see for yourself if they are indeed doing things right. They may be playing an interesting, superior, and unintended variant.

If possible, after a given rules set has been played for a while, and more wrinkles in presentation are ironed out, go to another group, and have them all read the rules, and then jump in a begin playing, each with their own understanding of the rules. what you're looking for here is a consistancy of understanding.

Blind testing isn't easy, because you only get a single shot with each group with each version of th rules. But let us know how it works for you!

Oh, one way to lure testing groups is to provide pizza and coke in exchange for a night's hammering on your game. This is a good trade off for everyone.

Johan
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playtesting and variations

Blind test is one of the major milestones in a game design. When you do blind test then everything has to be ready to be send to a publisher or prepared for the artwork.
When a group has blind tested a game, that group is wasted for further unique blind test sessions (they will have an opinion of the game (you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression)). If you use your blind test resources for original testing then you loose them for future testing on the same game. Therefore you should avoid blind test groups in early stages of the game design and absolutely not have them to test variants of the game.
A blind test should only have to test the following:
- Is the rules understandable and can you play the game with them. This is often the most underestimated part of the game design work. The written rules are the only way for a game designer to communicate with the players (ok almost the only way).
- Does the components work?
- Is the game fun?
- Time and down time.

All other things should have been taken care of in the original testing.

// Johan

zaiga
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playtesting and variations

After trying it a few times, I have decided that I don't like blind playtesting when I'm not present at the playtest itself. It's often a lot of hassle to send a prototype to someone, and the quality of the feedback you get is often low. Perhaps they can catch a flaw or omission in the rulebook, and perhaps give some generic comments such as "we liked it", "we thought it was too long / too short", "strategy X is too good", but it's hard to gauge the value of these comments when you were not around to check how the game actually went. You also don't know if they misunderstood a rule.

So, bottomline, blind testing is important, but make sure you are around to check how the game is actually going to be able to put comments in perspective.

johant
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playtesting and variations

Thanks for the input!

My intention was to let these friends test the game without me explaining it and to test the game with only minor variations.

In this way its a blindtest with elements of a normal test.

Maybe its better te tell them to play according to the standard rules and skip those minor variations that i would like to test. I have put lots of time in writing the rules and it would be very interesting to see if they could play according to it.

After what you have said Johan it seems to be a good suggestion to skip variations of the game.

On the other hand, the important thing is that i get input, wheter you call it blindtest or blindtest/normal playtesting doesnt really matter.

The drawback is as Johan mentioned is the risk of "running out" of potential blindtester if they act as normal playtesters! Im not sure but i think that is a risk i have to take!

Its of cource very important not to give away the game for blindtest to soon! Iam sure we all agree on that.

//
Johan T

seo
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playtesting and variations

johant wrote:
My intention was to let these friends test the game without me explaining it and to test the game with only minor variations.

In this way its a blindtest with elements of a normal test.
I would call it the other way around: a normal test with some elements of blindtesting. A real blind playtest can't be done by our frineds or family.

Actually, they shouldn't even know who the author is, or if the design comes from a published author or it's a first timer work. Any information of this kind (let alone the designer being present and having to report directly to him) will go against the advantadges of the playtest "blindness".

In any scientific testing, you even do a double-blind test: not only the people doing the actual testing lack that information, but also the people controlling it. E.g.: in a double-blind medicine testing, not only will you have a control group given a placebo, but you'll have the people administrating the pills in the blind too. If they know who gets the real medicine and who gets the placebo, thay can, unconsciusly, pass that information to the patients, thus turning the whole test invalid.

That said, I agree with Johan about the objective of blind playtesting, and it being only a final milestone to check if the game is actually ready for submition (or publishing).

Seo

johant
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Joined: 12/31/1969
playtesting and variations

Seo i agree in all what you are saying!

the only problem is that this way of looking at playtesting/blindtest is very academic. I would say that what counts is accually the importance of getting playtests done!

I wouldnt care to give the game away to total strangers, considering the extra effort it takes. In that case it wouldnt be possible for me to blind test it, right? It takes really lots of extra effort, not to mention the problem with sending away the prototype etc.

Its so much easier to give it to people that you have met/friends
that you havent played it with. If that isnt the best blindtest in the world, i just have to settle with that.

Thanks for the input

//Johan

seo
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playtesting and variations

johant wrote:
the only problem is that this way of looking at playtesting/blindtest is very academic.

I agree. I know I'm sometimes too precise when it comes to the exact mening of a term. Maybe it's to avoid confussions about what we are really talking, as many of us use english as a second lenguage, and sometimes fail to find the exact word. But I'm affraid it has more to do with me being a bit annoying. My family would wholeheartedly agree with this later explanation. ;-)

Anyway, you have a good point about really-blind playtesting being a lot harder to implement, and partially-blind playtesting (sounds better than visually-impaired playtesting or short-sighted playtesting, doesn't it?) being the best we can afford on most situations. I have trouble even to convince my wife and daughter to do fully-20/20-vision playtesting!

I think we all agree that the further developed a game is, the blindest the playtesting can and ideally should be. Though normal playtesting with people who has seen the game evolve has a different set of advantadges, so it never grows useless.

Seo

Hedge-o-Matic
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playtesting and variations

I'd agree with seo that you can't rely on friends or family for blind tests. My personal favorite technique is to use enemies to blind test. Yes, that's right. Enemies. Then, you don't have to worry about sugarcoated responses. And it also deals with the issue of them only playing one time through. With enemies, you can force them to play as many games as you wish, without regard for their feelings.

Emphyrio
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playtesting and variations

The Bard has words of wisdom on this topic (as on so many others):

"Marry, sir, [my friends] praise me and make an ass of me; now my foes tell me plainly I am an ass: so that by my foes, sir, I profit in the knowledge of myself, and by my friends I am abused." (Twelfth Night, Act V, Scene 1)

There's a considerable amount of truth to this. You have to take feedback from family and friends with a grain of salt -- they don't want to hurt your feelings. The difficulty is getting your enemies to play your game...

seo
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playtesting and variations

Hedge-o-Matic wrote:
I'd agree with seo that you can't rely on friends or family for blind tests. My personal favorite technique is to use enemies to blind test. Yes, that's right. Enemies. Then, you don't have to worry about sugarcoated responses. And it also deals with the issue of them only playing one time through. With enemies, you can force them to play as many games as you wish, without regard for their feelings.

That's certainly a novel idea. Enemies would come handy for early playtesting too, when my games usually are totally broken and boooooring. ;-P

I was thinking more in the line of friends-of-friends or acquaintances-of-acquaintancies.

Seo

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