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How Soon for Changes?

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Steve Baldwin
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Joined: 02/28/2011

Hey everybody,

I've been in playtesting for about 6 months now on our game SPACE MONSTER. I believe that game engine works pretty good (No major gliches or issues have come up yet!) and am working on tweeking.

My question is, when is the right time to make changes? It seems that after every playtest I have a few things that I could tweek or change. So far, I've resisted the urge to do it every time, but now I'm not sure when I should.

Thoughts?

NativeTexan
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Joined: 03/04/2009
Test it twice

Great question! I am personally a fan of verifying my assumptions and ensuring that I can replicate an issue with the game engine before making changes. Consequently, my process goes something like this:

- Immediately fix any glaring problems that are clearly indicative of poor planning or incomplete thinking on my part.
- Identify candidate issues and look for confirmation that it is a problem through one of two mechanisms: an independent playtesting session reveals exactly the same flaw OR an intentional 'break this game' session is able to replicate the problem and validate that this is an actual flaw rather than a random glitch
- Then it comes to the matter of how, exactly, to resolve the problem. At this point, there are a number of techniques ranging from rule changes to order of action changes to player incentive changes.

Finally, if you have not already done so, I highly recommend that you convene a few playtesting sessions that you do not direct but merely observe. Drop the game and its components into the middle of the table with a fresh group of players and let them dive in, try to make sense of it, and begin playing the game. Watch how they naturally lend toward certain assumptions about the game. Use this as an opportunity to clarify the instructions or perhaps adapt the game flow to align more readily with people's natural tendencies and / or assumptions about how the game ought to play. Take notice of mechanics that are particularly cumbersome or any other aspect of the game that does not smoothly 'flow'.

I hope that is helpful!

Kyle Gabhart
Driftwood Games
www.driftwoodgames.com

JaffetC
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Joined: 09/19/2011
agrees...

NativeTexan wrote:
Great question! I am personally a fan of verifying my assumptions and ensuring that I can replicate an issue with the game engine before making changes. Consequently, my process goes something like this:

- Immediately fix any glaring problems that are clearly indicative of poor planning or incomplete thinking on my part.
- Identify candidate issues and look for confirmation that it is a problem through one of two mechanisms: an independent playtesting session reveals exactly the same flaw OR an intentional 'break this game' session is able to replicate the problem and validate that this is an actual flaw rather than a random glitch
- Then it comes to the matter of how, exactly, to resolve the problem. At this point, there are a number of techniques ranging from rule changes to order of action changes to player incentive changes.

Finally, if you have not already done so, I highly recommend that you convene a few playtesting sessions that you do not direct but merely observe. Drop the game and its components into the middle of the table with a fresh group of players and let them dive in, try to make sense of it, and begin playing the game. Watch how they naturally lend toward certain assumptions about the game. Use this as an opportunity to clarify the instructions or perhaps adapt the game flow to align more readily with people's natural tendencies and / or assumptions about how the game ought to play. Take notice of mechanics that are particularly cumbersome or any other aspect of the game that does not smoothly 'flow'.

I hope that is helpful!

Kyle Gabhart
Driftwood Games
www.driftwoodgames.com

I have to agree... often times as designers we come up with mechanics that either:
1. Bust the game and makes it in-fun
2. Drags the game and makes the game in-fun
3. Breaks the game and leads to more in-fun times...

During my development and design of Livid Visage I came up with the idea to have a character have a one shot ability that made the opponent lose cards from the top of their deck. However there were 2 problems.

1. Even though I knew pushing the envelope was a bad idea I did it anyways.
2. I didnt put into consideration how quickly the card enabled a deck type that it lead to a lot of in-fun times.

As my brother put it, "Dude, im just not having fun anymore... I cant deal with it, its too fast by turn 3 you already have me losing more resources than I have to deal with just 1 character."

Sometimes if a Mechanic or ability becomes too aggravating after repeated offense, you know its time to 1. change to fit better or 2. remove all together.

The final card was limited to remove a keyword that from the get go my instinct told me to not add from the get go. Once we did that the card and deck type dropped dramatically....

BTW... if you guys dont know, Livid visage is a game im working on and the link to the site is: http://sites.google.com/site/lividvisage

I havent had a lot of time to update it continously, however the rules are online and I will be posting a card list for anybody that wants to play test the game. :)

Dralius
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Joined: 07/26/2008
If a test shows a problem I

If a test shows a problem I try to fix it before the next test.

You must expect that if your testers found the problem it’s not an anomaly and other will encounter it too. After all the testing you do will pale in comparison to the amount of play your game will get once published.

Horatio252
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Joined: 03/13/2011
Don't Fear Change

Steve,

I change my games after each playtest. If a problem appears in a playtest I see no reason to wait to fix it. The only reason I might wait is if I don't really understand what caused the problem. Even then though I think I gain more by making a change and observing if it fixes the problem. Even if you think it is an anomoly, it happened, which means it can happen, which means it needs to be dealt with somehow.

- Tim

bonsaigames
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Joined: 12/20/2010
Ditto

Dralius wrote:
If a test shows a problem I try to fix it before the next test.

You must expect that if your testers found the problem it’s not an anomaly and other will encounter it too. After all the testing you do will pale in comparison to the amount of play your game will get once published.

I have the same process as Drailus. Oftentimes I will playtest two different sets of rules simultaneously when I come up with more than one potential fix for a glitch in the rules.

Steve Baldwin
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Joined: 02/28/2011
Awesome Suggestions!

Thanks guys! Like I said, most of the things that have come up so far with this version (which is 1.4 - so I've done 3 major changes already!) have just been little tweeks here and there, mostly for playability. I'm confident that the game engine works, right now I'm working on smoothing the rough edges. Now having said that, I'm sure the next playtest will result in bringing the game to a screeching halt!

Again, thanks for the suggestions!!

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