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Playtesting Series

4 replies [Last post]
Joined: 12/31/1969

I recently wrote a relatively lengthy series on how I handle playtesting and would appreciate thoughts from other designers on my methods and alternatives that might be more effective.

Thank you in advance for your insights.

Dralius's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008
Playtesting Series

You certainly have a more organized methodology than I do. My testing breaks down into 3 Stages

Stage 1

After I have thought through as much of the game play as I can and feel I have something worth testing I make the most basic prototype that is usable since at this point there are bound to be significant changes in the materials used for play. I set the game up and play it by myself to be sure the mechanics work as planned. I often imagine myself as certain types of players in when doing this. In a 3-player game I might have one player taking wild risks the second almost no risk at all and the third trying to screw over one of the others just because they can. Real players can be like this so it’s good to see how the game might actually be played out. Along the way I make adjustments as needed. Usually by the 3rd to 5th solo test I am ready to try it on the living.

Stage 2

I con a few friends who are hard-core gamers and or game designers into giving it a try. These are the people who will be the most likely to spot design flaws weather it’s an unbalanced economic system or an ultimate strategy. We give it a play stopping if any major problems are found mid game. There is no use on continuing with a broken game it is like driving on a flat tire your not going to get very far and your going to ruin the rims but in this case your going to ware out your play testers and they are not going to be very eager to help next time around. This takes as long as it takes and I have had a few ideas die at this point. Those that survive go on the stage 3

Stage 3

The third and final stage is broader in how I go about testing. Some games I sit in on some I don’t, some are with friends and some with whomever I can get. Even though I ask questions and take suggestions about the game after it has been played I always observe. Seeing people play tells me more than questionnaire alone could.

I am very serious about play testing but this does not mean that it can’t be fun and I try to make sure that it is done in a casual fashion. After all when you go over to a friends to play games you are doing it to have a good time and presenting your testers with a rigid feeling atmosphere will make them react to the game differently so I think it is best to make it as enjoyable as possible.

Joined: 12/31/1969
Playtesting Series

seems to me that when you mention play testing,
some people not all
develop a certain attitude where they begin to
either knowingly or unknowingly go on and on about
things they really don't know what they are talking about
but try to prove a point to themselves infront of everybody and at
the same time, justify their own claims trying to convince people.

this can get really annoying.

so I would not mention play testing if you can.
yes some people get that attitude to help you out to really
improve your game, and these caring considerate folks are
really cool but few and far inbetween.

if you are letting them know this is play testing then
make a sheet that has certain questions that they can answer
with multiple choice and treat it proffessionally,
not like friends then you may hear the yapping.

Hedge-o-Matic's picture
Joined: 07/30/2008
Playtesting Series

One thing my recent year of so of playtesting has shown is pretty interesting. I've been designing abstracts, but I'm not really good at actually playing them, and other players tend to routinely thrash me. This makes it difficult to observe, to see if they're exploiting a hole in the rules, or whether I just suck. Many players aren't designers themselves, and may not even be aware they might be doing this.

When observing the games of non-me-related testing (yeah, that was an awkward one), I find the feedback is far better. I might not understand the cmplexities of the play the two are using (which is why I'm so bad at playing the games), but the buildup on the board can be instructive. Also, other people don't seem to fall for the obvious traps that I always stumble into (my notorious second-turn loss to my wife being a good example), and so their games are usually of higher quality than my own.

So, with a certain type of game (abstracts, in this case), my normal playtesting route (solo, public, blind) breaks down. The solo finds only the gaping holes, and the public can radically skew the results if I'm one of the playtesters, since my play is so bad, it makes the game sometimes seem chaotic and non-strategic.

So not all types of games playtest the same way. Something to consider, if you are involved with most of your own playtesting.

Joined: 12/31/1969
Playtesting Series

Interesting point.

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