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Playtesting night in SLC

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Redcap's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008

So I recently went to a play testing group night at Game Night Games in Salt Lake City and it was really fun. Playtested 2 games, one was already being looked at by publishers so I thought that useless to playtest but it was fun. The other was a cool trading game with some fun twists on dynamics.

The designers didn't playtest like I have been so here is my question when it comes to playtesting. Is it better to give a rule book and see how the players interpret your rules or is it better to explain your rules to your playtesters. At the meeting the designers just presented their rules via word and I thought it was fine but did it bias my game play and reaction? I mean whenever we ran into something we didn't know how to do we just asked the designer.

Second comment, not a question just something cool. I met the designer and artist for Bridge Troll and it was refreshing to see that they weren't these mysterious super heros whose skills surpassed mine by leaps and bound. They only surpassed me by leaps.

ilta's picture
Joined: 12/05/2008
You're describing the

You're describing the difference between a gameplay playtest and a rulebook playtest (sometimes called a "blind" playtest). They serve related, but slightly different functions, and are merely different tools depending on the sort of result a designer is looking for.

A gameplay playtest usually takes place earlier in the process. The designer is interested to see if the ideas work; if the game has legs, so to speak, but is past the point where one person (himself) can fully evaluate the game and how it plays. He needs fresh eyes to see the game and wants to examine its emergent gameplay. Questions include: Is the game balanced? Does it "break" -- and if so, where? Where is the "fun"? What didn't work for the players? Since the focus here is on the gameplay, balance, and the like, it would defeat the purpose of the test to have players misinterpret the rules due to poor writing and then play the "wrong" game; likewise it's not helpful for them to spend time arguing about the meaning of rule [x]. In such a situation, when players are confused the designer WANTS them to ask him, so they can get on to testing the gameplay as he envisions it.

Obviously, however, at some point you won't be able to explain your game to every potential player that buys it, or every company to whom you send a prototype. To prepare for that, you do "rulebook" (also called "blind") playtesting, where you simply hand the rulebook to your players and watch them have at it without interfering. Ideally they have never seen this game's earlier versions, although that's not always possible.

You can still evaluate some of the design questions above at this stage, but you're now also looking for an evaluation as to the clarity of the rules. It's as much a test of your rule-writing skill as it is your design. If the players consistently miss something that you thought was obvious, or misread a rule that you thought was clear -- well, you may want to re-word something. If they say "this book is too long" or "this book didn't cover scenario [x]" then you'll want to consider implementing those changes as well. If they seem to be having a good time, then you're on your way.

Blind testing is great, and absolutely every game you send out (either yourself or to a publisher for evaluation) should go through that process, ideally several times with different groups. But it's not the only tool you as a designer have, and it's not necessarily the best one for a given iteration of your design phase.

Rick-Holzgrafe's picture
Joined: 07/22/2008
Redcap wrote: one was already

Redcap wrote:
one was already being looked at by publishers so I thought that useless to playtest but it was fun.

Not useless. Just because a publisher's looking at it doesn't mean it's done. It may not be done, and still need testing and tweaking even after a contract is signed.

Redcap's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008
There were a few games there

There were a few games there that were already under contract being playtested in order to fix something the publisher wanted fixed. So that made 100% sense to me. I was just complaining in a sort because only a few people were allowed to bring prototypes (Again I understand this, just selffish :) ) thus some people who have never had a game playtested weren't able to playtest theirs. Instead some of us resorted to playtesting a game that was already pretty polished.

So your right Rick, just complaining a wee little bit that's all.

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