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Testing becomes a grind

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DifferentName's picture
Joined: 09/08/2013

I'm finding with my games that I get very excited with the game mechanics in the beginning, finding the rough versions of the game to be fun, but after a large amount of testing I become jaded to the parts that were once fun. I imagine this would happen with just about any game being played so much, but a large amount of testing seems to be required to improve the details of a game, and to get the balance and pacing right.

I end up just moving onto new games, feeling more excited about them than the previous ones. While I do feel I've improved from game to game, I'm concerned how I'll get a game to feel finished if I keep jumping to new ones. Maybe I should keep doing this and just rework the older games later, after they've had some time off and are more exciting again? Or maybe testing with more new people will get new perspectives on the game to bring back the excitement?

Do you encounter this too? What do you do to work through it or around it?

The Chaz
The Chaz's picture
Joined: 11/20/2012

I can definitely relate to having a game go stale. It can be even more difficult if you are using just a small group of testers and/or no (stand-in) art!

My suggestion is actually to play other games. Play published, fun games. Play with lots of people. Do other things in the hobby, like watching video reviews, reading blogs, and entering BGG contests.

When you are playing your game... Sometimes you just have to play through the rough patches. There is a real sense of "fake it till you make it" at times!

One thing that helps my enthusiasm is teaching a new player and hearing THEIR enthusiasm. Just this morning I read some feedback from a guy who played my game for the first time last night - it's always encouraging!

I even like getting some hardball questions and heavy criticism from new players. It helps keep my analytic process going, and can help expose blind spots or weaknesses in the game.

Hope that helps!

Joined: 11/19/2012
Welcome to game development.

Welcome to game development. I've heard it best summed up as "It's not all fun and games, sometimes it's just games."

Jumping from game to game is something that amateurs do far more often than the professionals* I've met. It's far too easy to move onto new project and never finish anything. Motivation is potentially the BIGGEST challenge of making games.

My own process is that I dedicate 4 days a week to my "Core" game. I schedule my workday to that single project and I sit down and at least try to work. This might only be 15 minutes... but I work on that game.

The other 3 days are free-form. If I want to work on my core game I'll do so. If I have something that I want to test, that's also fair game. If I'm feeling burned out and want to rest... I'll do that too. For these three days, anything is acceptable.

Toughing your way through rough sports can be far more damaging than useful. But you NEED to find a way through if you'll ever finish a game.

My 4/3 scheduling allows me to explore new ideas while still maintaining a professional process.

*Professionals might have many games in progress, but they are all being actively worked on. There specific process ranges, but very few will actually shelf a product unless they are giving up on it for now.

Joined: 07/03/2013
Another suggestion:

Make sure that you also have other people playtest it outside of your group, and catalog your data with the precision of a scientist. Then put it down and come back to it. Just this morning, a game I had worked on 4 months ago began to make sense in a new light, and it's taking off again.

Joined: 04/30/2013
Part of the problem is

Part of the problem is because you are its creator, you know more or less what will happen in your game rules.

My coping mechanism with continually working on a thoroughly tested game, is to enhance the usability of a game.

Say i change the currency management from blocks to chips, or cards. Which do my play testers find easier to handle overall? Which feels more thematic? and such

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
When you have a working game,

When you have a working game, you'll reach a point where you will do intensive play testing. It will be very repetitive and boring, but it is important to find outliers, which are outcome that could hapen to your game in a rare situation.

You could give yourself some testing objectives like making a player go against the current of the game, try to use different strategies and focus to see if you can break your own game.

Still at that point, the best solution is to test with different groups of real people. They will find a way to break your game. If you have a PNP version, you can send your prorotype on the internet, some people are willing to PnP Prototypes and give you feedback.

Joined: 04/07/2014
Well I would agree with you

Well I would agree with you that this will happen with most designs but I also believe that can be because you need to change something in your game. I've worked on a number of different games, and most of the time I almost dread playing the game again only after a short number of plays, but for my current game I've been working on I know I've got something of a different caliber because even though I've played it 50 plus times I still really enjoy playing the game. Yeah maybe it's not as enjoyable as the first couple plays, but it's pretty close.

With today's saturated game market we need really great games not just more just good games. Your game doesn't need to be another ticket to ride or settlers, but if you don't think your game could get into the top 500 games of BGG or higher trying to be as unbiased as possible look for something more unique and exciting.

Not everything is going to be enjoyable about game design, but if also don't love doing it might be for you.

pdyxs's picture
Joined: 02/06/2014
Yeah, I've definitely had

Yeah, I've definitely had this. I've been working on a video game for almost 2 years (or maybe 4, depending on how you count it) and a board game for a year and a half, and you definitely feel the fatigue after a while. Despite the video game getting through Steam Greenlight, winning a few awards and getting a publisher, I actually had to be reminded a few months ago that what we were making was actually good and worthwhile. As has been mentioned above, the way you do this is to get someone new to have a go - it's awesome seeing that look of discovery again.

On the board game front, I worry that I keep changing the rules now not so much because they actually need changing, but because I want to try something new. I have to keep checking 'is this actually making it better? Is it better fulfilling the purpose of the game?' That stuff is actually pretty hard to get right, but you've just gotta keep at it.

The other thing that's mentioned above is to let things go for a bit. I'd actually recommend making a bunch of things quickly and letting them all go for a while. The one you come back to is the one worth pursuing, and the one you'll actually put the time and effort into.

lewpuls's picture
Joined: 04/04/2009
Yes, this happens. One way

Yes, this happens. One way to avoid it is to be working on *A LOT* of games. When you get tired of one you have lots of others to turn to. This requires patience, I sometimes let a game sit for a year and more before going back to it. (This has the advantage that there's a new perspective when you approach a game you haven't touched in a year or more. You can notice things you otherwise wouldn't have.)

Also, I rarely play the games past the solo stage, I watch other people play. Which I find quite interesting, usually.

Joined: 11/19/2012
lewpuls wrote:Also, I rarely

lewpuls wrote:
Also, I rarely play the games past the solo stage, I watch other people play. Which I find quite interesting, usually.

While I play plenty of multiplayer of my own games, I do watch ALOT of people play games. Not only the one that I'm working on and needs testing but many different games.

It can be amazing to see how people think and what they enjoy or get confused by. The other neat thing is that you can see the moments that effect a player either positively or negatively that they forget about when it comes time for feedback.
It's amazing how often I see someone struggle to with a game for the first half... yet when asked "Was it easy to learn and play?" answer "Yes".

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
After reading this thread. I

After reading this thread. I tried this "the creator only just watches" thing.
Without even interfering I have learned a lot. And was able to change some rules to an better end.

The others didn't even mind that I was walking around and taking notice of what they where planning. (Event Cards and Build order).

Not only that, but the intended 3 players was played again just like in the early days.

Is it correct to say that it is a must for every game designer, to do this at a certain point?

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
Blind Playtesting

X3M wrote:
Is it correct to say that it is a must for every game designer, to do this at a certain point?

In my experience with blind playtesting, it was like an entire new world of design opened up when I received my first lot of feedback. When you're not coaching players from the sidelines or playing through the game with them, you have a chance to see just how well your rules are written, what works and what doesn't work, what sticks with the theme and what doesn't, and even some of the fun factor. More than that, if you take it constructively then your game becomes better and you can gain more confidence as a designer because you have some direction to your revisions and follow-up work.

I'd say blind playtesting is ESSENTIAL. If you don't do it, then you're not doing a thorough enough job as a designer. Plus, if you don't do it, as a designer you're missing out on a tremendous learning experience.

DifferentName's picture
Joined: 09/08/2013
Blind Playtesting

I still haven't done blind playtesting. I guess I thought of it as more of a late stage type of testing, to make sure the rule book is well written, but it sounds like it could be useful a bit earlier too, seeing how people play the game when we're not butting in.

Joined: 03/02/2014
I am right there with you.

I have exactly the same problem, but I am going to give you a very different response from the others. The Chaz and McTeddy are obviously serious game developers, and maybe even make money at it. If you want to get to the point where they are, you should stop reading now and you should follow their excellent advice.

On the other hand, it is important to know yourself and to understand what you want to get out of the hobby. For myself, designing games is a hobby that I enjoy, and I do the part of it that I enjoy. I completely understand that if I ever want to publish one of these games and possibly even recoup the considerable expenses I have incurred in creating them, I would have to change my attitude, buckle down, and do the hard parts. I have actually gone through all that with one game, and I'm quite proud that I followed through. But I don't choose to do that with any of the other 9ish games that I have under development. I don't feel "guilty" or unhappy that I've let them languish. I am happy with what I've done and occasionally I pick one of them up and do some more work on it.

It's about understanding what your own goals are. If you are burning to see your games in a real gaming store and reviewed in magazines, then you have to do all the hard work, even when it is hard. :-) But if you get pleasure just from writing down your ideas and imagining the finished result, then take your pleasure where you can and don't feel badly that you never actually get there.

Tbone's picture
Joined: 02/18/2013
Working on multiple projects

Working on multiple projects is not a bad thing but it can hinder progress if not limited.

I find that when faced with an ongoing problem in a game its much more beneficial to actually take mechanics, components etc. away from the game than adding. Sometimes I will find myself holding onto a specific element of the game that I REALLY want to be incorporated even if it ruins the game. This is unhealthy game design.

Simplify and correct the rudimentary aspecs of the game then start building.

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