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What nuggets of wisdom would you give to a first time person seeking play testing?

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Dravvin
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I've done a fair amount of play testing with close friends which has ironed out most of the bugs (I think) and I'm about to take my game to UKGE for wider play testing.

What key advice would you give me given that I've never done this before?

What do you wish you had known before your first game was play tested?

TIA!

Mark Simulacra
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Possibly...

Probably to take some advice with a grain of salt.

There's a fair bit of play test advice that can be a product of player preference, which is important to consider, but unless you notice a trend of similar advice it might be worth not making major changes for that reason.

Gabe
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The biggest thing is don't

The biggest thing is don't get offended or defensive when people point out problems. This game is probably like your baby, and it can be painful when people say you have an ugly baby. But you'll be much better off if you listen to criticism objectively.

I Will Never Gr...
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- Provide a simple sheet of

- Provide a simple sheet of questions that testers can fill out. While the questions need to be easy to answer they also need to be very targeted to get you the feedback you're looking for.

Here is a decent one to use as a base: http://www.gamescape-north.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/FeedbackForm.pdf

- Realize that 90% of the feedback you receive will be worthless (in the vein of "It was fun!").

- Be prepared for harsh feedback as well

- Watch, listen and take notes on EVERYTHING. Every piece of info you can write down, do it even if you don't think it'll be useful right now.

- Try to get people to sign up for an email newsletter about the game (start building your audience!)

I Will Never Gr...
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Gabe wrote:The biggest thing

Gabe wrote:
The biggest thing is don't get offended or defensive when people point out problems. This game is probably like your baby, and it can be painful when people say you have an ugly baby. But you'll be much better off if you listen to criticism objectively.

This absolutely!

"Thank you for your feedback, it's most helpful and I'll be taking it all into consideration" is probably the best response to any feedback, good or bad.

chris_mancini
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Having review sheets is a

Having review sheets is a great way for players to give a deeper critique of your game. Also watch player reactions; a player telling you your game is "fun" can carry a wide range of secondary emotions depending on their tone of voice, body language, etc. I guess it all amounts to LISTEN to your players, ask them targeted questions to elicit their true opinions (especially for the 90% who will just give you an "I liked it...it was fun" response).

Gabe
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I Will Never Grow Up Gaming

I Will Never Grow Up Gaming wrote:
- Provide a simple sheet of questions that testers can fill out. While the questions need to be easy to answer they also need to be very targeted to get you the feedback you're looking for.

Here is a decent one to use as a base: http://www.gamescape-north.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/FeedbackForm.pdf

Thanks for the link. I'm definitely going to use that in the next couple weeks for some blind play tests.

Gabe
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One more thing is to just

One more thing is to just hand players the box and let them figure the game out for themselves. (This assumes you have a completed rulebook.)

See if people can play your game the way it's supposed to be played without you explaining anything. Take notes on what they struggle with and what takes them a while to understand.

Also, be an observer and not a player. You'll learn a lot more if you're able to watch people's body language and reactions to things, and it's hard to pay attention if you're also immersed in playing the game.

McTeddy
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Gabe wrote: Also, be an

Gabe wrote:

Also, be an observer and not a player. You'll learn a lot more if you're able to watch people's body language and reactions to things, and it's hard to pay attention if you're also immersed in playing the game.

^This a thousand times over^

This also leads into what I was going to say. Player's can tell how they feel, but they can't always tell you what they want.

Playtesters often want to help and they'll sometime try beyond their means.

They'll offer suggestions they've seen in other games they THINK will improve it without understanding the mechanic, the implications of the change, or even what they actually want to happen.

Listen to what they say and reflect on it. Make sure the decision you make are actually hitting the problems they cited.

Keep an open mind, listen to everything... but at the end of the day you have to be the captain.

- - -

Oh one more thing. Enjoy it.

Playtesters are awesome people and it's helps to remind yourself of that from time to time.

gilamonster
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I found it useful to ask each

I found it useful to ask each person what they would change in the game - and write down _all_ their comments. Each player must give at least one change. If one suggestion keeps coming up, try the change.

Also note players' body-language during play: do the players all look bored and frustrated throughout the game, or are they all focused and tense, or are they commenting humorously on each other's plays?

I actually think that you _should_ sometimes play your own game with others throughout playtesting, although of course you should act as an outside observer in many test games as well. If you don't playtest your own game (outside of initial private testing, probably with people heavily involved in development the game), how will you know on a personal level what it's like to play it with different opponents? And if your game evolves, how will you personally know what it is like to play it in its new form?

adversitygames
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A couple of extra things I

A couple of extra things I keep an eye out for are noting when players are in downtime, and whenever the players are checking the rules (or asking me questions if I'm doing an open playtest).

Downtime isn't all bad - it's helpful to have time to strategise between turns. But if you find players are eg playing on their phones (tbh I greatly prefer players that will do that rather than "be polite" and feign interest) then you've got boring downtime rather than strategising downtime.

If I find I keep needing to explain a particular rule or players often can't find it easily in the rulebook, that's something that needs extra attention.

adversitygames
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gilamonster wrote:I actually

gilamonster wrote:
I actually think that you _should_ sometimes play your own game with others throughout playtesting, although of course you should act as an outside observer in many test games as well. If you don't playtest your own game (outside of initial private testing, probably with people heavily involved in development the game), how will you know on a personal level what it's like to play it with different opponents? And if your game evolves, how will you personally know what it is like to play it in its new form?

Adding to this:
I think it's good to set aside the playtesting mindset and just *play* your game occasionally. If you don't do this you can spend so much of the playtest time working on all the issues that you lose any sense for home the game flows and whether you enjoy it.

This not only makes it harder to tell potential players why it's good to play, but can also sap some of your motivation to design the game.

polyobsessive
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Objectives

It really depends on what you are trying to achieve from the playtest. So, I guess, that might be my main advice: know what the objective of a playtest is and adjust the way you conduct things to support that. You might be testing the general flow of the game, looking at how a new rule affects play, trying to identify your core engagement if you haven't already, seeing if someone can break the game, and so on.

Personally, I find it nice to have written feedback, but the most useful playtests I have had have involved just watching and writing notes on how players behave. Are there points when they seem to lose focus or disengage? Where do they get confused? Do they get rules wrong? Are they laughing, frowning, bantering, trash talking, negotiating, etc? Is the quiet player doing better than that chatty player? Who checks their phone? And so on. I can usually get so much insight into the game this way before we even start to discuss the game.

radioactivemouse
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The biggest secret...

The biggest secret is to test A LOT.

I know it's elementary, but there's no such thing as too much testing. You can even glean some insight just from testing over time.

I would experiment on the types of testing you do. Of course, blind play testing is extremely important; I would do that as mail-outs so that you have no influence and send them a very detailed questionnaire. You'll also want to experiment at conventions, game groups, small get-togethers, even schools. Challenge yourself with different age ranges, genders, interest groups, etc. Don't limit yourself. The more testing you can do the better.

That's what I suggest.

richdurham
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Basics

The feedback above is solid, so I'll take a different direction. Many times it's hard enough getting play testers much less asking them to write things down. Reduce the friction between play and feedback. Examples:

  • In a short game, have the players verbalise what they're thinking while they are playing. Particularly the fun, or the frustrating parts. Or when it's not clear what the good choices are.
  • In the post-game debrief of a game in early testing, ask simple questions. "What were the most fun moments for you?" "Why were those fun?" "What were the most frustrating, or least fun, moments? Why?"

When you're recording feedback, take shorthand notes that ask questions you can answer later. Don't look for suggestions on things to fix problems yet - just identify them.

Later, make a log of these questions, and how you are answering them in the next iteration.

Dravvin
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Thank-you!

Thank-you everyone for some fabulous advice!

The play test form is great - I'll be sure to take a handful of these with me :)

I was planning (assuming there are enough players) to observe the play tests as I want to see the game played from the outside. Finger crossed I get some good play testers plus I have a lot more solo play testing to do!

Thanks again :)

Janice

polyobsessive
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Forms

Just a thought on the playtest form: the Playtest UK organisers usually have a supply of generic feedback forms that are pretty good and should be available to you for the sessions at UKGE, so that should be covered.

Of course, if there are specific things you want covered, it might be worth you bringing your own forms along.

Hope I'll get to meet you at Expo...

Rob

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Bring one of those spray cans

Bring one of those spray cans of deodorant and maybe a spare shirt or two. So when the guy shows up whose excretions have eaten holes in the armpits of his shirt with its bib-shaped pattern of Cheetos dust and Mountain Dew stains, you can be like, "Hey! You win a free shirt! Don't be ashamed to try it on now. Also, free excessive application of deodorant!" High five!

Dravvin
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Soulfinger wrote:Bring one of

Soulfinger wrote:
Bring one of those spray cans of deodorant and maybe a spare shirt or two. So when the guy shows up whose excretions have eaten holes in the armpits of his shirt with its bib-shaped pattern of Cheetos dust and Mountain Dew stains, you can be like, "Hey! You win a free shirt! Don't be ashamed to try it on now. Also, free excessive application of deodorant!" High five!

That's given me a good giggle :)

Hope to see you too Rob.

polyobsessive
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Cheetos and Dew

Soulfinger wrote:
Bring one of those spray cans of deodorant and maybe a spare shirt or two. So when the guy shows up whose excretions have eaten holes in the armpits of his shirt with its bib-shaped pattern of Cheetos dust and Mountain Dew stains, you can be like, "Hey! You win a free shirt! Don't be ashamed to try it on now. Also, free excessive application of deodorant!" High five!

Worth noting that due to the bizarre nature of the UK, Janice is unlikely to encounter someone who has been consuming Cheetos and Mountain Dew. Equivalents are available over here though. And we also have deodorant.

Squinshee
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Questionnaires are great,

Questionnaires are great, especially if you're trying to glean insight about specific aspects of your game. But before you bombard them with questions, let them tell you all of their thoughts, stream of consciousness-style. Remember: this was probably the first time these people ever played your game and they have a lot of opinions. Don't stifle that. It'll open up further dialogue from the playtesters.

Also, keep track of time. Time per turn, time per game. I find it helpful to contrast how long the fist game is compared to the second with the same testers - gives insight into how dense the games rules are initially and how quickly all the mechanics "click" into place on the next run through.

Soulfinger
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polyobsessive wrote:Worth

polyobsessive wrote:
Worth noting that due to the bizarre nature of the UK, Janice is unlikely to encounter someone who has been consuming Cheetos and Mountain Dew. Equivalents are available over here though. And we also have deodorant.

Bollocks! I missed the UK location. So, what I meant to say was beware the Scottsman who is moist with Irn Bru. You can't tell if it is cocaine or Sherbet Fountain dusting his shirt, but he is just there to tell you that your game is "English crap!" and the only good games are designed in Scotland, except for the shite from Edinburgh if he is from Glasgow and vice-versa.

Dravvin
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Soulfinger

Soulfinger wrote:
polyobsessive wrote:
Worth noting that due to the bizarre nature of the UK, Janice is unlikely to encounter someone who has been consuming Cheetos and Mountain Dew. Equivalents are available over here though. And we also have deodorant.

Bollocks! I missed the UK location. So, what I meant to say was beware the Scottsman who is moist with Irn Bru. You can't tell if it is cocaine or Sherbet Fountain dusting his shirt, but he is just there to tell you that your game is "English crap!" and the only good games are designed in Scotland, except for the shite from Edinburgh if he is from Glasgow and vice-versa.

Lucky I have some Scottish blood in me then ;)

Dravvin
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Squinshee

Squinshee wrote:
Questionnaires are great, especially if you're trying to glean insight about specific aspects of your game. But before you bombard them with questions, let them tell you all of their thoughts, stream of consciousness-style. Remember: this was probably the first time these people ever played your game and they have a lot of opinions. Don't stifle that. It'll open up further dialogue from the playtesters.

Also, keep track of time. Time per turn, time per game. I find it helpful to contrast how long the fist game is compared to the second with the same testers - gives insight into how dense the games rules are initially and how quickly all the mechanics "click" into place on the next run through.

Thanks Squinshee. Some useful advice :)

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