• Robert Doman

The Power of Playtesting

Updated: Dec 15, 2019

Screenshot of our 3rd year game.

Playtesting is the perfect way to find problems with your game. Without playtesting, our game would be very different. You should use it to point your game in the direction that is best for players.

Responding to feedback will help your game grow, helping you to find what aspects of the game people like. It will also help you to define what aspects don't work. The more feedback you receive, the clearer the overall response to your game will be.

People are everything

You should always ask yourself, "Who is this game for?"

Making sure your game is being tested by the same people you want to buy your game is vital to gain valuable feedback. So maybe your Mum isn't the best person to test your first person shooter prototype. If a game isn't played, is it really a game? Your friends may also not be the best people to test your game as they may not want to tell you the honest truth.

Gaining honest and deep feedback focused around what you want to know is crucial. Asking the correct questions is important for understanding what you need to know. As you collect feedback, you will improve at asking questions and know which ones work. I have found that using open questions gives me the most valuable feedback. However, I use closed questions when I am trying to get a certain piece of information. For example: "Have you played the game before?" This makes organizing your feedback much easier if you are looking for the reactions of new players.

Screenshot of our 3rd year game.

Collecting valuable responses

To collect feedback, I first identify what I want to know. This Gamasutra article will help you to start. You should always keep your feedback form short so people don't give up half way through. I create my questionnaires through google forms. This is because I don't need to pay, can easily turn responses into a spreadsheet and can collaborate with other people in creating it.

I found that playtesting with at least 20 people gave us a varied and accurate range of responses. It is important to be present when these tests are taking place as you will get a first-hand look into how people approach your game. Patterns will instantly arise and you will experience bugs that you would have struggled to find on your own. This will all occur without having to read through all your responses.

Regular playtesting is fun

As previously mentioned, the more you playtest, the better you will get at asking questions. As you test you will likely get people who love your game and want to play it again in the future. These people are valuable as they are probably the audience you are aiming for. Rewarding participants can be useful to get them to come again or just have a positive experience that will encourage their friends to come. Even if your game is not as polished as you'd like, talking to them will help you both. Letting them into the secrets of game development may help them to appreciate the effort you've put in and they may give you advice that you haven't heard. And if that doesn't work, giving them chocolate might.

What did playtesting do for us?

The game concept began as the idea we didn't need to tell the players anything. We wanted to prove that people are smart and would work out what they are doing on their own. Although our hypothesis was true for some, it certainly wasn't the case for all. The feedback we received led us to creating a tutorial, in which the player is inducted into their role. Not only did this close the gap between perceptive and unperceptive players, it gave the game more meaning and character. The world-building made players of all types enjoy and understand the game better (despite it going against the original idea).

In conclusion, a game is not a game unless it's played. Getting people to play your game may be challenging at first, but making it a routine will help. Treating your testers as humans and asking them the right questions is necessary to change your game for the better.