Vishnu Kotrajaras, PhD
What is playtesting?
Something a designer performs
throughout the game design process, to
gain insight into how players experience
The end goal:
– To get feedback to improve your game.
Playtesting and iterative design
Test in every stage.
The beginning stages are very important.
– Otherwise, you won’t have enough time to
– In prototype stage.
– In order to get the core game mechanics.
– Continue to do self-testing throughout the life of the
– When the prototype is playable.
– Find friends outside the design team to test.
– You need to be there only to explain the game, do
not intervene with their play. Make yourself
• Because personal relationship can ruin their judgement.
Recruiting playtesters (2)
People you do not know
– Outsiders have nothing to lose or gain, so they will
tell the truth.
– From any place in your local area.
• Schools, sport clubs.
• post your ads online or in newspaper.
– If you get enough people, turn down the ones with
poor communication skill.
• asking questions during interview will help you on this.
Recruiting playtesters (3)
– They provide much better feedback because they
know your game type very well.
– Posting on gaming websites.
– Have testers sign a nondisclosure agreement to
prevent them stealing your idea.
• Do not be afraid of someone stealing your idea. They
cannot make it work as good as you.
• The risk is relatively low (in western countries).
Do not forget to prepare
Snacks and drinks
– Testers will feel they owe you something and will
do better to provide you with their feedback.
– Make them more likely to return to test again. (so
they can provide the information about how they
think the game is progressing)
– But you must also keep fresh recruits throughout
A playtesting session
Do not explain much.
Let the testers play it out.
Allow them to make mistakes.
Provide answers when they get stuck.
Ignore your ego and pride.
Do not persuade testers to give good
comments. (they will usually obey you
because they are at your place).
Otherwise you won’t get an honest
A playtesting session (2)
Forgive them if they are too harsh.
Communication skills are different for
– But tell everyone that there is no right or wrong. (It
is like brainstorming.)
– No testers should ever criticise another tester.
– And remind them to always stick to the game.
A playtesting session (3)
Do not silence the
(such as he has very
– Isolate him out,
perhaps having him
– But do it as soft and
polite as possible.
Tips for a playtesting session
Act as a researcher
– Welcome the playtesters and thank them for participating.
– Tell them that you are testing the game, not their skills. Any
difficulties in playing the game will help you improve the
– Let them start playing. You take note.
• Include specific information when writing up your playtest.
Record the date and time, who played and for how long.
• Ask them to talk out loud throughout the game about what they
are thinking, questions they may have.
• Warn them that you won’t be able to answer, you just want to
know the questions.
– Do not help them in playing.
– When they finish playing, interview them or discuss with them
to get additional feedback.
– Thank them and give out gifts.
Structuring the session
– You watch over their shoulders as they play the game.
– You take notes and ask questions along the way.
– Let them play together, you observe and ask questions.
Interview after the session.
– You take notes during the discussion.
– Free-form, or guided discussion. It is up to you.
Mix the above.
The Play Matrix (help testers)
Helps stimulating discussion and analysing gameplay
chess poker blackjack
Using the matrix
Ask your testers to plot your game on the matrix.
Ask players where they want to move the game to.
Ask them what needs to be changed to move the
game towards their preferred quadrant.
This is a also a good chance to learn the type of
– Otherwise, you will only remember what you want
The notes must be filed chronologically, or
entered into a database.
Taking notes (2)
There is a form
– See additional notes.
– Create your own questions as you get more
– Questions can be geared towards particular areas.
– Rank your questions in order of importance.
– Do not ask too many questions.
One-on-one interview is best for evaluating
– But if you can’t, then organize group interview.
– Try to keep aggressive members from dominating.
– They do not have to agree on anything. Just let
them speak their opinion.
Example: let a tester choose music
Let the tester rank the music you chose
for the game.
Tell them to put boundaries on what is
good, what is ok, and what is
– The ranking has to be detailed.
– Not just choices for the tester to choose
which is better.
Do not lead testers.
– If they ask question, respond by asking
them what they think they should do.
Ask testers to think out loud.
– So you know why they get stuck, etc.
Use feedback forms.
What about quantitative feedback?
Time it takes to read the rules.
Time it takes to perform certain functions.
Speed that a player gains a level.
Asks testers to rank ease of use of certain
features, from 1 to 10.
Must have clear objectives that you want to
find out before any measurement.
– So that you can design the stats to be measured
Never use quantitative feedback alone.
You set parameters or events in the game so that you
– The end of a game.
– Rare events.
– Special situation.
– A particular level of a game.
Testing is not about being fair to testers or making sure
they enjoy the game.
It is about seeing what happens in every possible
This is the real reason behind many cheat codes in
games. Yes, they are tools for testing in controlled
To test the going to jail feature and see
how it affects players who owns very
little property versus players who own a
vast amount of property.
– Start the game when the player is in jail.
– Play for 30 minutes, see what happens.
– Then repeat the experiment with a change
in the player’s financial position.
Well known cheats
Example of the usefulness of testing
Age of Empires 2
– They want non-gamers to be able to pick
up and play.
– But part 1 was difficult to learn, even for an
– Grandmother and middle age people
testing, they do things right too after
completing the newly developed tutorial.