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					Playtesting

  Game Design
  Vishnu Kotrajaras, PhD
What is playtesting?

 Something a designer performs
  throughout the game design process, to
  gain insight into how players experience
  the game.
 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
      make changes.
Recruiting playtesters
   Self-testing
    – In prototype stage.
    – In order to get the core game mechanics.
    – Continue to do self-testing throughout the life of the
      project.
   Confidants
    – 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
      invisible.
       • Because personal relationship can ruin their judgement.
                   YOU




Ideal playtester
Recruiting playtesters (2)
   People you do not know
    – Outsiders have nothing to lose or gain, so they will
      tell the truth.
   Ideal playtesters
    – 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)

   Target audience
    – 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
      the process.
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
  feedback.
A playtesting session (2)
   Forgive them if they are too harsh.
    Communication skills are different for
    everyone.
    – 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
    testers unless
    absolutely necessary
    (such as he has very
    bad manners).
    – Isolate him out,
      perhaps having him
      test alone.
    – 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
      design.
    – 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
   One-on-one
    – You watch over their shoulders as they play the game.
    – You take notes and ask questions along the way.
   Group testing
    – Let them play together, you observe and ask questions.
   Feedback form.
   Interview after the session.
   Open discussion
    – 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

                  skill              chance

                 chess          poker     blackjack
 Mental          civilization
 calculation
                   warcraft Tetris

                    unreal
 Physical
 dexterity
               football          tag
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
    players.
    –   Strategic
    –   Acton
    –   Gambler
    –   kids
    Taking notes
   Keep notes
    – Otherwise, you will only remember what you want
      to hear.
   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
      experience.
    – 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
    things.
    – 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
  unacceptable.
    – The ranking has to be detailed.
    – Not just choices for the tester to choose
      which is better.
Remember

   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
      accordingly.
   Never use quantitative feedback alone.
    Controlled situations
   You set parameters or events in the game so that you
    can test
    –   The end of a game.
    –   Rare events.
    –   Special situation.
    –   A particular level of a game.
    –   Feature(s).
    –   Loopholes.
    –   Dead-ends.
   Testing is not about being fair to testers or making sure
    they enjoy the game.
   It is about seeing what happens in every possible
    situation.
   This is the real reason behind many cheat codes in
    games. Yes, they are tools for testing in controlled
    situations.
Example: Monopoly
   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




      contra
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
      expert gamer.
    – Grandmother and middle age people
      testing, they do things right too after
      completing the newly developed tutorial.

				
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