Everybody assumes play-testing is fun and easy! But in reality it’s not. Play testing revolves around trying to figure out what is not quite right about the game and therefore which tweaks you require to make. The more complex the game, the harder it is to make tweaks without changing the dynamic of the game. And often the range of tweaks you can administer is near endless, which one or which combination do you apply? You will go down several “dark alleys” before realising that the tweaks need to be made elsewhere in the game. All in all, play-testing can take hundreds of hours and some very late evenings. It’s important to remember, play-testing isn’t about winning, it’s about making the game better.
Here are some of our thoughts on play-testing.
1 – Record what you do
At the start of play-testing it is easy to remember what changes you have made (or reversed). However, as the hours plough on and you test more and more tweaks, you will forget! Make sure you write down what you have changed AND why you have changed it AND what the outcome was. This will help you make better tweaks as the play-testing progresses and should save you a load of time by avoiding changes you have already made (and discarded) but forgot about.
2 – Test every angle and limit
Remember, play-testing is NOT about playing for fun. It’s the job of the players to test the limits of the rules of the game to see where things break down. This means you may have to play as an irrational person and make poor in-game decisions to see if the game grinds to a halt or breaks.
Additionally, the play-testers have to think about what should be changed and feed this back into the development group. This could be rule changes, order of play and the value of actions/items. This is easier if the main play-testers developed the game originally.
3 – You will need a variety of players
Not everybody plays games the same way! Therefore, an essential part of play-testing is casting the net wide to get large group of gamers who all have different styles of play. In this way, you will find out more quickly who the game typically appeals to and what changes are needed to please your target audience.
Also, another bonus of using a variety of players is that each style of player will test the limits of the game, although probably not to the same extent as deliberately trying to break the rules as point 2 above.