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Subject: Prepping For Playtest - Tips and tricks rss

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Eric Jome
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So you're off to a prototype testing convention or an evening with some willing friends, hoping to make some big progress on your latest game? Here's some advice you can use to help make the most of that experience;

Have on hand index cards, paper, and pens. - When I pack my prototypes for play testing, I often throw in extra index cards, a tablet of paper, and writing utensils. Sometimes these are for the game itself, but they're always for me and the play testers. I've got to write down their thoughts and feedback, ideas and directions. And many people can be happier writing their thoughts down instead of saying them; sometimes I go all the way to making feedback forms, but often I'd just like to hand out cards or paper encourage everyone to make notes. During and after, notes help nothing slip by or get forgotten.

If you're working on it, have a prototype that is more functional than final. - If you're pitching it, consider upping the quality of your prototype - that impression can count for a lot. But if you're working on it, hashing out the details, tweaking and changing? A black and white paper copy that you can write all over, tear up, or re-arrange is the way to go. Try to minimize your production time and cost if you're going to be doing it all over again after the session!

Have multiple copies of your prototype if possible. - You never know when you might end up losing pieces, wrecking them in the course of play or testing, or just generally need to run a clean set. Remember, you'll often have access to basic print services either at your hotel or within a few miles at a print service place like an office supply store. If you can, have all your materials on a USB drive for easy reproduction.

Glue sticks, scissors, markers, and stickers! - Making a game is not only an exercise of the mind, but also a hobby crafting exercise too. Basic materials for making alterations to a game - in progress or between sessions - definitely include cutting tools and permanent markers, but I find that address labels can also go a long way to changing a card or token or corner of the board. If you can, foam core boards and duct tape can help a lot too. Scrapbooking has lots of fantastic options if you've got the money to spend.

They might like it or they might hate it. - If you've spent a lot of time and hard work and passion on your game, it might come at you pretty hard if there is a lot of dissatisfaction or unhappiness among the testers - be mentally prepared for that! It might be hard, but remember it's not personal. It's work. If you let your emotions - or their emotions - get in the way of making it better, it won't get better. Steel yourself for harsh criticism and unhappy people; if that doesn't happen, so much the better! Listen through the negative for a way to get to positive.

Inspiration may strike in the moment, so be flexible and quick. - You never know when a new idea or new direction might come flying out of the field and hit you right in the face. When it does, recognize it, grab onto it, and work with it. If you're in the middle of a play, don't be afraid to fold it up, reset, and try it differently. If you've learned what you need, go at another problem or another angle. A play test session is time for change and adaptation; don't be locked into anything, especially a game that isn't working - Change and try again!

Have a plan and a goal! - Maybe plans don't survive contact with reality all the time, but nothing is going to help organize and make productive use of your time and assets like a goal and a plan to accomplish it. Know what you're trying to get out of this session - is this an iterative attack on refining the system? Brainstorming some inspiration? Finalizing the structure and mechanics? Most importantly of all, tell your testers what your goal is! Let them know what you want from them so they can focus and think more deeply on your game.

If you've got additional tips or tricks, I'd love to hear them… and happy play testing!
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Vinsent Delvega
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Re-posting from FB:

If you have the tech - (and buyoff from your testers) film it if possible. I cannot tell you how useful it was to be able to re-watch play-tests that I did of Titans Tactics. You can catch subtle things like players making frustrated expressions that you will often miss on the first viewing while watching just the game unfold.
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Carl Nyberg
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I would like to add: play the game by yourself first if you can. You can see obvious errors that way.
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Beau Bocephus Blasterfire
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bill437 wrote:
I would like to add: play the game by yourself first if you can. You can see obvious errors that way.


This is definitely a must. It is down right rude to ask others to play test a game that you haven't played/tested already. Playing one's own game first should be done prior to asking anyone else to play test it for you. If you aren't willing to play test your game prior to asking someone else to give it a try, you might as well tell them that you think their time is worthless.
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Derek H
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bbblasterfire wrote:
bill437 wrote:
I would like to add: play the game by yourself first if you can. You can see obvious errors that way.

This is definitely a must. It is down right rude to ask others to play test a game that you haven't played/tested already. Playing one's own game first should be done prior to asking anyone else to play test it for you. If you aren't willing to play test your game prior to asking someone else to give it a try, you might as well tell them that you think their time is worthless.

I think a minimum of 10 to 12 times. And, ideally, you have had a neutral person (even a non-gamer) read over your draft rules (you did write those all down, didn't you!?) and pick up the glaring errors.
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Eric Jome
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gamesbook wrote:
And, ideally, you have had a neutral person (even a non-gamer) read over your draft rules (you did write those all down, didn't you!?) and pick up the glaring errors.


Many games that are still being developed don't need to have rules written down yet. The rules are in flux, after all.
 
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Greg Byrd
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I've only played around designing a few games, but I found that writing the rule book early was very constructive. One time, doing so made me realize that I had no provisions for who the starting player would be each turn.
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