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Subject: How many times should you playtest? rss

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Carl Nyberg
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So I have this civ game that I have tested about ten times, and it still needs work. I also have a vanilla fantasy game that I have tested probably fifteen times, and only just now realized that it needs more player interaction. I'm going to have to test it a bunch more with the adjustments.

I'm interested in what people here think. How many times should you playtest? Is it possible to playtest too many times?
 
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dennis bennett
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How many times should you playtest...

before you ask other people to play your game?
before you pitch it to publishers?

...really depends on the purpose of your playtesting...
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Eric Brosius
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Just as a reference point, Tom Lehmann said in his recent interview on The Long View that he playtested his first published game, Fast Food Franchise, over 1,000 times before it was published.
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Steven Tu
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I'd say until you know at least these:

1. How long an average game should take
2. The best strategy to win the game
3. How people react to every single element in the game
4. How to teach people the game quickly and easily
5. What people love and don't love about it

OK 2 was a trick answer - there should not be a best strategy to win any game

Also 5 is a trick too, you should go and rework your game till what people don't love about it is no more (well there are genre-haters, so those can be ignored) (like me and Chess)

But you should know the rest. Know your game inside out!
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Drew NA
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There isn't a number you can put on testing. Basically test until you aren't learning any new information. More complex games will take much longer than less complex games obviously, but how much you learn from each game, how clean your game is to start (which comes from experience), and other factors can make testing longer or shorter.

As for how many times you should get something blind tested, I'm curious as to what others think about that. I don't have an opinion on that.
-Drew
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Nate
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Maybe not a fixed number, but can we get a ballpark figure?

For example, I once heard "It's not done until you've playtested 100 times after your last rule change."

And I've always assumed that meant "playtest with people."

Of course, that hasn't stopped me from pitching to publishers after 30 playtests with changes....
 
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Paul DeStefano
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drew_d2 wrote:
There isn't a number you can put on testing


17.

See, you can to put a number on it.

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Nick Bolton
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Drew NA
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kungfugeek wrote:
Maybe not a fixed number, but can we get a ballpark figure?

For example, I once heard "It's not done until you've playtested 100 times after your last rule change."

And I've always assumed that meant "playtest with people."

Of course, that hasn't stopped me from pitching to publishers after 30 playtests with changes....


I won't even playtest with friends until I've playtested myself (playing as each player) at least once. I learn so much from that and I don't want to waste the time of others if it's broken right off the bat. So when I can get through the game myself (simply making sure it isn't broken), then I bring it to my inner circle of friends to see what they think. I test, make adjustments, test some more, and get it polished. I don't see how a ballpark number could be given for these types of testing, because if you start with a completely broken game in multiple places that will take many more tests to iron out.

For the blind testing, though, you could probably put a ballpark number on it, but I'm not experienced enough with blind testing to feel comfortable giving advice on that. Publishers usually blind test it themselves as well. I would say that I am confident I don't like those phrases "you're game isn't complete until you test 100 times (or some say 1000 times)".
-Drew
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Paul DeStefano
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drew_d2 wrote:
I won't even playtest with friends until I've playtested myself (playing as each player) at least once.


That's not playtesting - that's development.
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Drew NA
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Geosphere wrote:
drew_d2 wrote:
I won't even playtest with friends until I've playtested myself (playing as each player) at least once.


That's not playtesting - that's development.


Semantics. Any testing via playing is playtesting by my definition.
-Drew
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Andrew H
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I think it is possible to play test too many times in a week/month, but not in total. If you test too often in a short timeframe that you become bored, you might miss gathering the information the testing was supposed to reveal.

In general, there are hundreds of things you are trying to prove or discover by testing. Once you've done so, you don't need to do more, but each of those hundred things may take a different number of tests. "Are the rules clear" might take 10 random blind tests, "what is the best strategy" might take 100, "is this fun" could be the hardest (everyone has different opinions), so people try to pick a demographic and hope to make a certain percentage happy. If you can generate a list of what you want to learn, it can help you determine when your testing is done.

As to how much is needed once a design is complete, ideally you would want to play each strategy/player personality against each other. The challenge is figuring out these (as a designer you have your own tendencies and perceived strategy). Sometimes it helps to blind test early, just to see new strategies.

Lastly, depending upon who the amount of random elements (dice, cards), you may need to test the same pairings several times. For example, if you were testing a game like Risk, and one tester rolls a lot of high numbers, it would be helpful to see how the same strategy works with a more linear distribution.
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Stephen Williams
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bill437 wrote:
Is it possible to playtest too many times?


Only if you had something else you wanted to do with that time.

Seriously though, there's no such thing as too much testing. What there is, however, is a limit to how much testing you can afford, assuming you actually ever want to declare this thing done and move on.

If you're content to keep it as a personal project and just keep tweaking it over the years, then by all means test for the rest of your natural life. On the other hand, if you're looking to publish or otherwise "finish" this thing, then you will need to stop testing it eventually.

How long should you wait? How much testing is enough? The answers to these questions depend entirely on your timetable. The first question you need to ask is how long are you willing to wait? Once that's decided, figure out a schedule to get as much testing as possible done in that time.

The advantage of working on something in your spare time is that if you reach that limit and still don't think it's done, you can re-evaluate and extend your timetable if you want to. Whereas in a corporate effort, you probably have people who want results.
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Brian Fong
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You should play test it until you cannot find any improvements. Then you should wait a month and do it again.
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Benj Davis
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All. All the times.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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There is no magic number.

Ideally you should playtest however many times (and with however many different groups) it takes to get it right, but this is often compromised by business considerations (budget, publishing schedule, etc.).

If you don't have such issues and simply want to get it right, complexity and innovation level of the design will dictate how much testing is required. A complex game with an innovative system will require orders of magnitude more testing than a simple variation of a tried and true system.

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Tony Go
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You can stop playtesting when the first thing someone says after they play your game is an enthusiastic: let's play again!
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Ian Richard
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When I asked Steve Jackson one piece of advice for designers he answered "Playtest it again."

You can NEVER do enough playtesting. I easily playtest more than 100 times before I even get other people involved.

From there, I playtest as many times as humanly possible with as many different people as I can bribe. Usually, I'm also sending out copies for playtests outside my control at this stage.

After that... I start considering sending the game to publishers. Once they get involved the play-testing process starts over because of the changes they need to make.

When you start getting consistent positive responses from different groups of players, you MIGHT be ready to move forward. But honestly, you'll never playtest enough.
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Carl Nyberg
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Thanks for the responses everyone. I guess the correct answer is "infinity". Seriously, though, I will keep playtesting until I feel the games are good enough.
 
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John Breckenridge
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Ideally, you'd want to playtest every possible combination of asymmetrical game elements, so I can't give you a reasonable number without knowing how many of those there are.

And you'd want to test all the ranges of player counts your game is supposed to handle.

Like for example if the players in your game can choose from Archer, Barbarian, Cleric, Dwarf, and Enchanter, and you want it to work for 2-5 players, there are 26 combinations you'd want to test to make sure no class is unbalanced:
(10 two-player)
AB AC AD AE BC BD BE CD CE DE
(10 three-player)
ABC ABD ABE ACD ACE ADE BCD BCE BDE CDE
(5 four-player)
ABCD ABCE ABDE ACDE BCDE
(one 5-player)
ABCDE
 
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Richard Irving
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Games are never finished. They are merely published.
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Hank Grablewski
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I have the same questions. I have 3 games I am working on at the same time, but 1 that I am focusing on, as it is the most polished right now. The other 2 were ideas that I had to write down before I forgot them.

What I have done so far with playtesting is to have my friends purposely try to break the game. Try to exploit strategies, try strategies that should never work and try things that they wouldn't normally do.

I have found that their feedback is far more insightful than just playing the way they normally play. I sometimes feel designers build games they like to play and maybe even design games around strategies they like to use during playing games themselves. Much like a writer writes what they know.

If that is the case, you NEED to blind playtest and you need to get friends and family to try stuff that no sane player would try. if it works and wins, then maybe the game is not balanced (or is) depending on your goals with the game.

I plan on revealing my card game soon, but I have no art, just place holders right now. And I have playtested AND changed cards and rules as I have gone along. I realized some cards were 'unfun' to play with and others were underwhelming to use.

So as far as a number goes, I would say, there is no number to rely on. I also agree with others, playtest a lot and take a break for a few days or a week and do it again. You need your brain to reset so you can critique your game properly.
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Tommy Occhipinti
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Horror Leader wrote:
You can stop playtesting when the first thing someone says after they play your game is an enthusiastic: let's play again!


If I stopped there I'd have stopped playtesting my game two years ago!
 
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W Scott Grant
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I stop playtesting when I decide the game is hopelessly broken.
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seth van orden
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bill437 wrote:
Is it possible to playtest too many times?


Yes! In many cases you going to playtest a game of yours that was a bad idea. One of the worse things you can do is keep making minor tweaks in hopes that it magically fixes a bad core game. Don't waste your time working on pieces of junk.

I think it only takes 1-3 play tests to see if you game has any chance. You might like one part but not the rest. Keep only that one part and scrap the rest. Don't be too clingy to any one part of your game. Be willing to try anything, but don't waste your time to try everything. I believe the most important trait in a designer is good decision making skills not creativity. There are plenty of creative ideas out there, but being able to discern between which ones will work and which ones won't is so much more important.

In my personally opinion if you aren't still having a blast playing your game after the 20th or 50th game, you should probably make a different game.

Take all I say with a grain of salt since our first game doesn't come out for a few months. Time will tell if I'm worth listening to
 
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