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Subject: Dealing with small changes, adding or subtracting. rss

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Ηaralampos Tsakiris
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Some time ago i had an argument with a friend and a fellow designer about how to deal with when you change something in your prototype with a prototype when you change something in it and your prototypeis in a solid playable form, not in its initial steps.

My take was that every time i change something, for example, a change in the reawards given or a change or two in a worker placement spot, needs to be fully playtested and not doing guess work, even if there is something that small, due to balance issues.

The take of my friend was different. He was arguing that not all small changes need to be playtested, because he understands the mechanim and he can figure out wheather this new change could benefit the particular action/mechanism. he claimed a game needed to be playtested has is intresting enough to do o, if the changes in a prototype are at least 20% of the total design.

I believe in fine tuning due to balance issues that can make the game even better and my friend believes in efficiancy of time and ones personal ability to foresee the impact of a small change.

Can i have your take on that ?
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Jeremy Lennert
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Most designers don't have sufficient playtest resources to individually playtest every change, so instead they usually playtest several changes at a time and try to interpret the results as best they can.

But I would be extremely reluctant to publish a change without first testing at least one version that included that change. (I'd only do that in a nightmare scenario, like "the Kickstarter funded and we're starting printing tomorrow, but someone just discovered an auto-win strategy for faction X".)
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Isaac Shalev
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This is to some extent a semantic question. If I raise the price of wheat, I'm also raising the price of everything you can spend wheat on, and incentivizing acquiring other resources and spending them on other things. So is that one change? And if I raise the price of wheat but lower the price of olives is that two changes? It seems to me that you're tweaking the overall economic equation of the game, and testing each tweak individually is likely to be counterproductive.

The way we approach these kinds of changes is to start with a problem statement, eg "In this role-selection game, Role A is overpowered and Role B is way too weak, and we'd like to bring them closer to parity." Then, you make a list of changes to apply to achieve the result, eg "If you take Role A, you can't redraw your hand at the end of the round. Role B will also grant you $2 when you take it."

Now, if you've been playing with a system for a while you have better insight into how changes will impact the system. You can make multiple smaller changes in one go. But when you're still familiarizing yourself with a system, making one very large change will be much more instructive than trying to juggle a few small ones.
 
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Adrian Pillai
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Charalampos Tsakiris wrote:

My take was that every time i change something, for example, a change in the reawards given or a change or two in a worker placement spot, needs to be fully playtested and not doing guess work, even if there is something that small, due to balance issues.


If you don't mind me asking, what constitutes a full playtest in your definition?

I admit I'm neither a stickler for constant playtesting nor do I agree that 20% change be the threshold for a new playtest.

For minor tweaks I always try to simulate (or imagine) edge case scenarios. While I could wait for extensive playtesting to maybe throw that extreme up, it would be nice to see how ugly it gets before falling in love with the solution.

Generally, I find having a regularly scheduled interval (e.g. every 1 week to 10 days) for playtest is a great way to stop endless tweaking while giving enough time to solve your checklist of problems that arose from the previous playtest. Once that list of problems are purely semantics (word usage on cards, boards or rules) or design (can't see black on blue) then do I quick fix and move up playtest frequency.
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Jeff Warrender
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I would say that even a playtest session that yields no surprises and in which everything works out the way you expected is still a valuable outcome and therefore was time well spent.
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Confusion Under Fire
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If possible I would playtest the change and run through some different possible scenarios, this does not necessarily mean a complete playtest of the entire game. For example if you added an extra worker placement spot, run through all actions for worker placement. Take into account any cards or events that might cause a problem with the additional spot. On one occasion I made a very slight change to a numerical factor which upset another rule.
Playtesting isn't just to see if the rules work together or if a mechanic integrates well, it can be about the pace of the game, or if something is too fiddly, or you may find a rule becomes obsolete.
I used to run email wargames and create my own scenarios. I would attempt to make them as interesting as possible. I would playtest the scenarios several times but quite often the players would do something I never thought of. So blind playtesting is essential, this of course comes later in the playtest process but for now I would playtest at the level that makes you happy, personally I would kind of agree with your level, playtest a few small ideas together or playtest a small change with more localised playtesting.
 
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