Welcome Gamers and Players,
have you decided how to playtest your games? Yes? Well done, but before starting, you have to decide how to collect the data you will get. About playtesting, I’ve written enought in this previous post. Receiving playtesting feedback, however, is a key point into playtesting and game developing, so it deserves a post by its own.
Collecting Playtest Data is a critical activity that influences playtest process very deeply. How much time you will need to check feedback, how accurate those feedback will be, how easily you can fix or change game after this step: all belongs to collecting data.
In other terms, the tool you use to collect playtest data will be the primary interface between you (the designing team) and the playtester (the first “talking users” of your game). You have to fill this gap very carefully to speed-up the playtesting and release process and saving time.
The physical support of the feedback form doesn’t matter. It seems odd, but it’s not much relevant: even a paper playtesting sheet can be very useful, if good used. So feel free to use any technology and support you are acquainted with. It’s senseless to use a modern, web-based and interactive tool, if you need a lot of time to learn of using it. So, any support you and your team are acquainted with is ok.
Then, try to write down what’s the priority of your playtest. Any of the following is usually a key-point in playtesting, but what have to be primary one… this is your decision, because it change accordingly to your designing process.
- Testing your game. You can use playtesting feedback to easily find out and fix bug and erroneous design of your game. If a playtester can properly use the playtest form to warn about a bug, and you have difficult to find it out (maybe you can’t fix it easy, but at least you have to identify the problem quickly), there is something wrong in the feedback form.
- Giving playtester a structured voice. They can also simply tell you what they found during playtest, but you need that they all speak “the same language”, regardless of who they are (specifically in open playtest, when you don’t know a lot – or anything at all – about your playtester).
- Getting opportunities to improve the game. Rather than simply fixing the bug, playtesting is a green field of pure ideas and useful thoughts. The feedback form should give the playtester opportunities to give their contribution in developing.
So, here are some useful advice for how building an effective playtesting form. You have to tailor them on your game and your playtesting method (open, public or private).
- Free form field. If you believe (or need) the point 3 from checklist above, probably you want to include some free-form field(s) into your feedback form. Well, unstructured impression and feeling are the most valuable you can get, if properly used. A tester has not a structured feeling about your game, as those in feedback form. So, without a free form field, probably you’ll lose some information. On the other side, unstructured data are a pain in the ass. Also if you are really good in reading and using them, they have to be a little part of whole feedback form: you should have the opportunity to use them, without being forced to use them to complete playtesting phase.
A useful tip can be to include free-form question never over the 5%-10% of total question (or total weight) of playtesting form.
- Coded syntax for referral. Usually, is worthing to dedicate time in creating a precise table of content that refers to your game. In other terms, playtester shall say “Q23 section 3” to indicate a precise point in the game. This is another form of “structured vs unstructured” data, that allow you to save a lot of time when following objective 1. The problem is that more this syntax is precise (and complex), more time playtester need to learn it and more is easy to do mistakes.
Obviously, this kind of syntax can be used only in private or public playtesting. In an open playtest, it is a clamp on participation, so avoid it.
- Playtesting special instructions. The game you are playtesting is finished, or possibly not. Either, you can have some kind of specific instruction about playtesting: what is to test carefully (a single dynamics, or the look and feel, or the multiplayer mode: anything you want to improve), or what optional rule between two is better. Thus can help them giving more precise feedback but they don’t allow to test the feelings and reaction of a “final users”, someone who play without knowing anything except what is written into game itself.
- Mixing Playtesting Ways.My favourite strategy: to use any (or some) of playtesting strategies together… start with a private playtest, move to public and then, in the first release, consider it as a final playtesting stage. If well done you will maximize the good point and minimize the bad ones of all ways.