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Playtesting. Playtesting is not… Focus groups – gathering opinions on proposed game/feature ideasFocus groups – gathering opinions on proposed game/feature.

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Presentation on theme: "Playtesting. Playtesting is not… Focus groups – gathering opinions on proposed game/feature ideasFocus groups – gathering opinions on proposed game/feature."— Presentation transcript:

1 Playtesting

2 Playtesting is not… Focus groups – gathering opinions on proposed game/feature ideasFocus groups – gathering opinions on proposed game/feature ideas QA testing – the hunt for bugsQA testing – the hunt for bugs Usability testing – is the user interface easy to understand and intuitive; how difficult is it to learn how to playUsability testing – is the user interface easy to understand and intuitive; how difficult is it to learn how to play Playtesting – does my game achieve its goal (very often, is it fun?)Playtesting – does my game achieve its goal (very often, is it fun?)

3 Early and often The feedback from playtests is useless when it comes too late in the project to make changesThe feedback from playtests is useless when it comes too late in the project to make changes Infrequent playtests generate less revealing and less important discoveriesInfrequent playtests generate less revealing and less important discoveries You always need to playtest more often than you thinkYou always need to playtest more often than you think

4 Why playtest? Quote from Peter Molyneux (Fable, Black & White, Populous)

5 Outside observers Whenever possible, hire outsiders to conduct your playtestsWhenever possible, hire outsiders to conduct your playtests 1> Relieves playtesters from having to be tactful (you want brutal honesty) 2> Keeps your from justifying and defending your work (they don’t care) If not, at least invite playtesters to help you most by being criticalIf not, at least invite playtesters to help you most by being critical

6 Outside observers If not outsiders, then conduct tests using those farthest from the work or you’re asking for debates (you can even divide the game between project teams)If not outsiders, then conduct tests using those farthest from the work or you’re asking for debates (you can even divide the game between project teams)

7 Why? We love our babies It’s hard to watch someone cut up your baby, we defend it ruthlesslyIt’s hard to watch someone cut up your baby, we defend it ruthlessly There are even social/psychological terms for this and other related phenomenon, such as “sunk cost fallacy” and “loss aversion”There are even social/psychological terms for this and other related phenomenon, such as “sunk cost fallacy” and “loss aversion” The more you invest, the more you irrationally protect the investmentThe more you invest, the more you irrationally protect the investment

8 Dollar Auction I am auctioning off a $100 billI am auctioning off a $100 bill It goes to the highest bidder, who simply pays their bid and receives the $100It goes to the highest bidder, who simply pays their bid and receives the $100 But the second highest bidder must also pay their highest bid, yet gets nothingBut the second highest bidder must also pay their highest bid, yet gets nothing ANY BIDS?

9 Environment of honesty Encourage your playtesters to be brutally honest and unforgiving in their comments (helps if they know they are not going to hurt your personal feelings)Encourage your playtesters to be brutally honest and unforgiving in their comments (helps if they know they are not going to hurt your personal feelings) Sets an environment where they won’t hold back nit-picky commentsSets an environment where they won’t hold back nit-picky comments People don’t like to be mean, you must give them permission / force them toPeople don’t like to be mean, you must give them permission / force them to

10 How to begin… IDEAL: say nothing and just let them playIDEAL: say nothing and just let them play Concession: explain the controlsConcession: explain the controls Concession: explain the goalConcession: explain the goal Anything else will completely subvert your attempt to see what the player can discern on their ownAnything else will completely subvert your attempt to see what the player can discern on their own Remember that you can’t be there when they actually play your gameRemember that you can’t be there when they actually play your game

11 Don’t taint the results It’s hard NOT to subliminally tip your hand and ask leading questions:It’s hard NOT to subliminally tip your hand and ask leading questions:  “The second level was pretty easy, right?” Makes them embarrassed to say it was way too hard, they’ll say “it wasn’t that easy”  “How did you like the large open world?” “Large” and “open” are positive adjectives, they think they are supposed to naturally agree Never make a statement with a questionNever make a statement with a question

12 Keep ‘em separated If conducting long playtests where there are breaks or you have an open space, playtesters will want to chat with each other about the game. DON’T LET THEM!If conducting long playtests where there are breaks or you have an open space, playtesters will want to chat with each other about the game. DON’T LET THEM! You don’t want to muddy someone’s perspective, or allow assertive testers to dominate other people’s opinionsYou don’t want to muddy someone’s perspective, or allow assertive testers to dominate other people’s opinions Unless your game RELIES on groups of people playing together in the same space, don’t let playtesters mingleUnless your game RELIES on groups of people playing together in the same space, don’t let playtesters mingle

13 Let them suffer It’s irresistible to help a playtester figure it out, rather than sitting in agony as they become frustrated and hate your gameIt’s irresistible to help a playtester figure it out, rather than sitting in agony as they become frustrated and hate your game You want to see the things they will tryYou want to see the things they will try Ask them what they are thinking as they fail, what they THOUGHT should happen (then change your game to make them right next time, fail to success…)Ask them what they are thinking as they fail, what they THOUGHT should happen (then change your game to make them right next time, fail to success…)

14 What is unclear? Find out what images, icons, text, missions, features, etc. are not clearFind out what images, icons, text, missions, features, etc. are not clear If they don’t use certain buttons, ask what they think would happen if they pressed them (based on the icons)If they don’t use certain buttons, ask what they think would happen if they pressed them (based on the icons) Be invisible as much as possible, but actively solicit feedback when they DON’T try things you need to be testedBe invisible as much as possible, but actively solicit feedback when they DON’T try things you need to be tested

15 They don’t care Never explain or justify your decisions to the playtesters. It’s instinctual when they criticize but you don’t need to convince them your choices were wise, you just need their honest feedbackNever explain or justify your decisions to the playtesters. It’s instinctual when they criticize but you don’t need to convince them your choices were wise, you just need their honest feedback The more you defend the less they attack, and you WANT the onslaught (joining in actually helps them speak out)The more you defend the less they attack, and you WANT the onslaught (joining in actually helps them speak out)

16 Target demographics Test the target thoroughlyTest the target thoroughly but also test outside to get things you hadn’t realized Example: Any user interface that can be understood by year olds will be understood by year olds. But the older testers provide great value in showing what is possibly “on the fence” for the younger testersExample: Any user interface that can be understood by year olds will be understood by year olds. But the older testers provide great value in showing what is possibly “on the fence” for the younger testers

17 Get statistics Not just what doesn’t work, but how many people did it not work forNot just what doesn’t work, but how many people did it not work for You can ignore problems that only strike a minimal percentage of testers and you MUST address problems that most of them hadYou can ignore problems that only strike a minimal percentage of testers and you MUST address problems that most of them had Breadth is more valuable than depth (more sessions with more people rather than longer sessions with less)Breadth is more valuable than depth (more sessions with more people rather than longer sessions with less)

18 Statistics in game Where possible, log important eventsWhere possible, log important events It’s useful to know where your players are struggling, how long certain tasks take, etc.It’s useful to know where your players are struggling, how long certain tasks take, etc.

19 Statistics in game Refer to Microsoft’s processes for a look at how detailed statistics, and filtering thereof, benefits trouble spotsRefer to Microsoft’s processes for a look at how detailed statistics, and filtering thereof, benefits trouble spots WIRED articleWIRED articleWIRED articleWIRED article MS playtest from tester perspectiveMS playtest from tester perspectiveMS playtest from tester perspectiveMS playtest from tester perspective GDC PresentationGDC PresentationGDC PresentationGDC Presentation

20 Kleenex testers You want lots of fresh testers “Kleenex testers” who have never played your gameYou want lots of fresh testers “Kleenex testers” who have never played your game Getting testers through the first five minutes of your game is the toughest partGetting testers through the first five minutes of your game is the toughest part Experts in your genre are less valuable since they know the territory and guess well when in doubt (can’t rely on them)Experts in your genre are less valuable since they know the territory and guess well when in doubt (can’t rely on them)

21 Recurring testers Kleenex testers show you where your game should improve for first-timersKleenex testers show you where your game should improve for first-timers Recurring testers are required to discover replayability and when your game tiresRecurring testers are required to discover replayability and when your game tires Crucial for longer game experiences, particularly for MMO’sCrucial for longer game experiences, particularly for MMO’s

22 Prepare questions ahead Do NOT improvise a post-play interviewDo NOT improvise a post-play interview Follow surprises and interestingly unique aspects of a playtester’s experienceFollow surprises and interestingly unique aspects of a playtester’s experience But have your crucial questions prepared in order to make sure they are includedBut have your crucial questions prepared in order to make sure they are included

23 Most important question to ask: “What are the three worst things about this experience?”


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