Sunday, October 10, 2010

RPG: Playtesting so I want to keep writing

Hey, it's 10/10/10 today. That's worth commenting on!

Over the last couple of months, during spare-time, I've been writing little bits of Left Coast (my game about slightly crazy science fiction authors in 1960s California). The writing's been going fine, but I've also been thinking about what the next stage of playtesting will be.

Playtesting, for those who don't know it, is like redrafting a script or an essay but for games. You write a draft of a game, play it with some friends, and then figure out whether the game created the sort of fun you wanted it to create. If not, change some rules, change your approach, strip the game back and start again until you get it delivering the consistent fun you want.

It's a process I enjoy but something's been bugging me about it recently; this quote from Ron Edwards helped me articulate what I think the first step in my playtesting process needs to be:

My current thinking is that in earliest playtesting, people should be participating "for love," with less emphasis on breaking or even evaluating mechanics. I find feedback of this kind to be disruptive and demoralizing, including oh-so-helpful advice about how to write anything.
My concern at this stage is best served by addressing Color, i.e. the sort of imagery and flashy-stuff that characterizes the game (which may or may not include a specific setting and/or fixed characters); and Reward, i.e., whatever it is that I as the designer want to be the point and most fun about the system.
I've found out the hard way that including people not committed to these things, at this stage, can stop a project in its tracks.

So, less emphasis on mechanics and getting the rules 'right'; more emphasis on fun, being inspired to continue writing, brainstorming what the game could be.

This ties into my previous post, On Giving Feedback; again it's a quote from the Forge, which I'm finding to be a valuable resource for thinking about how to lead a productive creative life:

What I need is feedback that puts energy into my efforts. What I need is feedback that helps me see the full elephant, to understand the meaning of the whole beast that has yet only a crude shape under my mortal hands.
I am already scrutinous and critical enough of my creative efforts. What I need is feedback that strips away the bullshit that's holding me back, empowers and armors me against the certain doubts and contrary notions of others, and gives me energy and momentum.


Simon said...


I agree, I guess. It's interesting. I suppose I'm not a very good contributor in a lot of ways, because I show my love by telling people how to do it better (i.e. my way). I'm funny that way.

I think the way we playtested Morgue's thing was productive, but then it was in a pretty raw state, probably more raw than you'd usually playtest.

Stephanie said...

Heya, this is completely unrelated to this post, but there's a seminar on how to deal with workplace bullying at the Central Library this Wednesday. Research option?


Morgan said...

Simon: yeah, it was definitely raw, but to me it was ready for playtest because I felt STUCK.

Which might be Steve's point?

I'm not stuck now. Feels good and full of potential. That's direct result of you guys at the playtest coalface. All sounds like it's doing like it should be doing, to me...

Steve Hickey said...

Stephanie, thanks for that! I was away and missed the talk but I might try and get the notes.

Steve Hickey said...

Morgue, I found the playtest for your game interesting because I started more in the 'give encouragement' camp, and moved into the 'assess and suggest' camp as the playtest went on.

I'm really pleased that our session gave you stuff to work on.

Simon, I think you're a great contributor. There's a place for the 'tell people how you'd do' as well as the 'encourage people to discover what they want to do'. Actually, I've appreciated how we've been able to talk about your style of giving feedback; I think it's meant that I've been able to take on board and use your feedback more, because now I know the intentions you have when you're giving it.