Friday, December 09, 2011

Should you tell the people playtesting your game what you're looking for (before you start playing)?

@drbunnyhops said (in my previous post) she was thinking about having some questions for people to consider while they play - but she wondered if that'd be too distracting.

I don't have enough experience with this to know for sure. The act of playtesting is almost always a sign that you're not sure how the game will play or if it works yet. It's pretty useful to admit that to everyone who's playing, right up front. Given that, it probably can't hurt to focus your playtesters' minds - perhaps by telling them about a couple of areas you’re interested in or that you think are weak

But there's another school of thought, which Ben Lehman articulated in his post: 'Playtesting: Stop

Decide what you need playtested. Think small. Start with the absolute bare minimum rules your game needs to achieve its goals. Identify the top 1-3 things you need tested. Ignore everything else. Create scenarios that will allow playtesters to focus and test these top priorities.  
Design your scenarios so what you’re testing isn’t obvious to the playtesters. Your scenario might be, “create a character” but what you’re specifically testing is “how long does it take”, “is stat allocation frustrating”, “does character creation give the GM enough information to design an adventure.” Don’t tell your playtesters what you are actually playtesting.  
Take caution that your scenario doesn’t influence your playtesters actions. Don’t ask leading questions or make leading statements. If you want to test “how long does this take”, in your scenario, don’t say “character creation is super fast”. Don’t influence!


Mashugenah said...

Given that, it probably can't hurt to focus your playtesters' minds - perhaps by telling them about a couple of areas you’re interested in or that you think are weak

I think the best bit of advice I've gotten about playtesting was not to under-sell the game in advance. :)

That was for a disastrous Deadlands playtest, where you said that me commenting on the potential weaknesses of some aspects of the game in advance had interfered with giving it a fair playtest or words to that effect.

I think there are two play-testing modes:
1. Playtesting as writing
2. Playtesting as double-checking

And those two things have very different processes and desired outcomes. I playtested Horror Victorianorum 3 times because I couldn't quite think my way through writing the game, and so by the FN run the players had done it all for me, and by the KapCon run, it was a well-oiled machine (that being run 5!)

When I ran the play-test for The Salt Bond, I'd mapped out everything sufficiently that it ran like I expected and the play-test feedback was all about transcending the "doesn't suck" threshold and aiming for repeating on my "best single session" win from the previous year.

Karen said...

With tomorrow's White Rabbit run, I was originally imagining I'd be "playtesting as writing", but now have characters on a par with my Alaska ones I think. I'm no longer sure what my questions are... Probably, will it suck? Will I be able to keep track of 9 players? Will it matter if i don't?

The plot will be totaly reliant on players to drive it, which I will certainly get with this group, but maybe can't depend on at con. Maybe I need to ask what i can do to engage the players if the hints and suggestions on their character-sheets are not sufficient.

Karen said...

Also, is my adaptation of Marcus's system workable and have I got the numbers right? Do the mechanics enhance the game as I expect, or are they a distraction?

Will it end up being horror or just emo and unpleasant. Was softening the suicide of a crucial NPC into a heart attack cowardice or wisdom? Why aren't I in bed yet?

Karen said...

And Mash... I always undersell my games, because sometimes I suck!

Steve Hickey said...

New rule? ...

... "When presenting your game to playtesters (for them to double-check), it's OK to notify them in advance about areas you're especially interested in their comments on ... but it's not OK to tell them you think your game sucks because of those area."

Karen said...

Mash, I think this is a good rule for you. Your games don't suck :)