Welcome Gamers and Players,
today we’ll face an argument really important for the good outcome of your gamification project. It’s playtesting.
I’ve written previously about this topic, but I was focused on Roi calculation. Here, instead, I write about how to conduct playtesting, what’s the best way of playtesting a game for a kind of game and how collect and analyze playtesting results.
This topic is very wide and complex, so I’ll split it. Today we’ll focus on choosing a way to playtest your game, while in the next issue we’ll focus on conducting and collecting playtesting results.
Start with some general consideration: a playtest can be private, public or open. Those mean:
- private – a kind of “professional” playtesting. The game is “secreted”, and possibly a NDA (Non-Disclousure-Agreement) is signed. The playtester themselves can be employee in your organization or professional playtester. Feedback and discussion is reserved, kept inside company’s environment and usually prepared upon a template to get structured data and information.
- public – playtesters are gamers who want to try the game before anyone else. There can be a NDA or not, and usually playtesters are chosen amongst a pool of people showing interest in trying the game before. D&D Next Playtesting is a clear example of this strategies. There can be a feedback form to give structure to playtesting issue and feedback. Discussion about game can be private or public (but it can be difficult to avoid the buzz around a new game, created by playtester themselves. So, if you take this strategy, monitor this buzz and try to make advantage of that).
- open – playtesting is, in fact, the first step for your brand or viral campaign about your game. Anyone can participate it, try the game and give private or public feedback. All playtest materials are public. Obviously, you can create a great amount of buzz and discussion with this strategies, but it’s better to use this strategy when you are quite ready for go-to-market, and need only a large response from audience to fix minor details.
Any of the above strategies of playtesting have its own good [+] and bad [-] point.
- private – [+] professional playtester, which means deeper testing; a more structured feedback form; no risk for your brand if the game is quite bad; a very structured data for bug and (probably) ready-to-use analysis about how to solve it.
[-] cost and time amount that can be significant; a “job” kind of approach to the game, different from how the users will play it; (probably) a little pool of playtester compared to other strategies.
- public – [+] little or no cost for playtesting activities; opportunity to create branding enforcement; a wider audience of playtester more close to final users (probably, however, playtester in this strategies will be fan, so slightly different from your final users); a great number of potential playtester.
[-] you need to implement a playtest feedback form, or the unstructured data will quickly consume all your time in checking issues; the playtester is probably fan so they can be under o over-critical; you need at least some kind of brand reputation to attract wanna-be-playtester.
- open – [+] no cost for playtesting activities itself; chance to build a strong viral marketing campaign; opportunity to make coincident the last step in creation and the first in marketing, making the whole process quicker.
[-] you will need a very structured playtesting feedback form; also need a properly platform to collect and organize feedbacks; chance of getting a bad viral marketing or negative buzz; less of revenue (this obviously applies only if your game will be sold).
What way of playtesting best suit on your needs? As always, you have to choose your own playtest strategy accordingly with your game. Make your decision keeping in mind the [+] and [-] of any playtesting strategy. Also try to figure out if you can develop alternative or mixed playtest strategies (i.e. – an open playtest for a beta-demo of the product, then a public playtest for the best playtesters, driven as it is a private playtest).
Then, constantly monitor how playtest is going. Many designer write their game and then “close the box” until all feedback has arrived. I think that many designers want to know what the whole audience think of their game, to try fix all issues in a single moment, with a olistic perspective.
I disagree: if you’re keeping an open or public playtest there is nothing that reinforce engagement than showing you listen to feedback in real-time.
Also in private playtest, however, it’s better to fix issues by the way and testing them immediately rather than make a big upgrade that need to be tested all over again.