One of the areas of game design I’ve recently and seriously been trying to improve, is playtesting. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how playtesting is hard. Since then, I’ve been working my way through Jesse Schell’s book, The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses. It’s given me not only a drive to be better at playtesting, but also a number of different behaviors to look for while playtesting my games.
Last night, I set up a short playtest session (in a sneaky way, right before our semi-regular RPG campaign). It was my first closed playtest for this particular game – and it was spectacular!
Each player was given a set of rules and the game. I sat on the side of the room, with a clipboard ready to write. The game is a solo puzzle game, so I decided most of my observations would be focused on what the playtesters were saying, as well as how they were playing the game.
On one side of my notes, I would write the questions they had or misunderstandings in the rules. On the other side, I would write down if they helped other players, what seemed intuitive to the game, and any observations of flow or enjoyable game play.
Notes and Realizations
It started slowly, but soon I was struggling to keep up with my notes and how the playtesters were responding. They had quite a few questions, and I found myself running out of space. Many of the questions the playtesters had were answered in the rules. My observations and notes were invaluable to helping me understand what confused my players, and what they felt was intuitive.
For a few minutes in the middle of the playtest, I was pretty down on myself. My playtesters were missing things. They were playing the game and making mistakes on a few small rules.
But then I realized something. When I play games, I get rules wrong all the time! This realization, that it’s okay if a player messes up a rule – it set me free. The players were playing my game! They were having fun!
The playtest ended after fifteen minutes, and I had over a full page of notes. Over the next few days, I am hoping to get my rules updated. There is an Extra Life event happening soon that a friend of mine organizes every year, and I want to see if I can have another impromptu playtest during some open gaming at that event. Depending on how long this sprint goes, I might even ask for playtesters before the end of the year through the newsletter!
It was my most successful playtest session yet. I’m greatly encouraged by what’s coming next!