By Mary Jo Reutter, Producer/Designer, You-Betcha Interactive
This can be the most fun part of game development and the most surprising as well. Once you have a great game, you'll need to see if others think it's great too.
"It's not you, it's me."
One of the most important things to do in preparation for a play test is to make sure you're in the right mindset. It's best to be as objective and open-minded as possible. Don't defend – just fix what's not working, and fine-tune until the game plays as smoothly as possible.
Play Test Tips
• Test with many different groups of people
• Test with groups that include differing numbers of players (if you have a 2 to 4 player game, test with 2 players, 3 players and 4 players)
• Test more than once
• Make notes and date them, and include:
– Duration of games
– How many players
– Rules to be added or removed to make play most easily understood
– If you've tweaked a rule, make a note next to the date for reference
• Beware of testing with close friends or family – While great for initial tests, it's dangerous to rely on people who might not want to hurt feelings or give criticism – It's more difficult to see past any personal bias or familiarity you might have with family (in fact, most people are usually unaware of these biases)
During Play Testing
• Play some established games before testing your new game with your test group to get a "read" on them • Resist the urge to intervene
• Watch closely for the unexpected – this can be where gems are hidden • Play several games where you are one of the players, and several where you are strictly an observer (and again, resist the urge to intervene)
• After playing, ask the players to describe the game to you as if you had never played
• Test written rules separately
– It's good to know whether there's a problem with the game itself, or if the rules have not been explained properly – Have a professional proof read your rules
– It's sometimes helpful to rewrite the rules from scratch a second time. This can often reveal to you where there might be ambiguities. Then you can compare and combine versions. And be sure to test again.
Enjoy the surprises, and have fun!