How to Have a Successful Playtest

Posted by Eric Kearney on Feb 25th 2018

How to Have a Successful Playtest

You’ve created a game, now time have to mold it into something beautiful. How? Playtesting. Playtesting is where game math, rules and player interaction all come together in a blender. You have to filter that mixture to extract the key takeaways to improve the game. BARD Games is here to help do that.

Five Reminders When Playtesting Your Game

We’ve put together a list to help get playtester to test your game and help find those nuggets from the playtest. Enjoy!

1. Work On Your Pitch

You have to get players to...well, play! Without finished art or components the game may not have silent curb appeal, but it does have audio curb! Pitching your game to players and buyers is key, so to get started think about how to explain it in under a minute.

  1. One Liners - Think about the headline for your game. “Extra, extra read all aboutyour game here!” The goal is to catch someone's interest. Once they sit down, the hard work is over.
  2. Game Types - Learn what type of game you’ve created. Is it a crunchy strategy war minis game? Or is it a light family set collection card game? Players may only buy certain types, but they will normally test all kinds.
  3. Intended Audience - Is the game for kids, adults, heavy gamers? Players in these categories have different expectations so it is good to know your market, and getting testers in the right state of mind.

2. Set the Expectation For Your Players

Helping players understand the current state of the game helps them offer appropriate feedback. If they understand the current state of the game and you’re testing objective then they’re in the right mindset to test.

Game States
  1. Rough Prototype - It’s fine if your game is using placeholder components and/or art and doesn’t have final rules. Players knowing this going in are lenient and will offer appropriate advice to help enhance the game.
  2. Almost Done - The rules are 80 - 90%? Great job! Now it's time to really hone the experience for players. In this state players can help with theme ideas or offer insight if the emotions and speed don’t seem to carry through the game.
  3. Pre-Press - Before making the decision to produce multiple copies for sale you want to get all the last minute changes in. This kind of playtesting is great to gauge reaction to the game’s presentation. Afterall, you won’t be there to sell it in the game store.
  1. Whole Game - This will also get them to think about how the speed of the game feels throughout the whole game.
  2. Specific Scenario - Playing only parts of the game or a part multiple times will affect players strategies.
  3. Blind Playtesting - Crucial for working out communicating the game through rulebooks. Be sure to still watch players to see how they are getting along and to answer questions.

3. Have Player References Handy

During the game players will have questions. Some of which can be solved with player references. Start with the Basics.

  1. What can I do on my turn? - Probably the thing that needs the most reinforcement throughout the game so make it easy.
  2. How do I win? - Goals of the game influence players strategies so a quick note about what they need to do can keep players from getting confused throughout the game.
  3. Other FAQs - Your game will probably have some other things that players should remember, especially after a couple playtests. Share these with players to keep the game moving.

4. Capture Feedback

Lots of things happen during a playtest and it is all useful, so make sure to capture it.

  1. Notebook and Pen - Nothing wrong with the basics. We like a quad ruled notebooks and erasable pens for quick pictures. Never know what kind of notes you’ll need to take.
  2. Voice Recorder - Depending on how loud the play area is this may be a great solution to catch all the questions and ideas that come out of play.
  3. Video Recorder - Picking up on player interaction and behavior helps you understand the emotions of the players and can yield some stellar marketing footage.

5. Have a Retrospective With Your Players

Now that the playtest is over it's time to get some info from players.

  1. Initial Reactions - What did they like and not like. Now you know where to focus for improvements.
  2. Objective Achieved? - Even if it wasn’t no play test is a waste. Always look to solve existing and potential problems with the game.
  3. Ideas - What could the game be missing? Getting fresh insight may generate some new ideas. Take this feedback and explore them.
  4. Three Questions - Every playtester should answer the following questions as a benchmark for progress.
    1. Would you play again?
    2. Would you buy this game?
    3. Would you recommend this game?
  5. Contact Info - Just like creating a game, you’re creating a community. Be sure to get the names and emails of players to give them credit for helping, and to keep in touch about your game and others.

Wrap Up

Playtesting can be a rewarding experience. Remember to have fun and always look for those nuggets. You've found the diamond by making the game. Now it’s time to cut and polish it. Good luck with your game. I hope we get to see it soon!

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