If there were a big book of rules of game development, play testing would be in the top 3. Play testing is the act of allowing others not apart of the development team to play your in order to find the flaws or miscommunication. This means doing things that players would do. Jumping on and off things, pressing buttons, finding glitches and bugs, and finding strategies that will always work no matter the situation. Essentially breaking your game. People outside of the development team are needed because they will play the game in ways never conceived, and all the developers can do is stand back and take notes.
The Value of Play Testing
Feedback from players is probably one of the best criticisms you could receive about your game. This feedback will tell you about aspects that might be unclear to the players. Maybe something is too hard and needs to be toned down for that specific target audience. There also could be the presence of a game-breaking event that prevents progression in your game. All these and more can be found just from watching the player.
One rule I will mention and this is extremely important, never tell the player anything unless they ask. Start up the game and then go completely silent until they ask a question. If you tell them where everything is that damper’s not only their experience towards the game but also can lead to misleading play testing results. Just pay attention to any sounds, or actions and when the player did these sounds or actions in relation to your game.
The Right Testers
Speaking of misleading information let’s talk about who should and shouldn’t play test your game. The two who shouldn’t is parents and friends, especially ones that are really supportive. This may lead to bias opinions and they may hold back just to not upset you. They will tell you how rad the game is but internally hate it. They will also be the ones who will look at you for guidance the most, trying to see your facial expression on if they are doing it right.
People who you want to play test are other developers, students/professors, non-gamers, and the target audience. These testers may not know you or your personality and will give a more realistic criticism good and bad. They aren’t as much worried how you feel but rather how the game will play.
The Right Test
Like the rest of game development play testing comes in different sizes and styles. There is the prototype play test. This play test will most likely be the first test of the game. This doesn’t need any art assets just mechanics of the game.
The goal of this play test is to see if the game has an engagement level and if the idea works enough to further development.
The beta is the play test where all the rules are in the game and the game holds some art to better represent the games idea. The goal of this play test is to see if everything is clear and understandable.
Before release it’s good to do a last check on the game to make sure everything still runs when it’s close to shipping. Pre-gold testing doesn’t give as valuable as an information about the earlier testings but in this the games bugs shine. You can see where the game breaks, what strategies prevail.
Sometimes your art is great and the game plays super smooth but it’s the levels that are off. Maybe the art blends the character in the back or maybe a level is just way too easy. This play test specializes in finding what levels work for the overall tone of the game and what doesn’t.
The last but definitely not least play testing type is the aesthetics test. In this test testers will try to determine if the art direction, music, color choices and sound create a core tone of the game. Tester will look to see what communicates vividly and what needs to be reworked.
Tips for Successful Play Testing
Tip #1- When having people play test your game give them space in order for them not to feel pressured. Also passing out a questionnaire could be better than them talking to a real person. They could feel more comfortable venting their reactions to a paper than an intimidating game developer.
Tip #2- If you happen to want your family and friends to test your game don’t tell them it’s yours. Tell them it’s a friend’s game and you don’t know how to feel about it and you want a second opinion. As stated above friends and family are bias, this method prevents or at the very least tries to prevent bias.
Tip #3- When deciding to play test have a play testing goal. Of course you could just conduct an entire game play test but creating small playable chunks can allow for intense detail and exact locations of things that went wrong vs. the entire game where the information could get lost.
Tip #4- Play testing the game or idea as soon as possible, and as fast as possible, being able to get the information about the game quick can help you drastically and also save time.
Tip #5- When receiving feedback remember that some players may say something but mean another. They may say they want more enemies to kill but in reality that could mean their gun is too overpowered. Listen twice in different perspectives.
Play testing is one of the biggest parts in game development. Some may fear it because it rips apart the game they have been working on and could expose things the developers would have never guessed. Picking the correct play testing style to focus of could give an enormous amount of information. Games that didn’t go through some form of play testing can bee easily spotted out and would have probably turned out a lot better I they partaken in the test. Put your game through the tests of play and see where it stands for improvement. But for now have an amazing week!
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