Have you ever built something and sent it out into the world for public consumption? Did you wonder why people didn’t exactly have the response you thought they would have? They didn’t respond the way you thought because they are not you. People perceive what they experience differently depending on their skills, knowledge and passion. While it is impossible to cater to every personality you can get a fairly good glimpse of this picture during your development phases. In the end you will likely have buffed away issues that would have been common around the board.
So with Colorflys, unlike my prior projects, I planned to have playtesting sessions very frequently. I will search out individuals after I complete each of my major milestones that incorporate major functionality into the game. This way I will immediately see what people are having trouble with and what they like/dislike about the project. If all goes well, by the time I ship the product I will have made a better game since I adjusted it from what people have already perceived of it. It may not be enough to send you to the million download mark, but any improvement is a good one.
It’s not enough to have playtesting sessions while watching the participant. You must take notes, ask solid questions that revolve around your goals for the session, and really listen — all with an open mind. It will be frustrating to see people stumbling on things you could have swore were easy, or with things you thought were hard, but, again, these people are not you. Don’t ignore reoccurring issues.
Beginning the Session
Before you begin your playtesting sessions, pin down exactly what you want out of the session.
For example, I recently completed my initial build for my pathing/movement routine and my main gameplay component. For this playtest I had two major questions that I wanted to answer with each participant.
1. How challenging was it for the player to execute the main gameplay component?
2. If there was a noticeable problem, what did the player think would make the task easier?
You should always add a final question, ‘Did you leave the player wanting more?’ If you can talk about where you’re project is going after the session, and feel a good vibe, then I say you’re on the right path.
I select participants by how often they play games. Some of them had very little gaming experience, while others were more hardcore.
At this point of the game I don’t want this to be hard for any player. Overall, the results showed that it was not challenging to execute the main gameplay component, which was exactly what I wanted. But, there was one participant that has played a game similar to this. This is a case of old habits die hard. They were used to committing this action a certain way and expected it to be exactly the same. My takeaway is that I will incorporate a way of handling users that fit into this category because, in the end, it was not an unreasonable expectation.
The Next Session
My next playtest session will be conducted with a new batch of faces (5 – 10 people) after the level/progression system is incorporated. My goal is to get a feel for how challenging the actual game will be for players.