Testing with real users is important, says David Braben, head of Kinectimals
studio Frontier Developments in a new Gamasutra feature
, because "it's often the tiny things that put someone off."
"In the game business, we're very used to writing games for ourselves," Braben says. "But as soon as your audience includes people who aren't you, you absolutely have to see how they react to it."
"One of the tragedies is when you've written a game that you are really proud of and then you roll it out and hear from a friend or relation that they got stuck right near the beginning. It's often the tiny things that put someone off," says Braben, who used testing extensively on Kinectimals
to make sure the game would perform for children in all territories.
But doesn't focus testing have a bad reputation? Doesn't it dilute the creative soul of a game? "Drop the word 'focus', just call it 'testing', because then you begin to look like an idiot for not doing it," says Braben.
"Focus is a fancy word put in front of the word testing to validate it. If you don't test or validate ideas with the people you think will like your game then you are missing a trick because catching problems early is really important."
One of Frontier's more unexpected findings came during the development of Kinectimals
when the focus group sessions highlighted that American children throw differently from British kids thanks -- presumably -- to the popularity of baseball in the U.S. and cricket in the UK.
"Because the States is such a big country, you find there are different opinions in different parts of it, and similarly in Europe -- a focus test in London might not be valid in Germany, where there are different sensibilities," he says.
The full feature, which looks at the angle by talking to professionals who specialize in testing and other developers, is live now on Gamasutra