Developing a game is a complex creative endeavor which can take months or years. As such, game development should be an iterative process; you should add features and test them before adding other features, this way, you will slowly build your game from the ground up and will have a playable product that can be released. During this process, your game should be constantly playtested, both by your team and by people from outside of your team. This is because outsiders are able to suggest features that you or your team may not think of, also, playtesters can provide insight into various demographics your team might target its marketing effort towards.
In the beginning stages of your development cycle you need to playtest in order to make sure that your game is fun and engaging. This will ensure that your game is going in the right direction. If your game isn’t fun, you may need to restart your development process or develop an entirely new type of game. Consider focus testing, where you have people from specific markets or demographics test your game. Post-production is not the best time to determine which markets your game would be best suited for.
Towards the middle of the development process, you can probably see your game coming to life at this point. Once you’ve got a solid structure and a playable prototype with a good deal of content, make sure that you thoroughly test for bugs to prevent a negative gaming experience. Although bugs and glitches are present in every game, you must make sure to eliminate bugs that detract from the core gameplay experience. Additionally, focus on balance.
The final part of your testing phase should be usability testing. By this time, most of the game’s bugs should have been resolved and your game should be well balanced in terms of playability. In this stage of the development process, the game should not need a complex rulebook or tutorial in order to get started. The basics of your game should be easy to pick up by any player and within a couple of minutes, your player should be able to successfully use every element of your game’s interface. If your players are unable to pick up the basics of the game in a timely manner, you may need to reassess how user friendly your game is. If you need to go back in your game in order to make it more user friendly, you may also consider going back to focus testing in order to see your targeted demographic has any new opinions regarding your game.
Lastly, remember that like the design process, the playtesting process is iterative. For example, if you decide to add a new feature late in production, it may take going back to other testing stages, such as quality assurance, to ensure that the new feature works well. You should be prepared to playtest and adjust your game on any level at any time.
Actionable Takeaways: Playtesting is important. Don’t skimp on it. Leverage focus testing, usability testing, and balance testing to make your game as polished as possible. If you decide to add new features later on, make sure to adequately get testing done to ensure that the new features are polished. Being able to adapt to the input of your userbase will allow you to release the best product possible.
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Thank you so much for reading my article! I’m Daniel Doan, the Co-Founder of Black Shell Media. We're a publishing and marketing firm dedicated to helping indie developers succeed.