More players than ever before have access to VR, increasing the demand to create great VR experiences. Feedback from outside testers is essential to improve VR games, and there are various ways to ensure successful playtesting sessions:
1. Get “Kleenex” testers
The concept of “Kleenex” testing isn’t new in game development, but it’s especially important when it comes to VR. To support and sustain the growth of VR, experiences need to be as compelling and intuitive as possible. “Kleenex” testers, meaning those who have never used VR before, provide fresh, untapped insights into your game’s mechanics, first impression, and feel. Be sure to include some first-time VR users to diversify your feedback.
2. Consider the range of previous VR experiences
As VR hardware becomes more accessible to consumers, it’s a challenge to find testers who are completely new to VR. Consider the range of VR platforms available--from mall kiosk experiences, to mobile VR, to high-end headsets. Many people have had some experience with VR, and these experiences will shape their expectations for your game. Players who have had bad VR experiences, perhaps from motion sickness or an uncomfortable headset, already enter your experience with preconceived concerns. Similarly, players who have had awesome VR experiences also have expectations to be met. Get to know the "VR mindsets" of your testers. Include a range of testers with varying degrees of experience in VR to get the most comprehensive feedback.
3. Introduce the equipment
A tester's lack of basic VR hardware knowledge should not be allowed to significantly influence your playtesting session. The first step should be to introduce your testers to the equipment and basic controls. It’s a lot easier to take a few minutes and explain how to adjust the headset and use the controller at the start than to troubleshoot during the session. Even if a tester has prior VR experience, it’s best to provide everyone with the same basic equipment information.
4. Have multiple testing facilitators
When a tester is playing through your VR game, what should you do? Placing facilitators across multiple roles ensures all feedback is recorded and the session runs as efficiently as possible. Ideally, at least one person should be in each of the following roles:
- Virtual Eyes: watch what the player’s seeing in the headset. Where’s the player looking? Are the interactions smooth? How does the environment look? Are essential elements in the player’s field of view (FOV)?
- Real Eyes: watch the player’s actual movements. Is the player uncomfortable or fatigued? Are there any awkward hand or head movements? Is there excessive reaching or crouching?
- Technical Eyes: watch for technical difficulties. Is the equipment functioning properly? Is the headset too loose or too tight? Are there any tangled wires or other potentially hazardous obstacles?
5. Limit Assistance
VR is immersive and can be an isolating experience for some, especially first-time users. However, as tempting as it is to guide players and encourage comfort in VR, it can create a situation that breaks the immersion and places the value of the experience on the quality of the facilitator assistance instead of on the experience itself. You want to see how the player handles the gameplay on their own as much as possible, even if they struggle. Instead, have your testers talk through their playtesting thoughts--including any impressions, issues, surprises, etc.--throughout the experience. This narration can help ease tester anxieties and also provide you with immediate feedback. Make it a priority to solely observe and record during testing, and reserve assistance for mandatory situations.
While in-person VR playtesting sessions may sometimes not be an option, these methods can also be applied to virtually. Ideally, these sessions would happen over a video conferencing call, with testers having their camera set up so that their physical movements can be observed. Meanwhile, testers should also stream their in-game headset view, which is a process that can vary depending on the hardware.