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Don't waste your playtesters! They don't grow on trees, you know.

Hernan Smicht, Blogger

September 25, 2023

3 Min Read

Something I often observe at conventions is a player finishing a colleague's game, giving a thumbs-up, receiving one in return, and then the player leaves. What a missed opportunity for valuable feedback! DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN!!!

Playtesting a game

I typically use conventions to playtest my games. At events like EVA 2023 (Exposición Argentina de Videojuegos / Argentine Video Game Exhibition), where admission is free, both players and developers share the same space, and I love it.

I've developed a list of questions over time, which I've iterated for various games. It's not an extensive list, just the ones I consider most important. I shared it with some colleagues, and they found it quite useful. So, why not share this experience with more colleagues?

This game easily captivates players (they play several minutes at every sit down), so I ended up playtesting with about 20 people per day (from 14:00 to 20:00). What I typically do is approach random people and say, 'Here, play this game; it's about killing people' (not entirely true, but close enough). They usually respond with, 'Sure!'. Then, I stand behind them like a creep, taking notes on the back of the questionnaire if something interesting happens.

When the player finishes playing, I read the questionnaire for them and take notes of their answers. (I usually print a page with 4 repeated lists of questions, to get like 100 copies).

The questions

  1. How much fun was the game for you? Rate it from 1 to 5.

    1. Here, I gauge how much people enjoyed the game.

    2. Side note: A colleague mentioned they use even numbers (1 to 6) to determine if scores tend toward the lower or higher end (if they say 3 in a range of 1 to 5, it's more middle ground and less effective).

  2. (If they rate below 5) What was missing from the game to make it a 5?

    1. This question encourages discussion, and participants often bring up interesting points.

  3. So...you saw a game with a car that shoots things. Did you expect something you didn't find in the game?

    1. I want to see if the player's expectations based on the main menu image (which is the capsule image of the game) match the game's content and more.

    2. I get new things to add, but usually, if everything went fine, they say no.

  4. Was it too easy or too difficult?

    1. This is a reality check about difficulty and player expectations.

  5. This question is specific to the game: What are your thoughts on the car's driving?

    1. Customize this question to address the most important aspect of your game.

  6. Lastly I say: if this were YOUR game, what would you add or change?

    1. This question often reveals creative and helpful suggestions. For example, someone wanted a boss at the end of the tutorial. Sure!

I also include a header with less critical information, like how far they progressed, whether they used a keyboard or controller, and their prior experience with shooter or car games, among other things.

I was indeed playtesting this game, just in case you were curious...

The best vehicle combat game ever made, follow us here!

Conclusion

After that, I give them a card, ask them to wishlist the game, and express a huge “THANK YOU, YOU HELPED US A LOT!”. And I mean it because they've truly been a tremendous help.

You can add more questions, but instead of doing that, delve deeper into their answers, and let them explore further. You'll be amazed at the valuable insights you can gain!

This questionnaire has been tremendously helpful to me, and I hope it will be for you too.

So, don't waste your playtesters! They don't grow on trees, you know.

 Ask for input, but focus on the IMPORTANT input! Let the players take flight, and you can soar with them.

Happy playtesting everyone!

Other featured articles from Hernán Smicht:

Hernán Smicht - Game Designer

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