Google game developer advocate Chris Pruett got his start in the industry writing games for Nintendo's Game Boy Advance. His studio would conduct playtesting by having kids come in and play special GBAs hooked up to VCRs, which recorded footage that revealed bugs and problems with game design.
Having now developed a game for Google's Android mobile operating system on his own, he found that playtesting isn't so simple anymore, Pruett said in a newly-published Gamasutra feature
With limited time and resources, Pruett had to find new ways to playtest his games, and gather player metrics. Finding people to test the game, Replica Island
, as well as a way to somehow track or record gameplay would be a challenge.
"As I reached feature completeness for Replica Island
, I realized that I really had no way to guarantee that it was any fun," said Pruett. "The game had been developed in a vacuum, and I needed to get more eyes on it before I could feel confident releasing it."
After a failed attempt to have playtesters fill out short surveys (less than 1 percent even bothered filling them out), Pruett began to turn to metrics. Like major studios, Pruett decided to utilize heat maps to show where testers were having the most difficulty when playing the side-scrolling 2D game. But his methods were cheap.
"Maybe, I thought, I could log a few important events, send them to a server, and get results from players that way," Pruett said. "My goal was to try to understand as much as possible about my players while keeping the system as simple as possible."
In the full Gamasutra feature
, Pruett explains how he wrote out the basic event logging system, how he made Replica Island
's heat maps and how "metrics were good at finding problematic level layouts, but were particularly ineffective at identifying design failures related to rule communication."