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1 Oct 2014

Keep Playtesting Simple

Playtesting: it can be a difficult pill to swallow. Nobody enjoys having to ask others to critique their creations – especially if you don’t feel confident that most people are going to enjoy it. Even so, getting feedback on your indie game is all part of the profession, and it’s crucial that you have the right attitude going into the playtesting phase.

Hobby Game Dev wrote an excellent piece nearly a year ago that covers playtesting and how to stay away from being defensive. It’s one of the most sensible approaches that I’ve ever seen to playtesting, and it’s mandatory reading for all indie developers (in my opinion). Below are a few things that stood out to me.

Leave your ego at the door

“Feedback is only about the thing made, not us as people.” Says author Chris DeLeon. How sensible is that? Of course, he’s right. Yet far too often, when someone critiques one of our creations negatively, we take it personally.

And you can’t blame yourself, either. After all, you developed the game, and in our minds, a complaint about something we created is a complaint about our skills as an artist. But you’re not going to get everything right in your first draft. It’s impossible, and if you ever think that your first draft is perfect in anything, you’re approaching the creation process the wrong way.

Everything can be improved, and your playtesters are there to make certain that you have enough information to create a road map to improve your indie game that’s better than its current state.

So lose the ego. Don’t take criticism against your indie game so personally. Besides, by asking playtesters to test your indie game, you’ve already admitted to yourself that it isn’t perfect (and it’s not, nor will it ever be). That’s okay. Let the playtesters do their job (which is to help you!).

They’re there to help – so listen

And it’s as simple as that: your playtesters are there for one reason: to help. They’re not there to insult your indie game or even insult you as a developer (and they’re certainly not there to insult you personally, so again – leave your ego at the door). They want to help, so listen to their feedback and take it seriously (no matter how ridiculous their feedback may seem).

But listening is only part of it. You also have to ask them the right questions about their experience. Reference one of our past posts that features tips for using playtesters for your indie game to get a better understanding. At the end of the day though, you need to find the why to everything:

  • Why did your playtesters have problems with a certain level?
  • Why did they get stuck on one particular puzzle?
  • Why did they get bored at Level 8?
  • And so on.

The answer you need to find is simple: how can you fix the answers to these questions?

Last simple tip: find yourself apologizing for different things in your indie game?

Then you need to fix those ‘apologies.’ Moreover, if you find yourself scoffing at a few requests for improvement and find yourself saying, “that’s just the way it is,” then you’re ignoring a problem that needs to be fixed. So fix it – that’s just sensible playtesting.

Source: Hobby Game Dev

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