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21 Apr 2014

Questions to Ask Your Playtesters

Do you need to hire playtesters to test and improve your indie game? If you do, then do not fear as we have discussed this topic in-depth. It’s an important topic – especially since you depend on the average player to aid you in improving your indie game and making it the best it can be. I was reminded of the importance of this during my interview with Ryan Laukat on last week’s Game Academy Radio as Laukat relies on playtesters so much so that it seems to have become mandatory the more games he releases.

If this is your first rodeo though, what can you do to ensure you are asking your playtesters the proper questions that will ultimately improve your indie game better than ever? You should be able to think of appropriate questions yourself, yet if you want a bit of a road map (or should I say, questions map) you can follow to ensure you are asking your playtesters the proper questions, keep reading. Below you will find appropriate questions to ask your playtesters as you strive to help them to help you to improve your indie game.


‘How much time do you think has passed?’

Have you ever played a game that seemed to last far longer than you actually played it? These games are not fun, are they? On the other hand, have you ever played a game that seemed to just suck the time away? You had fun with these games, didn’t you? The best games are ‘time sucks,’ and if players find your game to be a ‘time suck,’ then you are off to a great start.

Ask them the question above. It’s a different ways of asking players if they had fun, yet by asking them how much time they believed they were playing, this will provide them with a more accurate answer than merely asking them, “did you have fun?” Record how much time the players were playing your game, and if they feel as if the game flew by, again, you’re on the right track.

If they feel as if time passed much more slowly than it actually did? Your indie game needs to be tweaked. Perhaps a part of the game was frustrating or awkward. Figure it out, but know this: if time didn’t speed by the player when they were playing your game, you have some problems to fix.


Would you buy this game for a friend? Why or why not?’

Suppose a playtester is testing your platformer, yet they play more RPGs than platformers. They don’t hate platformers, they just don’t care for them that much. As a result, it doesn’t matter how awesome your platformer actually is – the playtester probably would probably never buy your indie game. Thus, if you ask them the obvious question of, ‘would you buy this game?’ they are probably going to say no.

How can you get a more accurate representation of whether or not your playtesters actually enjoyed the game? Ask them if they would consider buying the game for a friend. Chances are they know of at least one friend that enjoys your indie game’s genre, and if they do (and your indie game is good), they are probably going to answer your question with a resounding ‘yes.’

If playtesters see your indie game as ‘gift worthy,’ this is great news. It means they see quality in your indie game, and if some of them say ‘no,’ they are going to be able to explain why to you in the second part of the question. It’s another solid way to gauge how ready for prime time your indie game currently is.


‘Walk me through the strategy of play’

This question is invaluable. By instructing your players to tell you exactly how they went from point A to point B, C, ZZ, and beyond, you can identify their strategy of play. This allows you to not only see the strategies of each playtester (a valuable insight to have when improving your indie game), but it also allows you to discover any bumps in the road they may have – thus allowing you to improve your indie game even further.


‘Name a game you have played that is similar to this one’

Why does this question matter? Because you can borrow a little bit of inspiration from the games that are being named by your playtesters. You can study some of the things those games did correctly and what they failed at, thus allowing you to improve your game even further. It’s good data to have, and will improve your game better than ever before.


Do you have any questions that you ask your playtesters that should be added to this list? Need advice on asking questions for your playtesters? Let us know in the comments below!

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