Game Design

Nurture Your Playtest Feedback, Ask Questions

During my latest playtest session, asking clarifying questions about how to potentially solve pain points in my game was just as valuable (if not more) than airing the issues.

I recently had my first playtest of the latest build of my game with three players. Not only was it the first playtest that I’ve had with this recent build, which includes mechanical and UI changes (all based on a prior feedback session), this was the first time playing the game with more than two players.

Don’t have that many friends, do you?

The feedback that I got from this playtest was essential. It confirmed that the parts of the game which I thought were sluggish, were indeed sluggish. Why go through a playtest when you know what the problems are, you might ask?

No, I didn’t ask

For one, I don’t want to trick myself into thinking that I know every flaw in my game.

For two, it’s good to see your game in action, mainly so you can have physical evidence to confirm your suspicions. (Sometimes, what you thought was an issue really isn’t a problem.)

For three, you can spitball ideas with people who play tabletop games and figure out what they think would be fun to see in a game.

So you basically get people to design your game for you? Genius!

Not necessarily. Well actually, yes—kinda. Everyone wrote feedback down during the game and then shared it at the end. The sentiments that stuck out for me the most were:

    It was difficult to get started and understand at the beginning.
    Toward the middle, it really hit its stride and became fun.
    The social deduction aspect is good, but difficult to work with from a strategic perspective.
    There isn’t a great way to thwart other players who are getting ahead. Partially because you don’t know that they’re getting ahead, and partially because there isn’t much you can do to stop or delay a player.
    There was no need to actually vote, players discussed which tokens they were going to buy, bought them, then placed them down.
    The idea of the Chaos Tracker was great, but the execution was a little anti-climatic. A player brought up the idea of making the penalty be something lasting that occurs when the last unresolved crisis is of a specific type. I like that idea!
  • Other things that I noticed during the game that weren’t vocalized by the players were:
    • Players had a difficult time moving from round to round. (They kept forgetting that to start a new round, you draw a new Crisis Card, so they just stared at the board for a while.) I had previously removed the Speaker role who’s job was to draw the Crisis, I think I’ll bring it back.
    • Players rarely wanted to try and veto tokens.
    • Players never tried to add a bunch of tokens to the vote in order to try and win their path over their opponent’s potential paths.
    • Players mostly hoarded money toward the middle and end.
    • In general, players were not in direct conflict with one another. I need to figure out how to make people vote against other’s interests and how to get people to veto more often.
    • Abilities were rarely used.

    Sounds like you’re game’s pretty broken!

    It is, but that’s what playtesting is for. This information was key, but what was even more helpful to me was when I asked what players would like to see or what they think could help fix that issue. It’s easy for me to say, “maybe you just start with more coins.” But when a player makes other suggestions like, “maybe you start with specific tokens” then you realize what’s truly missing from your game.

    What’s your point?

    It’s this: don’t feel like you have to solve everything yourself. Spitball ideas with your play testers during feedback. Doing so saves you way more time over thinking of a few ways that could potentially work and then A/B testing them over and over again.

    I’d like to sincerely thank everyone who has play tested the game so far. I’m lucky to know these people. You know who you are!

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