home | et44 - game design/play mechanics - 2014 edition prev | next

David Javelosa

Copyright © 2004-2014 David Javelosa unless otherwise stated.

Material based on Game Design Workshop
Copyright © 2004-2008
Tracy Fullerton
used by permission of author
week 08 - playtesting

game playtesting

Playtesting is a critical, involved task. It cannot be avoided or breezed through. It is part of the designer's job #1 as an advocate for the player. The testing process and testers are your view of the real game. If you listen to the feedback of the testing process you will have mastered the most important skill in game design.

Understanding FLOW

In the previous chapters of System Dynamics and Challeng, we talked about flow and the flow of the game. What is "FLOW"? It is the principles of an enjoyable experience. It is what the player should be getting from your game. It is the optimal experience:

Flow is an optimal experience characterized by:

- a sense of playfulness
- a feeling of being in control
- concentration and highly focused attention
- mental enjoyment of the activity for its own sake
- a distorted sense of time
- a match between the challenge at hand and one's skills

The Path to Flow

1. Make it fun
Look at your task as fun. Establish rules, objectives, challenges to be overcome, and rewards.

2. Powerful Goal
As you play the game, remind yourself frequently of the overriding spiritual, social, or intellectual purpose that drive your efforts.

3. Focus
Release your mind from all distractions, from within or without. Focus your entire attention on the game.

4. Surrender to the Process
Let go. Don't strive or strain to achieve your objective. Just enjoy the process of work.

5. Ecstasy
This is the natural result of the preceding four steps. It will hit you suddenly, by surprise. But there will be no mistaking it.

6. Peak Productivity
Your ecstatic state opens vast reservoirs of resourcefulness, creativity, and energy. Your productivity and quality of work shoot through the roof.

"Contrary to expectation, "flow" usually happens not during relaxing moments of leisure and entertainment, but rather when we are actively involved in a difficult enterprise, in a task that stretches our mental and physical abilities." - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Elements that make experiences Enjoyable:

1.A challenge requiring skills

2.A chance of completion

3.The opportunity to concentrate, merging action and awareness

4.Clear goals

5.Immediate feedback

6.Deep involvement transcending distractions and the awareness of time

7.A sense of control over actions

8.Absorption of self

9.Expansion of self through experience

Playtesting and Iterative Design

Broken up into phases, the iterative process includes:
- create ideas
- test ideas
- evalute results
- revise
- test again (go back)
- launch

Who is the Playtester?

- Yourself
- your colleagues that you trust
- the anonomous outside tester

Who is the ideal tester?
- students
- computer user groups
- advertising to demographic
- recruiting and screening
- phone interviews
- question related interests

The Target Audience
- reading your audience
- optimal diversity
- signing the NDA
- don't forget the snacks!!

The Playtesting Session
no longer the designer
- become the investigator
- let the participants do the testing
- have them verbalize during play as much as possible
- be observant
- follow-up interview
- thank you gift!

Methods of Playtesting
one-on-one testing; observe; interview
- group testing; observe; interview
- feedback forms; standard questions; compare results
- in-depth interview; verbal quiz
- open discussion; focus group; free-form or guided discussion

The Play Matrix
intersecting Mental Calculation with Skill vs. Chance
intersecting Physical Dexterity with Skill vs. Chance
- what games fall into each of the intersections? where does your game fall?

Recording your observations and gathering data
sample questionaire; page 211
usability techniques
- Don't Lead!
- have testers verbalize; think outloud
- plot gameplay trends based on quantitative data
- test different versions of problematic areas
- rate gameplay elements on a scale of 1 -10
- use statistical analysis to tweak properties
- balance results with creative judgement

Controlled situtation testing
force testing of specific areas
- the end of the game
- a random condition that rarely occurs
- special situations in game
- specific levels; team assignments
- new or improved features

The practice of playtesting
(using games similar to brainstorm models; i.e. Acquire, Risk)


Test it yourself

Test with confidants

Writing a playtest script

Playtesting the game

Create a play matrix

Plotting a game you know

Gather quantitative date on your original game

Focus on 3 test conrol situations on your prototype

Reading Assignment

Review: Playtesting

  • Chapter 8

Copyright © 2004 - 2014 David Javelosa