Jan 25, 2006

Playtesting - Part 2

I will attempt to try to organize my beliefs about playtesting in a chronological order over a series of posts. That will be more useful as a reference for when you run your own playtests. If you do use it, just remember that you are taking advice from someone who has never been published. Kids, don’t try this at home.
Part 1 - Create a Playtest Team
Part 2 - Organize a Playtest Session
Part 3 - Introduce the Game
Part 4 - Play the Game
Part 5 - Get Feedback
Part 6 - Make Changes
The first step is deciding which prototype you want to test. This will affect how many and which of your testers you should invite. Some people are just more attuned to certain themes and mechanics than others. Eventually you want a broad range of testers, but be aware of who you are inviting and why. You also want to be careful about numbers because you don't want to invite two testers for a prototype that requires four. And you don't want to invite six testers if you're looking to get a reading on how your game plays with only two players. After you choose your prototype, then decide what your testing goals are with respect to numbers, skill level, and depth of testing.

Your schedule will then be dictated by the invitee that you want who is least available. Work backwards from that person until you reach a day/time that everyone is available. It is best to choose days when people don't have must-leave times. Even if you think a test will only take two hours, that doesn't take into account lateness, rules questions, restarts, slow play, etc. It is also best if everyone arrives at the same time. If someone is going to be late, it means you'll need to re-read the rules when they arrive, creating downtime for everyone else.

Have a plan in mind for food. Whether your location is within walking distance from fast food, you plan on ordering pizza, or you have snacks on hand, you need a way to satisfy random hunger, even for a short gaming session. You also want to create the proper atmosphere. The fewer distractions, the better. Good gaming tables are clean and smooth, usually plastic or wood. When playing with cards, a surface where they can slide smoothly can prevent the aggravation of trying to pry them up with fingernails off.

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