5 Ways to Get Better Feedback from Playtesting
Updated: Feb 7, 2019
When designing a game, playtesting is far more important than many developers realize. You can spend hours and hours of solo development writing backstory, creating flavor, and building mechanics, but without live multiplayer experience, even the best game concepts will flounder. Here are 5 ways to make the most of precious playtesting time, whether it’s a friendly meetup or an official development event.
1. Don’t flood players with information when you teach them the game. Instead, provide only the bare minimum, then allow them to learn by example as you play. This will allow them to ‘discover’ things in a more natural way, and better prepare them to see things that are out of place or difficult to use.
2. Play several games. Playtesters, especially first timers, will need time to internalize concepts and develop strategies. Be sure to give them that time by waiting until after a few rounds to ask for feedback.
3. Write down everything, even if it seems wrong. Feedback can be a fickle thing; sometimes, a person who is testing the game really does give bad advice. But even bad suggestions can be useful – a suggestion to add a bad mechanic or change something that is good may be indicative of an unknown problem. The solution offered may not be the correct path forward, but the underlying issue still needs acknowledgement.
4. Have neutral-phrased questions prepared. Playtesters are valuable, so be sure to get as much information from them as possible. Game-minded players will usually share their thoughts without prompting, but not everyone is familiar with game design terminology. Help these folks along by prompting them with questions, e.g. “Where do you think you would get lost if you had to learn this game from a book”, “Did you always know when to draw cards and when to discard?”. These players often give the most valuable feedback, because their perspective of the game is the most different from your own.
5. Be friendly, thank everyone, and build a following. Playtesting with strangers is incredibly helpful for development but can also be a boon during crowdfunding. By engaging with playtesters and thanking them for their help, you can make them feel like they are a part of the game (because they are!) These players will remember the experience and will be much more likely to support a crowdfunding campaign or tell their friends about it in the future. Be sure to get contact information from every player – you won’t regret it!
With these 5 tools, you can make the most of your valuable playtesting time, and create the best possible experience for everyone involved. So get out there and make some games!
--Dakota W Winslow