I am a Producer at The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University. The Guildhall is a game development university in the Dallas, TX area. We bring people from disciplines in Art, Design, Production, and Programming together to make games! From the very beginning of our two-year endeavor, we are taught important basics of game development; scoping properly; develop solid mechanics; prove the technology. One very important and often underestimated tool in the toolbox is playtesting.
Often developers go into the industry to make games for others to enjoy, so playtesting is vital to ensure the game is being developed for the intended consumers. Those included would be in the game’s target audience. To have solid data to show values about how consumers feel about your game means you need a significant amount of people to play a single build of the game. Large developers/publishers have the advantage of usability houses and big budgets. As student developers, it is unlikely to find people to play our two-hour game and fill out a lengthy survey. To find enough people, we have to get creative.
For our latest playtests, we use a few different outlets. We go to the local comic book store, and two different game exchange stores. Furthermore, we use IndieDB as our online distribution service and using gaming and entertainment forums, reddit, and other various sites; we broadcast our game all in the hopes to get more playtesters giving us feedback to improve our product.
After gathering enough playtesters, we shoot for 25; we then collate the data in a way to discern how users felt, and what action items can be attained from the data. For example, we asked participants to rate how fun our second level is, the chart below shows responses.
The score overall is a 4.06 out of 5.0 points, which we define as the users feeling level 2 is pretty fun. Additionally, for future play tests, we take the averages and compare them against the older data to see if there is a significant progression, hopefully positive, to see if what the team is doing is right for the game.
Overall, making games is a very fun experience, but as a developer, we have a goal to make a product others find fun and would be remembered. To ensure the product we develop is fun for others, playtesting is absolutely essential. No matter how fun the game may be, playtesting can only help it be better with the right participants, and with proper presentation of data.
If you would like to participate in our team's playtesting for Midgard Saga, feel free to visit either our IndieDB site here! http://www.indiedb.com/games/midgard-saga
For the other team games as well, go to http://guildhallgames.weebly.com/