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The Silent Revolution Of Playtests, Part 1
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The Silent Revolution Of Playtests, Part 1


March 17, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3
 

The Selection of Playtesters

Just as a peasant needs fertile ground in order to ultimately obtain the best yields, good playtests require a group of carefully-selected playtesters. I could never insist hard enough on the importance of the recruitment and evaluation of the playtest candidates.

What are the recruiting criteria? This depends, of course, on what kind of playtests we are planning. We may need hardened gamers, beginners, console-only gamers, multiplayer fans, and so on.

The candidate's gaming proficiency and overall game culture represent the first criteria. The second is the candidate's ability for analyzing and drawing conclusions from their gaming experience.

Note, however, that it is not mandatory that a playtester should possess a high level of competence on both criteria. Again, the type of playtests will determine the requirements.

I have the utmost respect for the playtesters I have worked with. Their good will and enthusiasm are boundless. Many came to Annecy from distant cities like Lyon, Grenoble, or Belfort simply for an unpaid half-day session!

This generosity and enthusiasm are characteristics of our industry; let us nurture these characteristics by treating playtesters with the gratitude and respect that they deserve.

The Use of Ad-hoc Protocols

The protocol is the unifying thread of the playtest session, defining the objectives, allocation of resources, and especially the methods of collecting and parsing information for a given playtest. The playtest protocol needs to adapt to the specifics of the challenge at hand (game system tuning, navigation, map concept, etc.).

During the playtest campaigns that I led, I would prepare a different protocol for each session. Indeed, an important part of those playtests involved multiplayer maps under construction or game system tuning. Each session revealed specific problems to be analyzed in the subsequent session.

I shall conclude this first part by repeating that a playtest campaign must be directed with a true scientific rigor if it is to be of any use; one does not conduct playtests simply by bringing over one's buddies for a few hours of fun followed by a session of easygoing Q&As.

Each aspect of the session must be carefully tailored in order to best realize the objectives at hand.

Managing the session itself requires constant attention, not only because one can learn much by watching the playtesters in action, but also because things do not always go as planned!

I shall address concrete aspects of playtests in the second part of this article.

Previous Articles

The Megatrends of Game Design, part 1

The Megatrends of Game Design, part 2

The Megatrends of Game Design, part 3

The Megatrends of Game Design, part 4

Physics in Games: A New Frontier

Multiplayer level design, part 1

Multiplayer level design, part 2

Multiplayer level design, part 3


Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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