Dev Blog #2: Playtesting

I thought I would jump into this blog on the interesting topic of playtesting. This is an area myself and my developer differ on, purely based on when you start playtesting your game.


I talk A LOT about testing in my book Emmerse Yourself, available on Amazon.


As a designer, personally and this happens for a lot of us, it's easy to wait for our designs to be perfect. It's easy to wait to test until our idea is fully finished in the way we imagine it to be in our heads and if it is not, we can't possibly show it to anyone yet.


I used to be one of these people. To some degree I still am but when you take big risks and you're betting on yourself constantly, there's only so long you can work on an idea without showing anybody - It's simply bad business. It's far more painful for me to wait for an idea to be finished, especially one that takes months to develop, in order to find out if I'm right for even making it in the first place!


In my last Dev Blog, I spoke briefly about being efficient with your time when you're in start up mode and when you're the only one working on an idea with a small budget.


A little business rule, don't waste time or money.


Find out quickly if there is an audience for your product before you spend a year making something that nobody will buy. You can quickly get your answers and quickly get your reasons for why you need to update or change your project... instead of living with so many assumptions in your head.


Playtesting Early


I have been incredibly excited to get people playtesting a broken version of our app. My developer has been incredibly nervous about showing people his work that is unfinished and I totally understand this! I've been there.


But there is so much value in seeing how other people see things, since they are the people who will be interacting with your creation probably more than you will once the thing is made. You really have to listen and learn at an early stage of development, far before you start to finalise everything. We don't want to waste our time stripping out loads of elements that simply aren't needed and rebuilding the elements that are.


If the game is playing wrong, if the user interface is not understandable, if the artwork is unappealing, tell me quickly and tell me early, because you've just saved me months of working on something that wouldn't fly by the time we launched.


So our developer came on board for this project at the end of April 2021, by the end of May 2021 we did our first blind observed playtest. A few days later I did another one. The game was so broken, it would freeze part of the way through and you wouldn't be able to win. Both myself and my developer learnt about what we needed to put into this game.


In fact, we had a slight disagreement over one element, how fast the game played, both of our ideas were assumptions, one from a developer point of view where he needed the game to run fast so he could test quickly and to avoid the user from having to click so much on the screen. And one from a customer point of view, where we slowed down the turns so younger players or distracted players could keep up with what happened in the game. It turns out both of our assumptions were correct and sometimes came with strange explanations from our playtesters, why they would have a certain speed to the game.



What we found out through testing was we needed a slower turn mechanism for younger players first (our target market), so they can take time to figure out what the AI's are playing so they can strategize how they play their character cards on their turn. But we also need a fast mode for older players or people familiar with the game. That has led us to work on the functionality of slower turns first as the base mode and consider adding a fast mode later. At this point, that feature is a nice to have, so it's not something we're currently implementing.


The types of playtesting we're going through


As we're a development team of 2, our alpha testing phase is limited to both my developer and myself.


We can do a lot of bug fixes from here but we have also been working on blind/observed playtesting.


I count this as pre-beta, where we are asking potential customers to play our game in advance of a beta release and we playtest by watching how they would play the game if we weren't in the room. That means they can't ask us questions if they get stuck, they have to work it out for themselves, they have to play wrong before figuring out the right way to play.


We learn a lot from this type of playtest, especially how intuitive our UI is to a new player and the type of player. There are definitely more elements that could be more obvious in the game, otherwise the player may lose an awesome experience that they take too long to find, but we're still fixing the most important functional elements before we completely upgrade our UI.


At beta phase, we will get ready to launch to mobile where we will release the game to a selection of people to provide feedback of how the game is working on their phones. It's still something we have to work out since everything is new to us, otherwise beta will start at launch and we will update the app accordingly to feedback from our audience!


As beta may coincide with launch we should have it on our first desired platform by then.


Feedback


Our feedback from our early playtests have been enlightening and we've done a lot in the last month and a half to develop an even smoother experience. Kudos to Scott, our developer for changing the entire architecture of the code to make this possible.


We were getting to the stage where our playtester's feedback was mainly positive and any negatives were due to bugs we were already aware about. We've still got a lot of testing to do in pre-beta but we can rest in the knowledge that our Quirk! fans already feel we have captured the essence of the card game.


Now it's just making sure the game always does what it's supposed to!


From the Creative Director,

Emma May


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Or interested in how I made the Quirk! card game concept popular; head over to Amazon to check out my book Emmerse Yourself: How to go it alone and break the mould. A story and business book about working alone in the toys and games industry.


Get your copy of Quirk! The Laugh-Out-Loud Family Card Game from Gibsons, John Lewis or Amazon.


A game full of sounds, actions and mischief to make your family roar with laughter. Great for children as young as 5 and adults of any age who love to unleash their inner child!

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