Prototyping and the value of play testing

2011/10/13 at 13:36 Leave a comment

Everything you read about game development says to do as much play testing as possible.  I never disagreed, but I was always skeptical as to how much value could be obtained from it. There are two key areas of play testing.

First, there is play testing to determine of the overall game concept is fun. This is your prototype. This is key. If you have a good working prototype you can play test it and find out if your concept is fun. The key here is to bang out a working prototype early. Second, is gameplay to iron out game mechanics. This requires more of your game to be implemented. I haven’t gotten here yet, but this looks like a candidate for another post in the future.

I had a prototype of a game I’m working on done in a few hours of work, turns out it wasn’t very fun. I knew it wasn’t perfect, but based on playing it myself I continued convincing myself it was not fun because the mechanics needed to be ironed out. This was my problem, I went into play testing based on that assumption. Turns out my concept was not fun, but the mechanics were solid, it was that the overall gameplay needed to change.

Luckily, my prototype was generic enough that I only had to throw out a few hundred lines of code to radically change the gameplay. Granted I went from super simple gameplay to simple gameplay, so I didn’t lose very much code, and much of my prototype will be used in the final game.

This will push my schedule back a bit, due to the fact that I’m building this game in my spare time, but its going to be worth it because the result is really going to be a game that a lot more fun to play.

The bottom line is that my play testers said the overall concept was not fun, so rather than being offended or upset my concept was not fun, I went back to the drawing board based on their feedback, and now even I think the new concept is way more fun.

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