Resources for tracking play-testing
Playtesting! It's the lifeblood to game design, and it's what separates an idea - which isn't worth anything really - and an actual game, which might be worth a lot.
The Playtester's Journal
We've been using Chris & Matt's little brown play-tester's booklets for a few months now. We like how small they are, and how easily they slip into a pocket or purse to go with you to play-testing sessions at conventions or game stores.
We've been filling pages in one booklet for Sisters & Spirits this winter/spring. The journal offers one page per play-test, a page per test, with space to jot down the length of play and the players involved. The pages are dotted in a grid (see photo) rather than lined to make it easy to draw, write, or take notes in any way you'd like.
I also like that these journals are quite inexpensive. You can get a set of 3 for just $10, and that's affordable for any game designer at any stage.
Get your Playtester's journals at the link above.
Fail Faster Journal: Kickstarter
Jay Cormier (BGG) currently has a Kickstarter running to print and sell a "Fail Faster" play-testers journal.
Like Chris & Matt's little booklets, this journal offers dotted pages rather than lines or blanks. It also provides a bit more structure for budding game designers, with a tracker mechanism to mark what development steps you've taken for the game. The booklets are pricier than the one I listed above, but there's a link on the KS Campaign page to download a few of the internal pages as printable PDFs, so take it for a spin!
If you need the nudge of gamification to develop your idea, this journal might be what you need. It includes tips for game design and inspirational quotes to keep you moving.
Truename Games' Playtest Feedback Form
We wrote a quarter-sheet form that we printed at the local office store to take to Tantrumcon for Sisters & Spirits feedback. We discovered that many people were happy to talk it out afterward, and writing the sheet got awkward if there were only a couple people at the table right then. But having multiple pathways for feedback makes sense. What if your table gets busy? What if someone wants to share something negative but not to your face? Give folks options.
On this sheet, we provided a few seed questions to get people's juices flowing. But experienced players will probably have plenty to say (which is why we left it blank on the back).
You're welcome to view our PDF and use it to model your own: Playtest Feedback sheet - Truename Games (PDF)
Tips for Play-testing
You can find many posts by experienced game developers and designers online via Google, so you don't need us to search it for you. That said, here are our core principles for play-testing future Truename Games:
- Know the expectations of the situation you're in. This post by League of Gamemakers is an excellent start
- Set clear expectations for your play-testers. Let them know what kind of test you're running: Are you testing the core mechanic? Checking to make sure it's fun? Tweaking the rules? Trying to break the game to find edge cases? You'll get more useful feedback.
- If possible, work in a team so one person can give 100% attention to asking open-ended questions and listening carefully to the answers (and asking follow-up questions), while the second person takes notes furiously (in your game journal!).
- Listen intently. Ask followup questions.
- Let the feedback sit for a little while (a few days? weeks?) before deciding what to do with it. You don't need to accept everyone's advice. Some play-tester feedback won't be on target for your game. But seek the nuggets of truth within their comments, try to understand the problem they're identifying for you.
Play-testing is a gift!
It's a gift of time and attention that folks give your game so it can be better. And without play-testing, a game likely will never be as smooth and elegant as it could be. Use play-testing resources to assist you in your venture: make a great game!