Playtest methods.

edited July 2009 in Story Games
Ralph brought up a question about con playtesting here: and it started to drift into discussion about playtesting methods.

I'm interested. How do you playtest your games? Who plays? Do you have rounds of playtesting, and what are they?

I have an idea for a game, usually at my machine at work. I kit-bash up some rules in my head, get all excited and put up some posts asking for players, usually on very short notice, so I get a very mixed bag of players. We play, maybe even playstorm a little. If it goes well enough I try to runit at the next con or meetup. I call this the deciding process. It helps me decide if a project is fun and interesting enough to really start hammering on.

Stage two is to run it any chance I get until everyone, including myself is sick of it. Then I beat out a playtest document and send it out to anyone who wants it, relying on the shotgun effect to actually get some data back. I test myself during this period using the playtest as written too, to see if I left any gaping holes that my playtesters need to know about.

Stage three is a few last con games using the data recieved from those external playtests. If the pieces fit, including the changes made from suggestions I write the actual game document, and... well that's asfar as i've ever gone, but the plan is to send out the full document to even more people whether they ask or not to test the text.

the distinction between the early middle and last stages has to do with what I'm testing. Stage one is concept testing, stage two is rules testing, and stage three is text testing. here's hoping text testing goes well.


  • So I've got:

    1. Me and my friends around NC.
    2. Friends and people I know and trust further afield.
    3. Enthusiastic strangers and Internet people.
    4. People I play with at conventions, a mix of 1,2 and 3.

    Once I have something that really works with the first group, I'm glad to send it out to anybody in groups two or three who'd like to read and play it. It isn't formal but it is an iterative process.

    There are people in groups one and two who I will consistently solicit comments from, and maybe even a playtest or two. These are always reciprocal relationships with good friends. People who start in group three tend to end up in group two!

    Anybody in groups two or three who wants to playtest gets the most recent draft and a list of particular concerns of the moment to watch out for, as well as what sort of feedback is useful for me.

    75 people, plus me, playtested Fiasco at least once.
  • I think I've had about... 50 or so. Not too bad.
  • Well, quantity is nice but quality is better. Some of those folks played once but didn't offer hugely constructive feedback, and others played a lot and were instrumental in making it a great game. I was really fortunate to have several groups of playtesters who I have never met pick up the game and run it multiple times, providing really great feedback each session. So I wasn't putting that out there as a benchmark but as a data point.
  • When you have external groups playtest, Jason, do you ask them specific questions? Actually what kinds of qestions do you ask after you run a test as well?

    Some samples of mine:
    Was it fun?
    Did you feel like you as a group created a story you would watch on screen?
    Did the morale pool make you feel like you pulled together, a sense of comaraderie?
    For the GM. Did you feel comfortable assigning morale and hard luck?
  • I'm really interested in areas where things didn't work well or at all, so no specific questions. Often I'll know what needs special attention and flag those things in advance - like "pay special attention to, and record, how dice are allocated in the second act."

    And I always ask people to tell me how long a session lasted, either by timing it or recording it. This may not be important to everyone but I really work toward session-oriented play in discrete chunks.
  • Now that's a good question I handn't thought of, thanks.
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