Playtesting is a vital part of the development process of any game as it provides essential feedback that helps to shape the game and work out all the glitches. Five different people were selected to playtest this game, two of them being the studio members and the other three being people who were completely naive playtesters. Each of the testers were given a short questionnaire at the end of the playtest with a few key questions on it. They were given approximately five lives to test the game with, however players who struggled were allowed a little more leniency in the hopes that they would be able to pick it up eventually.
While there were not enough testers for demographics to play a huge role in the results, four out of five of the playtesters were male and one male and the female were part of the studio, so they had prior knowledge about the game. The testers ranged quite broadly both age and skill level in gaming.
For simplicity’s sake, this has been grouped into goals rather than testers, making it easier to pick up on patterns and see if they are any areas that show obvious signs of needing improvement. Each goal used a mixture of observations and questionnaire questions to determine the results.
Goal One: Level of engagement and joy
The first goal is designed to check the physical and emotional reactions of the tester to analyse the levels of engagement and joy that they are experiencing throughout the playtest.
The level of enjoyment that the tester’s experienced was strongly linked to how difficult they found the game to be. Players who found the game relatively easy seemed to enjoy it far more than the tester who grew increasingly frustrated as he continually died. It was noted that the testers were quite engaged for most of the games, losing interest only when they either continually died or were able to play the level for too long. This point is important for balancing the difficulty (as mentioned in goal two), as it heavily affects how much the players will enjoy the game.
Joy is far more difficult to measure than engagement but it seems to show similar patterns. Whenever a tester continually died it turned their potential joy into a very real frustration, whereas players who found the game too easily soon became bored, however they still enjoyed their experience.
Goal Two: Balanced mechanics
The second goal focuses on the balance of the mechanics and how easily testers are able to pick up the basics of the game.
Playtesters one and two had very little difficulty with either picking up the mechanics of the game or the difficulty of the trial level. It must be taken into consideration that these testers were part of the design process and both built their own games with very similar mechanics.
The third and fifth playtesters found the game to be “enjoyably easy without being boring” and relatively average in terms of difficulty. This is highly encouraging feedback, because this is exactly the difficulty level that was aimed for in the design of the game. Both of these testers were able to pick up on the basic mechanics and the controls of the game pretty easily.
The fourth playtester struggled quite a lot with most of the game. He picked up on the controls relatively easily, but was unable to get a handle on the ‘rhythm’ of the game and continuously died.
All of the playtesters were able to work out the controls relatively easily, although a slight bit of prompting was required since the keybindings are in an unusual location. Likewise, all the testers understood the mechanics of the game quickly, allowing all but one to enjoy the gameplay.
Goal Three: Functioning mechanics
The third goal is to test purely for glitches and to make sure that all the parts of the game are functioning as they are supposed to. This section is also in place to pick up any mechanics that testers may have misinterpreted.
The amount of testing that could be done on this goal compared to the first two is limited because of the nature of it. Since the game is still in the prototype stage it doesn’t have a complete array of finished mechanics, however the ones that have been implemented were fully functional.
Everything ran pretty smoothly, even when the studio members were playtesting the game. The naive testers did not pick up on a single glitch in the mechanics, hopefully because there weren’t any, but likely because they were too busy concentrating on the game.
Overall there was a range of mixed reviews as to the mechanics and feel of the game. The warmer, calming essence of the game was portrayed well by the background, with some of the players readily experiencing the joy of the game as well. Unfortunately due to the lack of relevant assets, the game still had a science fiction feel rather than a fantasy one. The experimentation aspect of the previously stated player experience goals was unable to be tested because of the level at which the prototype was functioning.
While most of the testers proved that the mechanics in the game are well balanced, the one tester that struggled showed a need for a possible choice of difficulty level. This would also benefit the testers who found the game quite easy as it creates the opportunity for an increased difficulty as well as an easier one.
There was limited useful data from the questionnaires about glitches and mechanics. Most of the testers found the game to be functioning and had few complaints about what needed to be fixed or added.
Obviously there is a strong need to eventually include the additional mechanics that were part of the original design. Time pressure has forced them to be left out of the prototype, but it is essential that they are added in if any progress is to be made on the game, as players are becoming bored far too easily with the base game. It would be intriguing to retest the game when it is completed, as it has some original ideas for unique mechanics.