A screencapture of one of the playtesters.
A series of playtests was run this cycle involving a mixture of people with experience in the field, as well as people who are within the target audience that was decided for the game. The target audience is anyone who fits the persona of Sam, a 12 year old boy who enjoys games like Minecraft and Pokemon.
A playtest plan was written up before the sessions started, to give the playtesting a bit more structure. There were two different versions of this plan, one for the ‘experts’ and another for the target audience, each one listing three key goals of the session. Their results were recorded in questionnaire format.
The first set of playtesting was performed on the people with experience in the video game field. Within this, the summary of the three key goals is problem solving, coordination and mechanics. Problem solving was mostly met with a positive response from the playtesters, although one of them did not enjoy some elements of it. Coordination was not really mentioned by any of them, although majority of the problems involved it which implied that there was a mixture of positive and negative responses about that key goal. Not a single playtester found any issue with any of the mechanics, as they all worked smoothly and performed as they were supposed to.
The second set of playtesting was performed on the target audience, with the summary of the key goals being problem solving, determination and ambience. There were mixed responses from this group about problem solving, much like the previous set, where some found the levels to be easy and others struggled with elements of it. Determination was a key feature in all of them, as a 12 year old tends to have a shorter attention span so they had to work harder to complete the game. Ambience was a key goal that I believe we should have used for the experts, rather than the target audience, as this group tended to focus more on what they were doing rather than what it felt like. They each found it to be a tropical fantasy environment, however did not provide much insight into their emotions on the matter.
A short summary of the data collected from each playtest has been created, for ease of finding key points.
Playtest 1 – Expert
This playtester found that the game was too easy, enjoying the game but becoming bored towards the end. They were somewhat engaged by the game, but since their problem solving skills and coordination weren’t fully tested, they felt like their efforts were somewhat wasted. They found no notable errors with any of the mechanics.
Playtest 2 – Expert
This playtester had a very enjoyable experience, making sure that they explored all of the map before moving on and being very engaged by the fully functioning mechanics and problems. Their coordination skills were very high from years spent playing platformers.
Playtest 3 – Expert
This playtester managed to get stuck on the trickier problem at the start of level two, which frustrated them quite a bit and caused them to lose enjoyment in the rest of the game. This was linked to their coordination, as they struggled to jump between some of the platforms and often fell. Despite this, the game functioned as it was supposed to.
Playtest 4 – Target Audience
The first playtester of this group breezed through the game, completing all of the problems in record time and finishing the game with no stumbling. Because of this, determination wasn’t really tested, as the player never had to make the choice as to whether getting past an obstacle was worth the effort they would need to expend. He seemed to enjoy the ambience.
Playtest 5 – Target Audience
This playtester was the most ‘average’ out of the group, as he struggled where expected but completed the levels in a reasonable time. His problem solving skills and determination were relatively ordinary and he didn’t provide much feedback about his emotions or how he felt about the ambience of the game.
Playtest 6 – Target Audience
The final playtester actually managed to get stuck at the start of the second level and wasn’t able to get past it without assistance. However, this was not from lack of determination, as he put a fair bit of time into trying to figure out how to get around the obstacle. Unlike the others, he paid close attention to his surroundings and was the only person to correctly assume that the setting was a fantasy-style tropical island.
Based on these responses, there are various things that can be done in order to improve the player’s experience of the game. The first is the obvious one of adding more content to the game, as many of the playtesters were left hungry for more at the completion of the prototype. This includes increasing the size of each of the current levels, as well as creating more levels.
The second is to balance the difficulty better and to create a more progressive experience, where the player starts on a far easier difficulty and comes across harder challenges as they progress through the game.
The last major improvement is that the ambience needs to be ‘refreshed’ to create a more indepth experience for the player. This can be done through more applicable assets and graphics, as well as adding in sound effects similar to those that one would hear if they were in that setting.