What Playtesting is NOT
Internal Design Review: Designer and team
play the game and talk about its features
Usability Testing: Designer analyze how users
interact with the interface by tracking their
mouse movements, eye movements, etc.
Focus Group Testing: Marketing execs watch
a sample group play and discuss the game
Quality Assurance Testing: QA team goes
through and rigorously tests for flaws
So, What Is It?
Playtesting is gaining useful feedback from
players to improve the overall experience of
The goal is to make sure the game is
functioning as intended and that it is internally
complete, balanced and fun to play.
When teams work on projects for months on end,
they may lose sight of the game’s vision.
A continual process of playtesting, evaluating,
and revising is the way to keep the game on
However, as production advances, the design
issues you are testing should also advance from
major to minor.
Extra Credits: Playtesting
Extra Credits: Playtesting
Testing a game yourself is most valuable in
the early stages of prototyping when you are
still experimenting with core mechanics.
Self-testing can also help you solve obvious
problems with the game experience.
Friends and Family Playtesting
The next stage is to test your game with people you
know well – those who can look at your game with fresh
eyes and see the things that you didn’t.
You should get them a version of the game with a full set
of rules so that they can play it without much help from
However, be warned that people who have a personal
relationship with you may not be objective, and their
feedback is most useful only early on in playtesting.
Playtesting with Strangers
Feedback from people you don’t know can
be difficult to hear, but it will give you the
fresh perspective and insight you require to
improve your design.
If you choose them carefully, their honest
assessment of your game will give you fresh
perspective and insight.
Places To Find Playtesters
High Schools and Colleges
College Dorms and Rec Centers
Sports Clubs and Social Organizations
Game Stores and Computer Use Groups
Online Posts and Newspaper Ads
You should be recruiting playtesters who are
articulate enough to convey their opinions to
Questions to ask:
What are your hobbies?
Why did you respond to my advertisement?
How often do you play this type of game?
The Ideal Playtester
The ideal playtester represents your target
audience – people who might actually buy
your game. These are the types of testers
Give you the most relevant feedback
Compare your game with similar ones
they have played
Know what they like and dislike
Playtesting for Each Prototype Stage
Self-Testing Friends and
Structure ✪ ✪
Formal Details ✪
How NOT To Conduct One
Your role in a playtesting session is not to
be a designer but that of an investigator and
Do not tell your players:
How your game works
Plans for future developments
Your hopes and dreams for the game
What You SHOULD DO
Give them access to your game
Let them play it with minimal explanation
Provide answers if they get stuck
Record what they say and do
Analyze their responses later
Running the Playtest
The best way to run a playtest is to have an
objective person run the test while you
watch from behind a one-way glass or video
The next best solution is to write a test script
to keep you on track and remind you of your
role as an observer.
Introduction (2-3 Minutes)
Welcome and thank them for participating
Give a brief explanation of the playtesting
Let them know if your are recording the
If you are using a one-way glass, let them
know if people are watching from the other
Warm Up Discussion (5 Minutes)
Ask them questions such as:
What are some of the games you play?
What do you like most about those
Where do you go to find out about new
What was the last game you purchased?
Play Session (15-20 Minutes)
Explain that they will be playing a game still in
development. The purpose is to get their feedback, and
there are no wrong answers.
After explanations, you can either:
Leave the testers alone and watch them from a one-
way glass or video feed
Stay in the room and watch quietly from behind the
Remind them to “think out loud” while they are playing
so that you can learn what they are thinking.
Game Experience Discussion (15-20
Wrap up with a one-on-one discussion with the testers.
Questions to ask:
Overall, what were your thoughts about the game?
Where you able to learn how to play quickly?
What is the objective of the game?
How would you describe the game to someone who
has never played it before?
Is there any information that would have been useful
to you before starting?
Is there anything you didn’t like about the game?
Was anything confusing?
Thank your playtesters for coming in
Keep their contact information to let them
know when the game is finished
Give them a token gift, such as a T-shirt
Dealing with Feedback
It’s very hard to listen to criticism without
Listen carefully to what players are saying
Don’t answer criticisms, just write them down
Realize that your goal is to find out what
people don’t like or don’t understand about
It is vital to take notes of your playtests so
that you don’t lose details of the playtester’s
Do not lead
Remind testers to think out loud
Use pictures whenever possible
Online surveys can save a lot of time
Use 1-5 scale ratings instead of 1-10
Don’t put too many questions on your survey
Give them the survey right after they play
Have someone on hand to answer clarifying
Note the age and gender of each playtester
Don’t take the survey data as gospel
Have a script of questions ready
Interview people privately
Playtesters will avoid hurting your feelings
Avoid memory tests
Don’t expect playtesters to be game
Ask for more than you need
Set your ego aside
In addition to taking notes, you should be
generating data that shows trends.
Time it takes someone to read the rules
Number of clicks it takes to perform a
Tracking the speed at which a player
advances in a level
Test Control Situations
Sometimes you will want to lay down
parameters that force players to test a
specific portion of the game:
The end of the game
An event that rarely takes place
A special situation within a game
A particular level of a game
The Lens of Playtesting
Why are we doing the playtest?
Who should be there?
Where will we hold it?
What will we look for?
How will we get the information we need?
Jesse Schell, Lens #15
1. Playtest your fellow students’ games
2. Fill out playtesting form.
FORMAL ELEMENTS PROTOTYPE
For your next prototype, you must add enough
structure to make the prototype playable for
testers other than yourself.
It’s basic and clunky, but it has rules and
procedures that take the player from the game’s
start to the game’s end.
Your focus now is on both fun and functionality.
Focus on the Formal Elements
What is the conflict in my game?
What are the rules and procedures?
What actions do my players take and when?
Are there turns? How do they work?
How many players can play?
How long does a game take to resolve?
What’s the working title?
Who is the target audience?
What platform will the game run on?
What restrictions or opportunities does that
And Then Consider…
Define each player’s goal
What does a player need to do to win?
Write down the single most important type of player action
in the game.
Describe how it functions
Write down the procedures and rules in outline format
Only focus on the most critical rules
Leave out the other rules until later
Map out how a typical turn works. (Using a flow-chart is the
most effective way to visualize this)
Define how many players can play
How do these players interact with one another?
Questions Your Prototype Should
Are the formal elements working together even
in this basic state?
Is there a beginning, middle and end to the
Can the players reach the objective?
Are they engaging in the conflict you designed,
and are they enjoying that engagement?
Should you continue with this idea, or is it time
to head back to the drawing board?
A particular slide catching your eye?
Clipping is a handy way to collect important slides you want to go back to later.