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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 56 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Playtesting Question  (Read 1315 times)
Kmac
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Posts: 3


« on: August 18, 2006, 10:55:58 AM »

While I am not new to visit here I am new to posting. I've skulked in the dark reading a few posts here now and again but have failed to put text to screen and throw some ideas out. To get the ball rolling and my feet wet I decided to ask a few questions instead of putting up some ideas for comment. This is an odd request but I feel the need to break the ice and get comfortable before beginning to ask for real advice.

As this site is helpful for, I have been designing a game/ setting for a number of years now. Content flows freely like an undamed river and I have a lot of world information already defined. Mechanics were completed a long time ago and I began playtesting with a few different groups to get different ideas of what they thought.

Here is my problem. Nearly every person I have playtested mechanics with, whether they are live and in person or via the internet seems to have a problem of dissecting mechanics that work and mechanics that they just don't like. For instance, a mechanic or rule that the player can not get what they want from it is seen and voiced with disdain and the remarks to have it revamped or removed was common.

How do you go about sifting through all of the personal preferences of individuals knowing that they are only trying to force the game around their personal preferences and not what actually works. Whether this person thinks that a particular rule uses to much math to determine, or another feels a particular rule is wrong simply because it doesn't fit appropriately with a character design.

How do you get the best from playtesting without the added hassle of someone trying to break your mechanics for the sole purpose to keep them broken for personal gain?
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2006, 11:09:06 AM »

I'm playtesting my own game, so I'm going through this myself.

The only thing I can recommend is to view their comments through the filter of your design goals. For example, on The Great Art, I heard some folks say they didn't like the fact that there were immutable facts about the game world that couldn't be changed. I thought about it, and realized I was cool with that -- my game is more about exploring the game world and setting as-is than giving players directorial control. Someone else pointed out that the possible range of variables in the bidding process was too great to allow for skill in guessing outcomes. I wanted people to be able to win, as long as they are willing to pay for it, so that was valid in relation to my design goals.

As to someone trying to break the mechanics...well...I think that's the best playtesting you can get. I want people to beat up my mechanics and leave them bleeding in the corner. Then I can assess whether the problem was in the mechanics themselves or that the player had a different play style than I want to encourage. Either way, it's all useful info.
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Kmac
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« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2006, 12:21:40 PM »

Thanks for the replay Andrew. I agree with breaking the mechanics to see what needs to be clarified so the system can not produce the dreaded munchkin gameplay that I detest. I literally have, or should say had, playtesters argue a point across about the addition of a skill because one that currently was used for that purpose was not traditionally a real world equivalent.

Not to go into mechanics here but an example. My combat system is based on what is common for cause and effect. An attacker rolls to attack, and the defender must defend. Now to defend you can either attempt to step out of the way, i.e. a dodging manuever, or parry that attack. Now my description of parrying an attack is deflecting, blocking, or physically stopping the attack. (not specific description mind you but that is what it entails) Now his complaint was you couldn't block with a sword or parry with a shield, even though the description details enough to let you know that it is encompased by all.

That kind of playtesting arguments happened often with a particular group until I finally just said thanks, bye and never went back to playtest.

So breaking the system is good, but only if the intent is to correct it. But how to get the right kind of playtesters to think about playtesting instead of just playing?
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2006, 06:52:14 PM »

So breaking the system is good, but only if the intent is to correct it. But how to get the right kind of playtesters to think about playtesting instead of just playing?

I'd suggest simply asking them to. Has this not worked for you in your playtests?
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2006, 09:02:55 PM »

Now, I've met this kind of person. I *am* this kind of person from time to time. It's purely semantics.

What I would do in that situation is thank the player for pointing out that the term was less than clear, and note that you'll look into changing the terminology. Note also that all terminology should be considered on trial, and if they have any big beefs with the terms, to let you know. Then tell them that your primary focus at this point is on the rules themselves, and whether they work.

Probably, unless the gamer or gamers in question are just assholes, they'll nod and move on to the rules. If semantics and term quibbles come up again, they'll probably be more likely to just note it and move on.

And honestly.. Playing isn't that far from playtesting. The only difference between actively playtesting and just playing is that you'll make more of a point of trying out rules that may not exactly interest you. But even just playing can be useful, in that you can note what portions of the rules are commonly not used, and which parts really grab people. Most players will grouse about rules they can't understand or dislike in the course of normal play, and those are things of interest to note too.

Myself, I'd just be happy with any play. My current project, I've got some personal playtesting in, and I plan to do more when I can, but my main hope is to get other people to play it, so that I can see what works without me being there to fill in the gaps.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
JakeVanDam
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Posts: 38


« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2006, 10:57:45 PM »

When someone criticizes a mechanic and suggests it be altered or dropped, ask them why they want that. If they can't come up with a reason, chances are it's not a valid complaint. If they don't understand the question (yes, it will happen), chances are they aren't even trying to playtest.

Normally I do my 'real' playtesting with friends, so I can count on them to at least give it an honest try. Normally when I playtest with strangers I just let them play with the understanding that it's a work in progress, and keep track of table chatter and overall fun, and maybe ask a few quick questions after. It's a lot more casual, and I try to push the actual changes off until after the game is over.The one time I tried to do a real playtest with a stranger, he tried to correct us on what the rules were (not what they should be, what they were) and was more focused on breaking the game to make it unfun tfor the other players than breaking it to reveal flaws. If you don't know the playtester. it's hard to know what kind of tester he or she will be If you do know the tester, keep in mind what he or she tends to dislike and why when you go over criticisms.
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Kmac
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« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2006, 05:11:23 AM »

This helps, and as I said I was using this question more to get a little comfortable with the site... But you have a lot of interesting points.
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