Spend the day updating the actual game in order to make new prototypes.
This is a post about your two best friends when it comes to actually making your game. Yes I am talking about mr Designer and mr Manufacturer. You’d think that since everyone is on the same team here things would be hunky dory between those two. After all mr designer makes your product look good, and mr manufacturer well he actually makes the thing, so it is no longer stuck in the limbo of concept-land. Since mr manufacturer actually makes mr designers ideas materialize you’d thing that mr designer loves mr manufacturer. No…they hate each other…keep them separated…Have you seen the photos of cute cat and cute dog cuddling along…well they are not true…dog makes a move on the cat seconds after the photo is taken.
We are at a stage in our project now where our lovely most talented goddess of graphic design has got everything tied down and it all looks nice and impressive… so as natural progression goes we are approaching manufacturers to see how much it will actually cost to make our glorious game.
First point of conflict is that after receiving a couple of quotes you’ll have to convince your graphic designer that fold out shapes using spot uv and ultra rare specialist paper handmade by virgins in the amazon rain-forests using ecofriendly zero carbon state of the art inks is out of the question, as most manufacturers when you inform them of your budget want to print your game on loo paper.
Since printing on loo paper is not an option try to keep things simple at first… get to a game of acceptable quality and you build from there on. Oh wait I forgot here you have an issue with mr manufacturer…They don’t like changes, even the smallest change in your games configuration bears a huge impact on your games price.
Another think that I have noticed is that you are going to have as many different game configurations as the manufacturers you approach. Each one makes his own box sizes, card sizes, pawn sizes etc, so it is my advice to find one that you can work with and stick with them….I nearly gave my graphic designer a cardiac when I told her that I was considering to go from bridge size to tarot size on my cards. No don’t worry Chiara bridge size is good I love bridge size bridge size is our friend….
This is my piece of wisdom for today…they say opposites attract so maybe my Manufacturer will get to be best friends my Designer and they can have long conversations about color palettes. Who knows?
Today I spend the morning updating my physical prototype, fighting with printers, scissors and glue. I just realized that my printer is out of order for some reason (Daah it’s not the ink… of course I checked the ink!) and I wasted about an hour trying to fix it before I quit.
Although not the final version and not the final art, I try to keep my prototype as much updated as possible so that my playtesters can feel that they are reviewing a game that is soon going to be published to a wide audience and not that they are just helping with a hobby family thing.
After a couple of hours I had to leave the table to stretch for a while, and Lord Byron took the chance to simultaneously bury himself into my game box and his tail into my coffee.
Today I spend about 5 hours fine-tuning the actual game after the latest playtesting.
As it turned out, I need to find a solution for a minor problem on the game board.
The game flow and the mechanics worked great, and finally, I think the instructions also work pretty well.
No matter what you think, there is only one truth about playtesting: you’ll never have enough!
Up to now I have had several dozens of playtesting rounds, with hundreds of different people, both friends and total strangers. I will share with you some tips from my personal experience:
First of all playtesters make you a huge favor. Do make an effort to make the people that devote time to your project, feel comfortable. Buy them coffee, tea, drinks, food, ice – cream, whatever they prefer, but make sure have what they need around the gaming table. Nobody likes a stingy host!
Be sober. After a long run of having fun and having all these people praising you for your creation, you might get carried away by all those cheers and drink ups. You have to remember: this is not an ordinary day, you have a job to do and you have to do it sober. So moderate your drinking from the very beginning. Sometimes this may be very difficult especially if you have a party game (or – god help- a drinking game), but you will impress no one if all those people that left their jobs to help you develop your game suddenly realize that you are snoring away on the floor!
Try to have a mixed team of both male and female players. Do not underestimate magic on the table. People often use games subconsciously in order to show off knowledge or skills and gain impressions. Having a mixed team always gives your session an extra something and your players feel super motivated! Trust me, it works!
Have plenty of time in front of you. It is hard to organize a playtesting round, especially if you really need to have one. People will always be late to show up, they will often interrupt the game to answer their phones, to tell you about how awful their day was, about their child getting the chickenpox, they will interrupt the game to tell a childhood story about their beloved nanny that just poped up when you mentioned Freddy Kruger, they will suggest that all of you should make a pause from playing and go to the roof to enjoy the romantic full moon, you will have all kinds of interruptions. Take a big breath, recall any yoga/ Zen techniques you can, relax, be polite, and let everyone enjoy their evening. Besides, try to understand: all of these interruptions occur every time you play a normal game, you just don’t realize them because you are simply playing…now you’re playtesting, but all the others are playing…don’t be a killjoy…be part of the team. Give your players all the time they need. Breath in, breath out.
Have in mind that it may take longer than you initially thought. Never trick your players that “it will take an hour maximum and then we will all go to that party”. No you will not. And your players must know it. The last thing that you want is to keep your dear pleaytesters hostages on the table. Make it clear: the day will be dedicated to the great cause of developing a game. Period. You can leave your other plans for another night.
Take notes during playtesting. Have an organized file that you will record all your thoughts, findings and suggestions. I will make an extended post on it an other day, so I am not getting any deeper at the moment.
Keep evaluation records. Give your players questionnaires to answer. I will also make an extended post on it soon, cause this part is really important.
Give them time to evaluate properly. Answering the questionnaire is not a side dish, it is the juice of all the process. Plan in advance about giving your playtesters what ever they need in order to evaluate correctly. Inform them from the very begging that they will do such a thing, and carry loads of pens with you!
Take photos. Plenty of them, at every possible stage. Even if you don’t know what to do with them at the moment, they will turn really useful sometime in the future.
Listen carefully to your players. Record their suggestions, their opinions, their ideas. Never try to defend your project and talk back to them, instead be polite and respectful, after all you want is critique and not praise. Make sure that they feel comfortable enough to express their real opinion, even if it is hard. Truth is exactly what you want to hear in order to develop a great game!