What Playtesting is NOT
Internal Design Review: Designer and team
play the game and talk about its features
Focus Group Testing: Marketing execs watch
a sample group play and discuss the game
Usability Testing: Designer analyze how users
interact with the interface by tracking their
mouse movements, eye movements, etc.
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 target.
However, as production
advances, the design issues you
are testing should also advance
from major to minor.
Playtesting for Each Prototype Stage
Self-Testing Friends and
Structure ✪ ✪
Places To Find Target Players
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
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 feed.
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
Give a brief explanation of
the playtesting process
Let them know if your are
recording the session
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 games?
Where do you go to find out about new games?
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
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 playtesters
Remind them to “think out loud” while they
are playing so that you can learn what they
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
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?
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 responding back.
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 the
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
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
Ways To Structure Your Tests
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
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
Whenever you conduct a playtest session, ask
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?
The system is sufficiently established to the point
where someone who knows nothing about the game
can sit down and play it.
In a paper prototype, this means the player can play
the game by following the rules and procedures.
In a digital prototype, this means that the player can
use the controls and make the game progress.
For your next prototype, you added enough
structure to make the prototype playable for
testers other than yourself. It was basic and
clunky, but it had rules and procedures.
Your focus was on both fun and functionality.
Questions Your Prototype Should
Are the structural 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?
Never Give Up Hope!
If your game doesn’t seem to be very
Go back to your core mechanics
Strip away all the additional rules
Reintroduce them one-by-one to isolate the