I’d like to hear from designers about their experience with locating and utilizing playtesters for games.
I mostly use innocent children. I take advantage of trips to places with very bad Internet connectivity. Or I bribe a friend with a beer and a meal.
My experience has been a mixture of local gamer friends, through gaming communities and platforms including via social media, and at gaming conventions. The overall experience seems to be hit or miss over the years.
I mostly playtest on conventions and in my gaming groups. This is Pulp have had more than 100 playtesters, but with me as game master, and a couple of sessions where I attended as a player. I tried villages.cc for external playtesting, where you exchange time as a currency, but it backfired with me having to read through 500+ pages to even begin to playtest where my game were only about three pages long. I also think external playtesting requires recording.
I do take in amateurs as editors—fellow forum visitors or game designers—to give feedback on the text. Especially important when I write in English, because I’m not a native speaker.
My creation progress is a little bit different, however, because I create games through playtest. I write a skeleton, that my players then interpret and expand upon; almost like a scenario. The archetypes in This is Pulp only had a name and a tagline, and after the players (my group or at conventions) played with the archetypes, I used their actions as inspiration to write down two moves for each archetype.
 You will get the best feedback after you released the game, so one thing to consider is to release a cheaper and limited early beta for print. People that paid for your game are more inclined to give feedback. You basically having people paying to playtest for you.
what do you mean here? was it the website?
Initial playtesting with groups which I already know. Wider playtesting for me would normally happen at conventions (although that has been very difficult for the last couple of years)
Nah, I met someone there and we suggested to exchange each other’s games and playtest tehm. His had 500+ pages filled with setting without any notes of how I should use it.
oh no that’s BS!
And sorry to bother but the site description wasn’t clear: on that platform you exchange time, right? You’re not paying money, you’re spending time, is that right?
Yeah, exactly. You earn “time” by helping others and can then hire others by paying that time. I haven’t used the service in years (they changed from .cc to villages.io, for example), but I’m still really fond of the idea.
My regular group of players were up for play testing.
I’m still really fond of the idea.
We could all come together to make an indie game design time-share here in the gauntlet community!
I ran a ton of games at conventions, into the mid 100s before I kickstarted Simple Superheroes. Had some other folks run it, mostly through the ashcan version that I printed up and sold over a couple years.
Alright, what do we need? Thinking outloud… maybe we need a collaborative sheet where we write up a blurb of what the playtest is about. Then testers write their names down for 1 hour slots?
I see already one objection (which must not stop anyone willing to implement such a test-rounds-table). What we are going to see I’m afraid is that some are more often available than others at prime time slots, so the machine will grind to a halt if we want to make participation time equal for each.
I’ve been wishing for a playtest group for years. Here’s what I find works best: a club. For playtests, you want to play maybe one hour slots, plus one hour of debriefing. You can halve the values for very specific gameloops. If you want to test a game of 4-5 hours sessions played in campaign mode, that’s really the same as finding a table of players, and a whole different question. In my mind’s eye, the key is to always have a slightly volatile pool of playful persons ready to play. That’s called a Discord server or a local gaming club. It could be Gauntlet’s calendar, but it’s too slow for me.
On a server, I have already done 15 minutes sessions with half an hour debrief, and that, repeated, is perfect for playtesting. I see a lot of “for play” chans active at lunch time or after dinner. At a club, you can squeeze either a 15 minutes “waiting” game loop with 15 minutes postponed debrief, or a 2 hours full playtest once a month. Of course, it will depend on the adequation of the members with the games you create. All in all, I’d say finding a Discord server where they play games similar to yours is the easiest, but you lose a lot of the spontaneity and non-verbal clues.
Thanks for your question, it allowed me to desentangle my thoughts.
How is this going for you so far?
I’m playing with different groups, in various gaming clubs but I’m still a bit shy to show my games is the naked truth!
Watch me dressing it: “I am catching up and playing a lot of “historical landmark” games and learning a lot. As things begin to settle, I see playing my games is becoming an option: for me, they’re the next best games on my list. So, soon enough…”
Rationalization is an affliction
I’m still a bit shy to show my games is the naked truth!
That is normal. But it’s the only way to make your work better, or prove that it has potential. It is a playtest session, after all. I think people are there knowing that things will not be polished to perfection. I bet someone of them enjoy taking part in the creative process (while you do all the work of writing it).
OK true. But.
We live in a constant flux of offers. Why playtest when we could be playing a new game that we know works. In a given group not everyone will be interested in the creative process. Play testing supposes some level of creative hype or dedication. I’ve found a few clubs with people with such mindsets now and play testing is more like “double feature”, so it’s not “either/or”, and more “by the way”.
“Double Feature” I like that. It’s a cool way to put a positive spin on it.
Even “new game that we know works” had to be tested by someone
Thanks for the reply! Best of luck
Well – just because it’s been published doesn’t mean it works. Or that it works the first time you run it, or that it works for your group.
Honestly I would say that for most players playing in a “playtest” just means that it will be like playing a system they’ve never played before.
With the “bonus” of being able to comment on how things went or mechanics that they didn’t get at the end.