Playtest Feedback

For a long time, I only wrote down notes on my own during playtests. I would write down my observations and anything that the players suggested. A few months ago, I was attending a SUP Guild event and they provided feedback forms for players to fill out after every game they played. I suddenly felt really stupid. Why haven’t I been doing this all along?! Not only is utilizing these types of forms important for refining your game, but you’ll also want to save the data you collect from them to show prospective publishers.

Here are the questions that I include on my form (big thanks to the SUP Guild for providing the original form that I based this on!):

*Were the rules clear, concise, and easy to understand?

*Were graphics and icons easy to understand?

*Did you feel that there was consistent pacing throughout the game, and not too much downtime between turns?

*Did you feel that the selection of options presented to each player during their turn were straightforward enough to avoid a lengthy analysis?

*Did you feel that there were multiple pathways to victory?

*Did you feel that the strategies of the game were complex enough that it will take a second playthrough to really get a handle on all of them?

*Did you feel that there was at least one interesting catch-up mechanism so that if one player got ahead they didn’t simply run away with the game?

*Did you feel like your decisions mattered and affected the outcome?

*Did the game feel balanced?

*Did the game feel fair?

*Were you surprised at the outcome?

*Did you win?

*How many players in your game?

*What range would be a comfortable number of players?

*What would be an appropriate age range?

*How long did it take to play?

*How long should it take to play?

*What was your favorite thing about the game?

*What would you change about the game?

*Did the thematic elements fit?

*Did you like the theme?

*Was the game fun overall?

*Would you buy this game?

*What would be a reasonable price?

*Additional comments?

*Add your email address for future news and playtest invites?

So you’ve come back from a playtest with lots of notes, data, and player feedback. Now what do you do? It’s time to look at all the information as a whole, then break things down individually. On my feedback form, I have a lot of yes/no questions with available space for players to elaborate. Was there a trend on the yes/no questions? Those can quickly point you in the general direction you’re heading with this edit.

When you start looking at the individual items that players detailed, it’s easy for you to fall into one of two mindsets. 1) You want to make everyone happy and change everything they suggested. 2) You blow them off since you’re the designer and know better than anyone else. Both of these are wrong, but they’re both right to some degree. I’ve received some amazing suggestions that have really improved some games. I’ve also seen some that made me wonder if we’re talking about the same game.   Just take it one piece at a time and consider its merits. Does it improve an aspect of the game? Does it add or take away too much? Would it deviate too far from what your final vision and goal is for the game? Does it make sense? Would it fit the theme?

Just remember, when someone is giving you feedback in person and it’s something you don’t like hearing, don’t blow them off. Thank them, jot down a note, and tell them that you’ll consider it. In general, this should be your standard response to most feedback anyways. It’s not just about you and the game you’re trying to make. If someone feels like their input was valued (and they had fun!), they’re more likely to come back for the next iteration of the game, as well as any future projects.

What types of questions do you ask your players, and how do you handle player feedback?

3 thoughts on “Playtest Feedback

  1. I don’t use questionnaires. Why Not?

    First, it is widely known that if you ask people for opinions that involve their own actions and preferences, they’ll often tell you WRONG. Not intentionally, they just often get it wrong.
    It’s much more reliable to watch what people actually do, how they actually react.
    Second, unbiased questionnaires that actually find out what you need are VERY HARD to create
    Which is likely one reason why I don’t try to.

    I never ask people if they’d buy a game (prototype). First, because the answer wouldn’t be accurate. Second, what they’ve just seen/played doesn’t look cool (usually), where the published game can. Third, because people are often polite and might say when they think you want to hear. Fourth, because amongst young people (college-age), a few buy lots of games and the rest buy none. The answer would depend largely on whether I had some of the former.

    If someone volunteers that they’d buy it, fine.

    Also, it’s hard to make up a questionnaire that isn’t quite biased. The SupGuild one, for example, is not very good (as discussed in detail in the course I mention below).

    And more reasons, but those are in my online audiovisual course “Playtesting: the Heart of Game Design”

  2. Thanks for the observations, Lewis!

    At some point this year, I’m planning to update my form to focus on the parts that I’ve seen the best results from. When players give feedback about specific aspects or mechanics that they did or didn’t like and why, I get so much more mileage out those comments than anything else on the form.

    I’m going to start blind tests on a game very soon, and I need to develop a game specific form to send along with it instead of the general one. In person testing has gotten the mechanics where they need to be. Now I’m looking for info like which characters players prefer, what actions they used the most, and how the random aspects of the game impacted their decisions.

    I think that It’s valuable to have something available for players to write their thoughts on if they’re not comfortable talking about them. However, some of the best feedback I’ve gotten has come through observation, natural conversation, and pointed questions.

  3. […] Playtest Feedback post, Dicelab Games blog: A long list of potential questions to include. You probably don’t want to include all of these on your form because you want to keep it brief, but they could give you some good ideas on what you’d like to ask. […]

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