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?
*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?