The Secret to Good Game Iteration

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This talk will cover designing, playtesting, and iteration. After listening to this talk you'll find out about how to prepare for and run your playtest, how to analyze the results and further iterate on your games, and I'll tell you about my personal experience regarding the topic, which I have gained while working on CIDA's boardgame.

Tamta Asatiani
Tamta Asatiani
21 min
28 Sep, 2023

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Video Summary and Transcription

This talk explores game design, iteration, and prototyping, emphasizing the importance of playtesting with non-developers and smooth prototype testing. Observing playtesters carefully and gathering their feedback is crucial for understanding their thoughts and feelings. Playtesters are essential during the design process to ensure a cohesive and enjoyable game. The speaker shares a personal example of solving multiple problems with a single solution in the game Beast of Colchis. The talk concludes with a reminder to prototype, be nice to playtesters, and focus on making gameplay fun.

Available in Español

1. Introduction to Game Iteration

Short description:

In this talk, I will discuss game design, iteration, and prototyping. We will explore the game development process, including designing and implementing prototypes, conducting playtests, and analyzing the results. The iteration loop is crucial for refining your game. I will also emphasize the importance of playtesting with non-developers and ensuring smooth prototype testing. Let's dive into the secrets of good game iteration!

Hello, and welcome to my talk called The Secret to Good Game Iteration. I'm gonna be talking about game design, more specifically, game iteration and prototyping and how to iterate on your game properly, and how to run your playtest smoothly and that.

If you don't know what any of those big scary words mean, don't worry about that, because we're also going to talk about that at the beginning of this talk.

But first, hello my name is Tamta Satyani, I'm a game developer from Georgia, the country not the state. I've been working on games for five years now, and five years ago is when I created my YouTube channel where I talk about game dev. And I also recently co-created a game dev team here in Georgia called CEDA, and we make small, innovative games, or at least we try to.

Quick overview of the game development process. Before you make a game, you must make a prototype, which is a minimum version of your game that you can make quickly to test out your game idea. The way you make your prototype is, first you design it, so you come up with the rules for your game and the mechanics and all those things, and then you implement it, whether on paper or you make a digital prototype. Generally, you should try to make a paper prototype if possible, but sometimes that is just not viable with some game mechanics, and so you must make a digital prototype. Then you playtest your prototype. Usually, first playtest is done by the developers, or the developer, if there is only one. Then you analyze the results of your playtest. How did the playtest feel? Did the game feel as it tended to? Usually, the answer during the first playtest is no. You design your game again, you change some things about it, and then you implement those changes. You playtest again, and analyze again and again. This process of designing and analyzing and changing is called the iteration loop, and you're iterating on your game when you're doing this.

Then, after quite a few iterations, you finally come up with a prototype that you like, and you then continue making the actual game. You're done with the prototype phase. But today, we are going to be talking about this prototype iteration loop. When you go through a couple iteration loops, at some point you want somebody that is not a developer to play test your game. Because you need an outsider's perspective on it. You might feel very good about your game and you might like everything about it. But it might not be as good for somebody who hasn't worked on it for hours. And to make sure that your prototypes run smoothly, invite a person or a group of people and test your prototype ahead of time to make sure everything is in order. If it's a digital prototype, make sure that there are no game breaking bugs. And if it is a paper prototype, make sure that no key components are missing. Which is usually very easy to fix with paper prototypes. Take the pressure off of the playtesters. Make sure that they understand that they are very important and vital to the design process.

2. Importance of Playtesters and Testing Process

Short description:

Playtesters are crucial for game designers. Don't shame or get frustrated with them. They may not understand the game as you do. Be a silent observer during playtests and avoid interfering or giving hints. Don't make playtesters wait too long. Have drinks and snacks available. Analyze the playtest results, especially the live reactions of the playtesters.

And without them, you wouldn't be able to make this game. Which is true, playtesters are very important for game designers. And also, don't shame your playtesters. And don't get frustrated with them. I've had my students get really frustrated with game designers and I've had... not game designers, the playtesters. And I've had a student think that a playtester is messing with them by pretending to not understand the rules. Which is... which was not the case then and is usually not the case. It's just that things that seem obvious to you because you made the game don't seem so obvious to playtesters because they have no idea about your game.

Try to be a silent observer and not interfere with the testing process because you're not going to be there for every single player, right. When your game comes out, you're not going to be able to sit in front of everybody and explain to them how your game works. So you have to really check and see how your game will do in the real world. A playtest is the best way to do that, so you should not interfere, you should not give any hints. Sometimes when a playtester is really stuck in some place, you might give them a small hint. But do note that you should then work on that area to make sure that a player can still go through that area without the hint. Also, don't make your playtesters wait too long.

So if you're inviting a few groups of people, a good arrangement that works for us for example, is that we usually invite people with a buffer that is twice as long as we think the prototyping of a single game will take. So for example, we think that prototyping this game for this person or this group once will take one hour and we invite people two hours apart. This also gives us a chance to rearrange the pieces and get everything ready for the next group in case... you know, just to get ready for them. And we usually don't have to wait because too long for the next group because play tests usually take longer than you'd expect, especially for inexperienced game designers. You might think your game takes one hour to play and then it takes an hour and a half to play. Also, make sure that why we're doing this in the first place is that if you make the play testers way too long, they might get tired or bored or hungry and then that interferes with the design process. So you're not sure anymore if your play testers weren't happy because your game was bad or was it because they were hungry and angry and cranky and wanted to go home at that point. Also, I'd advise to have some drinks, cold drinks, water first of all, but also maybe some soda, it's where you're play testing and maybe also just some light snacks and play test with your target audience.

So for example, if you are intending to make a game, if your game is intended for 10 year olds, you should get a group of 10 year olds to play test your game. During and after play tests, we should analyze how the test went. During the play test is the most crucial, the most important part, because the live reaction of your play tester never lies. Your play tester, you might ask questions about things later, if you're not sure why they did or didn't do something.

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