Game Design

Continue to gather feedback and you’ll make your game better

Last week we talked about finding playtesters and demoing your game with them.

But what questions should you ask and how can you decipher helpful feedback from the noise?

That’s exactly what we’re going to talk about today.

Ask the right questions

After you playtest your game, you’re going to want to ask your playtesters some questions.

Some designers just go around the table asking each person their opinion. While this can sometimes be helpful, I find it’s usually more useful if you have specific questions you can ask of the group.

What questions you ask will depend on the stage of your game. If it’s still early on, you may just be trying to figure out what’s working and what’s not. But as your game moves further along, you’ll want to ask more targeted questions.

Here are a few that I use regularly:

  • What was most fun part of the game?
  • What part of the game did you like the least?
  • If you could change one aspect of the game to make it better, what would that be?
  • Do you feel like you deserved to win (to the winner)?
  • Do you feel like you had a chance to win (to all the others)?
  • Is this a game you would want to play again?

These questions are generally good at most stages, and you can add any additional questions about any specific mechanics or recent changes you’ve made to the game to see if they have made an improvement.

Take feedback gracefully

When you put your game in front of strangers, they may be more forthcoming with criticism than people you already know.

Just keep this in mind: Your playtesters are not criticizing you or your ability to make games. So, you have to learn not to take it personally or get defensive.

Write down all the feedback you receive and ask probing questions to dive deeper into anything that is unclear or requires further information.

You don’t have to incorporate every suggestion playtesters make (as they may often contradict other suggestions) but be sure to thank everyone for their feedback and let them know that you appreciate their suggestions and taking the time to play your game.

This will definitely increase the chances that they will play this game or a future game of yours again.

Decipher feedback, and look for trends and patterns

When you’re receiving feedback from playtesters, you want to look for common trends.

If you receive a one-off comment about something specific that nobody else mentions, they may not be as relevant.

However, if multiple people are telling you that the turns take too long or you are continuously seeing people turning to their cell phones when it’s not their turn, you know you have problem to address.

Also, watch out for playtesters (especially other game designers) who make suggestions to turn your game into the game that they want to play or create themselves. While an idea may be interesting, if it takes your game away from your original vision, you’ll want to treat this carefully.

Make changes to your game

Now, take that feedback you’ve received and try to understand what the biggest problem is in your game.

Brainstorm a number of possible solutions rather than just going with the first one that comes to mind, then determine which one has the most potential. Try making this change and see if your game improves. If not, go back to your list and find the next best option.

You can then repeat this process with any other issues identified in your game. I’d suggest doing this one at a time if possible, so that you can more easily identify what has improved your game. Sometimes you’ll find that making one change can improve multiple aspects of your game.

Repeat

Now, you’re going to repeat this process with other playtest groups, gathering feedback and making changes to your game.

You’ll notice over time that your game is improving and becoming a better experience for your players. Don’t get discouraged if that change you implemented doesn’t make your game better immediately. Just revert back to the previous version or try another solution to any of the problems you’ve identified.

You’ll continue this process until your game is running smoothly on a consistent basis. Once you’re no longer receiving suggestions on how to make your game better, but rather the ideas you are hearing will just make your game different, you’ll know you’re getting closer to the end.

When players start asking when they can buy your game, then you really know you’re on the right track. 😊

Take action

Your next step is to playtest your game with other designers and/or playtesters. Get their feedback, thank them for their time and suggestions, and use all the notes you take to make improvements your game.

In my next article, we’ll discuss something that most game designers despise and how to make this a whole lot easier: writing your rulebook.

What feedback did you get from your playtest? Did you gain any valuable insights?

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