The Board Game Design Course

Where great games begin

Game Design

Getting good feedback (and what to do with it)

In my last article, we talked about how to playtest your game with others. Today, we’ll get into the questions you’ll want to ask at the end of those playtests and what to do next.

After your playtest, you’ll want to ask players what they liked about your game as well as what could be improved. Uncover what the best parts of your game were and what parts were slow, frustrating, or simply unnecessary.

This will give you the ammunition to make the right changes to your game. Take this feedback, especially observations you are hearing multiple times over one-off comments, then iterate to make your game better.

Let’s go through this, step-by-step.

Ask others what they liked the most

In order to make your playtesters comfortable and start off on a positive note, first ask them what they liked most about your game. If they’re not sure, compare different aspects of your game and ask them which one they liked the best.

Once they’ve identified the most fun or engaging aspects of your game, ask them why. Get to know exactly why that part of your game was so appealing to them.

Use this information to think about how you can get to the fun parts faster and add more of this to your game.

Ask what they would most like to change

The next question you’ll want to ask is how the game could be improved, even in some small way, to make it better.

This will help you figure out what parts of your game are less fun and engaging. If multiple people are telling you that the card drafting system you have in place is too slow and clunky, it would be good to try your game without this (or after making some changes to this aspect), even if this was one of your original core ideas.

Don’t be afraid to cut something if it’s just not working. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about how to create the best experience for your players.

Be open to taking any other feedback players have as well. You never know what they might come up with that will help your game become even better.

Take that feedback and make changes

Now that you have a good idea of what’s working well in your game and what’s not, it’s time to make some changes.

If a suggestion is just a one-off, it may or may not be an issue. However, if a lot of people are telling you that the turns are taking forever, this is something you’ll need to address.

Many playtesters will immediately jump to solutions, but what you’re really looking for is identifying problems. While sometimes you get some great suggestions from playtesters, you want to first understand what the issue is so that you can come up with the best resolution. As the designer, it’s your job to come up with and test solutions to make your game better.

But don’t just jump at first possible solution that comes to mind. It can often be helpful to brainstorm a number of possible solutions, then pick the one you think has the most potential, and make this change.

Test changes yourself and with others

Now, run a self-playtest of your game again with those changes. See if this improves your game and addresses the problem adequately. If not, go back to your list of possible solutions and try the next best option.

You’ll soon discover a good solution (even if it doesn’t end up being the final one used) that can be applied to next playtest.

Set up another playtest with a different person or group and try to game again. Analyze whether the changes you made improved the game, made it worse, or just made your game different.

Focus on incremental improvements.

Repeat

Now, you’ll repeat the process with other people you know.

Continue to make changes to your game, looking to make it better with every playtest. Get feedback from new people, and again, look for trends and repeated comments.

You’ll repeat this step over and over, as you make your game better and continue to incorporate feedback into your game.

Take action

I want you to continue playtesting your game with others you know. Ask them questions about what they liked and what could be improved. Make sure to take detailed notes.

Now, identify the biggest problem that playtesters are mentioning and brainstorm a list of possible solutions. Pick your best option, apply this to your game, and run a self-playtest to see how your game plays. Then you can repeat this with other issues that were identified.

Next week, I’ll show you how to find more playtesters for your game, so you can get honest, unbiased feedback, from people who don’t know you personally.

How did your playtest go? When did players identify as the best parts and areas for improvement?

Please comment here and share your experience.

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