How do you playtest?
It's a question that I've been asking myself lately. Sure there is the indie way of playtesting. Simply asking your friends and family to play. And that's what I did for now. We need to fix the tutorials in 4 in a blow. I think that the feedback from the current playtesters will be enough ... for now. But it might not be enough in the future.
More then enough reasons to look at playtesting opportunities.
What, where, who?
Usability and user experience.
The who and where is up to you and your game that your are playtesting.
Here are some hints that can help you on the way:
Extra credits youtube channel
Valve's approach to playtesting PDF file
I just want to know who can help me with what. Who is the best, the cheapest? And is it better to do it by myself?
Playtestix is a russian company that does playtesting for all kinds of games. If you would like a price, then you need to fill in this request form. Don't ask me how I got to it but I found this pdf file that can give you an anser. There is also some special price offers at the media section.
Overall they seem pretty good and the special offers may be worth it.
Playtest cloud some how seems more professional then playtestix. They seem to focus on quality. You can ask 1 player that plays 1 session for only 49$. They suggest you start with 5 players. So it will cost you 245$. 5 Players isn't much but I think the quality can make up for the quantity.
The best thing about playtest is that it's free. The disadvantage is that you'll have to do most things by yourself. Inviting players, distributing your new build, surveys, feedback and chat. And it's for iOS only. Maybe it's time for me to buy an iphone.
Hockey app is more or less the same as Playtest cloud but it doesn't have audio and video during the playtests. I think Hockey app is more focused on QA and not on UX or usability.
But it comes with a better price then Playtest cloud.
Centercode doesn't only test video games but other software and even hardware aswell. They seem to do their job very thoroughly but it comes with a price. Centercode Managed Beta Tests start at $6,000.
It's just not for a indie game developer like me.
VMC looks the same as Centercode. Testing more then game and looking very expensive.
The place to go for a game developer. Offering a service through the entire product lifecycle of a game.
Unfortunately I have heared that it's not for a indie budget.
In my opinion usability is the easiest to playtest. Usability can be tested with all kinds of players. It's even possible to detect some issues by yourself. And for the rest it comes down to a good observation and asking the right questions so that players can express their feelings and perceptions correctly.
Playtesting the experience is harder. First of all you need the right audience. Then comes the observation and then fixing the problems. This is a crucial moment in your game design proces. I've seen projects completely derailing at moments like these.
Don't just add stuff to your game thinking it will make it cooler. Remember the experience you want to create, remember the aspects you are focussing on and find out if your game actually produces these things.
If your game isn't doing what it suppose to be doing then fix it. Check your game design theory again and try some small adjustments first before you turn your game upside down.
It is like walking a tightrope. Pushing these items to hard will please hardcore board gamers but irritate casual gamers and vice-versa.
Maybe I can implement a score system to encourage hardcore board gamers to use these items while casual players will carry on using more bombs.
It took me longer to obtaining the right feedback for the usability of the game. I must admit that I just did some sloppy playtesting. Not writing down any playtest question or feedback, no preparation and so on.
My girlfriend was my biggest asset. I only asked her 1 time to play the game but she kept playing it for months.
When she turns quiet and shows me a pensive face, then I know she is playing my game. Now and then she tells me her thoughts about some aspects thus providing me with value feedback.
Imagine that you have a dozen of such players who can play the game at their own pace, at their naturel habitat. Players who you can watch and communicate with. That would be ideal for playtesting.
I would recommend Playtest in combination with your own playtests for indie developers. Make sure that you watch the reactions of your players in your own tests.
If you have a small budget or want more professional help then go to Playtestix, Playtest cloud, Hockey app or maybe you can ask Player research for specific help (like professional feedback only or something).
If you have more then enough money then just go for the big guys Centercode, VMC or Player research.
What ever you choose, don't forget where your game should be going.