There are a lot of different rounds of testing that your game is going to go through. Some will be very tedious, most will be nerve-wracking, and a few may be fun. All will be necessary.
So where do you get started?
In the last log we talked about prototypes. Once you have a solid idea for a game, something you think might be at least somewhat playable, you need to put together a workable prototype and get it in the hands of players as soon as possible. That can be your friends, your family, or even strangers on the internet if you put together a print-and-play version. The bottom line: your game will never progress until you test it.
So to go through my own process: I got the idea for Bill Shakespeare is Dead on a Monday, I think? I knew my friends and I would be getting together for a game night that weekend, so I quickly got to work. A few days later, a lot of the cards were already set, and at least part of the format was complete. I was really excited. I thought I had a real game in my hands. We had our game night, and once everyone had a few (I wanted to ensure I had a receptive audience) I brought out the game. And it failed. It crashed. It burned. The Hindenburg looked at it and said “Dude, you’re a mess”. It’s a game in five acts, and after act 1 I packed it away and that was that.
So what happened? Was I terrible? Did I do something wrong? No. I didn’t do anything wrong. I simply tested an idea and it didn’t work. If I hadn’t tested it, I would never have known how bad it was. And more importantly, if I hadn’t tested it, I wouldn’t have known how easy it was to fix.
If you don’t know the structure of Bill Shakespeare is Dead, it goes kind of like this: As two performers are going through the scene, there are parts missing from the script. As they hit those missing parts, the Stage Manager calls for “noun” or “verb”, the other players contribute the card they think that works best, the Stage Manager picks the winning word, and the performer repeats the line with that new word. All in all, each of those interactions takes 5-10 seconds. The pace is super super fast, which makes it great. In comparison, my original test still had the missing words in the script, but I originally had the stage manager gathering the nouns and verbs before the scene even started, then had them do the scene with the words inserted. The same actions, but completely separated from one another. It was miserably slow.
After that first failed test I wracked my brain for a little bit, then realized I needed more chaos and fun in the game. Once I realized that the structure just needed to be mashed together, I got ready for my next test. A few weeks later we brought out the game at the Great Falls Gaming Rendesvous and it was an absolute smash. My switch from “broken” to “awesome” was pretty fast, and your testing phase might take a lot longer. Results may vary, but you’ll never get there without testing.
So now that the game works, what now? Now, I’m still testing. I test with friends. Strangers. Brikenbrak Games will be at several locations throughout the northwest in March, testing all the way. Everyone who plays the game has an experience, and some of them have great ideas. You need those experiences. You need those ideas. Test your game as many times as you possibly can.
And finally, nobody wants to buy a game that isn’t really tested. Would you?
In the next log – Reviews