Weeks 3-6: Playtests 0-1

Playtesting @ NYU Game Center’s Playtest Thursday Event

Playtesting @ NYU Game Center’s Playtest Thursday Event

PLAYTEST 0 • Thesis Group Discussion @ ITP • Feb 26
I ran an impromptu playtest from the Word Ninja Glitch sketch as part of my time allotment to share my project and progress with Nathier, Ridwan, Itay, MH, and Ivy. Two days prior I solidified the reboot of this game for my thesis project. I wasn’t exactly prepared to playtest but decided it was best to jump in earlier than later. I learned:

  • I am waaay out of practice describing this game!

  • It was a rough start. Maybe because people didn’t understand the instructions nor the point of the game...or that we had even started. I also forgot to ask people to disable their lock screens on their phones only after giving instructions—this is necessary so folks don’t lose connection with the server and drop out of the game.

  • Players should try to figure out the instructions on their own.

  • Players kept tapping through their words and triggering an end to the game before it started.

  • At some point Itay called out Ridwan about a suspected hidden word. Maybe players need to say an exclamation to anchor their accusations? And maybe this is the title of the game?

  • Ridwan righty suggested there should be more structure—certainly to the game launch, I agree!

PLAYTEST 1 • Playtest Thursday @ NYU Game Center • Mar 7
Playtest Thursday is an informal opportunity for game developers to share their games at any stage of the process. I saw this as chance to try some new approaches and even devised this handy-dandy playtest template to record my notes going forward.

The game is exactly how I left it from last spring. On this night I implemented three changes:

  1. I’m not fond of the title, Word Ninja. I plopped in a generic filler until I can think of something else to test.

  2. When the game starts, a conversation prompt displays to players. I swapped out the generic conversation topic starters (e.g. Converse naturally about travel, career, money, food, religion, family, music, hobbies, school, and environment), with more pointed questions to direct the conversation. I inserted a mixed of hypothetical and for / against questions, such as: If you were planning a party and money was no object, what it would be like? and For or Against: There are occasions in life when it’s okay to lie.

  3. Thinking about the setup of the game, I printed a list of rules to see if players could understand and follow them (see below). I added emojis at the last minute remembering advice from Visual Language class about how pictures are easier to read than words.

  4. I drafted survey (see below) for my playtesters which really helped me think about what kinds data I wanted to collect. I found inspiration for questions from here, here, here, and here.


Playtest Observations
There were LOTS of fails. I learned so much! And I’m so thankful for the my fellow CS and IDMs students who generously gave their time and comments. There were so many hiccups that it seemed silly to ask folks to complete my survey, but it prepared me to ask those questions during our discussions.

Here are key takeaways:

  • After leaving my computer out with the instructions nearby, and I stepped back to observe what people would do, only answering question if they were really stuck. Again it was confusing to folks to get up and running and even playing a full round.

  • I ended up walking people through how to turn off their mobile devices’ screen locks which took a lot of time.

  • The link on the instruction was wrong, which was also extremely confusing.

  • Once people connected to the app and the game started, there was accidental or curious tapping through the words and then the game ended—also confusing.

  • The rule about showing a previously-said word was confusing until after playtesters (attempted) to play a round, as was the gesture of physically covering it up on their phones.

  • The conversation prompts were appreciated for how they provided a direction to the conversation.

  • This version is not optimized for display on Android screens, only iOS.

  • In some cases, two words were appearing on the screen when players tapped for their first word. I vaguely remember this happening last year, but can’t remember if we identified the reason for that.

  • With one group, we brainstormed possible new UI designs (see below) to alleviate some of the confusion during gameplay, including adding a button to press for the next word instead of the entire screen (love this idea!).

  • An international IDM student who is not a native English speaker did not know the definitions for one of the words and mentioned that this would have been a fun ice-breaker to play with other international students at the beginning of the year and also as an opportunity to practice English. In addition, she suggested this could be a good way for younger students to practice new vocabulary words, and in fact, some teachers are already doing this.

  • Despite the technical setbacks, folks seemed generally interested in the concept of the game, and I’m super appreciative of the time they share with time to consider how to refine it.


Future Considerations
I’m really glad I went to the Game Center but with so many technical bumps confusing the game start, I’ve decided to step back, build an analog version with paper (sorry, trees!), and focus on the setup.

Also, I should come up with a title—even if it’s just temporary—because generic un-titles are boring.

Finally, bring candy to share with playtesters. Yes, free pizza is a plus, but candy adds to the fun!