Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Playtesting Thoughts

Ok. You guys just aren't getting the message here. I've been flogging Sara Bakay's IndieGoGo fundraiser for a month now, and she's not getting many donations. I've been sharing all kinds of game developer wisdom here, to challenge your thought processes and give you advice. I can see by the stats that Google helpfully tracks for me that a lot of you are reading this stuff. That's not translating into donations. 

Think of it like a tip jar. Did you like something you read here? Did you learn something? Were you entertained? Then throw a buck in the jar. If all of you guys who found my site by Googling Natalie Portman's tummy region had kicked in a buck, Sara would have an extra $100. (I tried talking her into a belly button photo. No dice. Sorry. And my black eye is healing nicely, thank you.) 

However, that gave me an idea. 

Randomly scattered through all the links on this page is one link to a free porn website. It's hidden somewhere in this article. Click on all the links to find it. 

Now, for today's article

The feedback came in on the initial draft of the Torn Armor rules. Needless to say, we got a lot of comments about "it's" versus "its" and "your" versus "you're." And we appreciate that. We really do. You were supposed to be playtesting the game. You know, trying it out with your own miniatures, rolling dice... You know, playing the game. Though I really appreciate the people who pointed out that the em-dash on page 12 didn't carry over when converted to InDesign. 

I had this experience with the playtesters for the Star Trek RPG (the second one, for Decipher). We had a bunch of groups to whom we sent out a draft of the rules. We waited. And waited. And waited some more. Finally, I contacted several of these groups. 

Me: "How's the playtesting going?"

Playtester GM: "Well, the group just beamed down to Thalos IX and they encountered this alien culture based on old re-runs of the Teletubbies..."

Me: "Great! You use the planet creation rules?"

GM: "Nah."

Me: "How about the alien creation rules?"

GM: "Oh, they're a Romulan offshoot, so I just used the Romulans." 

Me: "So. How's combat working for you?"

GM: "Well, we've only played about five sessions, and we haven't gotten into a fight yet...." 

That's when I realized. They were playing a campaign. Like you would normally do. That's not what playtesting is about. Playtesting is creating 30 player characters to see if you can break the character creation system. It's about just running fights to see if you can break the combat system. You all sit down one day to create planets, to see if the planet creation rules work.... You don't play the game

This is how it works in the computer game industry. They get 40 guys in a room and hand them a worksheet. On this worksheet are a number of tasks they have to complete. Stuff like "Go to the northeast corner of the room and swing your sword left. Now swing it right. Now swing it forward.... Any glitches?!" Or "fight the dingus monster on level 12. 300 times. Any glitches?!" Sounds fun right. Playtesters in the video game industry aren't running around playing networked Halo the way you and I would. They have a list of tasks. If they want to keep their jobs, they'd better come back with a filled out worksheet. 

In other words, this isn't just a way for you to get to play cool games before everyone else does. Playtesters are supposed to be trying to break the system. They're supposed to report back about any poorly written rules. They're supposed to let us know that when you combine the rule on page 12 with the rule on page 32, the orcs always win. And you guys wonder why there are so many broken RPGs out there.... 

Fortunately, we got some good feedback on Torn Armor. Useful stuff. We've tightened up the consistency of game terms. We now always use the same sentence structure when describing rules that work on the same principle. We made sure the Sisk always lose. Because Spartans are Alyssa's favorite thing, and we can't let her have nice things. I've spent the better part of the week combing through the rules and fixing them. In some cases, the rules were really unclear. In others, they were being used in ways we didn't anticipate. All in all, it's been a good process. I want to thank all of you out there for participating. 

By now you've gotten to the end of this article, and you're still looking for hot, nubile teens. You've also realized, after going to Sara's IndieGoGo dozens of times that there is NO porn link hidden here. But you should have gotten the idea that you should effing contribute to her campaign. Seriously. Don't tell me you don't have a dollar. 

How could you say no to this punim?