Never Stop Playtesting

So we’ve been getting our Playtest Thursdays off the ground and they’ve been going well! Well, we had to cancel one due to a hardware malfunction (sorry to those guys) but we’ve held two more and they’ve been amazingly useful. I wanted to share a bit about why we’ve chosen to playtest so often – and as it happens, something came out of the last playtest which really reinforced this message. You can never playtest enough. No matter how experienced you are, or how confident you are in your game, there is always room for more.

We’ve played Fabulous Beasts with a lot of people over the last six months and they’ve been having a pretty great time with it. At events and in meetings, and with friends, we’ve seen many different kinds of folks enjoying the game. I was showing the game to industry hero Phil Harrison last week and he asked me this question:

“How many times have you left people to figure out what’s going on in the game without you describing what’s happening?”

You know that feeling when you realise you have no good answer to a question? Well, that.

So the first thing we did the following day at Playtest Thursday was to hand the game over with a set of written instructions to players, and to watch them try and figure it out for themselves.

Reader, it was painful. We watched them make a ton of mistakes, get confused, and eventually sort-of figure out what was happening. By then, we’d seen enough and we playtested some fun new features with them that they really enjoyed. We’d learnt something brutal and extremely important. Demoing a game at conferences and in meetings means you’re probably talking through the game yourself. My pitch for the game is pretty good now – I’ve had enough practice – and that means I was glossing over some issues with the game’s UI by talking fast. If we’re going to ship this game, we need to be able to put it in the hands of players and reviewers and for them to have fun from the get-go, and what we learnt on Thursday was that we aren’t there yet.

Which is great news for us! Because now we have something important we know we need to do, and we still have time to fix it.

Never. Stop. Playtesting.

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