UK Games Expo Redesign Competition Playtest Day

So today all of the finalist teams were invited to Leisure Games in London for the opportunity to have their game playtested (via Playtest UK) and receive feedback.  One of the initial judging panellists welcomed us to the event as we arrived. There’s nothing quite like the following conversation to get the day off to an interesting start:

Panellist – “So, how long is your game supposed to last?”
Me – “45-60mins, about 4 or 5 rounds”
Panellist – “Oh ok. We broke your game”

Oh dear!

However; it was great to hear what had happened when they’d played. It seems we made one of the game end conditions far too easy to achieve and they’d finished it in three rounds (about 20 minutes). My first notes of the day were taken and we hadn’t even unpacked the game from the box yet.

From there, we were introduced to our playtesters, and off we went. It took us about 20 minutes to explain the rules as the game was set out and I took note of start and setup time.

Keeping track of setup time and the length of the game is invaluable later on when tinkering with the game. Make sure you write it down!

For the next 50 minutes, our playtesters played the game, asked questions and made suggestions. Both Tony and I were taking notes as fast as we could write and the comments coming from them and the judging panel was fantastic. It would have been easy to have been overwhelmed by the sheer amount of feedback from everyone, but the lovely thing was that no-one was being overly critical or harsh with what they were saying. It was all fair, reasonable and well-judged, coming from clearly experienced playtesters and designers. Nothing critical was wrong with the game (thankfully), but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. The feedback we received is going to help us make the game clearer, simpler and hopefully more fun.

All in all we have around five pages of frantically scribbled notes that we’ll be working on in the next few weeks ready for the Expo.

This is only half of the notes we took, the rest of the feedback is on the other side of the paper!

Following our playtest slot we had a talk from one of the panellists about the logistics of the final stage of the competition at the UK Games Expo, and then a spokesman from Playtest UK gave advice about the best way to demo a game at a convention. Both talks were good to hear as this will be the first time we’ve demonstrated a game at an event, and what an event to do it at!

Personally, what I’ve taken from this is that no matter how much you’ve playtested your game you always need to test it more. Different people will play the game in different ways and will see things that others don’t. Some things were picked up today that have been missed by all the people who’ve played this game already, in fact one of the cards had a huge typo that changed the way the card worked entirely that no-one had noticed until today!

All in all a brilliant experience and we’re really excited to get stuck in and improve this game. Of course once we’ve made our changes we’ll need to get more testing done and keep working on it.

For any fellow designers out there reading this, the best advice I can give you is to get yourself to a playtest event, let people loose on the game and listen carefully to the feedback you receive.

So it’s back to the workshop (kitchen table) for us with more stickers, glue and scissors. See you all at the Expo!

Gino.

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