Titanfall’s short beta last weekend and earlier this week was a major collective event in gaming, an opportunity for two million fans to finally get their hands on one of the most anticipated titles…
I’m posting this Polygon article about the Titanfall beta to ask a simple question: What are you testing in your beta or playtest?
Video game betas frequently serve mostly as marketing exercises and performance stress tests. That’s why it’s refreshing to hear about Titanfall designers taking advantage of a beta to test their assumptions.
In some ways playtesting issues are even more egregious in tabletop games. With video games like Titanfall you can have automated systems recording all the gameplay and reporting the aggregate data. Tabletop games don’t have that sort of luxury. Tabletop designers often organize playtests hastily and allow playtesters only a narrow scope of material to test. As a result, both the testers and the designers may be uncertain about the goals of the test. It’s an easy mistake to make, and one I’m not too proud to say I’ve made in the past.
I think I’ve linked to Monte Cook’s advice about this at least once here already. The gist of it is this: Find out what it is that you need know before you test. Let your playtesters know what it is that you’re specifically hoping to learn. Then be sure that providing feedback is easy!
It doesn’t hurt to be transparent about your intentions. If your playtesters are interested in the game mechanics, don’t be afraid to give them the full scope of your unfinished rules. If there’s something missing or wrong that you’re not explicitly testing for, they’re more likely to notice and mention it.
So, what are you testing to learn?