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Playtests & Expectations (a ramble)

Mar 26, 2020 3:19 pm
Hello everyone,
I have only been made aware of Gamers Plane since the start of the year back in JAN. Since SEP of last year tho, I have been slowly ironing out a concept for a game I'm currently trying to playtest (both on here and on Discord) called YOU. I attempted to get everything in order so that, after discovering Gamers Plane, I could use this wonderful resource as a means of testing my game.

I was not prepared.

After I posted about my game here, I scratched my head and wondered what I was doing wrong and why I seemed to be so unprepared. I have actually shipped a game before, got it funded on Kickstarter last year, and so maybe I came into this with expectations that "I knew what I was doing" - or at the very least knew enough to get started here.

Boy was I wrong.

First of all, I just want to apologize for cramming my way in here into this community. I can easily say that folks have been nothing but supportive and kind. Its been a real treat talking to you all and getting feedback (which I can't say for some, if not mostly all, other TTRPG communities). Most other communities are "mostly" full of nice people, but always sprinkled with folks who make an art out of criticizing others, and not in a responsible way.

When you ask someone to take time out of their day or out of their week to help you playtest, what I've learned on Gamers Plane is YOU GOTTA BE PREPARED. The game I got funded on Kickstarter was developed almost entirely in-house. Even when I approached groups of players irl I didn't know for help, I quickly became good friends with them as the weeks went on. The thing about testing with friends, or with testing with friendly people, is that they are always willing to help, and irl, you can back people into a corner more easily and not even realize you're doing it.

You always hear that "games should be playtested asap and as often as possible". Games that aren't playtested properly fail. We all know that. We've all experienced that. With this in mind, I think it's easy (at least it is for me) to jump the gun a bit and expect people to help testing something that has no legs yet.

However, there is that tricky dynamic of designing vs testing.

For me, there is only so much you can design without testing, and so the question becomes: How much is enough? I honestly still don't know the answer, even after spending the last month or so fixing up YOU to become "test ready". I've looked all over the place, both here and other places, asked folks on here and other places, and nobody really has a definite way of going about all this. As a designer, I'm expecting my game to fall apart when it's tested, but I almost never think about if my PITCH OF THE GAME will fall apart.

I think in a way, the pitch is as much a "test" as the actual playtesting itself. What I've taken away from my experience here on Gamers Plane is that, before you ask for testers, you better ask for feedback on your system first. If people still aren't engaged by your premise and by your mechanics, it's back to the drawing board. So now my expectations have changed. Even before the testing starts, I'm going to expect my first couple of pitch's to go just like my first couple of tests (a bit of a mess).

I don't know if it was just ignorance of this fact, or if I had a big head, or maybe a little of both, but I totally underestimated the importance of the pitch. In the past, irl, all I had to tell friends was that I was working on a new game and needed help. That was enough, they're my friends, they want to help me because they love me. You guys don't know me! lol

For whatever messed up reason, I think I just got used to people saying "yes" when I asked for help.

So what's the point of this ramble? Idk, I guess I just wanted to spill my guts to no one in particular, but I also wanted to say sorry. More and more, I find that making assumptions is a terrible way to go about living your life. People get hurt when you assume you know best, including yourself. In the process of designing a game, things can get very one-dimensional. All you ever think about is your game. That's all I ever think about anyways. If you ask other people to be involved with what you got going on, you better have something for them in return. You better have something significant to offer and at least be prepared.

Idk who's gonna read all this junk, but if you did, thanks for indulging me. If we have a discussion about this, idk what it's gonna be about! lol

Just wanted to clear the air I guess.
Mar 26, 2020 3:49 pm
Hootey_Games says:
I was not prepared.
I guess no one ever is because
Hootey_Games says:
there is that tricky dynamic of designing vs testing.
The fact that most of us probably ignore is that most games we know (and love?) have been around forever and ever, seen multiple versions and have a battalion of people checking, double checking and play testing. And still they have issues :D Even those "plays" we find online that are soooo cool are not done by "players", but by highly professional people. We need to keep in mind that is a way different level than ours :D

I've started doing some designing on GP, mostly because I didn't want to be bothered with consulting 300 long tomes of unclear rules and I also thought; What can go wrong? They roll the dice, I say you're crap and the boss is much cooler and that's a game! Then I met players... -_-

Interestingly, my approach (unlike yours) changed from being prepared to just being a GM and hack it as it comes, trying to keep the fun going. Not sure if it is working (feedback on line is not as forthcoming as IRL, though it may be more to the point) but who never did that for good ol' DnD, throw the first die! But hey, we're all different and do things differently!
Hootey_Games says:
the pitch is as much a "test" as the actual playtesting itself.
I find pitching on GP can go either way. Most players just join too many games at the start and then struggle to handle them, so there are times when they just think: What I great game idea! Shame I haven't slept in 3 months due to my over gaming. Despite this, pitching is always key if you ask anyone in marketing ;)
Hootey_Games says:
Idk who's gonna read all this junk
I did and I must admit it was by chance :D
I probably forgot most comment I wanted to do, but yes, there is some adapting to interacting with (effectively) strangers online ;)
Last edited March 26, 2020 3:52 pm, a total of 5 times
Mar 26, 2020 3:55 pm
I somehow got wrapped up in CESN's game development a year ago and since then, we've gone through multiple playtests and many versions, some more successful, some less, and he explained it best:
Quote:
Interestingly, my approach changed from being prepared to just being a GM and hack it as it comes, trying to keep the fun going.
Just playing, dealing with players who have a specific vision for their character and then trying to make that work, playing, finding out that some mechanic really doesn't work and figuring out a way to fix it, more playing...

It's hard to get feedback out of people since most are just here to have a good time and focus on the story (which is understandable) but over time, even that can help a lot by informing the people running the playtest what works and what doesn't and whether people are having fun.

I think we have a somewhat working system by now and it's because of all the playtesting with different people here.

That also kind of turned into a ramble now, I realize, but it's somewhat on topic so I'll just submit it xD
Mar 26, 2020 3:56 pm
Designing RPGs is fun.

But to do it with the intent of trying to release it to the general public, and/or perhaps especially to try to make it a commercial product/revenue stream...? That takes a special kind of masochist.

I'm super glad ppl do it. Cuz even with the hundreds (thousands?) of systems that already exist, ppl still come up with cool stuff that hasn't quite been done before. But man... I remember fondly the days when I had that kind of time. Distantly, but fondly.
Mar 26, 2020 3:59 pm
bowlofspinach says:
I somehow got wrapped up in CESN's game development
He has not been the same since...

Bowl does raise another interesting point: You probably want to have one or two players more invested. Just being able to runt in bowl's direction has been very useful and I don't think I would have gotten anywhere without that (and maybe some advice here and there)
Last edited March 26, 2020 4:01 pm, a total of 2 times
Mar 26, 2020 4:28 pm
Thanks for all the feedback gang!
Quote:
Just being able to runt in bowl's direction has been very useful and I don't think I would have gotten anywhere without that
This is basically how I got my first game finished, with a dedicated group. I imagine this is how most games are created. There is still a period tho, not sure exactly when in development, where you either branch off from (or toward) a larger group of folks. Its super easy to just play it by ear as we've been talking about tho. Its difficult to know how much structure you should have before you start, and what that structure should even look like :/
Mar 26, 2020 5:27 pm
I just posted under the Mechanics thread the core idea for a game I have been thinking about. This is an interesting thread. It has given me something to think about moving forward. One of the things that stopped me from testing before now is a lack of time and resources (testers). I had kind of hoped this site would provide testers, but you're right I need to check and make sure I'm not expecting too much. I've been on other PbP sites so I know how it goes with the surging and lagging of attendance.
Mar 26, 2020 5:34 pm
@Dreamblade. I think this site is probably one of the best places to find testers, but you gotta be ready for them. I was not. Expect a "slow crawl to victory" in achieving the results you're looking for. If you think you're ready, jump in and find out, but don't expect to just begin testing immediately. I did and I shouldn't have. If you'd like some feedback on your system tho, drop me a link! I'd love to check it out!!
Last edited March 26, 2020 5:37 pm, a total of 1 time
Mar 26, 2020 7:09 pm
I'm putting it together for outside viewing. I will get you a link when it hits a level ready to be seen by others. Which really just means I need to edit things more. My notes are ...sporadic right now.
Mar 27, 2020 1:41 am
(Are we rambling here about game design and playtesting? May I join?)
Hootey_Games says:
I don't know if it was just ignorance of this fact, or if I had a big head, or maybe a little of both, but I totally underestimated the importance of the pitch. In the past, irl, all I had to tell friends was that I was working on a new game and needed help. That was enough, they're my friends, they want to help me because they love me. You guys don't know me! lol

For whatever messed up reason, I think I just got used to people saying "yes" when I asked for help.
I'm not a game designer, certainly not in any professional capacity, but I had somewhat similar experiences with writing pitches.
In my teens (which wasn't actually that long ago, to be fair, but it feels like a different time), I was greatly into writing and forum roleplaying, as well as online games that had a lot of narrative value. And back then, I almost always ended up as a creative lead - because I wanted to make my own stories, rather than joining someone else's. I made plots for RPs, lead teams for story contests. Whether my ideas were actually good or people around weren't picky, but I very rarely failed to gather at least some attention. My friends were always super supportive, too.

Needless to say, that majorly got to my head, and first rejections were unexpected. I got used to thinking "hey, this new idea is amazing, I'm a creative genius, everyone will love it, I need to go and post it somewhere immediately", and the thought of actually trying to see said idea from an outsider's perspective - or even to think more deeply about it, - never really occured in my head. XD But then people around me changed, and the flow of ready agreements stopped; I was actually told for once "nope, sorry, not into this concept" and pointed out flaws in my ideas. Was enlightening!
...and the rejections also made me wary of actually pitching ideas at all, for a while - hurt pride, and all this. Golden middle is hard to find. Keep guessing yourself if everything's up to standards, or just go and show it to others? At what point to risk?
Hootey_Games says:
For me, there is only so much you can design without testing, and so the question becomes: How much is enough?
If people still aren't engaged by your premise and by your mechanics, it's back to the drawing board.
I'm not sure how correct it is, but I think for a playtest to actually interest testers, you need a solid core idea that stands out and a mechanic that supports it. With YOU, you had the first - but not the second; the concept of making a character based on yourself wasn't supported by any system element, which people in the thread noted. But now you have that mechanic! I bet recruitment would've gone at least a bit better with the current version of the system. :D (Although I still think there's potential for improvement for later~!)
I found this working in general writing, too. If you make up some great element of the setting as the core of your idea, you better mention how it affects the world in your initial prologue, or idea pitch. If that element interests people, they want to see it doing something right away!
bowlofspinach says:
It's hard to get feedback out of people since most are just here to have a good time and focus on the story (which is understandable) but over time, even that can help a lot by informing the people running the playtest what works and what doesn't and whether people are having fun.
This is somewhat unrelated to the original thread's theme, but since it's about playtesting...
Personally, I also find it hard to provide feedback for a system being playtested because sometimes I can't separate what things are the system's fault and what are the GM's. Especially if GM and the system's designer are one and the same. :D (It's probably a result of my lack of familiarity with TRPGs in general, to be honest.) I keep quiet on issues I have because I doubt about their source, and don't want to complain about the GM's style and be useless for the test itself.
(And also because I don't want to be seen as someone who only complains - but that's just an issue with any type of critisizing feedback, I suppose. XD)

Sorry for a ramble! Just wanted to share some thoughts, I hope that's okay. :D
Mar 27, 2020 2:56 pm
Quote:
Sorry for a ramble! Just wanted to share some thoughts, I hope that's okay. :D
This is the perfect place for that!
Quote:
I'm not sure how correct it is, but I think for a playtest to actually interest testers, you need a solid core idea that stands out and a mechanic that supports it. With YOU, you had the first - but not the second; the concept of making a character based on yourself wasn't supported by any system element, which people in the thread noted.
This seems like such an obvious thing to have, but I always find that it takes me ages to finally develop the second half as you said. I suppose that's because the second half actually requires a-lot of work to get to! You can still "think" you have it tho when you really don't. That's what I thought. All I had was a "playable" RPG, but that was it, and that's not enough obviously. I think I assumed we would get to the second half after testing was under way, but testing wasn't even on the table at that point. I needed more substance to begin that process.

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