Game Design



There's nothing worse than the smell of burnt toast - when it's coming from one of your tester's craniums. Testing is obviously vital to your game's success as the public and media will tear you to pieces if your game is found to be buggy. It is important, therefore, to keep your testing schedule light and varied in order to prevent the burnout of your testers. When they look at the same levels over and over for days on end they're bound to become lax and miss a bug or two.

Switch it up. If you have any other games in development give your testers a variety of tasks. You must destroy the assembly-line feel of testing since it numbs the mind - the very thing you need at peak performance for effectiveness. If your game has a multiplayer option, use it as a reward for your testers, let them test the multiplayer after a hard day in the trenches. Keep the balance between multiplayer and single player testing appropriate, however. If your game is mainly a single player offering with multiplayer as a bonus, ensure that the single player aspects are sufficiently emphasized.

Fun Factor

Bring in testers from outside your development group to test the playability and fun factor of your game. Let the tester play the game uninterrupted and unaided to see where he has the easiest time, where he gets killed too quickly, and where he gets stuck. If you have allowed enough variability in your engine and your tools, you should be able to tweak and tweak and tweak until you make the levels fun. If your engine was too rigid to begin with you may find that your game isn't fun no matter what you do, so beware.

During your observations you may notice that a puzzle or course of action that seems completely obvious to you will be anything but obvious to an outside entity. Ever try opening one of those childproof bottles, and fail? That is what your testers may feel like, so be sure to nip it in the bud before it's passed on to the consumer. Nobody likes to feel like an idiot.

Be conscious during your design to provide 'fun' at a steady pace. It should never be a breeze, nor should it be impossibly hard. You should, additionally, allow the player to go at his own pace. As seen in FPS games, you go into a room, kill some monsters (fun) and when you're ready for more 'fun' you venture forth once again. Don't fluster the player with a deluge of monsters and action at all times, give them a chance to dictate the flow of the game. Testing is imperative in getting this right, it simply isn't something that you can predict with any accuracy during the design phase.

When people run out of 'fun' they stop caring about the game world and start trying weird things. They shoot at their wingmen and try throwing fireballs at villagers. You don't want this sort of thing to happen, so take the feedback from your testers seriously. When you are told repeatedly that something isn't fun or that something else is, you should listen. You are likely too involved in the game to see the truth of the matter.

Next: Some Closing Tips | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5


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Article by:

Ryan Clark

Date: 2000 Jan 19



Latest comment

by: Jamie

What a great article. Well written and interesting.

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