The Importance of Play Testing

I cannot stress enough the importance of having people outside your development team test your game at every key milestone.  Ideally you should have people in your target audience testing, but showing off your app to anyone (friends, family, everyone who doesn’t run away when you tell them you’re making a game, etc.) yields several very important results:

1) Most obviously, it will help uncover bugs.  Think of it as free QA, because after 100 hours of coding and testing yourself, you really don’t want to regression test more than you have to.

2) It will reveal potential problems in your user experience early on.  When you show your game to someone new, resist the urge to tell them what to do with it.  Instead, watch how they try to interact with the game with zero input from you.  Are they able to navigate the menus?  Are your tutorials and on-screen instructions clear enough to get them playing immediately?  Do they give up in disgust at any point?  Answering these questions via testing is invaluable because your team is often too close to the app to see it objectively.

3) It will generate new feature ideas.  For example, after implementing the chain sound as a result of earlier testing, a new tester suggested that we add on-screen equations corresponding to user actions so that kids always have a way to see the math they’re doing in numerical form.  Adding this one feature was fairly easy, but it really created another level of game interaction that we hadn’t even thought of before.

And remember – you don’t have to have a polished game to get great feedback.  A simple gameplay test or even pen and paper can yield great results, too!

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