Using Early Feedback to Enhance a Game

I don’t know if there is a greater high in the game design world than getting playtest feedback from players, especially those who aren’t your family or friends. Don’t get me wrong – my closest friends and relatives have been INCREDIBLY helpful in shaping the alpha version of Gamestormers. However, you always worry that when they say they like your game… they’re protecting you. It’s hard to tell someone you love that this thing they’ve been building stinks.

So, it’s been incredibly rewarding to hear from strangers that yes, they DO enjoy the game overall. Although I have only six recorded playtests in my Google Form, the early feedback is promising. Pretty much everyone has given the game a 4/5 of overall enjoyment of the game they created. In addition, the majority put their overall enjoyment at a 4/5, with a few 3/5 ratings as well.

Early ratings on enjoyment of Gamestormers and the games created.

However, there are some issues that need to be ironed out in the game. One area of improvement for sure is the instructions and clarity of the rules. One big takeaway from both the quantitative (rating data) and qualitative (comments) information is that players are confused or unsure of how some rules and actions work.

Playtest feedback on the clarity of the game rules and instructions for Gamestormers.

Based on the data above, players on average rated the game as a 2.6 out of 5 for clarity, which does not inspire a ton of confidence in the beta rulebook. However, this was to be expected – I tried to keep the rules booklet and video brief, and this surely came at the cost of fleshing out some of the more complex rules. In the comments, people most often referred to being confused by the Arena, which does have a lot of interaction and complicated payout rules.

Another area where people felt confused was the credit system. Multiple playtesters actually ran out of credits, also known as the currency in the game. I did not foresee this happening and even included more credits in the kits than I thought was needed, but I do believe confusion about the rules and gameplay likely added to this issue. One idea I had to limit the credit issue was to make the Bank dice less powerful by making fewer “big” numbers people could roll to enhance their total.

“It was surprisingly easy to come up with a fun story for our own games based on the cards we got. The person that complained the most about not being creative or imaginative came up with the coolest story that won Designer’s choice award.”

-Early Playtester for Gamestormers

On the other side of the feedback, players reported a lot of positive aspects of the game as well. One big takeaway was that playtesters, especially younger players, loved the Theater action of rolling dice to make their own cards. Multiple groups liked using the dry erase cards and markers to add a creative element to their story, which really was great to hear.

Another highlight of the game that came through in nearly every playtest thus far was the act of making a game. Five out of the first six playtest groups referenced the creative aspect of designing a game as their favorite part or one of their favorite parts. If there’s ANYTHING that I wanted to hear out of the experience, it was that people liked the core objective of the game. It’s such a relief to know that the chief design goal – create a game you are proud of – comes through effectively.

Baby Sloane deciding what to do next in an early Gamestormers playtest.

Let’s be honest here – Gamestormers has a loooong way to go before it is Kickstarter ready. However, the early feedback tells me there is something here. Players are enjoying what they make. Players are proud of their games. Right now, the ways they get to make that game need improving, and the explanations need clarity. Those aspects, however, are entirely fixable.

I’d like to end this post with a shoutout to our playtesters – THANK YOU for playtesting Gamestormers. Your feedback will shape the game into a more enjoyable experience for everyone, and I am indebted to you for your service!

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