“No Production Plan Survives Contact With the Players” – a great man, if he’d been a game developer.
Through out the several projects I’ve been part of this term have had a moment where there needed to be a shift in some of the dynamics, usually with the intent to better create the ideal feeling of the game.
During Milhazes Command, I had worked out fairly early the mechanics and design intents that I would change between Missile Command and this. Because these changes were so thematic, The kinds of questions I asked play testers was, for the majority, to do with the player’s ability to pick up on these themes and whether or not it was a generally wanted feeling to have when playing a video game.
The questions that I asked after the play test were questions that could only act as a gauge of whether or not I had “done the thing” which was comforting when much of the feedback affirmed my intention for the game but wasn’t very useful as far as meaningful changes went.
I was trying to walk the line between leading the play tester in the question and not creating meaningless question but I think I may have fallen into that trap slightly.
Here is the survey itself:
Up Ship Creek
While trying to gain useful feedback for the Up Ship Creek expansion “Disco Fever,” My teammate and I had developed a series of questions to help us develop the scenarios and to find out where the walls were showing up in the player’s enjoyment. The questions made for previous projects were aimed at players that, as far as we knew, may have had no experience with games ever. This meant that most of the questions had to be only skin deep as far as the players experience with the game went, in order to get feedback that would not bee too scattered. This meant that we were more likely to find consistent feedback but limited the deep impact of the feedback’s use.
When designing questions for Disco Fever, we were aware that most of the play testers had experience with the game as players and observers and even designers as they were also working on their own expansions. This meant that we were able to really probe the subliminal elements of the game that can go unnoticed by people not looking for them. This was balanced by having at least a couple of games with players without experience in this game which was simpler but kept us on point about how our expansive elements were picked up by a player.
None of this was done online and the pages are currently hiding in a notepad somewhere.
In retrospect, the feedback form for Wargantuan contained a lot of meaningless feedback. We knew how complete the game felt at eh time, we knew which visual elements of the game were easily identifiable (once a player knew the difference), going forward, these kinds of questions will fall off my feedback forms. However I may not have recognised this if we hadn’t tried it once.
One question that was suggested to be of minimum usefulness was “Which size map did you find drew your attention during the level selection?” This question came from an experience I had during the UI design of Milhazes Command where I decided to place the “controls” button above the play button as I noticed a trend for players of other games to “click the button at the top” rather than look at the controls, for instance. The question posed in the Wargantuan feedback form was to inform the team on how our placement of the maps in the map selection screen could circumvent players tendency to hove in on a particular type of map, or if we should embrace it, treating the exception to this style as “extra.”
Dungeons and Dragons
I run a game of dungeons and dragons at my house on a weekly basic. To the surprise of no on that knows me, I am the dungeon master and wrangle 6 players (higher than average). As I have not had a huge amount of experience playing until about a year ago, I have been curious about my ability to fulfill my role as DM and wanted to get some feedback from my players, including the negative aspects without making them feel uncomfortable. I took on board the lesson of my course and created a feedback form.
My biggest concern was whether I was creating an experience that was in line with the player’s expectations of consistency throughout the campaign, and how the game would need to be changed to best accommodate the fantasy that the players have joined the game for. In order to get responses that I could best empathise with I first broke down the different elements the game makes use of, such as combat, puzzles, role playing, etc. and then finding out which aspect were the most and least popular. easy.
The next was to try and find examples of the fantasy genre that had specific flavors and styles that I could use as reference for how I should build the game, like warcraft, the hobbit, game of thrones, etc. All example that I would expect the players to have some experience with. (inside knowledge such as with the Disco Fever players).
It appears the the majority of negative feedback was to do with the other players. Most of the players are new to this form of game play, so the feedback has shown me the I need to step in as game master more and inform the players that they need to talk more as players for the sake of the other players enjoyment. I will try to find more blunt methods of directing the flow of information between players at the table.