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I'm working on a website for asynchronous two-player games (mostly board games); as part of the site's development I'm hoping to use it to playtest new games I design. The good news is that this offers a much larger pool of playtesters; the bad news is that they'll be remote, so I have no easy way of gauging reactions or of directly watching them play. Obviously I can get a lot of useful information just by extracting metric data (e.g. How many moves games take, who wins more often, average margins of victory, etc.), but I'm wondering how much I can go beyond this too:

  • What data particularly should I be looking to extract from completed (or even in-progress) games?
  • What are effective means of collecting information from the participants themselves rather than just the games? In particular, will surveying players (e.g. with email or web forms) do me any good?
  • What sort of essential information should I only expect to be able to garner from ‘local’ playtests?
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I think the answer to all of your questions depends on the kind of game you're making and the questions you're looking to answer. –  Tetrad May 6 '13 at 6:50
    
@Tetrad Agreed, but I imagine there are some universal principles at work, at least. (And as I noted, the games in question are turn-based board games, which constrains things a fair bit) –  Steven Stadnicki May 6 '13 at 14:45
    
You could build in the option to take a (optional) survey after a certain amount of game sessions have been played. –  sarahm May 6 '13 at 15:06
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This shouldn't be the ONLY thing you do, but set up a message board (or a subreddit) for user feedback. If your games have a lot of players they will bounce ideas off each other and/or get into arguments with each other on the forums. Just take everything they say with a pinch of salt, not everyone knows what they want. –  Lewis Wakeford May 6 '13 at 18:24

1 Answer 1

You could ask them to record their play sessions with a video capture software like Fraps or GameCam. Additionally, you could also ask them to wear a headset with microphone and comment verbally on their game experience (the results would be similar to a "Let's play" video). The advantage of verbal commenting is that it is more spontaneous and honest than any written feedback.

It's also easier to gauge the emotional reaction of testers when hearing them thinking aloud while trying to perform a task. When a tester writes "Usability Issue: Start game button hard to find" it's hard to estimate how critical this really is. But when you hear a tester stumbling around the game screen mumbling "Let's start a new game... where is that... button... maybe... no... or here... or maybe I have to... damn, where is that f###ing button" it's much more obvious how large that problem really is and how the user expects it to be solved.

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