Shooting in London

This weekend was 2016's final Sunday playtest session in London and, having missed the last couple, I was eager to get along.  My plan was to take Invaded (the game about being attacked by a non-player colonial power) along, but over the last couple of weeks a new opportunity has come up, so I rethought things and I ended up taking along a game that is rather early in its development life but that I managed to get far enough with that I felt it was at least playable.
My basic prototypes definitely have a "look" to them.
Right now I don't feel I can go into great detail about this project for a couple of reasons, but in essence, what we have is a game of big game hunters going out to "bag" fantasy-style monsters.  I had four volunteers to try the game out, so I sat out to observe and act as the rulebook.

And then I experienced one of the most brutal take-downs of my game that I have had so far.  It quickly became apparent that there were too many rules, and many of them didn't make sense to anyone but me.


But the general consensus was that there was a lot of fun to be had with this game if I can clear the deadweight away and tidy up the bits that are left.  We identified the parts of the game that were the most fun, and which just got in the way, so now I have a lot of information to be going on as I develop the next version.

I think that this is one of the most important skills to learn as a neophyte game designer: the ability to take criticism, to avoid being defensive, and to see what the feedback is really telling you.  Here, I actually had four people telling me what they wanted to do in this game (and what they felt was fun) and letting me know what parts of the game are making that harder.  What they wanted to do mostly lines up with the main concept of the game, and most of the bits that were getting in the way were elements that I thought would add more interest to the game.  Based on this, I think most of those extra elements will be dropped for the next iteration, but some of them are ideas that I may be able to reintroduce in a modified form later, if the game needs them (and it may not).  In the meantime, though, I need to find the core of the game and make it as much fun as I can.

Before moving on, I'd like to just extend special thanks to David Turczi. All of the testers were hugely helpful, but David put a lot of effort into questioning just about every part of the game, accepting some of my responses, arguing against others, and highlighting all sorts of problems, while also giving some solid general advice and saying a few very nice things about some parts of the game.  His, and everyone else's, input left me feeling a bit bruised, but really positive about the future of the game.

Of course, this being a playtest meetup, it's not all about my projects, and I was able to play a good selection of other games varying in completeness from just about ready to publish down to very early and creaky but showing promise.  So I played a micro-wargame about the War of the Roses, a game about printing money to rescue struggling businesses, a car racing game with a really interesting "exhaust" mechanism, a game about time travel and saving the world, and a really cute game about rescuing baby dragons.    It's really inspiring to see the huge range of what is being worked on -- and these only amounted to barely a third of the games being tested on the day.

So, I now need to get back to working on that Shooting Party game.  Time is a-ticking.


  1. Thanks for play testing my games and sorry to miss your test!

    The feedback filter is one of those life skills you learn as a designer. It has to adapt to the stage of the prototype.

    Alpha testing (like you did at the weekend) and the filter is for emotions. You just have to stuck it all in, make as many notes as possible and apply logic to it later.

    Beta testing (like Whelps was) is about filtering out what is relevant and what isn't. Is a player just saying what they like in games or is it genuinely a good idea for development.

    Balancing (like Cousins War was) is about censoring new ideas unless they really are awesome (in which case you go back to beta) and just looking at the refinement and intuitivesness.

    Looking forward to testing Shooting Party soon!

    1. Thanks for the comment and for that analysis. I hadn't got as far as drawing neat lines in my head between different testing stages, but I guess playtesting is more effective if you can be clear about exactly what you are looking (and filtering) for in any given test.

      I'm sure you'll get plenty of chances to see future iterations of Shooting Party! :)