Test your damn game: 4 reasons user testing is important
User testing is evaluating a game by testing it with representative users. These tests usually involve talking to people and watching them interact with your game. The point of user testing is to give us independent feedback to help us make better and more profitable games.
4 reasons why user testing is important
1) Competition: the marketplace is flooded with games.
You want people to play your game not your competitor’s game.
One way of being more competitive and more profitable is to offer a more satisfying experience than your competition.
Talk to your users. Watch them interact with your game. You can learn if anything is holding them back from being satisfied with or loving your game.
2) You cannot see the game with fresh eyes.
You are blind to things because you know too much about your game. This makes it hard to judge your game on any usability issue, and issues of first time experience or player understanding of game functions.
As Steve Krug said in Don’t Make Me Think, “If you want a great [game], you’ve got to test. After you’ve worked on a [game] for even a few weeks, you can’t see it freshly anymore. You know too much.”
3) It is important to challenge assumptions: Are people playing your game as expected?
It is likely you are guessing what people want and how they want it. Or you are making the game how you want (or to your vision) instead of making it for a particular person.
You have a lot of assumptions. It is important to challenge them and verify people are playing your game as you expected. You don’t want to be surprised when it is too late or too expensive to change something. You want to know if something is an issue as soon as possible. Especially the bigger the assumption about customer behavior.
Don’t be that company so out of touch with real people that you are making a game for an audience that doesn’t exist!
4) You are not the target audience.
Outside feedback is important. We all play games. It’s natural to assume other people play games and have the same values and expectations that you do.
It is an error to assume your values, behavior, and opinions are ordinary and representative. I learned early in my career that it is a mistake to assume you can intuitively speak for an audience. Don’t make this mistake too! Be humble!
Ok, what IS user testing?
Here are the common ways that we run user tests (at Seasun Games). Focus Groups Focus groups are in-person tests with a group of people in the same room. The tests are generally limited in time, so participants can only get a shallow look at a game. Focus groups are great for getting first impressions, general game feedback and art feedback.
Usability tests are short in-person tests with a single participant. The tests focus on closely observing participants complete tasks in your game. These important tests are carefully recorded. They focus on critical usability issues like first time experience and buying/payment flows. Usability tests sometimes include special equipment for tracking emotional responses. For example, equipment might measure: eye movement, skin conductivity, or brain waves.
Interviews generally take place over the phone or online. They are used to understand audience behavior and preferences. They are also used as follow-ups to get more feedback from participants in other tests.
Playtests occur online. Participants play the game for a limited time, at least several days, from their own personal device. The point of the test is to collect participants’ in-game behavior data. These tests are also called Alpha or Beta testing. Playtests are often followed up with surveys and interviews.
You need information on how real people interact with your game, so you can make a game people love. You want your game to be competitive in the crowded marketplace after all. There are a lot of ways of running user tests to get this information. It is easy to get started.
Next time I will go into detail about how to choose participants for user testing.