Monday, June 23, 2014

On Playtesting

One of the best parts about developing a mobile game is how easy it is to get people to play test.  I was able to get an incredible amount of helpful feedback by making everyone I knew (and any new acquaintances) try out the first few levels.  It was especially interesting to watch people who claimed they "don't really play games" experience my game.

Also, "Excuse me, would you mind testing out the game I'm making?" turns out to be a pretty good pick-up line =).

But while playtesting can be incredibly enlightening, it can also be extremely frustrating.  When I first came up with the idea for my mechanic, I thought it would be really intuitive and easy to understand.  Boy was I wrong.  Most people would eventually get it, but it took much longer and was a more frustrating process than I intended it to be.  And of course no one reads the instructions that pop up (but I wasn't expecting them to).  So I've re-wrote my beginning levels several times, each iteration adding more and more gui, hints, and signs to be as obvious as possible while still allowing the player some agency. 

Tutorial levels are always important in games, but they're especially important for mobile games.  The average mobile gamer has a very short attention span, and they will delete your game without a second thought if they are even slightly confused.  And free mobile games have the worst retention rates since the user has zero investment in the game.  So if you want to be successful on mobile, you need to hook the player and hook them quickly.  Then, once they're eased into the game mechanic, you can give the line a tug and set the hook with a challenge that will keep them scratching their head and coming back for more. 

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