Do you have a gaming or geek related question? Do you need help with a situation? How about a recommendation? If so, submit your questions to “The Boxcars” and let us weigh in with our collective wisdom. Questions can be submitted on the Ask The Boxcars page.
Dear Rolling Boxcars…
Thanks for adding this column, it’s a great idea! I do have a question. I am currently working on an RPG book, funded via Kickstarter last December, named “Seeds of Wars”. We are almost ready with our manuscript and we would now like to go into the playtesting phase. What would be your recommended approach for this? First test with a small number of selected people (friends?) and then open it to all the backers? Should we try to reach an even broader audience open it to Facebook groups or RPG clubs? Thanks a lot for any suggestion you might give.
Fantastic question. Most of us have been involved in some sort of playtesting throughout the years for various games, both roleplaying and boardgames. Playtesting is imperative for any gaming project and there are several things you should think about, otherwise, the long term viability of your project will suffer.
1. The alpha playtesting phase tends to be a “rough” experience for all involved and I would suggest that you select two test groups that you implicitly trust to provide you honest and timely feedback. The expectation here is that the groups will independently read and run/play your game supplement. The hope is they will find the big problems and bring them to light before you go into the beta test phase. Once you are satisfied that the Alpha test isolated the big issues and you have implemented fixes for all of them, have them run through one more round of testing. Then move on to the beta testing phase.
2. Beta testing should be with a wider pool of readers and users. I recommend at least 4-6 independent groups, more if you can manage it. You will need to set clear expectations for them as well. Are there specific areas you want extra attention given by the test groups? How often do they need to report back to you? How do they submit feedback and/or issues they have found? You will want to continually collect their feedback and make changes to the material as it comes in so that you can make the updated material available to your testers in a timely manner.
3. Once you think you’re ready to go to press, do one more round of playtesting, but this time open it up to your Kickstarter backers. Like before, be very specific with what you want them to test and provide feedback on. Otherwise, they will go off the rails and overload you with not only feedback, but opinions, and things they would like to see in the final product. Most of which will not be actionable items or feedback.
Don’t lose track of time during the testing phase. Establish rigid deadlines; ensure your groups in both phases know these deadlines and hold them to it. Keeping everyone on the timeline, with the same deadlines, will help to ensure testing is completed in a timely manner. Furthermore, it will ensure you more likely to keep to you fulfillment timeframe as well.
Most importantly, you better have thick skin! Your testers, if they are doing it right, are going to tear your project apart. You’re going to hear things you didn’t want to hear or expect to hear, but when this happens, take a deep breath and don’t take it personally. Collect all the feedback, get your team together, and sort it out. Only a portion of the feedback will be actionable and it’s that portion that you really need to focus on.
This is especially true in the Alpha phase when typically larger issues will be brought forward by your test groups. Keep your groups and your development team focused and you’ll do just fine.
Well, we hope this helps you get the playtesting ball rolling. Remember, keep to your schedule if at all possible and don’t take any of the feedback you receive personally.
Happy Gaming (Playtesting)
Dear Rolling Boxcars…
I’ve had a tabletop RPG idea for a while now but I’ve been sitting on it because I thought tabletop RPG was starting to die out. Am I wrong about this? Should I look into making my game and getting it published, or is the market oversaturated?
Old & Out of Touch
Dear Old & Out of Touch,
Your question is an interesting one, to say the least. There was a time in the mid-2000s that the Roleplaying games were on the decline and may though there would be a continued decline. Much to our amazement and good fortune, the industry rebounded around 2009 or 2010 and has been growing and going strong ever since. Much of this growth and sustainment is, in my opinion, primarily attributed two things–the indie game movement and the resurgence of D&D. Opinions on this vary, just ask every gamer you know and you’ll differing opinions. Anyways, I digress.
The market is strong and there are such a varied array of game types (traditional, gm-less, narrative-centric, etc), resolution mechanics (d20, 2d6, dice pool, tarot cards, etc), and concepts. All of that to say, yes, you’re wrong about the industry dying out.
On to your other question, should you try to make your game and get it published, absolutely! While the market has lots of games, there is no one size fits all game for everyone and all gamers. That should leave you enough room to insert your game into the market if you do it right.
Doing it right is a matter of interpretation, but we recommend that you continue working on and developing your game. All the while, get involved with industry professionals and publishers to get a sense of the ins and outs of the business side of things.
There are a goodly number of Facebook closed groups that are oriented towards industry professionals and help to serve as a sounding board for ideas, elevator pitch reviews, and as a sounding board for all sorts of other questions. We would encourage you to seek out some of these groups as a way to broaden your professional knowledge to minimize potentially costly mistakes later on.
At this time, unless your game is nearly ready to be playtested and published, I wouldn’t overly focus on the best way to release the game. Do your homework about ways to publish and you’ll find a publishing model that will work for you in due time.
While you didn’t share any details about your game and that’s okay, let me bring this back full circle, the community needs YOUR game! There is always room for great games and supplement that people will get enjoyment from. More importantly, the community needs more games from a wider swath of diverse groups. Game designers from marginalized communities are on the rise and the hobby is all the better for it. So, yes, the community needs YOUR game!
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