For my first user test, I had 3 players test the action/movement system of my game. I used a cardboard prototype of the board, and tasked the players with travelling to every square and attempting to activate it by flipping a coin. My two main goals were to determine how many rounds it takes to explore the board and to observe what strategies players would adapt with regards to each character’s special ability. First, I verbally explained the rules to the players, and then I observed them playing. The users all played the game with each other twice.
While explaining the rules, all of the players expressed some confusion. However, when they asked clarifying questions (example: “So on my turn, I can take x action?”), they typically had the right idea. One user suggested that it would be helpful to have cards that list everything that the player can do.
The most helpful thing that this playtest revealed is that the balance of character abilities is very off. During the first playthrough, the players decided to give almost all of the movement to one character, so I believe that their ability is too strong. The users also noted that to let the character whose ability is to climb inaccessible locations feel impactful, there needs to be more inaccessible locations on the board. During the second playthrough, I changed the rules from the first. The first time, two characters could not be on the same location on the board. The second time, players could be on the same location, and they could use each other’s special abilities when sharing the location. Although this rule was part of my original conception of the game, I got rid of it because of the difficulties involved in programming it. However, the players definitely had more fun with this rule in place, so my next step is to get that working in the code.
Both of my goals for the play test were met, so I would consider the session very successful. I learned that it takes 3-4 rounds for players to activate every square on the board. Players also communicated and worked together throughout the entire game, which is exactly what I wanted. However, all of my users knew each other beforehand and are friends, so I would like to see how the dynamics are different between people who may not know each other as well. Before my next user test, I want to incorporate all of the feedback that I got from this test. In addition to programming the rules to allow location/ability sharing, I will also work on the design of the board layout. I also want to conduct the next test with written rules instead of me dictating them.