Jul 19, 2022 | Season | Playtest

Behind the scenes : COVID-19 Playtest

Today, we wanted to talk to you more about what goes on behind the scenes of running playtests for our indie studio. As Scavengers studio is focused on creating new IP, it is part of our culture to get feedback about our games as soon as we can in the development process for two main reasons.

  • As devs, we usually get very attached to the game we build. We put so much time and energy into it, that we tend to develop a “tunnel vision” of the product we are building. Sometimes, we even have this unique feeling like we are slowly becoming the game ourselves; we dream of it, we think of it in the shower and we work on it. It becomes 100% of our life. Getting fresh and external eyes helps us to see what we cannot see anymore being so involved in it.
  • We love validating key features or content that we are unsure about to eventually make informed decisions that will then improve the player experience. Our main goal is to create a game that will resonate with the player’s values and wishes.

Step 1: choosing our playtesters target audience

Megan, our dear community manager, coordinated everything. To find our playtesters, we decided to turn to our wonderful community. A newsletter sent, a post on Steam and Discord, and an article in the Alpha Beta Gamer (thanks!) allowed us to collect more than 3600 applications. Wow! We were so happy and surprised by your enthusiasm. Of these, we had to choose only 30 people for our first playtest. It was some tough choices.

Step 2: schedules and moderators

Then, Megan coordinated schedules with the availability of moderators and managed to find playtesters from all around the world. Almost half of the Season dev team moderate the playtests. As a team, it was something incredible to see someone in front of us playing a game that we have been working on for almost 5 years. We were very happy to meet you and finally be able to present our project to the world… well a few people.

Step 3: playtests sessions

It has been a busy week for the whole team. Our playtests sessions were booked for four hours at a time. Even if most of our playtests sessions did not take that long, some of them looked at every little detail. It’s funny, because when all the moderators got together at the end of the day, we spoke together and realized that some behaviours are very similar through the gamers and some are totally different! We thought it was fascinating to have the chance of seeing that in action. It helped us a lot to understand the player behaviours better than we ever did before with Season. We also have learned that the most subtle reactions are usually giving us the most important feedback; someone who is closing their eyes, a smile or some frowning eyebrows gives us a huge hint about the course of action.

PS: Our longest playtest was five hours long! As you can imagine, bathroom breaks were needed.

Step 4: result analysis – looking for general trends

After the playstest sessions, we analyzed the results. For this time, our playtests were more focused on the mood and tone of the game. As we said, our goal was to provide new information to the developers so they could make informed decisions to improve the quality of the game. As we can see here, our development team even created a map where we could track people’s movements and actions through the game. Player moments are so precise that to understand what they are doing on a micro scale, we divide the map into smaller areas. To find general trends, the team analyzes playtest through: data tracking, recordings, moderators notes and playtest questionnaire. Analyzing all the results took three members of the team a whole week!

Step 5: learn from the results to build next steps

After the results were presented to the whole team, we couldn’t wait to improve the game to make it even better for you and obviously closer to your expectation. The one thing that was reinforced for us, test after test, was the focus on the game’s affective impact on the player. After the tests, we saw that this “moment of a tear falling down your cheek”, the strong emotional response we are looking for, was missing at the moment. Also, people felt a little bit lost, in a world that felt a little bit too empty. We are improving it as you are reading these lines. Overall, the results from this first playtest are very positive, not only because people have enjoyed it, but also because a lot of topics mentioned by the playtesters, to make the game better, were already planned as our next steps.

PS: If you have not been selected for these playtests or if you are interested in contributing, more playtest sessions are planned over the next few months. You can still register here.

– Season Team