Ask any game developer to list the greatest challenges for their company and right near the top will invariably be “testing”.
Testing. It has to be done – it’s crucial to delivering a great product, but if you knew how TOUGH it was to get testers. It’s a practically herculean task. In fact I’m starting to believe it’s actually impossible.
I honestly don’t know the answer. My Book of the Summoner is complete. I started by sending the complete document out to people who offered to critique it… that resulted in zero responses (the excuses appear when you start to press for a response).
Then I cut it down to 50 pages (just the core text) and the responses are the same (or lack of them).
So then I cut it down to just the absolute basic information (a couple of pages at most) and still no response. Even the 12 pages of spells hasn’t had more than a few comments (they’re good, etc).
I remember it was the same when working with another huge RPG company back in 2003. They emailed out 1000 copies of a playtest and I think it received 40 proper responses. FORTY. For a major player in the industry that’s beyond abysmal. That’s 4% of readers bothered to playtest the material in any significant way.
So what chance I do have?
It’s a paradox: people want a highly tested product but they don’t want to do the testing to refine that product.
I remember when one of my products went to print. It barely had any testing beyond my own team – purely for the reasons stated above. But when it was climbing the bestsellers list, the gamers came out in huge numbers, suddenly wanting to get their hands on book 2.
Hmmm, if I sound a bit bitter, it’s not hard to see why. It’s hard to stay motivated when you’ve done so much work and you can’t move forward because of a lack of testing. I literally don’t have ONE single person I can send a 10 page document to and expect to get any kind of response other than “it’s great”.
So, if you get the chance to support your local developers, please do so. They depend on your input far more than you can possibly know.
Without testing, nothing ever gets done.
Oh and The Great Magical Cake Off – has been tested by my fair hand about 1000+ times. I took it to three conventions and endless smaller groups over the past 5 years. Clearly sitting down with people is the only way to get results…