Here at PlaytestCloud, you know us as the platform that gives you the complete tool kit you need to collect all the data you can think of on how players interact with your game – before or after its launch. We can even help you find out what players think of concepts or ideas, to make sure you’re on the right track throughout the development process. For example, we offer concept testing that can give you feedback on anything from artwork to storylines. Alongside the fact that we even have in-house game user research experts to help you gather the very best insights from your playtests – we even wrote a book on it! And we do all of this while making sure, of course, that we find you the exact playtesters in your target audience.
Every day we provide you with all the playtesting tools you can possibly imagine, and then after making sure you have your complete playtesting needs met, we support you in using these tools as effectively and efficiently as possible. We offer you a lot of different possibilities, and knowing which tool to use is just as important as knowing which one not to. That’s what our team of customer success managers are here for: to advocate on your behalf and advise you with best practices for using PlaytestCloud. This team is here to make sure you succeed and, truly, if you haven't met Angie, Hana or Anna – you are missing out on a great resource! Regarding this, Angie, our Team Lead for Customer Success, believes that:
“Our job is to advise and help our customer base find the best practices of PlaytestCloud for their needs. This often entails recommending our game studios check out some of our resources like the Become a PlaytestCloud Pro blog post collection or our Meet The Experts' webinar series.”. This also means however, that “There are also times where I actually need to advise against certain PlaytestCloud products, since they are not suited well to what a game studio needs.”. - Angie Długopolska Team Lead Customer Success
When Angie told me this, I was a bit surprised. What playtest types wouldn’t we recommend for game studios working with PlaytestCloud? And when would we ever not recommend one of our features?
As a current Marketing Manager who previously worked as a Customer Success Manager at PlaytestCloud, this made me think about my own experiences helping customers, and about one of the most frequent problems I saw game studios having with their playtests… which we’ll discuss in just a moment. Before we do so, let’s add some context.
When you look at the bottom of our playtest order form, you will find an option to add in-game tasks. With this feature, you can guide players throughout their playtests, having them work through a checklist as they playtest.
This feature was added with a specific purpose in mind: to guide players to the right part of the game to test a specific action. A great example of this we saw recently was a playtest that required players to enter a cheat code that would send them to level 44 in the game. This leveling boost meant players started their playtest from a specified point – one, which itself aligns with the developer’s goals for the playtest.
This is a good example of a beneficial use of the tasks function: it is straightforward for players, the task is clear, and it helps the playtest achieve its goal (in this case, getting gameplay footage from the 44th level onwards). However, playtests with too many tasks can cause problems: both for players and for the data that you receive.
For example, in the past we have seen a 30-minute single-session playtest include 25 tasks. This can completely change the nature of the game experience for the players, since now instead of getting footage of them playing your game in an unmoderated, natural replication of real world gameplay, you are holding their hands as they play.
There are situations in which a task setup like this could be useful such as, for example, when teams are trying to test for bugs within the code. In this specific case, a checklist of actions is a more reasonable use of player time. At the same time, this is where we would step in and check that the playtest design is in line with your team’s goals.
When playtesting a game, one of the most common challenges is trusting players enough to provide the critical distance needed to look at the data objectively. This ties directly with games user research and its different stages and methods – on which Gareth, one of our in-house experts, has literally written a full book about.
If your game is at a stage of development where you can let players play naturally, then a lot of times this is the right option: to step back and just allow the playtest happen on its own. In this case, players play the game as if it were already published in the app store.
These real-world results are priceless, and knowing how your game will be received by real players before it goes live is worth its weight in gold. Ultimately, this is one of the reasons why we put your game in the hands of players: to give you all the feedback you need, delivered in the right way, to enhance your game before launch. By doing this before the game is actually out, developers can iterate on it, correcting and adjusting issues to ensure the best possible gameplay experience on launch day.
What does this all mean? Well, it means 25 tasks can be a bit too much, and too controlling for a natural gameplay experience – and the perfect example of how sometimes not using one of our features might be the best course of action. Are there, however, other situations where those tasks could be useful? Sure! And that’s when our customer success team steps in: to help you find out which playtest fits your goal, and which tool of ours can best help. We offer a huge range of different features at PlaytestCloud, allowing each playtest to be specifically tailored to your needs – and the team is always here to help you figure out how to use this to your advantage.
My advice? Work smarter, not harder, and make sure you’re setting up the exact playtest you need. Just because you could set a list of 25 tasks, doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
From my experience, most of the times letting the player interact naturally will give you the best results. Sometimes, however, that might not be the case. Each company, each game has its specific needs – and we’re here to make sure those needs are met.