(This blog post has been adapted from our Mobile Playtesting Playbook)
Playtesting to learn more about your players is one thing. Communicating what you’ve found during those playtests to your team is another.
Just like you, each department or person in your game studio has different goals and requirements for how they write or create reports and communications. Some will submit full, formal written reports, while others prefer a verbal briefing on player results during playtesting.
So how do you ensure that everyone receives the information they need to move forward with important game-related projects?
At PlaytestCloud, we advise game studios who work with us to make a playtest summary that is fully accessible to specific members of their team.
However we’ve also learned this is a lot easier said than done due to those differences in reporting standards we talked about before.
To help, here’s a quick tutorial on how to create a playtesting summary that will ensure the decision-makers on your team have all the info they need, when they need it.
How to Write a Playtest Summary with Your Mobile Game Studio in Mind
When we write great playtesting summaries, we end up saving ourselves a ton of questions and extra time spent in the long run. If project managers know the latest results of your studios user research, then they can better implement those findings into all aspects of their game-oriented experience.
Since this kind of summary reporting can also help you track progress in the game, and even create highly effective discussion or reference points per research outcomes, there’s no question of the value you’ll get out of creating a reporting summary template or system for your game studio.
3 Steps to Summarize Your Playtest and Create a Reporting Template
Thankfully, writing playtesting summaries is simple. In the next three steps, you will not only learn to write great playtesting summaries, but will also have a reporting template that you can use every time you playtest.
Ask the Important Questions
Surprise quiz! What are your reporting goals and principles?
These are exactly what you are trying to capture with your playtest summary.
If you want to create the perfect playtest summary everytime, we therefore suggest you ask the following questions as you create your playtest summary template:
Who do you need to share your playtest summary with?
Depending on who you plan to share this playtest summary with - say your design or development team only - you should create a prioritized list of issues (with evidence links from your playtest reports) to act as a jumping-off point for discussions and actions to be taken by a wider team of stake-holders. The more high-level your report goes, the more comprehensive your reporting may need to be.
If you’re a solo developer, you don’t need to spend too much time writing up! Even then, it might still be useful to make structured notes to understand what you do find for future reference. This kind of material can also come in handy for future mobile game development!
Consider the tone of your report as well. While smaller teams may be happy with a report that is written in a less formal language, others may want a report that is written in a more professional tone.
- HINT: We would recommend exploring reporting expectations with your team before starting to create your reporting template. What do they need to know from the reports moving forward?
What media formats do you need to include in your playtest summary?
Your playtest may lend itself to video evidence, and depending on the type of game you are working on, this evidence may be crucial in demonstrating the issues that players had during their playtest.
However, not everyone has time (nor space) to review full videos when highlights, animations, or other tools that emphasize, synthesize, and summarize snippets of player behavior may be more useful in the long run.
Ensure that your written reports include images and screenshots, mockups, or overlay diagrams to point out relevant parts of the playtest and illustrate suggested changes.
Of course, if audio-visual is essential, then we recommend you create a highlight reel or link to the relevant clips–a feature that we actually include when you use our PlaytestCloud services and platform for all your playtests.
Will there be benefit in frequently linking out to external data or sources?
As mentioned previously, providing other members of your team or stakeholders with direct links to video evidence may be useful in demonstrating player issues.
If you need to link out regularly - e.g. to video clips, other research reports, or supporting documents - consider some kind of online or on-screen format that’s easy for non-technical users to navigate.
Do you need to be consistent with other reports carried out in-house?
Most teams will prefer consistency between reports, and such consistency will make for easier annual reporting and analyses–yet repeatable reporting may be a double edged sword.
Whereas systemized playtest summaries can limit the flexibility you have in drawing up each report, it can be useful for those teams who need to have a clear understanding of what’s going on from one report to the next.
As before, consider checking whether the team you work with would find it useful to keep any and all aspects of reporting consistent.
If the answer is yes, then step two is a given: it’s time to develop a repeatable reporting structure for when you communicate updates about recent playtests to your team.
Develop a Repeatable Playtest Summary Structure
Between game studios, there is no single, ideal way to structure a playtest or research report. Your team is going to help you create the structure that is the best fit for your workflow.
We would, however, recommend that you always include the following four sections in all of your playtest summaries moving forward:
- A table of contents. This will allow readers to skip to the relevant sections of interest.
- An executive summary. This could be a brief summary of the playtest results, and/or a list of the most pressing issues and recommendations. Your executive summary might be the only part of the report that some of your team members read, so explore what is the most useful content to include here.
- Methodology. This section should describe the study, without going into the results. As a guide, it should give the reader all the information that they need to replicate the study if they want to. This includes survey questions, in-game tasks, recruitment criteria, game build, and any other necessary information your team requires.
- Players. This is optional (and could be included within the methodology), yet it is extremely useful to have a dedicated section to describe the players who took part, including the recruitment criteria and demographic preferences). For smaller studies you can provide a reference or descriptive information about each player.
From here on, how you structure your playtest summary can be more flexible.
Here are two ways we recommend you organize the presentation of your findings:
- By data type. Survey results and qualitative findings should have their own distinct sections. The benefit is clearly separated appreciation and usability for your reporting, even when the two types of data overlap. For example, some content in the survey may touch on usability issues. You might find yourself repeating yourself. If this happens, use cross-referencing in the text, and ensure that you synthesize the two sources of evidence on this one finding in the summary.
- By theme. You could also choose to have sections for each of the relevant aspects of the game, e.g. Menus and UI, Moment-to-moment gameplay, Onboarding, and so on. This structure often makes more sense to readers across non-technical departments, and is slightly more challenging to produce because the onus is on you to report on different types of data in the same section. You and your team will have to decide on the order for presenting the data that works best.
Once you’ve come up with a great playtesting summary for your latest game initiative, and have created your reporting template with your team, it’s time to issue your next playtest summary!
Issue Your Next Playtesting Report Summary
Now that your team is in the loop on your new reporting structure, they’ll be in a better position to take action on the next playtest summary you provide.
Give your team the heads up that the next playtesting report they’ll see includes all updates the team discussed.
Make sure you also take some time for further feedback sessions with your team to make sure any changes to your reporting structure are well-received. If more workshopping is needed, keep in mind that you are still saving time by creating a consistent reporting process for your game studio in the long run.
Ready to enjoy all the benefits of consistent communication within your game studio?
Then it’s time to start creating your template with your team so you can issue your next report in line with any upcoming playtests you’ve requested!