In my past two blogs (post 1 and post 2), I wrote about the types of testing you can implement into your game. Most people just talk about playtesting, but it is equally important to be thinking about Sanity Testing (making sure what you’re implementing fits the game you’re making) and Regression Testing (making sure the things that currently work still work).
In this blog, I wanted to give you examples on how to implement these two types of testing and what it actually looks like. But to begin, we need a few key questions answered. The first is question you have to know is: What is the Essential Experience of your game.
Before I begin, I want to highlight that all my examples are going to be coming from Genesis: Battle of Champions. If you don’t know the game, it’s a tactical collectable card game that I’ve been working on for several years now. Please check out the home page and get a slight feel for the concept of the game.
Know your Essential Experience
I believe that you need to know why you’re building the game before you can start testing it - what is the one mechanic, theme, or emotion that you want to stay true to no matter what happens with your game? I’m hoping you know what this is, but if you don’t, you need to figure this out. I would start with asking these questions to yourself (The Art of Game Design: Lens #1: The Lens of Essential Experience):
- What experience do I want the player to have?
- What is essential to that experience?
- How can my game capture that essence?
For Genesis, this lense went:
What experience do I want the player to have?
The experience I want to give players is the feeling of being locked in an arena pit fight against their opponent
What is essential to that experience?
The feeling of “no escape”
The fact that it isn’t just strength but skill that will win the fight
Start strong, struggle later
How can my game capture that essence?
When you are close to your opponent, you should always feel a looming threat because arena fights should be scary
The game should be fast pace, because in an arena fight you can strike at any time
There should be more swift abilities than action abilities
Create physical combat so that the player can just punch things and not rely only on magics
Give the player all their resources at the beginning of the game
People don’t walk into pit fights weak and get strong
You walk in strong and get weaker as the fight goes on
There is much more, but that’s good sample for now. If you don’t have answers to these questions, you need them. If you do, print them off, read them, and memorize them. Every decision you make from design to testing to implementation to presentation to artwork should be in service to these questions.
What things matter the most to the game? (Sanity Testing)
This is your Sanity Testing. The goal here is to make sure you’re maintaining the direction of the game and where you want to take it. That’s why it is important to know what your Essential Experience is, because if you don’t know it, how can you maintain it? Begin by writing down the questions that can make sure you are always in servitude to your essential experience. For Genesis, here is my list of questions:
- Does this fit “Play first, struggle later”?
- Does this fit “Always have answers”?
- Does this fit the “Pit Fight” feeling?
- Does it fit the theme of the set?
- Does it fit the guidelines of the affiliation?
- Does it fit the rules of the universe?
- Does it fit the guidelines of the world?
- What problem is it solving?
- Would running maximum copies of this card win me every game?
- Does this card have an open or closed mechanic?
- Does this card fit in the Game Formulas?
I know that answering every one of these questions after each new item feels very tedious, but these are questions that need to be asked to ensure that the quality of the game is maintained as the game grows. One thing to keep in mind is that Quality is in direct opposition with Speed. If you want to make a high quality game, you need to move slow and with precision. If you want to push out a game quickly, then you will lack in quality.
There is no right decision (and despite being a Quality Assurance Analyst/Engineer for nearly a decade, I truly believe this). Sometimes speed is more important than quality. Other times it is the other way around. It comes down to the problem or goal you are working on.
I hope this post helps you start to think about what additional things you should be looking at while testing your game. I would love to hear about the types of tests you’re writing for your game. What is your essential experience? How do you ensure that you are adhering to it as you keep on developing?
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