Types of Testing you can apply to your game! (Part 2/2)

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Here is the second part of my blog on Types of Testing. Click the link if you want to read part 1 (Link).

Hey Champions!

In the previous blog we talked about how to test the future of your game and introduced Exploratory Testing as a way to find what you don't know about your game. As I said, that is one of the harder question to answer and it will take up most of your testing time. However, there are other things you can and should be testing as well: the Past and the Present of your game. 


Testing the Past

The goal of all of these testing frameworks is to answer the question:

How do we ensure the work we've done so far does not "break".

I want to dig into two common practices which are Regression Testing and Smoke Testing (aka Sanity Testing). Both of these frameworks try to remind you of the things you make sure never become issues as you make your game. They work like heuristics or checklists that you come back to on a regular basis to ensure that nothing is failing. 

Regression Testing (Link)

Use this framework to make sure your game never fails again.

Every time you play your game, if there is something that you consider a failure about the game (aka, the second player always loses, or this ability/mechanic is broken in our game for this reason) add it to your Regression suite. Then, on a regular basis, come back to this suite to make sure that you haven't fallen into the same pitfalls you did before. 

Example:

In Genesis, we had a case of players being locked down - they have cards and resources but they can't do anything. Thus, we create the heuristic of, "Always have options". What this does is as we make new cards we can ask ourselves, "Does this card create a situation where a player can be completely locked down?" if it does, we fix the card. 

Take Away: 

Ask yourself: What are things that failed (did not meet my expectations) and how do I make sure I don't repeat this mistake?

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Smoke/Sanity Testing (Link)

Use this framework to make sure your game never becomes a game you don't want it to be. 

Your Smoke test suite should be a list of all the most critical parts of your game that you want to make sure are running smoothly with each introduction of a new component to your game. The joke is, "you want to ensure the sanity of your system", and that's why we call them sanity tests.

Example:

Combat is usually a really critical part of every game, and we are no exception. However, combat is a little weird with Genesis because everything is treated as an ability and attacks are just put on the stack instead of "happening at the same time". Because of that, we need to occasionally look at combat from all the different lenses and make sure it makes sense throughout ever step. If a Hunting Hound is facing off against an Earth Elemental, what does it look like if the hound attacks first, attacks second, attacks from the side, etc. 

Take away:

Ask yourself: "What are the core parts of my game? How do I ensure that they always function the way I intend them to?"


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Testing the Present

The goal of all of these testing frameworks is to answer the question:

To the best of my ability, have I made this game balanced?

Oh, that dreaded word, "balance"... For years, whenever I told people I was making a game the question game up all the time, "How do you balance your game?" Please correct me if I'm wrong here, but I really believe that no game is perfectly balanced. The truth is, games are just balanced enough. It is the same as how no software is bug free, or how no art is ever "finished" it's only abandoned (either Da Vinci or Picasso said this).

But how do you get to "balanced enough"? I propose that UAT (User Acceptance Testing) is how you get there. 

User Acceptance Testing (Link)

Use this framework to make sure that your game is balanced enough and that you are meeting your user's expectations. The testing will be done by an end user, but you will need to take notes

There should be two folds to a good UAT. 

  1. What your users are telling you about game balance
  2. What your users are not telling you about game balance
 

The first part, "What your users are telling you about game", is pretty easy. Every time you take the game out to the users, give them a survey to fill out (or fill it out yourself). Ask questions about what they really liked about the game, what did they dislike, how long was the game, and anything else you think of. 

You're probably doing this, and that's great! If not, don't worry: better late than never. What you may not be doing is then gathering all this data, turning it into a test suite and then checking it on a regular interval. You need to be finding patterns between what players have been saying or doing.

Example 1

I've found, in many rounds of testing Genesis, every time there is a card that deals net damage of 5 or more, people tend to get quite upset. This then became a red-flag warning that everytime I make a card that deals 5 or more damage that I need to really think about it.

 

To achieve the second part, "What your users are not telling you about game balance", is a bit tricky. To help, you should be taking notes every time someone plays your game and try to find all those things that are unsaid. What patterns are you finding in game play? 

Example 2

Flame has been played hundreds of time in Genesis and no one has ever said that it is too strong, too weak, or stupid. No strong emotion has been brought up about this card, and that's great - it then becomes a baseline. Ideally you know what your baseline is, but if you don't then testing is a good way to find it.

 

Take away - Create the game formula

You need to be listening to what your players are and aren't saying to gather information about what your baseline is and what is considered "balanced". Then as you add more components to your game, you can adjust them against the gathered information to see if it is balanced.

The outcome of all this information is what people call "The Game Formula". The equation that evaluates "balance" in the game. 


In conclusion...

I know it is scary to not know what your players might do with your game, how they will take advantage of loopholes or create a meta format you will never expect, but that doesn't mean you should neglect testing and verifying things about the current state of the game. This includes the things you know about the game and the things about the game you want to be maintaining every step of the way.

Thank you for reading! 

Please don't forget to like the post and leave a comment below. Let me know if there is anything you don't agree with or if there's anything new you learned!

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Assad Quraishi

Assad@HauntedCastleGaming.com