Collecting feedback about your game from playtesters is a critical part of the game design process. When you first start playtesting, you may just be playing through the game and trying to figure out what’s broken and how to fix it and make it better. But, at some point, you’ll probably realize that you need a way to collect more structured feedback from your playtesters. You need honest feedback, not just someone saying, “that was fun,” after the playtest. And you need a way to evaluate if your game is improving over time.
You need a feedback form. But, how do you figure out what kinds of questions to ask and how much to include on your feedback form? I’ve seen some forms that are long lists of open-ended questions. I’ve seen other forms that are just a list of rating scales (from 1 to 10) questions.
We’ve used something in between. Some of the rating scale questions on certain kinds of topics can be helpful. But, it’s also nice to have some open-ended questions that allow your playtesters to tell you what they were thinking while they were playing the game.
Overall, I think it’s important to keep your feedback form as brief as possible, and also tailor the questions on your feedback form for your game and the kind of feedback you think you need on your game.
When we first set out to create a feedback form for our games, we started with the Unpub feedback form. This is a great generic form, if you have nothing else and just need something to get started. Unpub has an online form, which you can use if you’ve entered your game into the Unpub system and want to collect your feedback on their website. But, they also have a pdf version of their form you can print out, which is what we’ve used. Paper and pen seems to be easier for us for in-person playtests.
We used the Unpub form just as it is for several of our early playtests. Then, we printed copies of the form with some of our own questions on the back that were more tailored to our game. Then, eventually, we created our own form, using some of the questions from the Unpub feedback form and some of our own questions.
The Unpub form has some game rating questions at the top – circle a number from 1 to 5 to indicate how you feel about the length of the game, ease of learning, and how much fun you had playing it. We liked the idea of these questions, and took some of these (and then included a few other ones as well) on our custom feedback form.
Seeing how your playtesters rate your game on these different categories over time can help you see where your game needs to improve, and if it is improving. Hopefully, as you are playtesting and making changes to the game, your “fun” score goes up. We have a goal of getting all 4s or 5s on fun before we start really shopping our games around to potential publishers.
It’s also nice to ask if players would play the game again and if they would buy the game. These are good questions to get a sense of how people are really feeling about it. Maybe they liked it and maybe they’d play it again, but then when you ask if they’d buy it, they might not. That can give you some insight into how much they really enjoyed the game. We recently changed that question to, “What price would you pay for this game ($0 if you wouldn’t buy it)?” This way we could save some space and also try to get a sense of what people think the game is worth.
Then, I think it’s good to include some open-ended questions about the game. Here are some that we like to ask:
- What was your favorite part of the game?
- What is one thing you would change about the game?
- What was your strategy for winning the game?
- What is one mechanic or component you would add to this game?
- Which game is most similar to this game?
These questions allow players to give you their thoughts on the strategy and mechanics of the game and give them a chance to put on their “game designer” hat briefly. We don’t necessarily use all of the suggestions that players make, but it’s interesting to hear what other people think about the game and how it can be improved.
When you’re reviewing the feedback forms later, if you see trends, you might realize that there is an issue in that area of the game. And while we may or may not actually use the ideas the players had for fixing that issue, it may spur another thought on how to fix that part of the game.
Finally, we always include a place at the bottom of our feedback form for players to include their name and email address if they would like to receive updates from us on the game. I think this is very important and something that a lot of game designers often miss. Playtesters are potential future customers. So, you need a way to get a hold of them later to tell them what you’re doing with the game. Everybody who plays your game should be on your email list, so you can continue to build your network throughout the development of your game.
As you are creating your feedback form and figuring out which questions you’d like to include, think about each question you’re asking and what insight you hope to gain from asking that question. Don’t just ask a question because it sounds good or you think it will be easy to answer. Look at your goal, and figure out how that playtest and that question/response will help you get to your goal, whatever that is for your game.
Here are few additional resources to help develop your feedback form:
- The latest version of our feedback form for Prism
- 10 Insightful Playtest Questions, Gamasutra blog: This a good list of questions and also includes an explanation of each question and why to include it. It can help you figure out the questions you need to ask to meet your playtesting goals.
- Playtest Feedback post, Dicelab Games blog: A long list of potential questions to include. You probably don’t want to include all of these on your form because you want to keep it brief, but they could give you some good ideas on what you’d like to ask.
- Feedback episode, Cardboard Architects podcast: Chris and Joe talk about how they collect feedback during playtests. Chris says he uses a feedback form with four questions, which include:
- Would you bring this game or play this game at your game night?
- Would you intro this game to your non-gamer friends and family?
- Do you think you can teach this game?
- Would you like to be contacted when this game is launched on Kickstarter?
Do you have any other resources you’ve used to develop your feedback forms? What does your feedback form look like? How has your feedback form changed over the course of your playtests? Share your thoughts and a link to your feedback form in the comments below.