Session Summary 3: Scoping and First Playtests

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It was a really fun day for our incubees this week, as we revealed to each other the progress of everyone’s games! As we’re now halfway through the 6-week incubator, by now many of you may have added the first building blocks of your game in place, and your game can do some of the basic mechanics. Nothing’s as great as that feeling of suddenly being able to control a sprite that you made, that you coded yourself…!! Be proud! It might not seem like very much on screen, but just figuring that out is already half the battle. Maybe it also took you a long time to get to that point, so you’re worried about where to go next, and the work left to be done in the time remaining. To address that we have tons of advice for you, including from our star mentor this week, Aleissia Laidacker!

Scoping

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Our mentor this week was Aleissia Laidacker, lead gameplay programmer on an unannounced project at Ubisoft Montreal. Aleissia started off by reinforcing the importance of your game’s Elevator Pitch, meaning the single sentence that describes what your game is about. (Remember that sentence we made you think about last week? That can be a guide to determining your Elevator Pitch) She also recommends creating a feature list. Feature Lists are all the elements you want in your game- everything from core mechanics, like jumping or collecting coins, to different levels, enemy variations, etc. When you’re making your MVP (more information in the slides), write out your feature list and highlight the ones that are indispensable to the core identity of your game as described in your Elevator Pitch.

Aleissia also encouraged us to look at bugs in our game as potential features. Something unexpected can give us completely new paths for gameplay and interesting player experiences. When you’re scoping your game and budgeting your time, don’t be afraid of deviating from your original intentions to save time or follow something more fun.

Don’t try to make the whole world — remember that this is your first game, and it’s ok if it’s small, because it’s the first step of perhaps many, many more. Do what is achievable and determine a good scope. For more information on scoping, especially for you Follow-Alongers, we recommend you check out previous Pixelles post on Polish and Rescoping.

We also have this handy presentation to help you figure your scope, made by our own coordinator Alicia!!

Playtesting

When it comes to playtesting, it can be scary when you don’t have very much done. However, we know you’re brave — and letting someone else have a go at what you’re doing, even when it’s not finished, will really help you figure out where to go next and regain motivation to work on it!

  1. Give your players context when asking them to playtest. Tell them what your game is about, how it’s going to be shown, what the intentions are, it will let them see further and ‘get’ your game more even if your prototype is very barebones.
  2. Focus on specific features. If you’re testing a jumping mechanic for instance, you might ask your players: “How did the jumping feel?” or “The controls felt responsive. Strongly Disagree / Disagree / Neutral / Agree / Strongly Agree”. Try to formulate questions that can’t be answered by a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
  3. After giving your context, only help your tester very minimally. Be quiet and just observe, leave them alone. Your game might seem ‘easy’ to you, but without instructions, is it easy for another person to figure out? You can only find out if you let them struggle, and take note of when that happens, so you can decide if you want to (and maybe even how) to fix it.
  4. Playtest often. The more thoroughly you playtest and listen to player feedback, the greater opportunities you have to learn and grow your game!

For more information on playtesting, check out this previous Pixelles blog post on Playtesting.

Need Testers or Help? Meet Up!

We encourage you to go online to discuss at our Facebook Group, or Follow-Along Slack! Feel free to post anything — builds of your game, screenshots, problems, and triumphs.

As always there’s also face-to-face meetings, where we can help you through your specific issues in person, and play your game so far!!

When: Saturdays from Jan 16th to Feb 20th, inclusive
Time: 2pm to 5pm. Bring a friend!
Where: Gameplay Space, 1435 Rue St Alexandre (Metro Place-des-Arts)

Homework

  1. Write out your feature list – all the things that would be in your dream version of your game.
  2. Identify your MVP- Highlight the minimum required features in your feature list to represent the core principles of your game.
  3. Playtest your game – get a friend, your parents, your coworkers, whoever does not already know your game to play and give you a fresh perspective.
  4. Keep working on your game! At this point specific instructions will vary depending on what kind of game your working on. Keep paper prototyping new ideas too! If you’re stuck or need other people to talk to, don’t forget about the Saturday sessions and our Slack!

Don’t hesitate to send us any questions, ask for feedback, or bounce ideas. Use the FB Group! You can send us e-mails at moms@pixelles.ca.

Next week: Art & Sound!

 



Posted in Follow Along, News, Pixelles Game Incubator 4
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Pixelles is a non-profit initiative committed to helping more women make and change games. We're based in Montreal, and have already succeeded in building a supportive community of game creators, both hobbyist and professional.

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