Devlog #9: Play and Testing

Hello everyone! Welcome to this month’s devlog!

If you just stumbled upon this, I am Adrienne, also known as insertdisc5! I’m the developer, writer, artist, main programmer, etc of the game. The game being In Stars and Time, which is the next and final game in the START AGAIN series, following START AGAIN: a prologue (available here!).  You can find out more about In Stars and Time here!!! 


Playtesting!!! Has finally started!!! 

So a few weeks ago, I gave a code to the game to a few dozen friends, and they’re all slowly playing through it and giving me their feedback. Finally, a small sample of people (that are not me or QA) get to play Da Game…

To elaborate a bit more on QA vs Playtesting (at least for this game??? I don’t know if that’s how it is for other games???), my publisher Armor Games has a QA team whose job it is to play through the game and check for bugs! As a QA team member from Armor Games puts it, QA is about

1. Making sure the main path functions correctly (aka no soft/hard locks, no blockers, etc),

2. Attempting to check every interaction in every possible situation, and

3. Confirming previously known issues that are stated as fixed are actually fixed, and that no new issues resulted from the fix!

What I’ve been doing for the past few months is wait patiently for the team to tell me “Adrienne, this thing happened and we’re not sure if it’s intended or a bug” and I go “it’s a bug” and I fix it and then the game is better. Know that their work is irreplaceable and SORELY needed. Thank you QA team, and thank you to QA teams everywhere.

Playtesting is (again, for this game) me giving the beta to some trusted friends and telling them “what do you think? Is it good? Do you GET IT? Also you’re a Normal Gamer ™ and play like a Normal Gamer ™ and not like me (the dev, I made the game, I know the game so I won’t do anything “”weird””) or the QA team (who are trying to break the game so it can be fixed, so they play in very specific ways) so your experience is valuable please tell me everything you’re thinking plz”.

Having some people playtesting the game is very, very fun. I told them right away “If i had my way i would want to stand behind you really close and look into your brain to hear every single thought you have, but once every so often is fine <3” so I’ve gotten a lot of very excited livetweeting my way, which is. The Best Thing Ever. For me, the most important part of playtesting was figuring out if the story was good! Beyond “does the story make sense?”, I asked a few times “so, what are your theories Right Now”, to see if my crumbs of foreshadowing were leading them where I wanted to, or if it led them in completely the wrong direction (which is also fun teehee). Also yes I did get a lot of screaming already. Love it when my friends yell at me that the story made them feel something <3

Having Normal Gamers ™ play the game means I also got some valuable feedback on some other important stuff, like: Does the game feel good to play? Are the battles too easy, too hard? Is there anything I can do to make the game better? Do you get what’s going on, or are you completely lost as to what you should do next? Thanks to them, I figured out where the game needed more explanations or tutorials, so hopefully this should make for a smoother experience!

Having a bunch of different eyes on the game was also VERY useful for typos and various writing mistakes. Did you know “discretely” and “discreetly” are two different words??? I learned that this week!!! Wow!!! And also did you know that I am bad at remembering the difference between East and West? I messed it up three times in the script!!! Oops!!! I’m bad at directions!!!

Of course, with feedback comes not-positive feedback as well! I did get some feedback on a potentially upsetting scene- I didn’t warn for it enough, and a friend thought it was too sudden and shocking, and would’ve appreciated some warning. I left the scene in, but I made sure to warn for its contents before it happens, so players can avoid it entirely if they’d rather not see it! In Stars and Time deals with some heavy subjects, but I want to make sure players can skip some of it if they know it would upset them. As a note, we don’t have the content warnings written down yet, but we definitely will before the game comes out! They’ll be pretty similar to START AGAIN: a prologue’s.

Overall, I’m very glad I got over my apprehension and showed the game off a bit. I’m getting some extremely valuable feedback (negative AND positive!) that I wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere. Anyway, this just turned into a “hey if you’re making a game you should have people play it BEFORE it comes out. I know it’s scary. I know you’re afraid of showing people something you made. I know you’re afraid of The Feedback. But also it’s better to have The Feedback now from people you love and trust, rather than all at once from strangers. Please make people playtest your game” manifesto for small indie devs. This is also addressed to past me. I didn’t ask enough people to playtest my previous game before it came out and I missed some obvious bugs. PLEASE ASK YOUR FRIENDS TO PLAY YOUR GAME THEY’RE YOUR FRIENDS AND WANT TO PLAY YOUR FUN GAME

(In other non-playtesting news, I had an interview with Pocket Tactics if you wanna read it! It's good!!!)

That’s all I have to say for today! Let me know if you have any questions, or if there’s any aspect of the game development struggle you’d like me to talk about! See you next time!!!


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