An essential part of educational game development is user testing – something we treat very seriously and with a lot of importance. This is because conducting user testing throughout the development cycle is a critical, necessary process to obtain important feedback on the usability of the game, the effectiveness of the game as a learning tool, and to measure engagement.
Through our partnerships with Madison-area schools, we’re able to identify user testers who are similar to the target demographic of the projects we build for our partners. Sometimes our clients have access to user testing candidates, and we’re able to incorporate those candidates in order to shape the best candidate pool for testing.
- Paper Prototype. As a part of Discovery, we are able to facilitate a playtest of a paper prototype near the end of the design phase. This paper prototype playtest, conducted with a small sample of the target audience, is intended to validate core gameplay mechanics. To do so, we produce a paper version of the game and lead the players through various parts of the game play.
- Alpha Playtest. In accordance with the Alpha Release, we sometimes recommend an Alpha Playtest with a subset of intended users. The Alpha Playtest is intended to validate or invalidate assumptions regarding usability and interface. Filament often talks about tests in terms of “bad news tests,” which are tests where we confront basic usability and interface problems, and “good news tests,” which seek to confirm our beliefs about engagement and learning. Alpha Playtests are generally “bad news tests” which are generally done early in development. A caution with Alpha Playtests is that since it is performed early in the development, it is sometimes difficult for younger testers to be able to imagine the game in a complete state and can get blocked if the illustration or game mechanics are not yet fully formed. We can recommend techniques on how to prepare testers for this so that the maximum value can be drawn from the testing.
- Beta Playtest. The beta playtest is intended to validate assumptions about engagement and learning. We recommend a Beta Playtest on the majority of our projects. Beta playtests are considered “good news tests” with higher and higher confidence in the core gameplay assumptions.
- Ad HOC Playtests. Additionally, ad hoc playtests may be arranged with small samples of the target audience amid development.
- Staff Playtests. In conjunction with both the Alpha and Beta Releases, Filament conducts an hour playtest with our staff who provide input on the game design, usability of the game and the engagement of game. While our staff is usually not the target demographic for the games we make, there is a tremendous amount of value of having game experts of various competencies evaluate the game.