Play-testing is very important and magical. Lessons learnt from Global Game Jam

The theme of the GGJ was “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” During Global Game Jam 2014, my three fellow teammates and I made a side scroller platform game called Union which player controls three different shapes that each has its own unique property. Cube can attach other shapes, circle can move really fast on a slope and triangle can destroy every other shapes with its sharp tip.

The game was made in Unity by fully utilizing its physics engine to achieve the sort of natural and cute looking that we wanted. However, it turned out that since we wanted it to obey to the real physics, the game is quite hard to play and quite hard to make as well. And we took every second we could get to make the three levels that Yan designed, by sacrificing not only our sleep time, but also play-testing time. We did not think play-testing was a big deal until we threw our final game into the crowd. All kinds of problem occurred but none of us could test it out on our own hands.

Union Tutorial

For example, the tutorial trigger for jump was a tiny little bit too late so that pretty much every player who played would bump the roof and got confused about why we wanted them to jump. Besides, the changing role tutorial was also a little bit too late that players would shoot all the way to the spikes not knowing they could switch in between circle and square after they attached each other. The tutorial got to a certain point that no one could go through it without us giving our oral instructions. We then went upstairs and made some small changes and went back down again. I was really amazed by how a little change can go a long way. To prevent players from not jumping and ignoring the circle, I placed a wall underneath the circle, and switched the order of shape switching and spinning tutorial. And those two small changes led every player who played the new version to perform the tutorial exactly what we wanted them to.

All in all, a big lesson learnt from GGJ. Play-testing is very important and magical.

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3 thoughts on “Play-testing is very important and magical. Lessons learnt from Global Game Jam

  1. Saagar Sethi says:

    Good point. I think designers often underestimate play testing. It doesn’t matter if you like how your game plays. You’ve been playing it non-stop and you’re biased. That’s why it’s important to get a fresh perspective on your game. Like you described, you’ll learn something new because someone might think in a different way than you. Aiming to finish the project well before the deadline and then spending the rest of the time play-testing and fixing the issues found is probably the best approach.

  2. Ojas Sawant says:

    Good views. Though I wasn’t on your team, it gives a nice sneak peak. I loved the way you expressed your approach. Truly good approach on letting others know your game design approach. Yup Play-testing is truly imp. and magical!

  3. rock zhang says:

    Actually the two lessons for me for the game “Union” is the ones I already experienced and now reinforced again. First is what you learned as well – play testing is important, which I first strongly felt at BVW round 5 when we were surprised every time we invite people to come and play our game. The second one is that physical system is really hard to control especially for those accuracy-required design, which I learnt from BVW round 0 when I tried use physical system to control a ball. So in the future, I would be more focus on play testing and be wary of using physical system.

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