Playtesting – Alpha Stage

May 18, 2009

I’ve been writing up a new board game concept that I had recently, so progress on the RPG books has been slow overall. This weekend I finally got to show off the new boardgame to a few friends in a semi-playable state, or as I call it Alpha Playtest version.

Coming from an IT background the ideas around Alpha and Beta testing are quite natural to me, but for those of you who have no idea what these are or what the differences are, here’s a little primer on the stages of testing.

Alpha Playtest is something that occurs when the initial ideas are defined, the concepts are refined and pretty much all of the pieces are in their final stages. I like to think that Alpha is when things are around 70% complete. There are lots of things right and still quite a few rough edges, but the game should be playable at the very least and should show where the goals and initial concepts are employed. However Alpha is something that is still rough, it may require the designer to explain things to the players or to make decisions regarding situations that arise.

Beta Playtest is when things have progressed much further. Beta testing should be able to be run independant of the designer(s). This way several Beta tests can be run in paralell and feedback can be reported back to the designers, rather than them be there for the testing. Beta should only occur when 95% of the game is complete, i.e. the way things work is locked down and only a few bugs remain.

With this in mind, the testing of my boardgame this weekend was an Alpha test. The first time out of the box, so to speak. How did it do? Well I took lots of notes on how the game needs one of the major systems refining and making less complex. Most of the Alpha was spent discussing this system and using a calculator to work out how things should be… not a good start really. I was nicely surprised in that the rules covered most of the situations that arose. I only had to clarify 2 points I think while showing off the game to the group. Other than that I bounced a few ideas off of the players in a post game chat and it seems like they enjoy the core concepts and the ideas but it just needs to be refined and simplified. Not bad for a Alpha game I think.