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Posts Tagged ‘testing’

I’ve nailed down the ruleset for Zomblobs!, and I’m making some final touches to the files so I can present it as a PDF file that anyone can print out and play with.  This means making a few maps, and a few map features for variety.  As it will be a public beta of the game, it will inevitably need a little tuning and a lot of playtesting, so I’m hoping to get it out to as many people as possible.  I’ll be making a big announcement about it here in a bit, once I get the presentation polished.

In the meantime, though, I’m left to think a little bit about filling the gaps.

Have you ever played the license plate game?  There are probably a few different ones, but the one I play involves looking at license plate on cars as you pass by them and try to make a word out of the letters that are on the plates.  It’s a bit of a cross between a literary Rorschach test and a vocabulary test.  Something like the following on a plate might produce a variety of results.

498 MNM

The first thing I thought of was Mmrnmhrm… showing my 90s gamer roots.  If I had a craving for chocolate, I might fudge the rules a little and think of M&Ms.  If I were a psychologist, I might think of monomaniacal.  If I were a monomaniac, I might think the rules don’t apply to me, and think of Mini Me.  If I were a Star Wars geek, I might think that license plates don’t apply to a galaxy long ago and far away and think of Mon Mothma.  If I were a historian, I might think of monuments.  If I were an anthropologist, I might think of manmade.  If I were a mathmetician, I might think of minimizing something.  If I were a zookeeper I might think of monotremes.

Whatever my background, whatever my vocabulary, it would inform my selection.  With minimal information to start with, and a few simple rules, there are a lot of paths to try.

That’s what I’m angling for with Zomblobs!  Some simple rules, some simple actions, some relatively simple units, some simple state tracking, all brewing up a nice storm of gameplay options to make tactics interesting.  Time and testing will tell if I manage it well, but that’s my goal.  It may well require players to bring something of their own to the table, or at least, the willingness to read the rules and try things out.  They may need to fill in the gaps a little bit and play nice when the rules don’t quite cover all possible corner cases.

Maybe I’m just making excuses, but then, even the most tenured of tabletop wargames have disclaimers in their rulebooks that suggest players use their own judgement when the rules prove insufficient to curious situations.  I have tried diligently to compose a playable ruleset that should answer most questions, but I simply don’t know all the weird things that can happen as players try to break the rules.

It’s actually a good thing for the players to try to break the game.  That’s the point of beta testing.  I’m relying on testing situations to fill in the gaps where I just didn’t foresee everything.  I’ve mapped things out as well as I can, but exploration is necessary for the rest.

So thank you for your interest!  I still have a lot of things going on at the moment, but the light at the end of the pre-beta tunnel is getting brighter.

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Allods Online opened up the game to anyone with a free gPotato account until February 10th.  They aren’t exactly calling it the Open Beta, and there’s no word as yet of a pending wipe, but hey, you don’t need a beta key any more, at least for a while.

Have at it, y’all!

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Just another collection of interesting game design related links.  I found them interesting enough to want to have access to them again, but time is short enough that I don’t have time to do a full writeup on each.  (And some may not necessarily merit such treatment.)

These are tucked behind the More link to keep the main page organized.

(more…)

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Data Mining

On the heels of my Alpha Hex paper beta announcement, I’ve been digging again into data mining.  That’s a big part of why I made the paper beta, to get people playing so that I could pick their brains about the game.  That’s why games even have beta periods to start with.  (And why testing is so vital to game design, as I write about now and then.)

MMOs, of course, are a bit of a different animal, since they are more or less constantly being tweaked.  Mining data is always hugely important, but when you’re always mucking around in the game design, it’s your lifeblood.  You must have data from which to work, or else you’re just as likely to cause problems as you are to solve them.

Chris over on IHasPC noted a great little data mining blog over here:

A New Favorite Data Blog

And Mike Darga has a fantastic series of articles on data mining that he’s in the middle of at the moment:

Designing a Black Box Part 1

Designing a Black Box Part 2

Data Mining (with a link to the same blog Chris pointed out as well as another great one)

This is the sort of data that I love to poke around in, teasing out game design applications.  I’d be a design theorycrafter, given the spare time.  (As if I didn’t already do more than my fair share already, I’d love to geek out and dig into this data.)  I think that such is vital to understanding how games work, and how to improve them.

…which is my cue to plug the Alpha Hex paper beta again.  🙂

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This is the article I wrote for my work:

Testing, Testing

Long story short, if you don’t feel like following the link, I’ve been working as a tester lately, despite my official title as “artist”, and it has reaffirmed my appreciation for the QA process and those hardy souls who play broken games so that the customer doesn’t have to.

(There’s a corollary in there that could include slapping companies around if they skimp on testing, but I’ll leave that obvious rant to the imagination.)

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