The Definitive Guide to Playtest Questions

 insights

The goal of post-playtest questions is to get unadulterated feelings from the person. You do not want to lead them in any way, but you want to find out what they thought. Try these questions: 

  1. What was the most frustrating moment or aspect of what you just played?
  2. What was your favorite moment or aspect of what you just played?
  3. Was there anything you wanted to do that you couldn’t?
  4. If you had a magic wand to wave, and you could change, add, or remove anything from the experience, what would it be?
  5. What were you doing in the experience?
  6. How would you describe this game to your friends and family?

The easy to remember (though ridiculous) mnemonic is ffwwdd

Frustrating
Favorite
Wanted
Wand
Doing
Describe

The order is on purpose. And yes, you may get some of the same responses, but often you don’t, and those subtle differences can be telling. Someone might say X was the most frustrating but then what they wanted has nothing to do with it, or their wand changes something else. All are good ways of getting input, which then you will have to decide what to do with the information- but at least you’ll have it.

And number 6, ‘describe’, is very interesting. If they describe your game as a puzzle game and you thought you were making a story game- where is the disconnect?

Always keep in mind that your goal is to analyze the results and determine what actions to take. Not all problems need a fix, but if you note obscure issues and then you start to see them, or variants, more often, you’ll be able to piece together trends that may need addressing.

When in doubt, during or after a playtest, if they ask a question, you can always just ask it back to get them thinking: 

Tester: “What should I do with this laser?”
Me: “What do you think you should do with that laser?”

Below are some answers to playtest related questions I have given over the years:

1. What form(s) of feedback do you collect from playtesters? (e.g. survey, focus group, 1-on-1 interview, playtesters voice thoughts while playing, etc.) If you collect multiple forms, which form do you think gives you the most useful information?

I have used all those forms in the past. Sometimes the effectiveness depends on the stage of the project and the feedback you need the most.

  • Surveys are good for base information and comparing a bunch of answers to simpler questions. 
  • Focus groups are good at early stages when you want broad opinions on your project.
  • 1-on-1 interviews are the best (and, ideally, required) after a playthrough of the experience.
  • Voice thoughts and (even better) video while playing are super useful for team members who can’t be there or for reviewing after a survey or a 1-on-1 has dug up a few outliers.

The most useful (in my opinion) is the 1-on-1 interview.

2. If you have playtesters fill out surveys, do you prefer open-ended questions or close-ended (e.g. likert scale)? How come?

Again, it depends on the data you want to get. If you’re comparing different parts of a game, ratings may be fine. However, we mostly use open-ended questions.

3. If you have playtesters fill out surveys, do you have them fill out any questions before playtesting so that you can assess changes in variables like mood, energy level, etc.?

Mainly the pre-playtest questions are getting used to the process and being comfortable. Generic things like age, current play habits, current games, etc. are captured.

4. If you have playtesters participate in a focus group, do you have any strategies for reducing the degree to which an individual’s response biases the responses of the other focus group participants?

If we do a focus group it’s always at the end after any playthroughs, surveys, or 1-on-1 interviews.

5. If you have playtesters participate in a focus group or 1-on-1 interviews, what are, in your opinion, the most important questions to ask?

See FFWWDD above. :-)

6. If you have playtesters voice their thoughts while playing, how do you ensure that their playing experience doesn’t feel too artificial or contrived since usually they wouldn’t be narrating their own experience?

I encourage them to speak stream of conscious style. Most peter off and just focus on playing. That in itself is telling of course ( “ooh, your game is interesting enough!” ) Some keep it up the whole time, but either way I just let them play.

7. What specifically are you looking for during playtest sessions?

Always go into a playtest session with a primary goal. 

  • Does this tutorial teach what it needs to? 
  • Is this weapon overpowered? 
  • Did they find their way through the level?

But always be ready and willing to take notes about whatever comes up. You never know what you’ll learn!

8. In your opinion, what are a few common ‘do’s and don’ts’  that people who run playtesting sessions should be aware of?

  1. Do: Put the playtester at ease. Let the player know that they are helping you. If something breaks or is confusing, it’s your fault, not theirs.
  2. Don’t: Help them through tough parts, or if they get stuck and ask. Tell them ahead of time that asking questions is great! But you probably won’t answer them; you’re interested in seeing how they respond and play. You’re not trying to be rude, you just want to see how they play unaided. If they do get really stuck and it’s because of something you know you’ll fix or change, note where it happens and exactly what you said as a hint or prodding. Keep that phrasing and timing throughout those playtests so your data is useful and so you have a good idea of how to fix it for the next build.
  3. Do: Always make it clear at the beginning that they can play for as long or as short as they’d like. (If they want to quit out, that’s great data! Keep a record of where and when it happened!)
  4. Don’t: Ask leading or too-specific questions! You want to see what they thought or remembered:

Example 1- The Puzzle

Bad: “Did you not understand the tree hint?”
Better: “Was there anything special about the tree puzzle?”
Best: “What could have helped you solve the tree puzzle?”

Example 2- A Trap

Bad: “You died a lot at the 3rd trap, what’s up with that?”
Better: “Was the 3rd trap too hard?”
Best: “What did you think of the 3rd trap?”

Example 3- Powering Up

Bad: “What gave you speed boost?”
Better: “What did the red power-up do?”
Best: “What power-ups do you remember? What did they do?”

Keep On Playtesting!

Following FFWWDD will help you and your team design post-playtest questions that will get unbiased feelings and thoughts from the playtester.

Need more? Download this free playtesting checklist.