Monday, September 03, 2007

The Perils of Virtual Playtesting

I thought I was so clever.

For the Carnival of Souls Board Game I released yesterday, I had done a fair amount of playtesting, so I was pretty confident that the game balance was pretty good.

However, the playtesting was done by myself using a small Javascript application that modeled the game, and allowed me to run through many playtests quickly.

We played the physical game "for real" for the first time tonight, and one thing is clear: virtual playtesting doesn't get you all the way there. While the game balance was right on, with the game coming right down to the wire, it was the physical game components that bogged the game down and needed work.

It's a good object lesson that the "twiddly bits" of a game are not merely conceptual, but need to be experienced to understand their impact on the gameplay. You just can't tell what the tactile experience of the game will be until you play it.

In the case of Carnival of Souls, I have a lot of little chips representing different resources, which you earn every turn. Then, you spend them every turn to take on different challenges. This means that whoever is banker ends up shuffling these little chips around incessantly, which became rather annoying to that player.

The fix, I think, is to introduce character cards, a'la Arkham Horror, which have little sliders for each resource type, so that each player can keep track of his or her own resources, and eliminates the need for a banker. (In the interim, until I release a fix, you may want to track your resources on paper if you decide to play the game.)

I also learned some other things about the physical game, such as the need to print out and assemble more than one of each die. They were being passed around too much. (If you decide to play, print out the die sheet two or three times and assemble more dice.)

On the flip side, there were some pleasant surprises. It was the first time the boards had been assembled together, and it made for a nice little layout. The crypt doors and the gravestones worked better than I thought they would, because they had a nice tactile feel to them; I might change the others to be similar, so that you're flipping things over in all cases.

On the whole, the game worked pretty well. I still need to come up with a mechanic that makes the end of the game not end up having so many turns of just trading in resources for other resources. I have a few ideas about that, but the game is still pretty well balanced, so it still works as a good diversion, I think. I enjoyed it.

If you play the game, let me know what you think.


Mark Sloat said...

I just wanted to drop by to say hi. I am starting to get back into Halloween slowly. I don't have my yard any more, so I am getting into my Halloween site To promote home haunts and Haunted groups.

CC said...

Hey, Mark! Glad to see you're back in the swing of things - it sounded like things were pretty dismal for you for a while there.

I like your new site. Hauntman is cool - got a modern vibe to him, but still has the "Tales from the Crypt" style mascot-y goodness. (I did get some errors clicking around on your site, though...)

We're starting to get ramped up for Halloween 2007 here. We've got some ideas on the table, and hopefully, construction will begin in earnest next weekend. We have some devilish new surprises planned for Madame Sarita's Spirit Parlour, and we've released a new digital puppet at our new site to try to offset the construction costs. Heh.

Anyway, here's hoping your Halloween season this year will be better than last year's!

Mark Sloat said...

You saw errors on my page? I didn't see them, where did you see them at?

Also would like to pick you brain at php mysql. Having issues printing off of my database. Don't know why.

CC said...

Yeah, for instance, clicking on the featured haunt, or on "About this Display," or "Find within X miles," and so on gives an "Error 404" page.

Almost everything I clicked on off of the main page gave me that 404 page. I wasn't sure whether those were just unfinished sections or whether they were supposed to go somewhere.

Anyway, yeah, if you need some help with PHP/MySQL, let me know. I should be able to help you out, depending on how complex the task at hand is.

Mark Sloat said...

Thank you.. Actually, all that part is under work at this point. This a sentence above it that says that it is just an example till I figure it out.

CC said...

Okay. Must have missed that message. Anyway, if you need anything, just give a shout.

holly said...

i wish i could have been there! i miss you!

i need to find something cool to do for halloween, but i'm pretty sure nothing compares to your place.