Day 50 - Lens 19: The Lens of the Player
To use this lens, stop thinking about your game, and start thinking about your player. Ask yourself these questions about the people who will play your game:
In general, what do they look like?
If I thought I knew that playtesting has taught me that I was wrong. If my audience are like the people who have enjoyed my game then they are not the serious core strategy gamers that I thought they were. While serious competitive gamers have enjoyed my game those that have made it most enjoyable and seemed to enjoy it the most have been the social ringleaders. They have brought a group of friends and the game has facilitated them having a good time with their followers. That's not what I expected!
What don't they like? Why?
The core gamers I thought were my audience don't love the social challenge mechanics. The casual gamers often brought by the social leader find the learning curve a bit steep but seem to end up enjoying the game.
What do they expect to see in a game?
Core gamers want less randomness, they want their strategy. I'm in kind of a strange place because I am trying to change a lot of elements in the abstract strategy genera. I think of that as exploring a new design space, but it's true that at the same time I am asking a lot of my players, many find the game too strange to latch on to at first blush. That tends to be more true of experienced gamers that new gamers. People with experience have stronger expectations I suspect.
I think that for an indie game where I don't care about profits in an existential way it's probably ok. If I was making a commercial game I would consider just having one or two unique elements rather than almost all of the core gameplay be unique.
If I were in their place, what would I want to see in a game?
I want a strategy game where I can make a tactical decision and see a quick result. I want a social game where I have real choice rather than choices limited by game elements like card based interactions. I want a story that is intriguing and that lets me feel like it reflects my actions and gives me a chance to take a moral stand. I want a game that looks and feels beautiful and solid. I want not to be bored waiting for others to play. I want a game that keeps me engaged and moves to a exciting and satisfying climax.
What will they like or dislike about my game in particular?
Some players think there are too many choices to make early on and have a hard time grasping the rules. The new way of teaching the game seems to have helped with that a bit. Hard core atrategy gamers don't like the unpredictability that the social challenges bring. They also are uncomfortable with the speed with which things can change with simultaneous rounds. The most common complaint is feeling that the outcome is too unpredictable. That may be true, or it may be that it's just hard if you haven't played the game a bunch of times.
I reeeeealy need to have a group of 6 people that can play 10 plus games. Maybe I need to hire playtesters for a day? FOr 6 people for a day that would be something like $500 though... at $10 an hour. Maybe offering $50 flat fee for 10 playthroughs or 8 hours whichever comes first?