SCHAR: Blue Shield Alliance

On the Importance of Play Testing

One of the things that happens very frequently and very rapidly while working on SCHAR: Blue Shield Alliance is iterative testing.  This usually occurs though on a small scale.  I’ll make a tweak in a level, maybe to the number of enemies or the timing of something, quickly compile and check.   Tweak again.  Compile and check.  Tweak again.  You get the point.  It’s a very narrow view of the game and it’s usually done solo.  Of course there’s a problem with that when it comes to a co-op game and the bigger picture, that’s why I love to have playtesting events.  Not only is it awesome to get a bunch of people together to hang out and talk shop about the game, but it’s sweet to just sit back and watch the reactions of the people playing.

A few weeks ago we managed to squeeze in the final bits of our levels and content and held a session for a half dozen or so folks to come play.  As we watched the campaign progress, I realized a huge error I had made in the way I scaled enemy difficulty and numbers.  It basically came down to math like this.

If there are 10 enemies spawning for one player, we should spawn 40 enemies for four players!

In theory it may be sound, but in execution it simply turns into a jumbled mess on the screen.  We quickly saw people unable to progress and unable to even see the action on the screen.  Other issues came up as well and the folks in attendance offered up some great suggestions, some of which we were able to quickly adapt and change on the fly, others we iterated on and implemented later.

Like I said earlier, perhaps my favorite part of these sessions is simply sitting back and watching people’s reaction to what’s going on.  Observing how they play the game helps me immensely with design changes too, giving me a “big picture” view of things for things I’m often way to close to see.

There’s another session set for this weekend I’m really looking forward to and we hope to capture a bunch of video to pull into some trailers for the game.  We’re getting close!

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