How to Build a Game #68 How Many Playtests Do You Need?

Now that you have built a prototype of your game, how many times to you need to test the game overall? How many tests until you make a new prototype or upgrade to a nicer version? How do you know when it is time to take your prototype to the next level?

When you are doing your research about getting into game design, you will hear most people say you need to test your game hundreds, if not thousands or times. I don’t fully subscribe to that method. I think a game can be tested one or two dozen times and be finished. I would also like to take this space to say, I believe a game can be finished and not worked on anymore. I hear lots of designer say they are never finished working on their games. I am not a fan of this thinking because that might lead new designers to thinking that they need to continuously work on their games when they could be using the time on their next project when the game they have is a nice complete package. Sure there are a lot of games out there that are complex enough to warrant continuous work, but at what point are you working on expansions and not on the original game?

Anyways, that is another topic for another post.

The way we look at our prototypes goes like this. Build a first prototype with the cheapest materials you have. Test it and make the changes you need to make until you get to a point where you are ready to put that game in front of people who are not in your close “design circle”. Meaning, the people at the game store, the people at game night or taking the game to a convention and you want to test that game and make a half decent impression or the game is going to be used a lot and needs to be able to stand up to the wear and tear.

Feedback is hugely important to knowing when your game is “done.” The way we know a game is done is when the feedback goes from mechanical and game play related changes, to art and component suggestions. I put done in quotes because done means different things to different people. For us, done means we can start getting art together and pick a new main project to work on.

To answer the original question, how many playtests do I need? The answer is, it depends. Design your early prototypes to be flexible until you want to show it off. Design your next prototypes to be durable and presentable. You know your game is in a good place when the feedback no wants to fix mechanical and interaction issues.

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

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