Easy-Peasy User Testing

Steam’s recent Linux celebration sale brought a number of new games into my life. They are, on the whole, fun little games, well-deserving of the $2.50 or so I paid for them. There are a surprising number, however, that do something very important very incorrectly:

Tell me what to do.

It’s such a simple thing, but it can ruin my opinion of your game in 30 seconds. Some games I launch, start the first level, and… well, sit there, trying to figure out what’s supposed to happen.

Zen Bound 2's instruction-less first level.

Honestly, guys, if people hacking out a game in 48 hours can do it, so can you. And you really should do so before making your game available for purchase.

The real problem, though, is something deeper. This issue just makes it evident the developers did absolutely no gameplay testing on people not already familiar with the game. This is critical, even if we developers usually forget it (which is why we’ve nutured a society full of people frustrated at technology). And it’s not even that hard.

Ok, I’ll help you out. If you’re a mobile developer, just tap the shoulder of the guy in front of you at the Starbucks line and say something like

Excuse me. In exchange for me paying for your coffee, would you play this game I’m making while we stand in line?

Not. Difficult.

While mobile developers may have it slightly easier, it’s not terribly hard to do similar things for traditional applications; there are people everywhere, many of them already friends with you, and most willing to provide a few minutes of help in exchange for a beer, a sandwich, or even just karma.

Test your damn product.