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Playtesting for Steve Jackson Games

Games like ours are complex. Careful outside playtesting is necessary, or mistakes – lots of mistakes – will get through. This seems like a Bad Thing, and we try to avoid it.

Luckily for us, a lot of people enjoy playtesting, because the playtesters are the first ones to see the game, and they have a real voice in the direction it takes.

Playtesting for Munchkin

Most of our Munchkin playtesting happens in Austin, so we can observe carefully which cards work well, which jokes aren't as funny as we thought, and so on. We often take the latest Munchkin playtest sets to conventions, however, especially if Andrew or Steve is going, so come see us! We've gotten some great feedback at conventions.

Playtesting for GURPS Supplements

The GURPS playtester pool is made up of registered e23 customers who have spent more than $50 in the past 12 months. (One good way to be guaranteed eligibility is to purchase a 12-month subscription to Pyramid.) This policy does not prevent authors, editors, or lead playtesters from including experts of their own choosing.

Those selected for playtests are permitted to download required files and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying these files to any other online system or making more than one hardcopy is strictly prohibited. So please don't. If you encounter copies of these files, please report them to netcell@sjgames.com.

Playtesters who contribute comments that the author feels are significantly useful ("I really think this is cool" does NOT qualify) will receive credit in the supplement. They'll also get a free copy of the final supplement, either as a PDF (for most e23 originals) or as a print copy (for hardcover releases).

How to Join a Playtest

When a new supplement becomes available for playtest, it is announced in the Daily Illuminator and in the appropriate forum. The announcement will give specific instructions on how to join. If you are selected, you will be signed up for a playtest e-mail list and told how to access the files for the supplement. These files are usually in the form of Microsoft Word (.doc) documents.

Time Constraints

How much time we give to our playtesters depends on the nature of the supplement and the associated deadline. For hardcovers, we like to give our playtesters six to eight weeks for comments; for smaller PDF supplements, this is usually three to four weeks. Sometimes we can allow a lot more time . . . but sometimes we need a really quick turnaround. Second drafts often have short deadlines, because we assume that the really bad bugs were shaken out in the first round.

What to Look For While Playtesting

  • Do the rules work?
  • Do they pass the "reality check"?
  • Is the text easy to read and understand?
  • Is it FUN?
  • Is it what you expected? (better? worse?)
  • Does the author exclude any elements you wanted to see?
  • Does he include anything you found irrelevant or unnecessary?
  • If the draft seems long, what should we cut or trim?
  • What should we absolutely not take out?
  • If you see rules problems, how would you solve them?
  • Do these rules take the system in any directions that we may regret later?

If the author or editor asks specific questions in his playtest notes, please try to answer them! It's frustrating to plow through 10 pages of comments that fail to address the primary question about the manuscript.

Please do NOT copy-edit or proofread the playtest draft. Playtest copies are usually unchecked and unedited when they're posted. Even the best drafts will have significant errors of spelling, grammar and punctuation at this stage. Just grit your teeth and ignore them – our editors will catch them at the proper time.

Please DO mention typos which have a significant effect on the rules – for example, a price given as $30 for a weapon that's obviously worth $30,000, or a sloppy sentence that makes it impossible to be sure what a rule means. We want to know about these (we'd probably catch them too, eventually, but better safe than sorry).

Giving Us Your Feedback

For GURPS supplements, all playtesting comments should be posted to the appropriate mailing list. This usually sparks discussion and debate, which also helps the author.

Again, please note the deadline for each project! If your comments are not received before the deadline, it is unlikely that the author will have time to consider them before turning in his final draft.

Steve Jackson Games
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