I’ve been mulling over the idea of playtests-as-studies. I’ve been thinking particularly about a recent conversation I had with the inimitable Avery Mcdaldno, wherein they suggested that, for a game you intend to Get Out Into the World, you have a limited budget (maybe, say, 4 to 40) of playtests. And so each one has to drive the game forward, but also, you will never get it just right or, dare I say it, perfect.

So, what do we do with that? How do you spend your playtests, allot your studies? What do you need to get filled in first, and what can wait to be done in the detail work, the finishing touches?

I dunno. But I’m curious to find out. I suspect strongly that a lot of the getting-better-at-making-games lies in this space.

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Just shy of a year dormant, but a post! I’m gonna try to get over my “I must post something Worthwhile” hangup.

 

I’ve spent the day at the National Gallery, looking at Andrew Wyeth, Degas, Cassatt. When I was little, this was my least favorite museum (Air & Space and Natural History always claiming my affections), but as I grow older, I grow to appreciate it more.

What struck me today was looking at a wall of studies Degas did for his series of Mary Cassatt at the Louvre. Eight or so paintings, each more or less “complete”, each with their own moments of brilliance and their own failings. Eight of them, arrayed side by side, showing much (but by no means all) of the process involved in creating the final work.

The final work was definitely more polished, probably better than any individual study, but it got there because of the work put in to the studies. And there were some bits that didn’t come off as well in the final piece, for sure, but you know, that’s just how it goes. Maybe they wouldn’t have been as good in that final (overall better) context, maybe they were just impossible to capture again.

So it is with a game. Maybe, even, if it helps you, don’t call them “playtests”, call them “studies”. Each one is a whole game (gamelet?) in its own right, with some strengths and probably more weaknesses, but not made with an aim to completeness and publication, rather with an aim towards preparation and honing your understanding of the space and your art.

Make more games. Maybe most of them never make it out of your studio, but that’s not at all “failure”.