There are a lot of different kinds of playtesters. On my current project, we have multiple internal playtests every week so that the different teams across the studio can get an opportunity to play the latest version of the game and gather feedback for the game’s dev team. The thing we test each week varies - sometimes it is a specific game mode, others we’re gathering feedback for a particular map, and others we’re looking to test a particular feature.
We also have regular focus group playtests on a regular basis. The User Research team usually brings in a new group of Kleenex testers every week or two. Kleenex testers are only ever brought in once to try the game fresh. They are not told what they will be testing beforehand, have signed the NDA, and will never be asked back again. They also often only get to test a specific aspect of the game, like the UI, the tutorial, a specific feature, etc. and do not get to play the full game. Focus playtests are there to prove out user experience and intuitiveness of the game’s design.
Most AAA studios will also have some form of beta playtest as well. Invitations to closed betas are often limited to company employees and their friends and family. Notable player community members often also receive invites. Closed betas exist for the dual purpose of testing the full game flow and to solicit their opinions on the user experience. Open betas are similar, but we essentially let anyone in who wants to play. The goal of an open beta is not really to solicit feedback (though we will take it), but to stress test the game to make sure it works at scale in real-world conditions (e.g. lag, server capacity, network infrastructure, game stability, etc.).
Generally speaking, we try to get as much playtesting as we have the resources to support, provided that we have something specific we want to test (e.g. a new patch) and the thing we want to test is in a sufficiently stable state that it can be tested (it doesn’t crash). Playtesting isn’t free, we need to find and organize the testers, make sure they sign the NDAs, provide necessary setups for them, hold the test, collect the feedback, then parse and analyze that feedback to figure out what we can feasibly change to improve the game. It requires a lot of time, money, and effort on our part to hold these tests.
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