Playtesting Postmortem

A Postmortem on Playtesting

Exploring the impact of playtesting on the critical reception of video games

Read our CHI 2020 paper featuring three case studies with indie game developers looking at how different playtest methods can succeed or fail in addressing issues before users and critics discover them.

Board Game Accessibility

Let's Play Together

Adaptation guidelines of board games for players with visual impairment

Board games are a beloved pastime for many, but they're usually not very accessible to players with impaired vision. As designers, we can convey information in so many ways other than sight–texture, shape, sound, there's nothing stopping us from making these experiences more accessible. The only limit is our creativity.

Playtesting Visualization

Aggregated Visualization

Aggregated Visualization of Playtesting Data

Character position. Coins collected. Lives lost. Player heart rate. So many different types of data, and so many ways to analyze it all. How can we visualize different types of data together to give developers the best insights possible?

AR for Museums

More than Meets the Eye

The benefits of augmented reality and holographic displays for digital cultural heritage

Museums bring the past to life for their guests...but what if we could do this much more literally with modern interactive technology? AR has already given us cat ears and helped us catch Pokemon. Now it can show us history.

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Artificial Players in the Design Process: Developing an automated testing tool for game level and world design

Repeatedly creating game builds suitable for usertesting (i.e., high-fidelity prototypes) is time-consuming and expensive. Moreover, recruiting users and conducting evaluation sessions are labour-intensive tasks. These challenges are especially pressing in the evaluation of game level and world design, where designers may wish to evaluate many alternatives or rapidly measure the impact of many small design changes on a game’s ability to deliver the intended experience. To support developers grappling with these challenges, we have developed PathOS, a novel tool for simulating testing sessions with agents that model player navigation.


Profiling Livestream Spectators

The livestream industry has developed tremendously over the last decade. A recent trend is to make spectators more engaged by adding features to enable interaction with streamers, players (hosts), or other spectators. Our research focuses on designing and evaluating interactive spectator experiences.


Exploring Severity of Gameplay Issues from Players’ Perspective

Understanding how different players experience gameplay is of vital importance in game development to ensure that the games are enjoyable and rewarding for a diverse audience. Our results provide an understanding and a supporting argument about the importance of everity from a player’s perspective.


A Postmortem on Playtesting: Exploring the impact of playtesting on the critical reception of video games

In this paper, we explore the relationship between issues identified in playtesting reports and those highlighted by critics, using three indie games as case studies.


Assessing the impact of visual design on the interpretation of aggregated playtesting data visualization

GUR isn’t just about what data you have; it’s about how you visualize and interpret it. This paper explores how different visualization designs for mixed and aggregated data impact the way developers analyze and interpret playtesting data.


Motivational affordances for older adults’ physical activity technology: An expert evaluation

Games can be used to promote a healthy lifestyle by encouraging people to exercise through play. If we understand what motivates people to make these lifestyle changes, we can create more effective designs. This paper evaluates the effectiveness of different design elements in motivating older adults to participate in gamified exercise.


Aggregated Visualization of Playtesting Data

User researchers collect a lot of diverse data during testing sessions–from players’ in-game position to their heart rate. This paper outlines a system for visualizing many different types of data for large groups of players.


Artificial Playfulness: A tool for automated agent-based playtesting

Usertesting is a critical part of games user research, but it’s also expensive and time-consuming. This paper explores an automated solution using basic AI to predict and visualize player navigation in games.


Let’s Play Together: Adaptation guidelines of board games for players with visual impairment

Everyone loves board games, but they can be challenging for players with visual impairment to play unassisted. Design features like shape and texture can be used to make board games more inclusive. This paper presents a set of guidelines for adapting existing games to support autonomous play for the visually impaired.


Usertesting Without the User: Opportunities and challenges of an AI-driven approach in games user research

Playtesting poses a lot of challenges: resource requirements, researcher time, scheduling conflicts, and recruiting players. This paper examines the viability of AI as a potential supplement to testing with human users and details a design foundation for our eventual automated testing system, PathOS.


Older adults’ physical activity and Exergames: A systematic review

Games that promote exercise through play are a helpful health and wellness tool for older adults. This paper reviews a number of “exergames” designed to help seniors improve their fitness, recover from injuries, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.


The Fall of the Fourth Wall: Designing and evaluating interactive spectator experiences

The rise of Twitch and similar streaming services has created an entirely new way to consume and interact with online content. Here, we examine the interaction design opportunities presented by the medium of streaming, proposing a set of design guidelines for spectators interacting with streamed content.


Evaluating the onboarding phase of free-to-play mobile games: A mixed-method approach

Free-to-play (F2P) games are easy to install and play, but they’re also easy to forget about if players aren’t hooked. Engaging players right away is crucial, and by extension, so is the evaluation of a game’s initial experience. This paper examines the ability of different research methods in assessing this critical phase of gameplay.


Gamification through the application of motivational affordances for physical activity technology

Motivation is a key factor in changing people’s habits. For games that promote exercise, designers need to create interactions that motivate players to get moving. This paper explores how motivations for physical activity vary among different age groups, providing guidelines for designing gamified exercise experiences.


Vixen: Interactive visualization of gameplay experiences

Playtesting is largely about understanding what players do and why. Players’ in-game actions are a key part of this understanding, but visualizing these actions as a complete experience is challenging. Vixen is a tool allowing developers to view players’ gameplay interactively in the game world itself, creating new opportunities for analysis.


Safety does not happen by accident, can gaming help improve occupational health and safety in organizations?

Thousands of workplace incidents cause economic hardship, injuries, and even death every year in Canada. Safety training is obviously important, but designing an effective training program isn’t always straightforward. This paper outlines the development of a game for workplace safety training that adapts to users’ needs as they learn.


Architecture guideline for game-based stroke rehabilitation

Strokes can be the cause of long-term impairments to vision, cognition, and motor skills. Physical rehabilitation can help to improve patient outcomes, but requires prolonged practice of often onorous exercise routines. This paper explores the ability of motion-based games to assist in the recovery journey of stroke patients.


More than meets the eye: The benefits of augmented reality and holographic displays for digital cultural heritage

Augmented reality (AR) grants the ability to make any real-world object interactive for the user. This paper details the creation of TombSeer, an AR application that can be deployed in museums to give patrons additional information about exhibits via a headset holographic display – seemingly bringing the past back to life.


Lessons learned from collecting quantified self information via mobile and wearable devices

Mobile devices have given us new ways to track our habits and lead data-driven lives. With minimal user effort, a smartwatch can log location, heart rate, app usage, and even sleep patterns. This paper explores best practices for self-collection of data by users with regard to privacy, performance, and interaction design.


Engaged by boos and cheers: The effect of co-located game audiences on social player experience

Playing games is a largely social activity, but not just for players. People also enjoy watching others play, but how does a live audience affect the people playing? This paper looks at how live audience reactions can influence the experience of players.


How does it play better? Exploring user testing and biometric storyboards in games user research

Ultimately, designing a game is creating an experience. Evaluating a design is about understanding how a real player’s experience algins with the developer’s intended experience. Biometric storyboards are a tool for improving a game’s design by visualizing player experience over time in conjunction with users’ physiological data.