Going Digital: Playtesting Online
Slowly while being stuck at home I began to start work on an 18-card game for a contest, started my reboot of Team Heroes and began going over my game files to upload them onto Tabletop Simulator. I originally downloaded Tabletop Simulator when one of my mentors had wanted to teach me to use it so they could give feedback on my game designs. Sadly, we never got to him showing me the program. So, I watched Youtube videos and read tips fellow designers were posting about going online with their prototypes. I used to use Tabletopia to playtest Curbside but that program was much easier to use and crashed way less.
For those first two weeks, I would try to use Tabletop Simulator then it would crash as I was downloading my components to the table. Eventually, I figured out it was because of the file types. I needed certain sized jpegs and pngs formatted for RGB and not CMYK. Since my playtesting used to consist of printing and cutting cards I didn’t think to change/check the file types. Thankfully on one of the board game design Facebook groups a designer had the same problem and found out it was because their artist was giving them CMYK files.
As of this week I have officially uploaded two games onto Tabletop Simulator. I hope to get the rest of my games up as well so I can continue playtesting. Many game design groups have opened up their groups to the public while they do their testing online. I will be joining the Seattle Playtesting Group on Wednesdays to continue the progress of my games. Currently, my focus is on Daughters of Asclepius since it’s earlier in the development and Let’s Sort It Out since I recently rebooted the game because a publisher was interested in seeing it once the changes they wanted were made. I only had a few chances to test the game before in-person so I look forward to seeing what people think.
Last night I did get the chance to test Daughters of Asclepius out on Tabletop Simulator and man was it different testing online. People’s turns take longer, set up takes longer and the programs are fiddly. Overall, it was a successful playtest. I walked away with a lot of good feedback on streamlining the game to make it shorter and less punishing. I will be working on integrating these changes this weekend. I’m thankful people enjoyed the theme of the game since I’m in love with it. I found the use of Discord to create different audio rooms for the different games being tested to be really inventive along with the shared google sheet to track which games were going to get played. I kind of want to try something similar with the Chicago gaming groups if the stay-in-place order gets pushed out longer.
Besides Tabletop Simulator I was able to be apart of a playtest for Floodgate’s new game Holi: Festival of Colors on Tabletopia. We also used the audio in the app/website Discord to talk with eachother. The Tabletopia logging in process with a password was confusing to different parts of the group but in general the game went smoothly. My internet crashed once which was annoying but I came right back into the game with no issues. One other player had issues with their audio cutting out but besides that there weren’t too many tech issues.
So far from playing online I have come to realize that games take longer to play, some people aren’t as tech savvy so you need to be patient and expect the unexpected. I include myself in this statement. Other more experienced players taught me all kinds of short cuts to make things quicker. And some of the excitement of the game seems to get lost in the online feeling. Having energetic people making jokes helps but I don’t feel as excited to play online. I’m sure the process will take a few tries to get used to but I am excited that the gaming community has found a way to come together and thrive online.
Plus, this time indoors has made many podcasters, Youtubers and FacebookLivers become desperate for content which has been a great marketing tool for myself. A few weeks ago my fiancé Jessa and I were on a FacebookLive talking with Justin from Boardgaming with Education which was fun. Tonight I will be on Facebook again speaking with Cara the Blond Unicorn on her Woman in Tabletop Gaming interview series. I will get a chance to promote myself, my games and offer some helpful tips on pitching games to different companies. Hopefully we will get a decent turnout of viewers. Plus, I will be recording an episode of one of my favorite podcasts at the end of the month that won’t be released until June. The podcast’s name will remain a secret for now but I’m excited!
My goal in these remaining weeks of quarantine is to finish some of my tabled designs like Team Hero and that 18-card game. Get better at using Tabletopia and Tabletop Simulator. Play the published physical board games I have at home to pass the time and check-in with publishers that are still considering my games. I have started to think of this shelter-in-place as a way to force me outside my comfort zone and to learn new skills that can help me in the future. I have seen some other designers thrive having access three times a week to online playtest groups when locally they had maybe once a month to playtest. I will continue to try and stay motivated in my designing while staying healthy at home.