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General Forge Forums => Site Discussion => Topic started by: David C on August 11, 2009, 12:34:48 AM



Title: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: David C on August 11, 2009, 12:34:48 AM
I know Ron spends a lot of time on this site, and I am eternally grateful. But since I've arrived, there are a couple things that have bothered me about the Forge.  It seems we've been evolving the concept of the RPG, but the Forge is stuck in its original form (as evidence by its "web 1.0 design.")

Recently, one of my threads was moved from "Actual Play" to "Playtesting."  Well, the overarching "concept" of the Forge is "RPG design."  However, a lot of times, it feels like there is a hidden agenda (the real agenda) which is to promote Indy RPGs.  The difference between "Actual Play" and "Playtesting" seems to be that "Actual Play" is for playing Indy RPGs, whereas "Playtesting" is for playing... unfinished Indy games??   A quick look at a couple statistics show us a coupe things about these forums.

Oldest post on page 1 "Actual Play".            July 09, 2009
Oldest post on page 1 "Playtesting"              May 28, 2009

Posts in "Actual Play"                                 R. 36353   T.  3554
Posts in "Playtesting"                                 R.   4986    T.    651

From these two forums, it is evidence that Actual Play has a rate of 35 topics per month, whereas Playtesting has a rate of 10 topics per month.  It has 1/7th (or 14%) of the traffic of "Actual Play."  This translates into less help, less interest and a general stagnation of threads.

In addition, Ron says that "After you playtest a game even once, all  other posting about it goes into Playtesting."  Well, guess what, I've been breaking this rule since I got here. I play-tested my game after spending an afternoon brainstorming about it. I didn't even know the Forge existed until 8 months after that.  The game I have now is completely different than that initial spark.  Every day, I have ideas which are completely new thoughts.  Those individual ideas are first thoughts.    Even if you make a huge change to a basic mechanic, in my opinion, that is a first thought. 

The Playtesting forum gets the 3rd least traffic.  A full 5 forums get more traffic than it, including "Site Discussion" and "Conventions."  Face it, Playtesting is where threads go to die.

In general, the Forge is a very slow forum board.  What's the point of having this 8th board that nobody posts in if they can avoid it?  What's the point in enforcing all of these bizarre, archaic rules on this forum board if we're all here to design games and evolve our hobby?  Haven't we discovered that clear, simple mechanics are the best in RPGs?  Why wouldn't we treat our forum board the same way?  Couldn't "First Thoughts," "Actual Play" and "Playtesting" be better replaced with just  "Design" and "Play"?  Would it be so "Destructive" to the environment to split those 10 topics a month into 2 other forum topics?  (5 additional posts per MONTH) These aren't the World of Warcraft forums where there are 100 topics an hour per forum board.



Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: Lance D. Allen on August 11, 2009, 11:45:08 AM
Your post was moved because you were talking about modifying a game based on experiences of play. That's basically a text-book definition of playtesting, David. I was participating in that thread, and I glanced up and noticed that it was in Actual Play. I briefly thought "huh. Seems more like it belongs in Playtesting. Oh well, Ron will probably move it."

It's not about volume of posts, man. It's about what your purpose is. When people post about AP of a finished game, it goes in AP. This is true even when the game isn't an indie game, as has happened on various occasions. D&D play has found its way into the AP forum fairly frequently, especially since 4E came out. So long as there's something of interest, I'm going to read and participate in threads, regardless of where they are, and I'm fairly certain that's true of most people.

So it's like this: When you're designing a game that isn't done, it's First Thoughts. Once you start playing that game, and considering what might need to change due to what happens in play, it goes into Playtesting. If you're *looking* for playtesters, or if the game is "done" and you need editors, artists, layout dudes, etc. you go into Connections. When you need advice about publishing, whether it be laying out your document, how to integrate art, information about printing or your sales model, go to Publishing. When you're playing a published game and you're not talking about how the mechanics may need to be rewritten, or when you're addressing play theory through the lens of play, you use Actual Play. Then you've got other, special purpose forums, like Endeavor, Conventions, and of course Site Discussion.

At the moment, I'm mulling a response to your "tokens" post.


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: Adam Dray on August 11, 2009, 12:45:27 PM
Recently, one of my threads was moved from "Actual Play" to "Playtesting."  Well, the overarching "concept" of the Forge is "RPG design."  However, a lot of times, it feels like there is a hidden agenda (the real agenda) which is to promote Indy RPGs.  The difference between "Actual Play" and "Playtesting" seems to be that "Actual Play" is for playing Indy RPGs, whereas "Playtesting" is for playing... unfinished Indy games??   A quick look at a couple statistics show us a coupe things about these forums.

Maybe I don't understand what you mean, but the Forge is definitely aimed at independent RPGs. It's right in the About the Forge (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/about/) link at the top:

Quote
This site is dedicated to the promotion, creation, and review of independent role-playing games.

Pretty clearly about indie games.

That doesn't mean there isn't value in reading and posting actual play reports about non-indie games. Understanding how D&D 4E works via actual play and analysis thereof helps game design, which aids in the site's charter dedicated to the creation of indie games. That's how I read it, anyway.

I don't really care what forum posts are in when I'm reading. I use the "Show unread posts since last visit" link at the top almost exclusively and click anything that interests me. Getting your post moved isn't that big a deal, is it? Really?


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: David C on August 11, 2009, 01:04:29 PM
Quote
Getting your post moved isn't that big a deal, is it? Really?

To quote myself, "This translates into less help, less interest and a general stagnation of threads."

There are no less than FIVE topics in playtesting that have 0 replies.  That's 1/7th of the posts on the front page.  In actual play, only 1 has no replies, and it is at the top of the page and will probably be responded to. If you do a quick scan of the topics, most have single digit replies.  In Actual Play, more than half have double digit replies.

Quote
I don't really care what forum posts are in when I'm reading. I use the "Show unread posts since last visit" link at the top almost exclusively and click anything that interests me.

Then you're a power user (a skilled user.)  That's maybe 10% of everyone?  The other 90% just visit whatever boards they visit.  Like I never visit playtesting (I always forget it's there... as evidence by the mistake I made where I posted my playtesting into actual play.) I don't use the feature you mentioned, and even if I did, other people don't. 

I understand the intent of the forum design.  But that doesn't mean it isn't dysfunctional. Just because that's the "way it has always been" doesn't mean that it is good or that it works well.  I mean, imagine if we had applied that to D&D 30 years ago?  Lets say that I scrapped all the mechanics I'm currently using for narration in my game.  Then I wanted to try something completely different.  Why would that go into playtesting?  The game has been playtested, but these mechanics have never been touched before.  How idiotic is it to post about theoretical NEW mechanics in playtesting (a forum where a game has been playtested.)

Sorry to be such a pill, but I couldn't hold my silence any longer.


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: lumpley on August 11, 2009, 01:10:09 PM
Just so everyone knows, the people to talk to about changes to the forum are Ron Edwards (who decides) and me (who implements).

David, the thing to do is probably to contact Ron in private. There's no sense arguing about it here.

-Vincent
(the Forge's technical admin)


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 11, 2009, 05:54:56 PM
I'll deal with it here. After GenCon.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: Lance D. Allen on August 12, 2009, 06:03:53 AM
Okay, Ron didn't say "please don't post anymore until I get back", which he usually does when he means that. Regardless, I'm going to say a couple things, then wait for his return.

Quote
Quote
I don't really care what forum posts are in when I'm reading. I use the "Show unread posts since last visit" link at the top almost exclusively and click anything that interests me.

Then you're a power user (a skilled user.)  That's maybe 10% of everyone?  The other 90% just visit whatever boards they visit.  Like I never visit playtesting (I always forget it's there... as evidence by the mistake I made where I posted my playtesting into actual play.) I don't use the feature you mentioned, and even if I did, other people don't. 

It's interesting to me that Ron has stated that he dislikes this feature, because it tends to encourage people to only look at the new threads. It's not considered an advanced feature at all. (for the record: upper left hand corner, under where it'd say "Hey David C, you have x messages, y are new.")

That said, what you're saying doesn't seem like a failure of the design of the forum or a failure of the technology, but instead a failure of the community. A failure on my part as well, specifically. I'd have looked at your post regardless of where you put it for the same reason as Adam: I don't usually click into the individual forums, unless I'm looking for a discussion I was already following that doesn't show up under show unread. I read posts based on what the topic line is, and who the user is. Sometimes that means I'll look at a post by a new user, because they're new and I don't know who they are, or what they're bringing to the table. Sometimes that means I'll look at a post because the user has come onto my radar (such as you). I've also made a point to look a little more often at "First Thoughts" threads, because I know that people giving you feedback is important to getting through a design.

Apparently I have been dropping the ball on the equally important part of playtesting. If nothing else your post highlights that, for me.


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: Frank Tarcikowski on August 13, 2009, 12:48:18 AM
Why wouldn't we treat our forum board the same way?  Couldn't "First Thoughts," "Actual Play" and "Playtesting" be better replaced with just  "Design" and "Play"? 

When I first came to the Forge, the forums were:

Actual Play
Indie Game Design
RPG Theory
GNS Model Discussion

At some point, RPG Theory and GNS Model Discussion were closed for good, and Indie Game Design was closed to be replaced by First Thoughts, Playtesting and Endeavour, who moved above Actual Play. You can find the closed-down forums in the "Archive" section. I'm sure Ron will explain his motives in this change of forum architecture once he gets back.

- Frank


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: Selene Tan on August 13, 2009, 10:39:55 AM
Ron explained his motives for splitting up Indie Game Design in Forum re-construction under way (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=18504.0). First Thoughts was meant to provide an entry point for people new to the site who could then be asked about how their actual play experiences informed their design. Playtesting was meant for anyone beyond that stage, with focused questions that are best resolved by playtesting, or for people to discuss the results of said playtests. Endeavor was for participating in design challenges to announce and discuss them.

Graduation (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17828.0), the sticky at the top of the GNS Model Discussion explains why it closed -- it had finished serving its purpose. Farewall to the forum, not the theory (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17827.0), the sticky at the top of RPG Theory, explains why it closed -- to ground theory discussion in actual play.

And in This one's important (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=16335.0), Ron encourages people to reply to posts in Indie Game Design rather than hiding out in RPG Theory and GNS Model Discussion.


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: David C on August 13, 2009, 08:45:34 PM
We could sit here all day and make arguments about how it is structured.  I think it is important to look at how the community uses the boards. Hasn't anyone else noticed all the confusion when new people get here?  I mean, the other 5 boards all make sense and it is quite clear what goes on there.  Also, people get the answers and feedback they need there.  If First Thoughts is supposed to be "Welcome to the Forge" than that should be made clear.  As it is, it is the second most used board. If 98% of designing an Indy RPG is supposed to go into Playtesting, than Playtesting is woefully underused. If Actual Play is for "Playing Indy RPGs" than that should be made clear. Right now, the 3 boards' names and descriptions are too broad and encompassing. 

If I was going to design this forum like I would design a game, it would probably be something like this, because these are the stages you move through as you develop a game.

(1st forum header/group "RPG Design")
Welcome to the Forge!  - Post here to introduce yourself and your game design. Also post here if you are beginning a new game.
Design - Post here as you work on your game.
Connections
Publishing
Conventions

(2nd Forum Header)
Everything else


One trick I learned back when I ran a forum board for discussing Hobby Remote Control Vehicles (back in the golden days of the internet where you could get free web hosting with no ads), your forums has to be proportional to your traffic.  Think of it as a party.  If you have 50 people show up to a 50 room mansion, it's not much of a party.  But 50 people at a 5 room beach house is a really awesome party.  On the other hand, 50 people in a 1 room cabin is really terrible.


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 18, 2009, 05:36:18 AM
Hello,

That's not a bad breakdown, David, and although I can't see adopting it exactly, your offering is stated as "something like" and indeed, something like it may be a good thing to consider.

However, one thing will not change: the distinction and usage of the Playtesting forum. I consider your use of First Thoughts to be breaking the social contract of the community here. I consider your reason for it - which amounts merely to clamoring for attention - to be beneath discussion.

If you have playtested your game at all, then all discussion of it goes into the Playtesting forum. Dropping this point by accident is one thing; defying it is another. Furthermore, any objections or concerns you have with Playtesting - primarily number of views and so on - are easily repaired by posting your topics there, contributing to other threads there, and generally helping to make it into a productive forum.

I expect anyone and everyone with a game which has entered playtesting to be doing this. Or rather, anyone and everyone who is serious even to a little extent about his or her game.

Everyone: you may take this post as a clear signal that the First Thoughts forum is off limits to playtested games, period. I'll be more attentive to this from now on.  If you'd like to help, then please report posts which clearly violate it to me. I will not punish or shame the violators, but I will move the threads. It is likely that merely doing this will jack up the Playtesting forum because a lot of content is probably currently hiding in First Thoughts.

I also ask that people pay more attention to games in Playtesting, as those thread authors are clearly braving some fear and demonstrating some seriousness, and they should not be ignored.



Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: Thunder_God on August 19, 2009, 04:31:41 AM
To pick up on Ron's last line, I don't think it's surprising that Playtesting has less posts than First Thoughts:

1. Many designs don't make it to playtesting.
2. They make it, and then are left alone, and off the designer goes to try something different.
3. Some people don't feel the need to get help on the Playtesting forum, and tweak on their own and discussing with the playtesters directly.
4. Some stuff in First Thoughts is not actually a game, but a game-component idea.

All in all, I for one am not surprised at the disparity.


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: Patrice on August 19, 2009, 06:17:15 AM
To back part of what Thunder said, I'd say that the relative depletion of the Playtest forum comes more from design constraints and habits than from site-abuse behaviour. Very few First Thoughts ever make it to Playtest and if they do, they might change and evolve so much that their author feels justified into breaking a new First Thoughts rather than going on with Playtest. From the "you have a game, play it and let's discuss and play again until you publish/share it in some way" point of view, going back into First Thoughts doesn't make sense but it seems that what happens is more "I have an idea, play it, dump it, shape another, start a new game, play it, take back the first one, play it, dump it, start afresh again" in serendipity mode.

On the other hand, Actual Play allows you to talk about the games other people designed. No wonder it's big and fat since it doesn't involve the "creation" process as such. It's what we play, and we play.

There's a side risk here: enforcing First Thoughts would be enforcing the staged vision derivated from the "you have a game, play it" point of view and I don't think Playtest will get any benefit from that. I like that, it's challenging and compels us lurkers/posters into framing a sensible and straightforward game design, but I'd like us to be aware of what that means: that means that if we drop an idea, this idea is supposed to evolve into a game, be tested and shared in such a way that Actual Play will happen afterwards. It's the ideal pattern. Thing is most of us aren't fitting this ideal. Most designers need to muse a long while at design before becoming actual designers and it so happens that The Forge is also a good place to muse at the moment.

I think most of us (well, I do anyway) consider Playtest entries with a "waw, she/he did it!". Playtest is glory, it shows you were damn serious about this First Thought and I feel very strange reading that one might feel "dumped" here. This forum sets aside the musers and the fledged (however fledging) designers, if I may say so (and I may because I've never ever opened a Playtest thread).


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 19, 2009, 07:00:15 AM
Those are good points too.

I'd like to distinguish between the necessary self-selection factor, which automatically means less and slower posting in Playtesting, and what I see as under-using that forum. I agree it will never be as rapid and high-reply as First Thoughts or Actual Play, and that seems to me to be a good thing. But I do think it should be more active and better utilized than it is now.

In other words, I would like to see David's criticisms addressed behaviorally and in community terms, not structurally as he suggests (a reversion to Indie Design, effectively).

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: Lance D. Allen on August 19, 2009, 08:12:17 AM
The behavioral aspect of the problem is what I was trying, perhaps less than successfully, to address in my last post. My posting and participation here will always be whim-laden, but as I recently made a point to aim my whims at the First Thoughts forums more, Since this thread, I've made a point to look at the Playtesting forum more. I am especially remiss because playtesting is the part of the process I am having the most trouble with. If I would get past this hump with Rats in the Walls and ReCoil, it would do me some good to spend some time focusing on the playtesting efforts of others.

Playtesting is possibly the most important thing you can do for a game, even moreso than designing it. Anyone can toss together some neat ideas and call it a roleplaying game. These days, anyone can make a physical book or a .pdf of those ideas. You don't get quality without making sure the ideas actually work well.


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: Patrice on August 19, 2009, 01:57:37 PM
We should maybe question the behavioural boundary between Actual Play and Playtest instead of the First Thoughts/Playtest one.


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: Lance D. Allen on August 19, 2009, 08:11:40 PM
The way I read it (without actually going back and, yanno, reading it) is that Actual Play is for play of published, or otherwise finished, games. If the game's designers considers the game to be unfinished and is providing copies of the game to others for playtesting purposes, or is playing the game themselves under such circumstances, then it's Playtesting.

The border area is where a game might be considered finished, but the designer is following AP threads with an eye toward a revised edition. It's not hard to figure out though, because the official status of the game is "done", so it's Actual Play.


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: David C on September 21, 2009, 12:16:43 AM
Sorry, I haven't had time to get back here to make any comments.

Ron, I feel like you've just dismissed everything I've said on the basis of wishful thinking. 

Quote
In other words, I would like to see David's criticisms addressed behaviorally and in community terms, not structurally as he suggests (a reversion to Indie Design, effectively).

That's like, if I make a gamist game and people play it like a gamist game and I cry and whine they're doing it wrong because I insist it is actuallya narrativist game.

Quote
I agree it will never be as rapid and high-reply as First Thoughts or Actual Play, and that seems to me to be a good thing.

In what universe is this a good thing?  You can't just say something that doesn't make any sense, and not bother to explain it, then expect me to take you seriously. If I didn't want people to respond to my posts, I wouldn't post them!  I don't call people on the phone to listen to their voice mail.

Quote
If you have playtested your game at all, then all discussion of it goes into the Playtesting forum. Dropping this point by accident is one thing; defying it is another. Furthermore, any objections or concerns you have with Playtesting - primarily number of views and so on - are easily repaired by posting your topics there, contributing to other threads there, and generally helping to make it into a productive forum.

This attitude is why I was hoping to find another board with a less narr attitude.  Narr games benefit from being short with few mechanics.  That's why you can write out your entire game idea, go play test and be done without having to go back to square one. It's super easy to finish a narr game. Hell, you guys make games that fit in pamphlets! In marathon contests! When writing a game, I've had to play test, go back and revise or add mechanics (First thoughts, new ideas, which are unplaytested!)  I've been working on it for years.  And as I've said, the game it is now has nothing in common with the game I started on.  But I playtested it with my friends about 2 weeks in, before I even visited here.  My very first post to first thoughts was against Ron's rules.

Quote
Everyone: you may take this post as a clear signal that the First Thoughts forum is off limits to playtested games, period. I'll be more attentive to this from now on.  If you'd like to help, then please report posts which clearly violate it to me. I will not punish or shame the violators, but I will move the threads. It is likely that merely doing this will jack up the Playtesting forum because a lot of content is probably currently hiding in First Thoughts.

Posting that message here is about as effective as putting up fliers next to the freeway. About the only user you're going to crack down on is me (since you are now aware), and all the posts and happy thoughts you're making here aren't going to do squat to change everyone else's "behavior." 

When I was writing the parent, I kept thinking it was a bad idea. I figured you're too stubborn to actually change anything about how you run things unless it's your idea. And you're too comfortable with the way things are to ever want to change anything, regardless of how decrepit it becomes. I was worried the only thing I could accomplish was to garner ill will. I guess I was right. Hopefully I can finish my game without needing to discuss any new mechanics. 




Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 21, 2009, 05:06:08 PM
I can't possibly take the juvenilia in that post seriously. You're simultaneously asking me to explain myself, deciding upon my reasons (or rather prejudices and hidden agenda) without waiting for an explanation, then criticizing those, and finally writing off the entire discussion. This isn't your reasoning doing the composing; it's your ego, lashing out trying to hurt me for making it feel something-or-other. If, while composing the post, you really wanted to know what I meant or where I'm coming from, you simply would have asked.

Further attention-seeking posts of that sort will go into the Inactive File with the porn and word-salad spam.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: DWeird on September 22, 2009, 09:05:39 AM
I don't know and I don't care about the thread that started this little spat, but one thing did catch my eye in this thread, i.e.:

Quote
However, one thing will not change: the distinction and usage of the Playtesting forum. I consider your use of First Thoughts to be breaking the social contract of the community here. I consider your reason for it - which amounts merely to clamoring for attention - to be beneath discussion.

It's the "merely" that I take issue with. Of course Dave wants attention - attention for his game, as there's really no way to get it any better without outside help. It's attention to specific details which you can't get without a large-ish mass of people vading through (or, if you're lucky, just a single person who's on the same wavelength as you are), and not the "wah-ah, I want my lolly!" attention that calls for the same large-ish mass of people as a goal in itself. Specific attention is what I want when I make threads in the Forge, too, and I (think I) can safely assume most people do, too. Deriding that seems to miss the point completelly - and the point is, as Dave both suggests and embodies, is that people are going to migrate from places where they don't get attention to places they do.

Trying to fix that by stronger moderating and shifting anything that has ever been playtested into Playtesting seems dubious to me... Some of the stuff that'd "misplaced" in First Thoughts would "Hey guys, I need an idea for a mechanic of my game that otherwise works" bits. Try as I might, I can't see how such posts would fit into "Playtesting", which seems, from the name itself, to be about playtesting, and not about "amalgated bits that have something to do with games that have been playtested at some point or other." Would stronger policing serve any purpose other than bolstering the Playtest forum's raw stats - post amount and replies gained? If no, why even bother?


And since "yeah, no, stuff you're saying is not gonna work, so why even bother doing anything?" is not too productive in regards to the issue at hand... The reason I rarely post in Playtesting (other than being a complete greenhorn) is that a lot of the stuff in it seems to be "Hey look! I finished my game!". I come in, look at what's posted - which is more often than not a frickin' wall of text or a link to a frickin' wall of text -, my eyes glaze over, and I either close the thread right off (unless it's a playtest to one of Marshall Burns's games. Then, you have a wall of text that reads like a novel), or, more rarely, skim it quickly and look for any questions that the author posed... Sometimes, there are none. Sometimes, they're stuff like "what do you think?"... And then I groan silently and go do something else. Reading a text with an eye out for stuff that could be wrong in it, or stuff that can be unexpectedly good in it is hard enough, and I don't think asking the author to tell me what issues he wants help with is too much.

So what I'm saying is... Maybe some sort of criteria and/or guides to what playtesting is about? What you should do during it, what should you write (and NOT write) in the report, and how you should go around looking for problems, stuff like that. Nothing formal, but rather a sort of a community best practises thing? Because currently, all there is that comes remotelly close to that is the Knizia thing, which amounts to: "Playtesting's pretty useful. Do it lots."


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: M. J. Young on September 24, 2009, 04:45:11 PM
I hesitate to enter a discussion that is becoming heated, but frankly this,

Narr games benefit from being short with few mechanics.  That's why you can write out your entire game idea, go play test and be done without having to go back to square one. It's super easy to finish a narr game. Hell, you guys make games that fit in pamphlets! In marathon contests! When writing a game, I've had to play test, go back and revise or add mechanics (First thoughts, new ideas, which are unplaytested!)  I've been working on it for years.  And as I've said, the game it is now has nothing in common with the game I started on.
...is simply not true.  Narrativist games can be rather long--Legends of Alyria is an excellent example--and gamist and simulationist games can be very short and very quickly constructed, as Gareth Michael Skarka's Fifty-two Pickup article series demonstrated.

Further, I know Ron has designed gamist and simulationist games.  He prefers playing and designing narrativist games, but he understands the others.  Clinton Nixon, formerly the site administrator, has also dabbled in multiple agenda, and while most of what I've seen of Vincent Baker's games are narrativist, I've sat on a game design panel with him and know that his grasp of agenda and game design is not limited to that area.

I'm inclined to think that the "prejudice" you sense has more to do with market forces than with any influence the Forge leadership (if I can abuse that word) brings to the table.  Most people who like simulationist and gamist games find what they're seeking in the big press games; most people who design games begin because they don't like the games that are popularly available.  Even then, a significant chunk of those driven to design "better" games in simulationism and gamism begin with a "heartbreaker", a slight modification of an established game that in their view "fixes" the "problems" they had with the original.  Thus there are far more narrativists in independent game design than simulationists or gamists, simply because more narrativists are dissatisfied with what's out there.

That means if you're bringing a gamist or simulationist design to this board, the majority of the designers here are going to look at it and say, "It looks like it might be a good game, but it's not something that would interest me."  There are people with broader backgrounds--Mike Holmes, Ralph Mazza, Eero Tuovinen, I'll stop there so I don't embarrass myself by omission--people who can design and have designed in a variety of forms and who can give good advice.  They're spread a bit thin, though.

On the other hand, there is as far as I know no rule that says you can't
  • familiarize yourself with the names of people who do seem to have that kind of insight into the kinds of games you're trying to create,
  • post your ideas in the proper forum, and
  • drop private messages or e-mails to those select people to ask them if they might be able to give it a look and make a comment or two.

As is often said, it is usually more effective if you have specific questions than if you want informal game reviews of the totality.  And indeed, DWeird (what's your name?) is not the only person whose eyes glaze at huge blocks of text, so smaller chunks are generally better.

Also, there are probably a lot of people out there who would like to discuss your game, who would certainly be willing to do so here at the Forge if you invited them to do so.  If there aren't enough gamists or simulationists here, and you think there are people interested in game design in those areas, bring them here.  No one has ever been turned away because he didn't care for a particular style of game, as long as he was polite about it.

I hope this helps.

--M. J. Young


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 30, 2009, 07:43:53 AM
Finally I can get to this.

First, Mark, I always appreciate your input, and I agree with your points. However, in this case, I think your effort is misplaced. David hasn't shown any interest in reasoned discussion and his post merits no attention.

Second, Dweird, I'm going to abstract a particular question from your post - let me know if I'm not representing you fairly in doing so.

"Ron, what do you mean by fewer viewers and fewer replies being better, once I post in Playtesting?"

This is an excellent question. The answer is that people who read and reply to a thread in Playtesting are serious. They are not socializing, not hanging out, not seeing-and-being-seen. They have absolutely no reason to post in your thread except for genuine interest in your game, and in helping you specifically at this precise stage. There is literally no comparison to replies in First Thoughts, which is intended to be (and is easily observed as) the kiddie pool, despite its utility when used seriously.

Your recommendation is extremely reasonable:

Quote
Maybe some sort of criteria and/or guides to what playtesting is about? What you should do during it, what should you write (and NOT write) in the report, and how you should go around looking for problems, stuff like that. Nothing formal, but rather a sort of a community best practises thing?

I called for dialogue about this myself in Standards for playtesting (http://indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=16.0), one of the very first threads at the Forge. I hope you post either about playtesting yourself, or in serious participation in playtesting threads, in order to promote that dialogue. Raising, addressing, and with any luck establishing some institutional memory about these questions won't happen unless people like yourself actually do it.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: jburneko on September 30, 2009, 11:05:53 AM
As a singular anecdotal data point I thought I'd mention that the last time I posted in Playtesting about my game Silent Sound, I received exactly ONE reply.  However, that reply was exactly what I needed to start moving again on the game.  So, the fact that there was only one, was a complete non-issue.

Jesse


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: JoyWriter on October 02, 2009, 05:31:36 AM
I don't know how to give that kind of input very well yet. Specifically, I often find the information load to great:

A certain kind of first thoughts thread, where the first draft "game text" is up, shares a lot of similarity with this problem. They suggest something is broken, and give a link to the whole text! Learning someone's entire game takes time, and we need to cut it into bits.

Now this produces different problems; you suggest a mechanic, and they go "oh well I've already got this bit to do that". There are a lot of explicit misses with criticism, whereas the "aesthetic" mode of a lot of first thoughts dialog allows people to just go "x+y might be cool, as might x+z".

Hang on, in fact the similarity of those two things from two forums "whole game plus niggling fault" and "I tried this out and it's not quite meshing" suggest that there is a split that is just not being used.

What if the two forums should be "first thoughts" and "putting it all together"?


My naming change is there because playtesting is the first place where the emergent effects of the rules surface, and have to be dealt with. It's where cute mechanics get shelved and replaced by less snazy ones that produce more awesome interactions.

What is more, the moment someone unveils a game text, they presumably want it to be playtested! It is at that point ready to go, and people can start talking about how they misunderstood the text or whatever else.

Explicitly linking that to playtesting is a step up. It means you take the pointless squirrel-like activity of making a game text for no-one and link it in to getting feedback from actual people playing your game.

Is there a danger that people will neglect playtesting? Yes, just like people come to the first thoughts forum with adverts every now and again, but this can be solved by community.

Consider the different types of playtesting that people do too; for first thoughts, you might be just rolling through a dice mechanic to see what it's probabilities are, getting a feel for how the bonuses work or how easy it is to do the physical actions the game requires.

For my new "putting it all together" forum, you would playtest with other people, checking how the group mechanics actually work in the field.

Both of those happen away from the forum, but people then come back and suggest changes based on what has been said. They may post the results of their trials, "ok I found out that you don't roll 20s that often" vs "two of the players really started going for each other to the exclusion of anyone else", and then people chat about what to do about it.

We could actually make playtesting more central, not less, by distinguishing between mechanics/concepts in isolation and actual games.

This also makes clear the difference between the actual play forums and the playtest ones, because if the playtest forum is renamed "putting it all together", hopefully it is obvious that this is about the construction of a new game, wheras actual play can suggest changes for the next version (these things can always get more polished), when it is done with the "putting it all together" forum, it's a substantial peice of game text, and you should probably go to "connections or "publishing" to get the last stage done. (Then off to rpgnet and the review blogs, and hopefully back here in actual play)

See! No artificial craming of all kinds of playtesting into one box, but a clear underlining of the significance of a certain type of playtesting, and when it should be done. The name connotes the objective that the person should have, and then the stickys remain the same, telling them to start with playtesting.


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: Catelf on October 13, 2009, 03:58:11 AM
I feel like i'm in a similar position as Dave: when i entered this forum, just this summer, i was still new to almost everything web-wise, but i figured, "I have an Rpg, or more likely, the basics of an Rpg, and want to make it into a Complete Game, and this is said to be a good place to get help with that.".
So, i went into First Thoughts, and i think i made quite a.... ruckus?.... there. This was not my intention, just pure inexperience.
I ended up in Connections by split thread, and i assume it was my clumsy comment on "needing playtesters" that made Ron put me there.
So, feeling that i was placed in the wrong place, i made some ... ruckus there as well. Childish? Possibly, but i want simply to find the right place for my ideas, and get suggestions to "where to go from here"!
Hm, i do think Ron somewhere has mentioned a thread in Actual play as well, but i haven't found it yet...
(side note: i now have my own PC & webconnection, so i now have far more time to look.)
I'm still unsure of where to go, but i think that Playtesting may be the correct place: I have a not entirely finished Game( sure, the Core Rules are finished, and some more, but the Game itself is far from finished and "Put together".
My point is: I would have really liked, or even needed, more descriptive Titles for the Forums.
Sincerely,
        Catelf.


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: Catelf on October 13, 2009, 06:12:41 AM
I have now read through the noted rules for the main forums, and i haven't found Anywhere a distinct "for those who are stuck in their designing of a Game, and needs ideas or other comments to continue"!
The note "Playtesting" truly refers to test a game in play.
The rules for the Forum lies heavy on describing situations that arose during such testing.
In this Topic, it is noted that the Playtesting Forum is for unfinished Games.
However, what i am looking for, (written above,) is nowhere to be seen!
I get the impression that this was the original problem noticed by Dave, but he obviously got the impression that Ron dismissed his points, got frustrated, resorted to...... less coherent writing and more open... dare i say verbal hostility? ...  and thus causing Ron to Totally dismiss his points.
I du like a good argument, but not just for arument's sake: It should lead to someting as well, and this is clearly preferred to be a solving of the issue.
So, Mr Ron Edwards, there has been a few points risen in this Topic, even points you Do acknowledge.
These are important! Please do something to show that you have understood them!
Ok, i know, it will take time, and you might already be in the works of deciding how, and so on. That's ok.
I just felt that... this was neccesary. (Even Masters can make mistakes.)
Sincerely,
                                                  Catelf


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: Catelf on October 13, 2009, 06:55:16 AM
Um, really sorry 'bout this, but this is an important note i found in a different Topic, it is a quote from Ron Edwards:
"Yes - even if the new thread does not actually describe a playtesting sesion. That doesn't matter. The new thread can be anything at all about your game in development. But it'll go in the Playtesting forum from that point on."
Obviously, i'll put my "Game-in-works" in Playtesting.
However, that sort of comment should really be noted in the desciptive specifics of the Playtesting Forum.
Or, even better, change its name to "Works in progress" or something such.
Slightly humbled,
                                 Catelf.


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: DWeird on October 16, 2009, 08:09:51 AM
My name is Daumantas.

I've been thinking about making a post about how I did (and am doing) playtesting for my very first game since I made a post in this thread. To get a little "this is how I do it and why" instead of "this is how I think everything should be done", as the forgian ethos directs. Been a little short on time lately, so I've since chosen to tackle a specific game issue instead of doing that, but definitelly expect me to make that post. Uh, eventually.

Ron: The thread you've linked to seems fairly useful, but it seems the discussion hasn't really gone as deep as it could/should have. Each of the five questions (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=16.msg620#msg620) you posed in that thread deserves separate treatment and in-depth discussion, I think. I remember reading the thread at some point, when I was on my "read every damned post on the Forge to understand what this thing is about" binge, but it didn't really remember it before you re-posted the link, perhaps because the good points in it are mentioned in passing and not expanded upon by much. Also, maybe the thread's a bit misplaced? A thread about playtesting should probably be in playtesting, as "publishing" is something that most people look at only after they're well done with the playtesting process.


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: Ron Edwards on October 16, 2009, 10:43:57 AM
Hello Daumantus,

That thread was begun long, long before the Playtesting forum appeared. The original forums at the Forge were Indie Design, Actual Play, GNS 101, and Publishing. When Clinton and I created Playtesting (and others), we did not shift older threads into them, but let them stay where they were initially begun with very few exceptions.

Regarding following up on my points, my answer to your post is "yes." The discussion I wanted to start at that time did not proceed because people did not participate or begin new threads which expanded upon those points. I provided the link to that thread specifically to say, here in this thread, that people who think playtesting is not fully or rigorously discussed here are, in my opinion, correct, and that they have every imaginable justification to contribute to the Forge in this way. I encourage you to be one of the first to do so.

What I'm not sympathetic to is whining about the issue while doing nothing. The Forge is here for people to put their best selves and best efforts into the tasks at hand.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: Catelf on October 17, 2009, 01:06:29 AM
I know i have been whining, even though that remark maybe wasn't directed towards me(or was it?).
No matter, as far as i see it, i have at least helped out some, by some of my comments in this thread.
However, i really would like to cuntribute to clearifying the situation further...... if i only knew how:
I'm still a bit unfamiliar to the Forge's ... language and workings.
Should the clearyfication of the purpose of the Playtesting Forum maybe be moved to that Forum, since the name of that section obviously won't be changed, and thus continue to confuse newcomers?
If so, it is not for me to start it up, but once i notice it's started, i think only Death(or extreme sickness) would keep me from contributing to it.
If i can help out, by clearyfying things that needs this, i'll do so.

If you'd ask "why don't you do it already?", i have to answer "How to do it?". Once that question is answered, i'll do so, if i can.
Sorry, i'm certain i deriviated from the actual Topic there, but i am also certain this needet to be said, within the context of this Topic, for coherency.
(I Always do my best, but sometimes, my best is, or seems, not enough.)
.... But the questions from me still remain: How can I help clearifying the situation further? There IS a small Q&A describing The Playtesting Forum at the top of it, but it mentions nothing of that it is for "Work in progress"! And i'm quite certain that Topic is Locked, so that info cannot be added it.

So, a new Topic named "Further Clearifications of the Playtesting Forum", perhaps? (Below the old, locked, one.)

            Catelf


Title: Re: Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum
Post by: JoyWriter on October 17, 2009, 05:51:11 AM
Ron, I'm not sure characterising first thoughts as "the kiddie pool" is the right way to go about it, I mean let's be honest, doesn't that suggest a heirarchy of people on the forum, and a split dependent on that heirarchy?

That kind of attitude has the danger of producing condescending behaviour in those who have "graduated to the adult pools"! If they let it of course.

So instead of differentiating forums by the people who should use them, we should differentiate them by the activities that go on in them. I think you probably mean to do that, but for me at least your meaning is hidden behind the other kind of distinction.

How to translate it? Well what are the kind of activities that are allowed to go on in a kiddie pool? Dropping that analogy, are we talking about low effort/investment activities for that forum, and higher investment ones elsewhere? Are we talking about more robust activities there, that can cope with people chatting over them?

Finally what is it you do as an experienced designer that means you feel no need to start threads in first thoughts? Is it that you have a conversation space offline that already fulfils that function, or that you can do all the basics of that in your head? That should give you an insight into what kinds of things you think it should be doing.

I've already given my functional view on a certain activity I do well in first thoughts and playtesting, and why I think they should go together, but I think I should emphasise what I think first thoughts is really good for, in my limited experience:

Fleshing out basic concepts so you can get a feel of what the game is, and concepting and feeling out subsystems you can't get a grip on. Both of these activities are compatible with freewheeling conversation, gut reactions and "have you thought about this instead", before it gets solid.

This is a valuable and useful function for newbies and veterans alike, but is very open to new people.