Playtesting forum and Actual Play forum

Started by David C, August 11, 2009, 09:34:48 AM

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We should maybe question the behavioural boundary between Actual Play and Playtest instead of the First Thoughts/Playtest one.

Lance D. Allen

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.
~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls

David C

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. 

QuoteIn 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.

QuoteI 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.

QuoteIf 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.

QuoteEveryone: 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. 

...but enjoying the scenery.

Ron Edwards

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


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.:

QuoteHowever, 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."

M. J. Young

I hesitate to enter a discussion that is becoming heated, but frankly this,

Quote from: David C on September 21, 2009, 09:16:43 AMNarr 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. 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

Ron Edwards

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:

QuoteMaybe 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, 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


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.



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.


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.


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.)


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,


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 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.

Ron Edwards

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


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.)