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My First Playtest!

July 2, 2012

If you’ve been to a trade show like PAX or gamescom, chances are you’ve gotten to try out an unreleased game. If you’ve participated in an open beta, you’ve probably had some fun with a game months before it was released.

But how many of you out there have done a private testing for a developer behind closed doors? Want to know what that’s like? Well then, let’s have a look at what I did recently at Electronic Arts!

Out of the Northern California game studios, EA is the most active in offering on-site playtests to the community. From what I’ve observed, a few playtests are offered each month — most of which are at EA’s HQ in Redwood City, CA (near San Francisco). It took me five or six weeks to get into my first playtest but, depending on your expertise and experience, you may get in to the first test you sign up for!

Here’s how to get set up with a playtest:

  1. Hop onto Craigslist or a similar classifieds/jobs site and search “video games.”
  2. Check around to see if EA or another games company has an upcoming playtest.
  3. Fill out an online survey or reply to the ad as instructed; a survey primarily intends to gauge what kind of gamer you are.
  4. If you hear back, great! Confirm your playtest time. Or…
  5. If you are rejected from the playtest, don’t worry. EA and other developers reach out to the same applicants for future playtests!

What did you play and IS IT GOOD!?
This is where I wish not to cross the line, but I’ll mention a couple facts.

  • I played a game!
  • I found enjoyment in the game I was playing.
  • At times, I was surprisingly good at the game!
  • I provided EA with some feedback.

Unfortunately, that’s about all I can say. Hopefully my brevity does not communicate dissatisfaction; this was a fun experience!

What does EA’s studio look like?
As I expected, EA’s lobby brands the company fairly well with displays, banners, and even a mini lounge with a console set up. The floor directly above hosts a few playtest areas. There was an adjacent break room next to my testing room where I could not only buy a Coke Zero and a Snickers bar for the grand total of $0.50, but also consume them in the testing room. Bonus!

EA Bus

This must be the EA party bus!

If asked what I was most surprised about, I’d say it’s the testing procedure. Although the administrators follow a specific procedure, they aren’t too strict on the feedback you give and encourage people to socialize and have a good time. Perhaps that’s to keep everyone even-keel during the testing. EA understands that we’re gamers and not lab rats.

What did you get from this?
As mentioned above, I received two games. Immediately after confirming my playtest appointment, I got to choose two from a list of, say, 25 games. And the best part? I got a confirmation email for those games 24 hours before going in for the test! For my games, I chose one of 2012’s “under the radar” hits, SSX, and also picked up FIFA 12. I’m an SSX fanboy and have been getting into soccer more, so I’m thrilled to add these two titles to my gaming arsenal!

Intangibly, I’d say I learned that testing is a great way to introduce a game to the end-user without risking a tsunami of community backlash. Privatized testing allows a game developer to take a focal area of the game and present that to a representation of the gaming community (albeit a small one) to generate feedback. For users, while the test does not stroke my ego with its exclusivity, it adds a little more value into my role as a video games enthusiast and communicates that developers want end-users to always have some sort of an influence on a game before it hits store shelves and meets reviewers’ critiques.

How does this affect your interests in game testing? What developer/studios would you like to test at the most?

Free Games!

Compensation for the test? Free copies of FIFA 12 and SSX!


From → Community, Developers

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