It’s mandatory to playtest your game as you’re designing it. In fact, this is a crucial part of the iterative process. However, there are a couple of questions you should ask yourself. These would be about your design goals: Is the game meeting your original vision for the game? Is it fun for you to play your game and does it give a multi-faceted experience? Can you detect anything horrendously wrong with it at a glance?
Remember to acknowledge any awkward missing elements in your game’s design. Perhaps there is a hole in your game that leaves the players stuck. There are simply no rules on how to proceed. It’s up to you as the designer to work this out and make sure this doesn’t happen by being as thorough as possible in your instructions. As designers, we have to do our best to ensure that there aren’t any dead ends that will ultimately confuse the player, perhaps causing them to leave the game forever.
Have the most important parts been thoroughly explained to the player? Usability testing will allow you to search for loopholes in a particular area. Sometimes as designers we understand things that the players don’t because we designed the game. This isn’t necessarily because players are incompetent but perhaps because not all players see the same area in the same way as you or key instructions are left out. Make sure you aren’t just making assumptions about how effectively a player will be able to progress. Is your game too easy? Can you game be figured out in a matter of minutes? If so, you might need to look into adding difficulty. A common solution is simply increasing the depth of the game (by adding more high skill cap gameplay elements) in order to give it the lifespan it needs. Alternatively, you could also just simply make things harder to begin with.
You grow and you learn. You see this with testimonies by artists saying that certain pieces just “spoke” to them, or how the art “created itself.” As gamers we sometimes say something to a similar effect, but how is that even possible to begin with? Games are not living entities and they do not have a voice of their own. Perhaps what we really mean as designers is that we have evolved with our games. We have become inspired by our creations which allows us to do more and more until the final work has been produced. Playtesting is the only way to get outside of your bubble and really work on what needs to get done. If need be, go back and go back to your original vision. Try to “listen” to your game.
Important Takeaways: There are a series of key steps in playtesting your own game. First, just judge the game for yourself. This ensures that it’s meeting the design goals that you have set for it. Next, acknowledge any loops or holes that halt player progress due to confusion. Ensure that there are ample amounts of instructions to get the player through the game without these loops or holes. This should be playtested, not assumed. Make sure the difficulty curve is as fine tuned as possible. For increasing difficulty you can either literally just make situations more difficult to overcome or you can add more depth.
Adding depth gives the game a longer lifespan due to a higher skill cap which translates directly into a bigger challenge. Lastly, just keep going. The more you develop the more you’ll learn about development. Eventually, ideas will just start naturally flowing into your head leading to inspiration. This inspiration is both good for developing and testing your development. Playtesting is the only way to truly find problems with a game, unlike with art where you can simply look at it and see problems. In the end you should always feel proud of your game, so playtest it constantly and ensure it feels like such.