IL_Protospiel

Protospiels are an incredible opportunity to refine you design and meet your local gaming community. Here is some advice on how to maximize your next protospiel.

Maximizing a Protospiel

Eduardo Baraf is a game maker from Mountain View, California. He is married with two boys (5/8) and loves playing games with his family and friends at home. He owns Pencil First Games (Lift Off! Get me off this Planet, The Siblings Trouble, GemPacked Cards) and runs the YouTube channel: Edo’s Game Reviews. Professionally his career spans Video Games, Startups, and VR technology.

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  1. Al Leduc on April 21, 2017

    I don’t think Protospiels are good places for blind testing for two reasons. Firstly, game designers are probably better at figuring out what your rules mean then average players, since they’re already familiar with “all” the mechanics and conventions, and can likely intuit what you meant by comparing it to “what they would do” when designing a game like yours. Second, blind testing is more about testing the rules then the game, and it’s a waste of valuable game designers to have them standing in to do a job anyone could do. Use the other designers to get critical feedback about the nuances of your game.

  2. Richard Bliss on April 21, 2017

    Al, I’m going to gently disagree with you thought about Protospiels not being a good place for blind testing.

    Firstly, at Protospiel San Jose, the vast majority of attendees were definitely NOT game designers. There were families, couples, college kids, high school kids, and some people just wandering in for the free food. As I passed from table to table, I was fascinated by the demographics that were gathered around the many different tables. These were an entirely new generation of gamers who were being introduced to some of these game mechanics for the very first time.

    I’m going to disagree with the second statement as well. What I saw for the blind testing was not simply testing the rules, but testing the play experience as well. Without any input from the designer, the players themselves were determining if this was a ‘fun’ game. Some played and walked away not knowing why they liked it, but having a good sense that it was something they would play again, with their judgment unclouded by influence from knowing or interacting with the designer.

    Other Protospiels may be different, but the San Jose Protospiel was a hundreds of new gamers giving incredible feedback to game designers.

    • Wyatt Fertig on April 21, 2017

      Interesting comment Richard. Did game weight factor in to what got blind playtested? Did you notice gamers drawn to any heavier games for blind playtests? I would imagine that would be a tougher sell to learn the rules alone.

      • Eduardo Baraf Author on April 21, 2017

        I’d certainly add that most people aren’t blind testing at these events. Most of the time the designer explains the game.

    • Al Leduc on April 21, 2017

      Well, Protospiel San Jose sounds like it was very different from the Protospiel (prime) that I’ve been attending. Getting regular gamers in would really help for blind testing.

      “What I saw for the blind testing was not simply testing the rules, but testing the play experience as well.” This is only true if the rules are perfect. Having people test with rules errors only tells you that your rules still need work. While that is usefull, I can get that from regular playtesters. I want, expect, and get far better feedback then that from other designers. YMMV.

  3. Eduardo Baraf Author on April 21, 2017

    This bit may come down to specific events. As Richard notes, Protospiel San Jose had a huge amount of non-designers at the event. I’d also note that designers are certainly good people to get feedback on making great rules for your games.

  4. Wyatt Fertig on April 21, 2017

    New to the League of Gamemakers but I really enjoyed the post and plan to dig through your older stuff. I am gearing up to show a prototype potentially at Gen Con but for sure at Stonemaier Games Design Day 2017. Glad to see that things don’t need to look super polished but I definitely plan to have cards look legible and nice. Right now I am using cards in sleeves, do you see a lot of prototypes using cards sleeves at Protospiel? Or should I go with laminated cards or card stock? I’m figuring this probably doesn’t matter but thought I’d ask anyway!

    • Eduardo Baraf Author on April 21, 2017

      Glad to help.
      Cards in sleeves are extremely common. Don’t worry about it.

  5. Linda MacKellar on April 26, 2017

    We’re a new board games company (formerly video games) – we were too late to register as designers so decided we would go as playtesters so we could see what the event was like and contribute a little at the same time. We also took our kids as we play board games as family. I didn’t see any formal signs requesting blind testing, but I think designers probably asked testers if they would be ok blind playtesting. When we eventually got onto a game, the designer got us set up and explained the game, saw we were comfortable and stepped back to let us play, came and checked in and then got our feedback. We had a lot of fun. Every designer has their own style. It was interesting to attend as a player – we did get turned away from one table by a designer who told us he was in his note taking phase. That just made us feel like the ugly guy at prom….!!

    I think the main thing Edo is saying is to be prepared and know what you want to get out of the event.

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