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How do I playtesting?

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There is no universal method to playtesting. Often when reading playtesting feedback, sometimes it can be very thorough, and other times it can seem unimportant or dismissive. But sometimes a tester can provide feedback on a particular aspect of mapping you may have overlooked.

There's no clear cut answer to being a good playtester, other than having good observational and writing skills. So I thought it might be nice to get onto this a little deeper.

When you are making a map and share it with someone to test for you, what kind of feedback are you looking for? When you believe your map is finished and shared with a tester to review, what questions do you want them to answer? How can one be an invaluable asset to your mapping? What exactly do you want them to do that you cant do on your own? I suspect some mappers might have testers for very different reasons which is why I ask.

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I guess the most important thing is bug reporting and difficulty/ammo abundance.

FDAs are probahly interesting in any case.

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I simply want the playtester to say that my map is good and making it wasn't a waste of time. I need a confirmation of this from someone else because I don't know how to quickly judge my own maps. The only way to do it by myself is to wait at least a few months so I can take a fresh look at it.

So I just need an "it's OK", preferably with no critique at all because it's unpleasant. Hahaha. Getting a FDA to watch is nice too ("ok, so someone actually can have a decent experience with it unlike me, who knows the map too well to feel any excitement").

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Things I like from a playtester and good playtesting experiences I have had:

1. FDA's. So much better than written commentary and I never tire of watching them either. JMickle did a stream with commentary for me that I could chat with him about and I found loads of improvements that way.

2. Trusted opinion. A good relationship with a playtester allows you to run ideas past them and feel as though you can trust them to tell you if an idea is executed poorly or is just not going to work. I will sometimes send my own notes to the playtester such as "not sure if this setup works" or "I feel this part of the map needs something more" and I will hope some thoughts on these points specifically. Tarnsman is good at this. He's not afraid to call out anything he see's wrong and will often have a good suggestion for improvement.

3. Break it. Always good when a playtester manages to break your map before it goes public. Areas that will trap a player, render a map incompletable or VPO crash are errors I will always want to know about. With the best will in the world beta testing is the probably that only way you can virtually guarantee catching everything.

4. Speed running. I'm keen on making my levels enjoyable to speedrun now. If you keep speedrunners interested it adds to the lasting appeal of your map (who else will play it repeatedly) and this has some important benefits that crossover to single play also. Possible 100% kills/secrets is the basic but other stuff like obvious sequence breaks (stop em) fun or risk/reward sequence breaks (keep em), mapflow, non-linearity and other important stuff is often highlighted here too. Dew has been awesome at this for me.

5. UV tips. I usually map for HMP these days and ask better players than me to suggest ways to make UV remain a challenge for top players or casual players who have already beaten HMP and want to a bigger challenge.

6. Co-op stress testing. The ZDaemon TNS team did a great job on this with Hadephobia. They found areas that would trap players, narrow corridors or lifts that would bottleneck gameplay, triggers that break in coop and some good suggestions for thing balance.

7. Bug crushers. Objective errors in easy to check off lists of points referencing offending sector, line and thing numbers. It's like putting your map through some finely tuned Doom Builder plugin that enhancing the error checker funtion. Hawkwind is the best I've seen but Marine Controller I think is very good at this also.

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