Page 1 of 1

Tips for Authors, Beta Testers, and Reviewers

PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2016 11:20 pm
by ElliotM
Here are a few ideas and tools that I think are useful for authors, beta testers, and reviewers when it comes to discussing games and how they are designed. Feel free to add your own thoughts and ideas to this list and discuss your beta testing experiences. :)



Player's Bill of Rights
Describing what makes a good game can be difficult, but a good starting point could be the Player's Bill of Rights, from the third chapter of Graham Nelson's Craft of Adventure. (Available in the link as a PDF).

Not all games follow these rules but if a game does break one of these it should be within good reason.

Graham Nelson's Craft of Adventure wrote:1. Not to be killed without warning
2. Not to be given horribly unclear hints
3. To be able to win without experience of past lives
4. To be able to win without knowledge of future events
5. Not to have the game closed off without warning
6. Not to need to do unlikely things
7. Not to need to do boring things for the sake of it
8. Not to have to type exactly the right verb
9. To be allowed reasonable synonyms
10. To have a decent parser
11. To have reasonable freedom of action
12. Not to depend much on luck
13. To be able to understand a problem once it is solved
14. Not to be given too many red herrings
15. To have a good reason why something is impossible
16. Not to need to be American
17. To know how the game is getting on


I think this list summarizes modern expectations for interactive fiction pretty well, though it may not cover everything or be universally agreed upon as a whole. Older games often weren't designed with these ideas in mind.

Transcripts
Transcripts are a handy feature for getting feedback from beta testers or for taking notes while you are playing or reviewing a game.

  • In the Runner you can start a transcript from the main file menu. They run until you stop them, so you could have multiple sessions in a transcript. If you select a text file that already exists, the Runner will add to it without erasing what was already there.
  • A neat trick beta testers can do to keep notes or leave comments in the transcript is to type them in the parser as if they were a command and hit enter. The Runner will complain it didn't understand, but anyone reading the transcript will be able to read what you typed. If you always start your comments with the same keyword or symbol, anyone reading your transcript can search for your comments (Control+F in most Windows text editors) or just read it all the way through.
  • As an author, you could encourage this practice from your beta testers by adding a comment task that uses syntax like below so that the Runner will stop complaining about what they enter. Adrift transcripts record the commands entered, so it is enough to just have some short minimal output, like "Thanks for your feedback" or "Comment recorded" instead of repeating the %text% and this will keep your transcript clean and easy to read without repeating comments. Tasks with no text output get an error message if they are the last one to process player input, so you will need to have some output.

    adrift Code: Select all
    Task Syntax:
    {c/comment} %text%
     
    Task Output:
    Thanks for your feedback!

  • The Runner does support comments (thanks to Lazzah and Saabie for pointing this one out). If you press the ' and " key while on Windows, the normal command prompt, a >, turns into a hand holding a pen. Anything you write will go directly to the transcript without being processed by the Adrift input parser. Really neat.

Macros for Testing
In the Runner there is an option for Macros, and when you are testing your game or generating a proof reading transcript, I would recommend using macros for consistent testing and output.
  • Once you have opened your game in the Runner, the Macro menu is available.
  • Choose Edit Macro and you will see a list of all macros available for the current adventure.
  • Click Add to create a new macro and then enter the commands, one per line, in the right hand window.
  • To share a macro with testers, copy and paste the commands and put them in a text file. Share this file with your testers so that they can open that file and copy the commands into a new macro using the same steps as above.

Trizbort Auto Mapper
(Trizbort 1.2 is available through this link).
(The latest releases can be found here - thanks to NickyDude for the up-to-date link!)

Trizbort is a simple tool for creating maps for interactive fiction games. It is most useful for games that don't provide maps, but there is still some value to Adrift authors who have transcripts from players because Trizbort can make a map from their transcript.
  • To do so, open Trizbort, create a new map, and then choose Automap > Start and you will be prompted to choose a transcript file.
  • Choose a transcript with the browse button and adjust the options as appropriate.
  • Trizbort will also add objects to the map if you tell it which command is used to examine them. The default is > see , but for Adrift this should be x or examine.
  • Once you are done adjusting the settings, click Start Automapping and it will make a map out of everywhere the player went and add every object they examined.
  • When it is done mapping, click Stop Automapping.

For larger games this will give you a visual idea of a beta tester's progress (what rooms they went to and what objects they found) to go along with reading the transcript.

File Sharing
Sharing your beta from a single location such as Dropbox will keep things organized.
  • Be sure to be consistent with version numbers so your beta testers know they are using the right game files.
  • In the Developer options where you set your title and author name, there is a box for the version number. Adrift doesn't do decimal numbers, so this will be a whole number.
  • Another good practice is to write a change log to go with your file which records what changes or bug fixes you have made. This way your testers know what to focus on.
  • If your game uses media such as pictures and music, you can export your game as a blorb file so that those resources will be packaged into one file.

Re: Tips for Authors, Beta Testers, and Reviewers

PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2016 2:58 am
by NickyDude
Nice. :)

You can get the latest version of Trizbort here: https://github.com/JasonLautzenheiser/trizbort/releases

Re: Tips for Authors, Beta Testers, and Reviewers

PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2016 3:14 am
by ElliotM
Updated the link, thanks NickyDude!

Re: Tips for Authors, Beta Testers, and Reviewers

PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2016 9:29 am
by P/o Prune
I don't know if this is a tip or of any use at all. But I usually only have one Beta tester at the time. I find that it makes it much easier to keep track of the bugs and suggestions.
I had Ghost Town tested by 4 beta testers at the same time and I found myself searching for the bug one tester had reported only to eventually realize that that bug had already been reported and I had corrected it. :?
I'll admit that this is a slow way to have your game tested. But it works for me.

Re: Tips for Authors, Beta Testers, and Reviewers

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 9:16 am
by P/o Prune
Sorry for all this moving this topic around. I have requested that Campbell make a thread for Beta test requests only.

Re: Tips for Authors, Beta Testers, and Reviewers

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 1:59 pm
by Lazzah
When playtesting an ADRIFT game with a transcript running, if the player presses the # key (Windows7) the cursor in the input window at the bottom should change to a different symbol (I've never been able to figure out what it is!). The player can then type a comment and press Enter to continue playing. On the transcript, the comments thus inserted will start with the @ symbol.

Note that the comment key is different under Windows XP and maybe also under other OS.

Re: Tips for Authors, Beta Testers, and Reviewers

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 2:20 pm
by ParadoxGames
I'm intrigued by the concept of using the parser so the playtester can write notes to the author. I just produced a playtest version of my game up to a certain milestone point of the story. I am going to add a general command "note *" for the playtester to follow "note" with anything, and the game will always respond, "noted". Thank you for the inspiration.

Re: Tips for Authors, Beta Testers, and Reviewers

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 5:53 pm
by ElliotM
Lazzah wrote:When playtesting an ADRIFT game with a transcript running, if the player presses the # key (Windows7) the cursor in the input window at the bottom should change to a different symbol (I've never been able to figure out what it is!). The player can then type a comment and press Enter to continue playing. On the transcript, the comments thus inserted will start with the @ symbol.

Note that the comment key is different under Windows XP and maybe also under other OS.


It is possible to enter certain symbols like @ into the parser, but a lot of special characters get stripped out, so trying to use them in your command syntax might not get you the results you are looking for. The # is a reserved symbol, so we couldn't use that one.

ParadoxGames wrote:I'm intrigued by the concept of using the parser so the playtester can write notes to the author. I just produced a playtest version of my game up to a certain milestone point of the story. I am going to add a general command "note *" for the playtester to follow "note" with anything, and the game will always respond, "noted". Thank you for the inspiration.


This kind of task is like a new meta command (the others being Restart, Restore, Undo, and Save). Good to hear you found that idea useful.

Re: Tips for Authors, Beta Testers, and Reviewers

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2016 12:38 am
by saabie
Lazzah wrote:Note that the comment key is different under Windows XP and maybe also under other OS.
With XP if you press the single or double quote key then the > icon on the input line changes to an icon of a hand holding a pen.
Anything you type on this line is added to the transcript with an "@"in front of it, but is ignored by ADRIFT.

Re: Tips for Authors, Beta Testers, and Reviewers

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2016 3:16 am
by ElliotM
Wow, thanks Lazzah and Saabie, I had no idea this feature existed, so I'll add it to the list. It is the same key in Windows 8, the ' and " key.

Re: Tips for Authors, Beta Testers, and Reviewers

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2016 9:58 am
by Lazzah
saabie wrote:With XP if you press the single or double quote key then the > icon on the input line changes to an icon of a hand holding a pen.

Oh so THAT'S what it is! To my tired old eyes it looked like an artist's palette with a brush in the thumbhole! :haha:

Re: Tips for Authors, Beta Testers, and Reviewers

PostPosted: Sat Apr 09, 2016 8:54 pm
by Infected Behaviour
Very interesting post. Didn't read it all but I did copy and paste it, So I can read more of it later. It really makes you think about the game and the story that goes with the game, even it the game doesn't have a story. I didn't have time to read the review part but will get to it. From past knowledge, As long as the person(s) reviewing the game is truthful. Since I've noticed on other sites, People tend to get jealous and rate good games badly and go out of their way to tell others, not to even touch that game. I'm happy that that isn't happening here.