Game, Meet World: The Role of Players in Game Development from the Very Start

Building trust with the player experience program


Know your buyer. It’s a simple enough concept, but one that’s easy to lose in the details of a product’s creation.

The same is absolutely true for games. Because the industry is populated with workers who are gamers themselves, it’s dangerously simple to assume that the games they develop will automatically be enjoyable, popular and profitable. But game industry workers are not always representative of the player market. The truth is that to compensate for that inherent bias, the touches of contributors still can’t replace input from outside gamers, the ones who are not-so-patiently waiting for the next release.

Forming a lasting relationship between a studio and a group of players isn’t all that different from the relationship-building we do in our daily lives. It’s all based on trust. Trust that the studio is in sync and engaged with players and quick to respond to both in-game issues and out-of-game community sentiment. Trust that the game servers can handle the sudden rush of new players with a new release. Trust that the experience will be the same for all players, wherever in the world they are. Trust that the game will be fun to play because it was designed with gamer involvement from the very beginning.

The more your game is exposed to potential players before it is released to the public, the more confident you can be when it goes live. So don’t wait until you’ve already finished layers and layers of localization, LQA, FQA, CQA and more before you send your work out into the world. Integrate feedback early and continuously into your process for the best possible experience for your players.

Playing is Testing…

Localization, compliance, compatibility and functional QA are measured against a structured standard of perfection, but studios need to go beyond quantitative assessments to deliver an engaging entertainment experience. This is where playtesting comes in. Playtesting is a single source of truth to assess the “fun” factor and gauge the long-lasting appeal of the title. It provides the sort of feedback liveplay can elicit without risking negative feedback post-release.

Playtesting is too often lumped in with the rest of quality assessment activities in the later parts of development. After all, “testing” is in the name, right? This might be the simplest mistake to avoid during development. Workers tasked with finding bugs and breaking a game all day long don’t play or understand games in a way that’s representative of how most gamers behave. It creates a “can’t see the forest for the trees” issue.

The same way that QA in all its forms is planned for (in time and in money) during the preparation phase of the project, it is critical that playtest, focus groups and other player interviews are built into the development cycle, frequently and regularly.

 

"It's all based on trust."

… and Testing is Playing

Imagine day one of your launch window when the game you have carefully developed for months, catering to one gamer at a time, gets released. Suddenly, that one gamer becomes a million… and everything collapses.

Load testing (or its little brothers stress, volume and scale testing) is often an overlooked piece of the game development process. With early reviews making or breaking pre-order numbers, and day-one adoption being a key predictor in long-term success, a server unable to handle the initial players load can be difficult, or outright impossible, to recover from. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring stress testing in your pre-release phase.

Our suite of pre-release testing services, delivered with our global crowd of gamers, helps deliver a superior gaming experience. These services are a critical complement to lab-based testing activities.

Nurture a Community

Once a game has been announced to the world (and sometimes before), it takes on a life of its own. No universal chat can replace the forums that have housed fandoms for years. Reddit, Discord, Twitter—anywhere your players are, you need community managers. Those are your ears, eyes and voice outside of the game.

Embedded brand ambassadors can flag early signs of an upset customer base, report on desirable features, build hype for an upcoming content drop and keep your communities healthy and those spaces safe. These touchpoints need to be frequent and ongoing. Developing a game means developing these relationships as well. Done properly, community management can create game and studio loyalty.

Support the Ones You Love

Your gamers are in it for the long run; are you? If yes, don’t make support an afterthought, or consider it solely like a necessary expense. Your players are digital natives who expect a quick and convenient experience whenever they need to reach out to you. The focus is not “delight” anymore, it’s providing a true omnichannel seamless experience. Studios are excellent at designing and developing engaging games but support often falls outside of their core capabilities.

There are a million and one reasons why excellent support is tremendously important to any product's long-term success. A lot of those are even more important in the games world, where the golden standards of financial measurement are acquisition cost and lifetime value (LTV). Great support will ensure that you keep churn low and don’t lose players. The better your support experience, the longer your players will keep their subscription going, and their purchases coming in, maximizing their LTV.

Yes, your support plan needs to be ready for launch, preferably as a part of your community plans. Don’t wait to get to the proverbial bridge before contacting Lionbridge.

 

Creating and Maintaining Relationships

Building bridges across time and space to connect gamers and studios is an essential part of game production. Lionbridge’s specialty has always been relationship-building, which is why we’re excited to get more in-depth about the ways studios can connect with their players.

Check back for more from our player experience experts.


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AUTHOR
Tommy Lachambre with April M. Crehan