Sunday, November 27, 2016

Four Stages of Post-Playtest Game Editing

You have a game. It works when you are there to explain it. You've playtested it. And you've incorporated that playtest feedback to make your game work even better. Your game is cooler than it's ever been. That's it, right? Now you just need to cut and paste all your notes into one file and.send it off to your buddy who does layout, eh?
Wait. Not so fast.
Your game.may be better than ever, but outside of a convention, people aren't buying your game. They are buying your game documents. They are paying for your instructions on how to reproduce your awesome game. That means you need another editing process. You need to develop your game text into the best set of instructions you can produce. 
In other words, before layout there is a post-playtest game editing process in which you develop the text itself to make sure that it is helpful for players wanting to learn your game AND, if possible, fun to read. 
That's a tall order. Where should you start?
I admit that I treat post-playtest game editing like the final process I use when writing a sermon. I picture this editing process as four stages, and when I edit, I try to complete all four. 
(But each editing pass can accomplish at most one and a half of these stages. That means that, ideally, I'm going through each post-playtest game three or four times.)
These categories are in series. You can't reach a new one until you've finished te previous.

1. Clear

Does the text make sense? Are each of the sections labeled and in an order that helps the reader? Is anything missing? Does anything need to be defined, repeated, or put into a visual aide like a table or flowchart?

2. Playable

Do players know how to set up and start the game? Does each kind of player or facilitator have clear instructions for their role? Do we know when to stop and what to do when we are finishing the game? Is the order of play well-regulated? Do I always know when I am supposed to act AND what I can choose to do next?

3. Emotionally Engaging (Fun, broadly defined)

Is the game built to evoke a certain emotion or does it emulate a certain genre of storytelling? What are players supposed to feel or act like during the game? Has the tone of the game been made so clear, explicitly or implicitly, that players know when they have accidentally violated the tone of the game? If the game has a strategy for best play, is it obvious?

4. Cleverly Written (Strong Narrative Voice)

Does the narrator have a recognizable personality? Is the style of writing  consistent? Have I eliminated distracting or mood-killing elements from the text? Will the reader be pleasantly surprised by the writing itself?

I hope this is of some value to you in your post playtest editing process. You are free to use your own methods. The above categories are descriptive of my approach, not prescriptive for yours.