Dear Lifehacker, I am putting the finishing touches on an iOS game which I am hoping to release fairly soon. However, before I put it up on the iTunes App Store, I wanted to get a few more beta testers to check it out and provide some feedback to make sure I'm not missing anything. Other than friends and family, where can I find some decent beta testers to download and try out my iPhone game? Being an indie developer, obviously cost is an issue, so the lower the better. Thanks, Appspirant
Congratulations on reaching the final hurdle! It’s good that you’re taking the time to fine-tune your app through playtesting -– often, gameplay elements that feel like second nature to the developer end up completely stymying unacquainted players.
One good way to get lots of honest feedback is via public gaming conventions such as PAX Australia and the Freeplay independent games festival. Setting up a booth can involve a pretty exorbitant fee, but the payoff is frontline access to hundreds of prospective customers that will playtest your game while you watch.
According to Leigh Harris, the co-creator of the iOS city-building game TownCraft, getting your app into a convention is indispensable in terms of the instant feedback it provides.
"We launched TownCraft at PAX Australia and if there’s one thing I'm severely grateful for, it’s having had the ability to watch dozens and dozens of people play the game, one after the other, with no introduction and no tutorial," Leigh told us late last year.
"What people chose to do was a real eye-opener. What I considered logical was met with all manner of interpretations of our visual design and game layout that I’d never even dreamed of. I loathe hand-holding tutorials, but the speed with which people would put down TownCraft rather than explore and experiment for themselves was mind-bending."
Without this face-to-face feedback, Leigh’s team would never have known whether Towncraft was intuitive or not. It also provided them with a much-needed confidence-boost about their product during the launch.
"By the end of Day 1, people were already coming back to the booth saying they'd bought the game. By Day 2, people were coming back with their iPads, saying 'I'm stuck here, can you help me with this bit?' And on Day 3, people were coming up to the booth saying 'My friend told me I have to buy this game!'"
Naturally, you should also hit up friends, family, co-workers and even mild acquaintances to share their opinions. As Gym PocketGuide creator Dominic Williamson once explained to us, putting your app into the hands of the people you know is the fastest way to find out what works and what doesn’t.
"Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your app is easy and intuitive to use just because you think so. Put it in the hands of as many people as you can and ask them to complete a task. For example with Gym PocketGuide, I would ask friends to do simple tasks like, "find a bicep workout". Seeing people use the app in-person is invaluable, but be ready to change designs people struggle with."
Otherwise, your best bet is to put out a general request for play-testers on Facebook/Twitter and any video game forums you frequent. The relevant subreddits on Reddit are also an excellent source for free play testers who won't be shy about giving honest feedback.
I think you'd be surprised by the number of volunteers who’ll happily test your game free of charge. As an added incentive, just offer them a free copy of the game!
If any mobile game developers happen to be reading, feel free to offer your own advice in the comments section below.
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