Yes indeed: this friday, we have done our first official playtest for OneiroPhobia! After working frantically throughout thursday to finish all the necessary Combat Cards and Class Cards in order to have them printed and usable before firday evening, we where ready just in time for our playtest.
In preparation, Rudolf and I put down a sufficiently large table, and layed out 4 stacks of playable Class Cards with their associated Combat Cards, as well as a coin that would be used to indicate which player has the Initiative at any given turn, a larger coin to use for coin flips and a dice – which would both be used to determine the outcome of certain abilities in the game. Lastly, we put down 4 pieces of paper and pens with which both the players and Game Master could keep track of their Health Points and Sanity during our session, and waited for Sem and Sybren to arrive.
When our playtesters arrived, Rudolf and I presented a short introduction to our game, and explained the general outline of the backstory for the campaign to them, before allowing them to pick one of the four classes that I had layed out before them. I was delighted to see that the short class-description that I’ve put on the cards seemed to get across almost perfectly with Sybren and Sem, when they commented on the different classess and elaborated on their eventual personal choices; with Sybren picking the Silent One, Sem picking the Riot Breaker and me picking the Inquisitor lastly.
Now that everything was settled and everyone was ready to play, Rudolf started off the campaign by explaining the situation in which the players started their adventure, explaining their motivations for being where they are, and their long-term goals – which serve as a guideline for each individual player, who may or may not choose to persue this goal over the course of the campaign. Both Sem, Sybren and me where guided through the first act of the story by Rudolf – being the Game Master – at a steady and exciting pace, leaving just enough room to casually explore and interact with our surroundings before the plot of the campaign caught up with us and confronted us with more urgent and dangerous matters.
We eventually finished the first act of the campaign by battling a group a enemies in a burning harbour town, which went surprisingly well-paced and intuitive, after which we took a short break from the game – for we where already playing for a couple of hours by now. After the break we all sat down while Rudolf told a short mythological story about OneiroPhobia in order to get everyone into the right mindset to continue playing the campaign.
The second part of the campaign provided us with a more open-world scenario, in which Rudolf cleverly managed to guide us into the right direction to progress the story, after we almost got stuck in a destroyed military camp. As our adventure progressed, I noticed that some of us started to lose track of their personal goals as they simply dealt with each situation as it came and went, but because of the fairly quick progression of events, no one ever got the chance to get stuck or bored, which worked excellently.
After we finished the second part of our campaign with a big and surprisingly exciting battle – which we only barely managed to win -, we decided to end the playtest session there, for we where playing for almost 5 hours now, and it was now way past midnight.
Afterwards, we talked with Sybrem and Sem about their experience with OneiroPhobia, asking them their opinion on aspects like story progression and pacing, class- and ability balance, and how they experienced the roleplay and social interaction.
Being designers themselves, Sybren and Sem provided us with some quite insightful feedback, in addition to our own observations:
- They both liked the pacing of the story, and the fact that the world felt “alive”, as certain events took place regardless of the players involvement, while others had to be triggered or altered by player interaction.
- It turned out that the combat was surprisingly balanced – despite some minor quirks -, and that battles lasted just about long enough to remain interesting.
- The fact that the world reacted accordingly to the player’s inherent status or rank was noted as a very positive point, and considered to add to the immersion of the game.
- The difference in rank, status and abilities of the playable classes generally worked out well, both during roleplay and combat.
- Certain aspects of combat – such as the working and impact of Initiative – where slightly convoluted and need to be made more clear.
- There are a couple of combat abilities that didn’t turn out to be very attractive to use; those moves need to be either upgraded or changed in order to become more interesting.
- Although the variety of skills was sufficient for the duration of this particular playtest, more variety in combat abilities wouldn’t hurt in the long run.
- We have to be careful not let players slip into purposelessness and getting stuck during more open-world scenario’s; there should always be multiple ways to progress the story.
- Placing the cards upon the table to act as a physical representation of the players’ and enemies’ potisition on the battlefield during combat turned out to work very well, and allowed us to incorporate positioning and range into our combat system.
All in all, the outcome of this playtest exceeded our expectations. Surprisingly, everything worked a lot better than we initially expected, and Rudolf and I are quite satisfied that our hard work has paid off, and that this playtest has provided us with a lot of useful feedback that we will use to improve upon OneiroPhobia.
So now, more excited than ever, I continue on on my journey to create OneiroPhobia and make it into a succesful game! BAM!