Very early on in this development process, we had what we felt were the bare bones of a game. Therefore, after a bit of work we decided to try playing Kingless for the first time. We knew right at the beginning that we weren’t going to have created a perfect fully functioning game that was both fun and balanced. So our first draft was a chance to test out things we had not yet fully established.
M ost of the actual development of Kingless was managed through working collaboratively online, but to do a proper test we had to play it. Getting three working adults together in person regularly is always going to be a challenge, especially given the number of times we would have to play test Kingless. After a small and fruitless effort to play Kingless on paper, we decided it would be more effective to test it online. Our first port of call was Tabletop Simulator by Berserk Games; if you are unfamiliar with this, it’s (unsurprisingly) a simulated table where people play all manner of games. This worked great, as we could upload our cards into the game and play in the evenings after work.
We decided from the very beginning that the only way we would make meaningful progress was with strict version control. This would allow us to take notes for each version we played and see how the changes we were making influenced the game.
The first few playtesting sessions were tremendous fun, and we were making card and terminology changes almost on the fly with one version following another in quick succession. After those initial sessions, we had all the major loopholes fixed and the game’s language decided, as well as having a lot of fun; but most importantly, we were starting to have fun playing Kingless in addition to making it. Since then the greatest challenge has been balancing the pacing and feel of the game, which has been a nuanced process and was the dominant consideration for several versions.
Some challenges, however, are insurmountable. For us, this challenge was that you cannot truly test how a game plays and feels with 6 people with only 3 testers. We therefore decided to take the opportunity to open Kingless up to our family and friends to let them play it, so we could both show off the fantastic art we were receiving and get their valuable input. This brought us to our first live play test, which will be the focus of another blog post that is coming soon.
After that wonderful event, we were able to get some of our close friends on the tabletop simulator and test Kingless out with more people. We found it behaved exactly as we had hoped, with lots of player interaction and with valuable cards moving back and forth. My favourite thing was that while everyone wanted to win the game and be the King, what really kept everyone engaged the whole length of the game was to stave off being the Fool.