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Obviously the first tester group would be your own group. But beyond that? It would seem to make sense to have at least more than one group test out your game, as different groups want different things and play differently. Fresh eyes find different bugs, etc. etc.

Are there resources out there to help aspiring game designers without a lot of contacts find people willing and eager to test out their game?

Or is this in essence a "find players in general" issue?

To clarify my own situation: I have the mechanics finished. The setting is still under development, but in accordance with the motto "fail faster" I want to go ahead and test the mechanics (in a different setting for now) to see if they work and are fun or if I need to go back to the drawing board. I have a sort-of group, but I don't know them very well and they don't meet often, and so I'm not excited about the prospect of presenting the mechanics to them right now (as I'm sure there are a dozen issues I've overlooked). Also, I'd like to test the game (including the setting, later) on more than one group, as mentioned above. I've put out some feelers among my current friends and acquaintances, but nobody's really been excited about playtesting or even really giving in-depth feedback, and I don't want to be that person who's always shoving their project in your face. I'm willing to run something online as well. I'm also interested in having others run a game without me present, and giving me their feedback.

Also, I'm looking for something of a guide-type answer that might help someone besides just me.

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I've got two suggestions, depending on your resources/dedication.

One of the best ways to playtest a game is at a convention. Obviously this varies based on your location and the nature of the game (developed, virtual, transportable), but one easy recommendation is Gencon, the world's largest traditional gaming (think board games, pen and paper) convention. Not only is there a ton of free-gaming where you could easily pick up gamers, but there are also organizations that specialize in helping people playtest their games, like First Exposure.

Beyond that, remember that a game is just that - a game. It is an event intended to provide enjoyment. Don't get too stuck in the idea that it must be for professional nerds/gamers. Think about your local church, after school club, sports team, or work buddies. Frequently the best testers are those who will be the least familiar with your product. After all, if someone who's never played Dungeons and Dragons loves your D&D spinoff, you know you've probably got something worthwhile on your hands. Plus, these groups can typically give you the sort of feedback you won't get from regular gamers.

This may be an unpleasant reminder, but developing a game is much like developing any other product - you must market it. This requires going out and meeting people and asking for their (often unkind) feedback. So while it may seem daunting to ask your study group to play a game that you've never let outside of your living room, it's a necessary step.

Sources: Writing and directing LARPs for a small-time group.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks very much for the suggestions and the reminders! (Though I've never considered marketing to be my strong point...) GenCon is on the other side of pond for me, so to speak, but I will take a look around for conventions here. \$\endgroup\$ – Rinari7 Apr 23 '15 at 6:54
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You need to start marketing your game now, and I don't mean full color ads or quoting print runs. You got to get people talking and engaged with your game. Fortunately, the internet is your friend.

  • Set up a blog devoted to your game (and genre). Post daily, and respond. Take awesome questions from other sites and answer them on yours.

  • Hook your blog up to Twitter, Facebook and Google + so your posts go through. Jetpack for Wordpress is your friend for this.

  • Clean up your base rules, generate a PDF and make it downloadable. Bonus points if you talk OBS into allowing you to host your download there for free.

  • Participate in the community and make sure your SIG has links to your site and "Free Download Game". Your every reply on other forums promotes your game.

  • Have a Default Setting and Campaign. This is something that can be updated in parallel to the rules. In fact, make the Campaign Setting something special, like you have to sign up for it.

  • Regularly Put Out Useful Nuggets. Small updates that integrate user feedback not only encourages users but provides valuable feedback.

  • After you get rolling, make sure you have some sort of forum that is specifically for beta testers

  • If you go to cons or multi game events, run off a few copies of your game, and hand them out to people you think might be interested (make sure it includes website info too). Run said game at said events.

Most importantly - create an interesting game! Think about the most provocative titles, promotional text and the like that is going to capture the imagination of new players, and not something that is dry and unoriginal.

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It's a find a players in general issue. Previous question Where can I find online playtesters to test encounters before presenting them to my group? is largely a duplicate, and its conclusion is the same. Except maybe for getting people excited about the concept of giving feedback, the process here is just like the process of finding a player or group for any other purpose.

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