Testers for Large Game [hypothetical discussion]

This is not a request for volunteers – it’s a topic for discussion.

With the release of the new version of I7, I’m contemplating whether to finish a very large game that has languished on my hard drive for more than ten years. This is a straight-up parser game, it’s a sequel to my first game (Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina, released in 1999), and did I mention it’s large? It’s huge. Monstrously bloated, I think one could safely say.

The question is, if I go ahead and finish it, can I reasonably expect anyone at all to be willing to sit down and test it? Releasing a game without adequate testing is not a friendly thing to do, but my experience in the past (with smaller games) has been that the latter part of the game is often not tested as well as the first part, because testers don’t have the patience to keep slogging through. Giving people cheat codes to fast-forward to the 2nd half of the game is of course quite feasible, but would people want to just play the 2nd half (or the last 1/4) without knowing what came before?

I’d be curious to know what y’all think about this.

If I go back to work on the game, it will be ready for testing no sooner than 4 or 5 months from now. Before I commit to that amount of work, I’d like to know how people feel about testing such a monstrosity. I mean, it should be a fun game; that might help. There’s an octopus, a Lamborghini, a thoroughly annoying beautician, a wizard, a wooden Indian, and a singing fish. Among many other alleged treats…


Does it make sense to have some sort of… ongoing partnership with a tester? Like, let him test certain parts of the game over the course of the months development takes? “The city of Furuncula is now ready for a first test, here’s a replay file to get you there”, “Greatly improved the second floor of the Hustle Mall you alpha-tested three months ago, care to look again?” - Does that make sense? I’d do that, for it takes the burden of investing large chunks of precious spare time off me and instead allows me to test smaller parts of a game, all the while keeping up my interest in the game as I follow its development. Could be just me tho.


Perhaps you can ask people to test it in chunks? Folks could test what you have now, for instance. This would also give you a chance to make improvements between tests.

Dealing with it in stages would reduce the pressure on testers (and you, too).

Edit: I see Grueslayer had a similar idea.


This is a legit concern. Testing Captivity worked really well for me in the midst of COVID quarantine time. I wouldn’t have that kind of time now, let alone for testing a big game.
I also had a great time testing Thaumistry, but my greatest regret from that experience is that, as you said, I didn’t test the latter part as thoroughly.
But I really like big games, and want to encourage their production.
I say make it, and keep asking for the testing it needs until it gets it.


Agreed with what others have said about different strategies – I think it’s definitely possible to get some folks who’ll do a reasonable job by just casting your bread upon the waters in this forum, but to get the level of testing a behemoth like what you’re discussing would require would probably take some more dedicated work.

I will say, though, that while the small-chunk strategy will help polish up those pieces, I think you’re also going to want at least a tester or two who can run through the whole thing and give you feedback on how everything fits together. There, finding someone who’s in sync with what you’re trying to do and who’s willing to put in a larger amount of work might be hard, but rewarding.

I’ve got a small example of this when I tested @ChristopherMerriner’s Fairies of Healstowne, which is a wild, wooly game that was even wilder and woolier in its beta form. He did a good job letting me know going in that this was going to be a heavier-than-normal lift, and I was positively disposed towards him since he’d previously tested my first game – but once I started playing I just loved the thing, and wound up feeling invested in helping him make it as close to its best self as it could be, happily putting in a large number of hours to find bugs and break the Adventuron parser.

So to the extent that you can identify a couple potential or actual ‘supertesters’, I think that can be super helpful. I know there was a thread a couple months ago when @rovarsson reviewed Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina – here it is – so it might be worthwhile reaching out to some of the folks who said they enjoyed it to see if you can recruit them.

It might also be interesting to drop a line to authors of some recent big games to see what approaches they took and if they have any advice to offer.


There was a guy named Radical Al who used to test all of my games. I think he disappeared or something. He found bugs that nobody else found, and he liked using cheat codes to jump around … which meant he sometimes found bugs that weren’t real, because they were due to jumping around. Also, I could never get him to send me transcripts. Nonetheless, he was a very helpful tester!


I’m not good at time commitment, but I would enjoy testing such a thing.


By the way, I love Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina, and the promise of a sequel makes my mouth water!

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I’ve had large games of my own to give to testers, and I had the same problem.

Quite bluntly I feel like I am imposing asking for testers at times or feeling like I am asking for a commitment to get to the end. I was fortunate with A Roiling Original to have a hub structure, so I had 4 testers, and one went to areas 1/2, another to 2/3, etc. (Also, there was a “skip to final enemy” warp command that fit into the game itself.) So nothing was too far near the end.

On the other hand, I don’t have a problem, as a tester, being given warp commands to look at a certain area. I appreciate the structure, and I appreciate the author saying “Hey, I know this is a weakness, and I need someone to help my with this.”

So I think it’s a good idea to have those warp commands in place, and my experience is that even when they misfire or have unexpected side effects, the testers don’t mind and are just glad their work is helping. I don’t have a problem missing the earlier stage of a game, though I can see how some might. I actually prefer testing the later parts. Because I’ve been there, and I know what gets hit and what doesn’t.

From my experience asking for testing with a large game, I find even someone who just plows through with a walkthrough and says “this works/makes sense, this didn’t” is a big help. So that’s the sort of help I’d like to give back, and if you have testers opened to this, I think they will be extremely helpful. I’ve also had people willing to pinch-hit to solve the end bits, and it’s worked well. Maybe you have reservations about saying “Hey, test the walkthrough” but I’ve found that people who do so generally save up time and energy to find interesting big-picture bugs. So I don’t think it’s cheating or anything.

I understand if a lot of testers concentrate on the start, because first impressions are important, and it’s important to know if you aren’t making a good one.

I also understand if they run out of time or energy, that’s quite understandable. I’ve run out of time and energy on my own projects!

So given all this it sounds like the sort of thing I could/would do even though I never played Ballerina. (I should!)

About all you can do is add these warp commands and make it clear that 1) testers can use them or not and 2) you have certain areas you want to focus on. Testers looking for this sort of thing will be glad to. Maybe put an immediate note saying “Large game to test, even small chunks are appreciated.”

I like @Grueslayer’s point too. Having a change log really helps me know what to check if I want to do more than one iteration of testing, and seeing an author implement a warp command is cool. It’s like getting gold-card customer service, or something.


From the testes side:

I have tested some extra lenght games since it has only a minimal design.
The savegames doesn’t works for any new improved version. This means that I have to replay the game from the beggining.
If the game isn’t in his last steps that implies a lot of work and a big amount of hours to be inverted.

Alfatest is different of betatest. One implies playability and the other functionality.
I think there must be a clear and good communication between author and tester right from the beggining. I really dislike authors that implies a lot of testers and doesn’t reply quickly with a message when anyone ask for help. This is what generally happens to me.

  • Jade.

I don’t have the time or patience to play or write really large games. Hence, I wouldn’t be keen on testing a game that’s doing to take me weeks to get through.

If you break the game down into smaller chunks, then you can get the same testers to test one chunk at a time (serial testing) or get different testers to test different chunks at the same time (parallel testing). In both cases, you could supply saved games with the game file and instruct the testers on which save game file to use to test each chunk. This would avoid needing to change the code to add teleporters to warp to another part of the game.

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I still have the code that you sent me a few years ago for Ballerina 2 Jim. I worked for so long to get my hands on Sugartoes in the first game I ended up with Diabetes.


Well, you’re not asking for volunteers, but I’d test it.

I do like long and complex games, but I find I rarely have the time or attention span to get through them if I’m just playing for fun (I have a stack of games that I started, made some good progress in, and then got distracted and haven’t finished. Worlds Apart is one that gnaws at my conscience occasionally, demanding to be completed). As a tester, though, I have a different attitude: it’s a job I’ve taken on and I’m absolutely obliged to battle through to the end. There are plenty of games that I’ve tested that I’d have never have seen half of, let alone completed, if I hadn’t approached them as a tester.

Anyway, it sounds like your almost completed meisterwerk is asking to escape from the dusty darkness of your hard drive and into the light of day, so I’d suggest you put the work in, get it ready for testing, and be assured that there are at least one or two hardy souls who will be willing to go the distance and test the thing.


Glad to hear from you, Al. Your interest in Ballerina was the inspiration for my deciding to write a sequel. The sequel is set in the same shopping center, and some of the shops haven’t changed, but there are new ones. The Octagonal Room is still there, but I think the secret to operating it is slightly different. And there are a LOT of new characters.

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I appreciate the positive feedback, believe me. I wouldn’t say it’s almost completed, though. The design is nearly complete, but there’s still a lot of coding that needs to be done. Plus, my current plan is to port the existing TADS 3 code over to Inform 7, and that’s a big job in itself. I suspect more people will want to play the game if it’s in I7. Also, once the new release is stable, I expect it will be easier to play in a browser, which is possible with a T3 game but kind of squirrely. My other motivation is that with the new release of I7 I need to update my Handbook – and really the best possible way to do the research on changes is to use the software.


That’s probably what I’ll do, yes. And I like your idea about supplying a saved game. That would probably be easier than writing a cheat code to zip the player past the opening. On the other hand, with I7 it’s easy enough to supply testers with a non-release build in which they can enter ‘test capsule’ and be zipped forward to the Virtual Capsule section. (The Capsule is sort of a maze, but sort of not a maze…)


Then is it a Hub, but sort of not a Hub?

I would be on board for testing. I’d be on board for testing the whole thing start to finish. Heck, I’d be on board for jumping up and down on it to listen if it creaks, if that’s what it takes.

Ballerina is a game I happily broke my teeth on. I’d love to do my bit in helping you make a sequel.

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I do like Octopii. And having eight arms I suppose he could feel around in all eight rooms of the Octagonal room at the same time before entering them to test their safety. Forewarned is fore (eight?) armed.

The sequel to the original will be excitedly awaited here Jim. I can feel a large map creation coming on.

I’m very happy to see the surprising level of support and interest. That encourages me to go ahead, roll up my sleeves, and finish the silly thing.

Same PC (though this time it’s apparent she’s the mom), same location (but with some added rooms), and a similar quest. Young Samantha is now 17, and tonight is the night of the senior prom, but her little brother spilled black ink on her prom dress. (He claims it was an accident.) But for complicated reasons, most of the shops are closed, even though it’s a sunny Saturday afternoon, so you’re going to have to figure out how to get into the fashion boutique to get your hands on a replacement prom dress. Ah, if only it were that simple…


The maps are pretty well complete. Let’s see if the forum interface lets me do an upload…