I assumed the question means “what do authors look for” at first, but re-reading it, I think I misread.
So, as an author, I need a variety of things. I need someone who will hack through the game. And I also need someone who will poke at certain details I find hard to test. Tester styles vary and I don’t want people to restrict themselves!
I want them to do what they can, to set aside a block of time to poke at things they find most interesting, and let me know – and to understand that both subjective and objective pointers are good, and to understand sometimes my game just has environmental limitations.
So this sort of answers the question: this is the attitude I take as a tester. I try to give the same feedback I would whether or not I really like the author or what they’ve written. And before starting I nag authors to see if any specific area needs a look-over. It’s hard to ask for this–it feels like you’re taking orders. But I like knowing my time is put to a relatively good use.
I make it explicit that I work better with a walkthrough and am aggressive about disassembling a game so maybe I can say “hey, maybe this puzzle works better that way?” I think of the sort of errors I’d make and also try to poke at stuff that would seem tricky in Inform, maybe giving the author coding help if they ask for it. Through all the typos, etc., I point out, I want them to walk away with one “I didn’t consider that but it’s worth it” or “I didn’t think I was capable of that but maybe I am.”
If I’m working with someone whose work I’m familiar with, I also try to see how this work diverges from their preious ones or adds to it and try to suggest ways for them to keep it new.
But above all this I think I have two golden rules:
- Don’t be That Guy who says “THIS IS WRONG”
- try to locate what is most actionable in the least amount of time, and start with that. Or at least do so in the summary email. Recognize that the places I get stuck may not be where others get stuck and label those places to say “see what other testers say.” I am probably more active than most in encouraging authors to try something new technically, maybe something they don’t think they can do, or they see as harder than it maybe really is. They are writing games about possible new worlds. They should see these possibilities too. A lot of times I am passing on knowledge I learned from people who tested stuff for me.
After testing a while I have confidence that one-offs like typos can be easily fixed. If I get nothing more than typos, I say so … this doesn’t mean a candidate is bad or good, just, I struggled to add anything. I also like to hold a playing experience for 24 hours and follow up later. It’s a good feeling, to feel like I really thought about a creative work enough to say “Hey, it seemed to be vaguely missing something, maybe this is it?”
It’s hard for me to ask for betatesters, still – or perhaps I envision them saying “you’re experienced, you should know not to do this” or “hey, why can’t you test it, you’re more familiar with what’s going on?”