Given that I’m not generally attracted to the FPS genre, the fact that Valve is quickly becoming one of my favorite and most-respected developers is telling. I like their games, I like their business model, and I like their design philosophy.
Imagine my glee, then, when Left 4 Dead writer Chet Faliszek spoke with Gamasutra about Valve’s policy of extensive playtesting and the stages of acceptance:
“When you first encounter using outside playtesters, you go through these stages,” Faliszek explained. “They’re stages of denial. The first time you go, you see the guy not looking at what you want him to look at, and he’s not going to the right place. You’re like, ‘You’re an idiot. We got idiots for playtesters. Who is this, somebody’s friend? Let’s get somebody who knows how to play games.'”
“Then the second group comes through,” he continued, “and you’re still saying, ‘Alright. Alright. You’re stupid. What the hell? Who are these people?’ Then by the third or fourth time, all of a sudden you’re realizing, ‘I’m an idiot. This is pretty obvious this doesn’t work. It’s not their fault, it’s our fault.'”
The rest of the interview is an interesting peek into game development and is worth a read.
When so many games come out feeling broken, unintuitive, and unfinished, Valve’s approach to playtesting — which can start as early as the first week of development — seems to be common sense, even if pushes the release date back a few months. Maybe I’m a sucker and a fool, but I can tolerate some delays if Left 4 Dead matches the caliber of Valve’s other offerings.