On playtesting - Quote from the field


"Since I joined the developers I don't play much anymore. Testing the stuff I am responsibly for is just enough and I don't even enjoy it anymore. Playtesting is hard work." (Wesnoth developer, Interview 12/05/2011)

Examples of total conversions and 'total add-ons'

As I mentioned in this post, WML is often used by Wesnoth users to create their own content and to enrich the game with possibilities that bend (or blur) its original design. While browsing the forum's "Experimental Corner", I discovered that the idea of doing a total conversion for Wesnoth (and bring it to completely new settings) was not as new as I thought, when first reading the title of that thread. Indeed, total conversion projects for Wesnoth have been attempted in the past. Two notable examples are Spacenoth and The World of Orbivm. [caption align=right]

Wesnoth Markup Language as mediating artefact

A key topic in my interviews was mediation between design, development and use of the video game. That is: how design decisions are negotiated in relation to end-users' needs or, put it differently: how gaming practices and design/development decisions influence each other. Since I conducted most of the interviewees with contributing users, the answers reflect their point of view, rather than non-contributing users' one.

The departing point was this FAQ, which I noticed some weeks ago:

Why doesn't Wesnoth have my favourite feature?

Because we are building this game for ourselves, to suit our own preferences. We're not building the game for you, in large part because this is our hobby, not our job; whether you like it or not is immaterial to us. You may wonder, then, what the point is of soliciting ideas, as we do on the forum. We, the developers, have certainly come up with many good ideas on our own, but our players often do as well, and generally ones we don't think of ourselves. If a player comes up with an idea we like, we might implement it. Not because they asked for it, but because of its own merits as an addition to our game. [...]

Relationships and bonding in collaborative projects

This is just a general consideration coming from my first few interviews with Wesnoth devs and users, and it relates to a (probably wrong) assumption I (and others within academia) made. I always gave for granted that the people gathering around a given FOSS project such as Wesnoth, could be considered as a sort of community. However, after these interviews I start questioning this perspective.

Even if I take the somewhat general Rheingold's definiton of virtual communities:

social aggregations that emerge from the Internet when enough people carry on public discussions long enough and with sufficient human feeling to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace.

the people answering my questions, gave me the impression that the "web of personal relationship" is probably much more loose than one might expect from this kind of definition.

Fragmented, hectic and satisfactory interviewing

I'm basically done with my first batch of interviews. I'm just waiting the last two replies from two interviewees and then I need to do some sorting of the mateiral, but a part from that, I say that I'm quite satisfied!

I had six interviews. Two people are mostly gamers and 'minor' contrinutors within the Italian Wesnoth community. The other four interviewees are regular contributors (one was regular and got now retired) within the international/official scope of Wesnoth. Interviews were carried in a fragmented and heterogenous way: three of them over e-mail, two over IRC, and one face-to-face!

This has been an exciting experience because it allows you to interact in different ways with the people who are connected with Wesnoth, and this is interesting both from the perspective of research methodology but also at the personal level. The different ways of conducting the interviews also force you to re-think and tailor your questions (and basically, what you want to know form them) accordingly to the kind of interaction with the interviewee.

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