How much time do you spend on tweaking the game play of your games?
I have finished up all the challenging functional parts of the game I am working on and I am working on the cleanup and finishing touches (Improving graphics, adding sounds, background music, etc.).
I am also, tweaking the game play mechanics to make it challenging while still playable - but I feel this could go on forever.
What is a good cutoff?
Also, how does everyone feel about getting outside input from friends, associates, offspring, etc...?
I think you need to get outside people to play it a bit. You have been working and playing this game for a while. What might seem easy to you, might be because of the fact that you know the game inside and out :).
So far I have been using my 8 year old and my 14 year old sons and the guy doing some of the art work.
I will increase that when I have it mostly finished.
In fact, it was my 8 year old who gave me the best advice so far. He said,
"It would be better if I could earn points or after so many levels I can buy upgrades like more missiles or a better ship. That way I have something to look forward to. Those are the kinds of games I like to play."
Yeah, my son is a huge as well. Good luck!
Yup, beta testing is the way to go. Just remember that people often play differently when you are looking over your shoulder - I've noticed that a lot of the time they are quite turned off the game, actually!
So any way you can collect data without actually being there would probably be best.
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I remember when I did playtesting for a company along with 2 other guys. The developers were amazed that none of us used multi-touch, as they thought it could only be played that way and it was a big design consideration.
So yeah, get some people you don't/barely know to have a shot as often as possible. Half Brick (the Fruit Ninja/Jetpack Joyride guys) would go out each week or so and just hand the game to strangers on the street to get their impression of 2 minutes gameplay.
And polishing can go on until the end of time. To use Fruit Ninja again, it took 3 days to make the game itself and 3 months of polish.
I'd suggest going through and getting everything to the bare functional requirements (backgrounds scrolling cleanly, no clipping in movements, smooth layout transitions, etc.) and then when you have the whole picture in front of you, you can see what really needs the attention. Nothing worse than spending a week on something only to find it has made minimal impact and then discover one section of your menus looks like an abattoir floor.