Over the last few months I have been trying to help anyone out that is interested in creating an adventure that many people will enjoy. All of the tips and suggestions I have made are only useful to you as a map creator, if you take the time to thoroughly test your creation once complete.
The methods in which I have always chosen tend to leave my beta testers wondering at times why they are involved but it seems to work best for me. What am I talking about? When an adventure has been created by me I follow several steps before actually sending the adventure on to anyone that wishes to test it. Starting at the beginning of my adventure I will set up only goals and events in the first episode. I do this for a number of reasons. The most important being, I don't want to sell the farm in the first EP so I play it out a few times until I am satisfied that it plays out fairly easily. Once I am satisfied with my first EP, I will add the events and goals to the second EP. Again, I will play it out a few times to make sure all is well. This process is used until all of my episodes have been completed with events and goals. My feelings are simple, I do not want to bore my beta testers with an incomplete map. The more often you have to send out adventure versions, the more likely it is that you will lose the interest of your testers. A tester that has lost interest may send comments to you regarding the adventure and not actually play it. So keep in mind that these beta testers are volunteers and will lose interest if the adventure is to far away from completion. So now we need to know what the purpose of beta testing is in my eyes.
When I send out an adventure for testing, I try to get the maps tested from several levels of skill. A highly skilled player may find the adventure boring, but will comment to me based on their skill level. What this does, is allow me to balance the adventure and make it reasonably playable by all levels of player. Also I ask that testers play the adventure from all angles, meaning if there is choices in Colonies, play out the adventure as many times as it takes to cover all choices. Even if you make it fairly clear in your game play text that a player should follow a certain colony choice, players will not always do that.
So it is important to me, that a player may complete the adventure, no matter what choice they make. I am not saying it should be easy for a player to complete an adventure no matter what, but they should always have a way out. One thing I have noticed on many occasions while having my maps tested is that they may be a bit to hard at times. As the creator of the adventure, I am well aware of all events and goals ahead of time. This makes it much easier for me. Having your maps tested is crutial to finding out if you have met all the needs of the player.
The next thing I want my testers to do is study the landscape. When I design a map I try very hard to make it appealing. The visual appeal is just as important to me as the functioning adventure. Testers will comment openly to me, if they find tiles that have that wonderful greem smiley on it. This is important to me and should be important to all adventure designers.
Okay so remember the above points and find yourself a group of testers. Keeping your testers happy is as important as keeping all those people downloading your maps happy. Keep the testers informed of any changes you may make and let them know if you will be sending them revised maps. Nothing more frustrating than almost finishing a test to find a new map in your email.
One final note here. When designing a map, make sure you have testers suited to the skill level you wish to target. If you plan an extremely difficult adventure, and you have no one that can complete it, you will need to find a tester that can. You do not have to be a master of the game to provide highly challenging maps as long as you have the proper level of testers on board. This can also be said for your own skill level. If you create a map or adventure and find it extremely difficult to complete, do not automatically assume it is an extremely difficult map. Place yourself in the ranking chain. Be honest to yourself as to what skill level you may be.
Have fun all and remember to get those maps tested.