Tales from The Trenches Archive

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We wouldn’t want to confuse anybody, would we?

Now, focus testing is a great tool for a developer. It gives them an invaluable opportunity to see first-hand how their game is perceived by actual people; how they respond to the controls, the game mechanics and the overall presentation. It’s an insight that testers sometimes can’t contribute since they have grown so accustomed to the game that they have a hard time seeing it from the eyes of a new player. Focus testing can help fix balancing issues and make the game and interface a lot more intuitive.

Or it could give you carte blanche to completely maim the game due to fears that people won’t “get it”.

I was working on an American Football game that was based entirely around motion controls. The game was already a heavily simplified facsimile of the sport since you could only pass the ball, perform kick offs and move left/right or jump to dodge tackles. The game wasn’t fantastic but the dodge mechanic worked pretty well and it was a pretty exhilarating experience to manage to dodge every single defender and score a touchdown. There was even an achievement specifically for doing this.

One day we all get an email about a new build which explains that there has been some changes to the game. Readers familiar with this site can probably guess what these changes entailed.


Dodging had been scrapped as some participants of the focus testing had found it to be “too confusing”. Bear in mind that this was before any tutorials or UI had been implemented and that focus testing is largely done without giving any help or suggestions to the tester. Oh, and that this was a sport whose rules are almost entirely unknown outside the US developed and tested by a British company. Instead of adding one line of text to the game they decided that scrapping the main feature of the game entirely was the preferable course of action.

In the end dodging was never put back in or replaced which made the game little more than a throwing simulator. Come release day every single review pointed out the lack of dodging as an odd exclusion since it had been heavily touted as a major feature during the game’s many convention appearances.

And naturally; some time later I was fired.