I wanted to talk about an excited about a new game design idea from Grant Rodiek. Grant has started a blind playtesting program for designers. It’s called The Prototype PenPal Program and Grant was kind enough to join me to talk about it.
Tom: Grant, what is the Protoype PenPal Program?
Grant: The Prototype PenPal Program is a way for board and card game designers to obtain quality blind testing from dozens of designers (and their friends) at a relatively low expense. Designers sign up and submit a single prototype into the system. The first recipient will test it, provide feedback, then send it to the next designer in the loop. The only cost for each designer is a single prototype and the cost of shipping someone else’s prototype about once a month or so.
Tom: Why are you starting this?
Grant: A few reasons. I am fortunate to have a large and highly qualified test group, but it’s always difficult finding long-distance blind testers. People are reluctant to assemble print ‘n plays and I’m reluctant to send out dozens of copies. Plus, some people DON’T have such a local network and this can assist them. Secondly, this is a way to build the community. Finally, I think this will help us make better games AND give us insight on what our friends and peers are designing. It’s so rare we’ll actually find a publisher and at least this way, somebody else gets to try out your creation.
Tom: How has the response been?
Grant: Surprisingly strong. People are always reluctant to start new things. They are dubious of whether it will actually happen or succeed. But, so far I have just shy of 30 designers signed up, most of whom have prototypes ready to send right now. We’re actually going to give out the first round of assignments in the next day or so. I have 2 designers in Canada and 2 in Europe, which is also great (and if you’re from those places please join in! We have people for you!).
Tom: Who are some of the designers involved?
Grant: Some great folks I’ve met in person and hope to meet again at GenCon, plus some other folks. Jay Treat, Chevee Dodd, AJ Porfirio, Daniel Solis, Rael Dornfest, Duane O’Brien, Phil Kilcrease, Paul Imboden, Matthew O’Mally…and more!
Tom: What do you hope to get from this?
Grant: Great testing feedback, great community, and a little fun along the way. Not everyone can attend Protospiel, Unpub, GenCon, etc. so I’m hoping this program fills a hole for those on a budget or without a local test group.
It’s been great talking to you again Grant. It sounds like the program is hitting at just the right time. I’m excited to see what cool games develop out of it. And what cool ones will be showing up on my doorstep. Please keep me updated.
If you want more information about The Prototype PenPal Program you can find it at that link right there. I would encourage you to bookmark Hyperbole Games also. Grant has some fantastic posts on gaming, game design, and his games.