Back in February I took a group of Brinsworth pupils to SUMO Digital, the UK’s largest independent videogame developer just around the corner from our school.
We were in the midst of Games Britannia and one of the constant things that popped up with gaming companies and indies was the need to get alpha/beta products out there and into peoples hands for “focus group testing” or “game balancing”. I often wondered why companies didn’t use schools on their doorstep to tap into the kids and get them to come into studio (or even go out in school) and actually do the testing on a) a group in their target demographic and b) a group dying to be involving in making games and c) playing games.
I cited the idea to Steve Lycett and being the absolute star that he is, organised a session glimpsing an early build of SEGA’s Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed.
The Year 12 (Sixth form in old money) kids showed huge maturity and responsibility having to sign an Non-Disclosure Agreement before they went, in order to maintain secrecy over the development of the game.
It was a great opportunity for them to shape and improve the game, as well as giving them a chance to hone their own skills to improve their chances of future employment within the games industry.
SUMO followed this up later in the year with a public request for testers – to which several of the students involved with GB applied.
Steve was very kind about their visit: “We greatly enjoyed the support from the students, not only did we get chance to show them the game before it was done, but we did use their feedback to help improve the final product! So there is a little bit of magic based on their feedback in each and every copy of Sonic & All Stars Racing: Transformed. Well and truly made in Yorkshire!”.
Once again I’m thoroughly thankful to having Steve and the rest of the team at SUMO on our doorstep.
If you are in need of having a game tested, or want ideas or feedback on a title – then please do consider tapping into the resource that schools possess in bundles – eager, enthusiastic, critical and passionate gamers – probably in the age ranges you are targeting.
NOTE: This is also something that Indies should consider – this little post from the brilliant Martin Caines should give you some idea of how a small amount of time given to a group of kids can reap huge benefits and inspire a new generation of game industry wannabes!