Steam Playtest + Unity Analytics = A Fun Game?

Jordan Cassady
4 min readApr 30, 2021

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Not long after finishing Electric Sunset for Game Dev Unlocked’s 48-hour game jam in March, my submission had received some positive feedback from the community, including an enthusiastic playthrough by indie game entrepreneur David Wehle on YouTube.

Game Dev Unlocked jam submissions as seen on itch.io.

This encouraged me to further explore the concept of an retro-inspired arcade racing game beyond the limitations of a weekend game jam. By mid-March, I had began working on a spiritual successor — Disaster Drive!

Playtesting With Steam

My time in software development has taught me that feedback received early and often usually produces a better final product. For Disaster Drive, I knew that getting a prototype build into the hands of playtesters as early as possible was a must.

As luck would have it, Steam’s playtest feature was fully released around the time I was looking for a way to distribute prototype builds to testers. Anyone with a Steam account can enroll themselves into a playtest by clicking the Steam page’s “Request Access” button.

Playtest access can be set to “open” or “limited”.

Playtesting For Fun

Losing control and crashing means Game Over!

With playtest management taken care of, it was time to start thinking about concept testing prototype builds. While I have a professional background in software testing, I don’t have much experience when it comes to testing game design. So I started researching, and came across Dan Felder’s words in Design 101: Playtesting (Gamasutra):

“In the earliest stages of a game’s design, you want to quickly test if your core concept is fun.”

In order to gauge if Disaster Drive is fun to play, I’ve provided in-game access to an optional 3 question survey that can be returned to me for direct feedback. I’ve also enabled Unity Analytics to identify “bright spots” in the game as development progresses.

With this in mind, the first custom event I created tracks when the player crashes into an object, resulting in a game over state. I set this up using a custom analytics event in C#:

When colliding with say, a roadside boulder, all player progression up until the point of impact is sent to the Unity cloud for analysis. Specifics like the obstacle name, the number of checkpoints and whether or not boost was active is recorded. While a single event probably won’t tell me if my game is fun, I’m hopeful there will be something to learn in aggregate.

Unity — Manual: Custom Events

Looking At The Data

While playing my own development builds, an early trend emerged where I scored higher when taking extra risk in-game. In the charts below, my final score and playtime was higher when I reached the Game Over screen after crashing into an object, compared to when time ran out on the clock because I was being overly cautious.

GAME OVER: vehicle collision vs timer expiration for score and time elapsed (Unity Analytics dashboard).

Does the above trend suggest there’s more fun to be had when taking risks in-game? I‘d say it’s a reasonable assumption, however the gap between the two data streams seems to be converging. It’ll be interesting to see how this chart develops as additional testers are added to the playtest.

Join The Playtest!

Would you like to help me make a better game? Would you like to join the Steam playtest? If so, I would like to hear from you!

Request playtest access by visiting the Disaster Drive Steam Page.

Be the first to find out about future playtests by signing up for notifications at Disaster-Drive.com.

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