The car radio showing the NT device name.

DevBlog: Why early Play-Testing is so important

Anytime I read about game design and development, the importance of early play-testing is pointed out. Show your game to your friends and listen attentively to what they say. This is a short anecdote of how this was proven right for me and Network Traders. It is about using Bluetooth again, but also about how critically people may react to something unforseen.

Network Traders is based on the direct interaction between players via, e.g., a Bluetooth connection. You may have read my earlier story about how I struggled with bringing Bluetooth into the game. The implementation worked o.k. for me at first, just connecting my own two devices. But I knew that things might look quite different for other people and devices. Since I needed someone in my vicinity to connect devices with, I asked my neighbour next door if he would test my game.

Player Behaviour is usually unexpected

Another player you can trade with.
Information about your trade partner.

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) has very little payload capacity, but there was some data I needed to pass on anyway. One such data point is the name of your fellow trader, i.e., the name he has given his city in the game. The Bluetooth Networking asset I am now using allows you to assign a name to your connection which is broadcasted along with your payload data. Well, I though, using the name of the connection to carry some information is a good idea, so I called it <NT: city_name>.

It worked in the sense that I could now identify any device playing Network Traders via the broadcasted name, and show it to the player. What I did not know was that this actually changed the name of the Bluetooth device for all applications. So I was quite surprised when my testing neighbour informed me that he had uninstalled Network Traders again right away. The reason: his car stereo now showed that “NT: Dupfhausen” had connected to it – something he considered funny, but did not want at all!

The car stereo of my neighbour testing Network Traders.
This is what my neighbours car stereo was showing as his device. “NT”, of course, is short for “Network Traders”.

Learnings from Testing

I made it my top priority to change this undesired behaviour, although it was not that easy. The Bluetooth Networking plugin seemed to require a device name to be set. But thanks to the help of the plugin’s developer I found the right flag to be set soon enough.

The take-away from this story is that some players get quite suspicious when it seems like you are meddling with their devices. Changing the Bluetooth device name may be bad, but there are even smaller things keeping people from playing your game. Think about asking for access rights to the address book or the camera. Maybe you just forgot to clean up your Android manifest. Or maybe it’s not obvious what these rights are necessary for. Here, it’s a good idea to inform your players before you request these rights and explain why. Otherwise, your app might just be uninstalled and one player is gone for good.

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