Inside Battle Slots: Tester/Proofreader Jean-Remy Noble
April 15, 2011
Who the heck are you, anyhow?
Hi, my name is Jean-Remy Noble, and I am a tester and proofreader for Battle Slots RPG. I have to admit, when I was approached to do the testing on this game, I was ambivalent. The idea of a slot mechanic to power an RPG seemed odd, but I have a passion for RPGs, and at the core of almost every such game is a randomness generator, be it a twenty-sided die for tabletop RPGs or virtual dice for computer games. Secondly, having little to no background in computer programming (In high school I made an asterisk bounce off the edges of the screen, and the program was written in Basic… and basic is where my skills have stayed), I wasn’t sure what help I could bring to people who speak FORTRAN as a second language. Or C++ or whatever. Did I mention I know next to nothing about programming? Thirdly, I was a little apprehensive about taking this piece of art that took dozens of people thousands of man-hours to make, and I was supposed to try and break it, and then tell them where they had gone wrong. How do I tell those people who lovingly crafted this game: “it doesn’t work right”? Without making them send killer ninjas squads to my house, that is. But I took the plunge and accepted the assignment.
What did you do then?
The first thing a tester does is just play the game. Unlike all the people who worked on it, I had no idea what was waiting for me when I hit “play”. It turned out, I had a very addictive game on my hands. It was FUN! But I wasn’t there to have fun, I was supposed to work. Work? Well, bother that. I just had fun. There it was. The solution to all my fears. This was a fun game, and I had been asked to find the places where it didn’t work right so they could fix it and make it more fun! This was a great job.
What makes you even remotely qualified to test the game?
I had going for me a long passion for video games, especially Role-Playing Games, and an eclectic (read: unfocused) education. I’d studied, at college level, Biology, Quantum Mechanics, Aerospace Engineering, Graphic Design and Fiction Writing. So I approached issues in a systematic and experimental way. If I spotted an issue as I played, I would repeat the same conditions over and over, changing variables, creating control experiments and adding this mouse click or this technique to pinpoint where the issue was. Let’s use a metaphor. Imagine the game was a car. Let’s say the car broke down. I couldn’t lift the hood and look at the engine. I know nothing about engines. What I could do was tell the mechanic: “The engine rattles and coughs when I am driving between 30 and 45 miles an hour, uphill, in 65.345 degree weather, on a day ending in Y,” because I had extensively tested all those variables. Sounds boring? It wasn’t. It was actually exciting to come up with the protocols to isolate each condition. Now all I had to do was present this in a way that avoided me getting stabbed by ninjas.
Ok, so what makes you qualified as a proofreader?
My second (or rather first) passion is for writing, which is why role-playing games are my favorite sort of video games. I’m a sucker for a good story. I am an aspiring writer myself, and I started, though for personal reasons did not complete, a Masters in Literature. I have also written somewhere around a quarter of a million to a million words working on several novel projects. I discovered that this alone didn’t make me a good proofreader. I had the grasp of English to do the job, but I found myself wanting to rewrite entire passages, which is not what proofreading is about. I had to quiet down my writer voice and make corrections and suggestions in a way that preserved Nate’s writerly voice, without substituting it with mine. All writers have a distinctive voice: a way they use sentence structure, a particular set of metaphor, a turn of phrase, a sense of humor, that is unique. I could’ve rewritten the entire game, but then it would’ve been in my voice. It is Nate’s voice, however, that you ought to hear. It is his story, and what a story it is! Heroes! Villains! Monsters! Crazy uncles! An epic struggle to save the world! Crazy artists that need to be saved from themselves! I knew I just had to be faithful to his voice as I worked. To take the car metaphor from before, it was like restoring a classic car by buffing out the rust without damaging its original lines. Also, I wanted to avoid getting stabbed by an angry writer. And ninjas.
So how did you avoid stabbings?
One of the main skill art students learn is not, actually, art, but how to “critique” art. Think of it as constructive criticism. Rather than “this painting sucks” it is a lot more useful to say “the use of color is interesting but I have some doubts about the issue of figure-ground relationship where…” blah blah blah. Not only is the first example not going to help the artist, it’s also going to get you stabbed with a paintbrush… and not with the soft end. If you always wondered about all those high-faluting, fancy-shmancy word-things art critics use, think of it this way: which of the following sentences would result in you punching the person who said it: “You suck a lot,” or “you appear to display a spectacularly high aspiration coefficient.”? Answer: the first one. You’d have fallen asleep by the time he was finished with the second one. And that is how art critics avoid stabbings: through the power of boredom.
Zzzzz*sknrt* huh, what, where am I?
What made testing this game a great experience, in the end, is all due to the great people who imagined, planned, programmed, designed and crafted Battle Slots RPG. There are too many wonderful little details to list that make this a rich experience, and anyway everyone would (should) find and focus on different details. It’s deep, it’s fun, it’s endlessly addictive. It was great fun to work on it, and I’ll keep playing it long after my work on it is done. I hope my small contributions were helpful in making it a better experience for people who don’t enjoy finding all the little broken parts and drawing up experimental tables to track the problem down… which I suspect is everybody else.
Why is a ninja creeping up behind you?
Help they’re all mad you’ve got to get me out of
We apologize, but due to technical issues the transmission has been interrupted. You will enjoy BATTLE SLOTS RPG. Our ninja squads are standing by.