Levine: Developers should avoid focus groups

Written by Joe Martin

July 31, 2008 // 11:42 a.m.

Tags: #2k-games #bioshock #develop #levine #testing #thief

Ken Levine, lead designer on last year's BioShock has warned fellow developers against the issues presented by early focus group testing as part of a speech given at the Develop conference this morning in Brighton.

Speaking at the conference, Levine said that focus groups often struggle to see the whole view of a game at the early stages and that there had been issues with groups testing BioShock as nobody wanted to play a game in an underwater objectivist utopia.

Levine also drew on examples from his time spent with Looking Glass Studios, where he helped design the first Thief games - famous for flying in the face of traditional gaming conventions.

"Here was a game where you had a sword and a bow and arrow, and you had to hide under a dresser for half an hour... It's not exactly saying, rev up the focus group, they're going to love this," said Levine.

"We had people going to focus test groups and asking, 'Would you like more weapons or less weapons?'" - the answer was obvious, of course, yet the entire point of the game was to provide a sense of vulnerability.

"Marketing people have really improved their methods, and it's much more sophisticated now, but you can still get some really bad data out of these things."

If you could have changed BioShock then what would you have done to make the game more enjoyable? Let us know in the forums.
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