Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii
Publisher: MTV Games, Electronic Arts
It's a magical thing to create a game for your favorite artists, and maddening not to be able to tell anyone about it.
The Beatles Rock Band was in development for over a year before it was announced, and the secrecy involved in the project was one of its defining qualities. This posed a huge problem for playtesting— we were not allowed to bring in 'outsiders', but still hoped to market the game to folks who may have never encountered a Rock Band title before.
I asked fellow employees to refer friends or family members who came close to our demographic. This usually resulted in a band of four non-gamer playtesters meeting for the first time in our lobby. Luckily, nothing draws people together quite like the Beatles, and more than a few friendships were forged in the playtest lab that year.
We supplemented our limited research with extensive internal playsessions. The entire studio staff was sorted into five-person, interdisciplinary groups, which each met weekly to play the game. In addition to ensuring that every person creating the game shared the experience of being a player, developers had opportunities to discuss issues and communicate across teams. This system proved so effective that it was implemented for every subsequent development cycle.
My contributions included...
Typical design questions