Puzzled Pint - Editing and Testing Process
Thanks for your interest in writing for Puzzled Pint!
About your Editor
Puzzled Pint has produced a puzzle set every month for many years. With dozens of locations and thousands of solvers each month, we’ve figured out an editing and playtesting system for our puzzle sets that works well for our particular target audience.
You will work with a puzzle editor with experience shepherding hundreds of puzzles from draft to final form for that audience. Your editor is more than just a project manager, they are responsible for making sure all the puzzles fit our guidelines. As such, they will be giving you a great deal of feedback on your puzzles, both from their own experience and from the results of testing by others.
As with any criticism of creative work, it can be difficult to hear, but please know they are not judging your puzzles. Their feedback is solely to ensure the puzzles work for our target beginner solver. Thus, while your puzzles may be absolutely perfect for other puzzle hunts, if your editor asks for changes, it’s because the puzzles need to be changed to suit Puzzled Pint.
In this first step of the editing process, you submit your puzzles, answers, and any hints to your editor and they suggest changes to make the puzzles suitable for Puzzled Pint. It’s very common for there to be several rewrites and revisions of puzzles in this stage. Puzzled Pint’s playtesting resources are only available after the Draft Approval stage.
Please note that all submissions will immediately fall under the CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Intl. License, so please do not submit anything you don’t want to release under that license.
Once all puzzles in the set have been approved, we will schedule your set and begin official playtesting. Puzzle sets are scheduled at least 3 months in the future to allow for our playtesting and quality control process.
Please note, at this point, since the set has been scheduled, your responses to your editor’s requests for any revisions must be prompt! A few days at most for small changes, so we can stay on schedule.
Your editor will shepherd your puzzles through various stages of playtesting as described here. They must be satisfied with changes made at each stage before the next stage can begin.
Approval by Headquarters (12+ weeks out)
The first playtest done will be by the Puzzled Pint Headquarters team (in Portland). HQ usually meets every week, so this process shouldn’t take long. They will solve the set and catch any issues your editor missed. As the HQ team has more experience with testing than general playtesters, your editor will likely ask you to address most of the problems they report.
International Testing (10+ weeks out)
The next playtest done will be checking for issues our international solvers might have. Your editor will send the puzzle set to one of our international playtesters. This takes 1-2 weeks. Unfortunately, our international playtesters are very limited, so your editor will likely ask for changes for any problems they report, even if it’s only from one or two playtests. They know much better than we do if any puzzling elements will be too difficult across cultures. They are checking for things like reliance on pronunciation, idioms, regional spelling, rhymes, and regional knowledge.
While we like to resolve these issues by changing the puzzle(s), we’ve been known to resolve these by creating a different version of the puzzle for international audiences or by providing them additional reference sheets to work around the problem.
General Playtesting (7+ weeks out)
General playtesting takes two weeks to one month, as our testers need to schedule time to solve with their teams. Team tests are much more valuable than individual tests, as we’re a team-based event. You or your editor may already have done individual tests during the Draft Approval stage to test for specific solvability issues, but these group tests are looking for three things:
How long do the puzzles in the set take to solve?
How fun are the puzzles to solve?
How difficult are the puzzles to solve?
We collect feedback with forms and use a spreadsheet to process the results. We often have 10-15 playtests this way, thus get a really accurate sense of the puzzle set. Difficulty and Fun are rated on a 5-point scale with 3 being “Typical for Puzzled Pint”.
Targets for Length: The set should take no more than 90 minutes for intermediate solvers, and 60 minutes for experts. If the puzzles are too long, we’ll ask you to reduce the scope of the puzzle set.
Targets for Difficulty: We’re looking for scores in the range of 1.5-2.5 for easy puzzles, 2.5-3.5 for medium puzzles, and 3.5 to 4 for hard puzzles. Any puzzle less than 1.5 or more than 4 will be asked to be modified. Remember, the main set should have at least one easy, and no more than one hard puzzle. The Meta should also be an easy puzzle.
Targets for Fun Level:We’re looking for fun scores higher than 2.5 on all puzzles. Note that we will artificially inflate scores by expert playtesters as experts tend to only have fun on more challenging puzzles.
Additionally, if a puzzle is within these ranges, but ranked above average on difficulty, and below average fun, we will likely suggest changes to make it easier.
Please note: We do not provide authors direct access to the playtest feedback. This is for several reasons. First, we want testers to feel free to provide honest feedback without fear of hurting the author’s feelings. When they know the authors will see their responses, many do not do that. Second, we don’t want authors responding to every bit of feedback from testers. We often wait to see if something is really an issue by seeing if multiple testers report it. We also weigh beginner feedback more. Combined with our experience and judgement, we will make specific suggestions based on the aggregate tester feedback.
There will be a lot of feedback at this stage. We provide it so you can make your puzzles as good as they can be. Outside of length and difficulty, making changes based on feedback in this stage is generally up to you to make or not. Though some issues may arise in playtesting that we feel must be addressed. If so, we will try to make it clear which ones those are.
Some editors will release this feedback in batches, others will provide it as it comes in. It’s not uncommon for puzzles to go through more than ten revisions from first draft to final revision, so please be aware of that!
Revisions, Graphics and Layout (5 weeks out)
Here is where you prepare the final graphics and layouts for the puzzle. This includes the Answer sheet, a template for which can be provided by your editor. At this point, your puzzles should have the Bug and attributions on each puzzle, and you should begin work on the Polaroid, final full solution files, etc.
Second Round Playtesting (5 weeks out)
We try to avoid having a second round of playtesting. This is only done if revisions aren’t working and a puzzle needed to be replaced or changed significantly. This can again take a couple of weeks to complete.
HQ Quality Control (3 weeks out)
At 3 weeks out, everything should be complete for a Quality Control review by HQ. Please see the QC Checklist for the list of items we review.
GC Quality Control (2 weeks out)
At 2 weeks out, we will send the puzzles out to the GC list for a final check.
Puzzles Released to Cities’ Game Control (1 week out)
The puzzle set is released to the cities for printing.
Your editor will do the best they can to work with you on any issues. However, in the rare case of an unresolvable conflict, we may take the drastic step of making our own changes to the puzzle(s) and still releasing them as a derivative work.
This is allowed by the CC license you submitted under. You always have the right (under CC) to request your name be removed from such derivative works, if you wish. We only take this step as a last resort, and only because we would be running up against a publication deadline, would have already put in significant time in editing and testing the puzzles, and have no good alternatives. This has only happened a few times since PP started in 2010, but it has happened, so we felt you should be aware of the possibility.
Archives on the Web Site
The final step in the process has your puzzles put up on our web site. Anyone can enjoy them with canned hint and answers for the rest of time. You are free to link to your puzzles on other pages, and you can be proud to have made a significant contribution to the puzzling community. Thank you again!
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions or clarifications. Thanks for your interest in writing for Puzzled Pint!