At a 3:15pm session in the East Coast Gaming Conference held in the Raleigh Convention Center, Ken Turner spoke to the Serious Games Track audience about Quality Assurance: QA Practices and their role within the gaming industry.
ECGC Conference: Quality Assurance: QA Practices and their role within the gaming industry
What is quality assurance? Quality assurance is the testing portion of the development cycle. One of the biggest assets of being a QA Professional. Flexibility. CHanges occur day-to-day, hour to hour minute to minute. You’ll need a plan b, c, and d.
What else beside play games does QA do? I made “such-and-such” game. You may not create the pieces but you help to make it better by pointing out successes and failures. A certain level of quality must exist in the game. to obtain this is where the group comes in. QA makes sure that the game runs well.
Testing if a game works in black and white. but there are functioning grey areas as in which QA does the majority of their work. Does multiplayer work? does that mean can I get IN to a multiplayer game. Do the characters spawn in? can they see each other? can I win/lose the game? will I have a report after the game? can the players interact with one another? How well does it work? to what extent does it work? Thats the QA Dilemma.
Sometimes QA is looked down on because there isn’t much of a postive effect. More artists makes great art. More programming is adding features. Adding QA only finds more bugs. So when should it be used and when not? its the most expensive portion of dev process.
Should QA happen at the beginning or the end? Beginning is nice, becasue iterations can be effected agile fashion. however, its expensive because you’ll be running at the beginning and end. At the end, many bugs will exist, and may cause massive reworks or rewrites. Its cheaper at the end though, because you only test one lump.
Often, the QA job is to focus on budget and throw red flags up. It means checking the budget, knowing the types of programmers you have, the features and quality that you need, and what you have the time to do.
Students seem to want to test only at Beta Stage, because they seem to fear that they won’t like the game at alpha. The tech definition of Alpha is that all features should be present. Beta should be near shippable quality. if you had a gun to your head.
Most materials in programming with a game company stops automation because proprietary software would not allow it. IOS based automation tools do exist, but the best testing and the best tools are made by humans and humans make mistakes. So don’t forget to test and test your testing device. Don’t forget that partners will not share their software.
Does it work, and does it work well. Get those testers. Gameplay testing. Interview them and feel them out to decide whether they like the game. Its scary because the majority of the work is done. Again, this comes back to the idea of testing early or testing later.
For smaller companies, QA test as often as possible.
QA testing needs to test AFTER the product ships. On release, everyone goes on vacation except QA. Cartridge had no chance to fix bugs. Now with broadband, that info is pushed directly to you and you cannot play without it. Updates are certainly patchable.
Now, release dates are vague: “fall”, because QA is no longer in control of when the game drops. Marketing has been telling people when the game will drop, and the public needs to get the materials on the dates/times promised. QA’s job is to get the product out in quality. Marketing wants it out on time. In the end, decisions need to be made and priorities must be made.
QA is great to get in. It is the gateway department because you get to interact with every other department. YOu have to explain the bugs to them, and they’ll tell you why it happened. QA is hard work. Start there, ask for advice, work hard, and you have a great chance to move into the company by taking the initiative. QA role is to enforce that level of quality and let the other departments understand.
Ken Turner is a Faculty member of the Simulation and Video Game Development team at Wake Tech Community College