Working in the gaming industry requires persistence, dedication, and a lot of hard work, but at the same time, it is extremely rewarding. Being a part of creating a video game that has managed to reach the hearts of players is an exciting experience. To get there, however, each title goes through a number of stages, the last of which is extremely important – testing.
The profession’s name is self-explanatory: the tester plays video games before they are finished and ready for market release. Its purpose is to find bugs (errors) and suggest improvements to the given title. The job of a video game tester can be both a lot of fun and quite busy. In the initial phase of development, testers work the standard 40 hours per week, but the hours increase dramatically as the game’s development enters its final phase.
Quality control criteria for games
Quality assurance is a very important component of game development, but the game industry does not have a standardized methodology for doing it. Each developer or publisher uses their own methods. Small studios may not have a team of testers and may ask friends to do this task, but for big titles that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, it is a must.
In practice, testing starts as soon as the game code begins to be written and increases as work progress on it. At the beginning of the process, the testing team is small and focuses on providing daily feedback to the developers. As the game approaches the alpha stage, more testers can be hired. The process is dynamic. Sometimes non-bug features are reported as bugs, and other times programmers fail to solve a problem on the first try. A good bug reporting system can help programmers and testers work more efficiently. Tester feedback can determine the final decisions to exclude or include final features in the game.
To be able to find bugs in games and then report them, a good tester should have extensive experience playing a variety of titles, some technical knowledge, and an eye for detail. Some bugs require a detailed description by the tester in order for the developer to find and fix them. Many video game companies separate technical requirements testing from functional testing because the two require different skill sets.
Types of testing
There is no standard method for game testing, and most methodologies are developed by individual video game developers and publishers. However, we can sift through several testing methods.
Functionality testing is most often associated with the term “game testing” because it involves playing the game in some form. This type of testing does not require deep technical knowledge. In it, testers look for general issues with the game itself or its user interface, such as those with stability, mechanics, or bugs that prevent the title in question from being completed.
Compatibility testing is usually applied to PC games that are nearing the end of their development. The team tested the game’s core functionality on various hardware configurations after the publisher provided it with a list of commercially important hardware. Compatibility testing ensures that the game works on different hardware and software configurations.
Localization testing is a kind of text editor inside the game. The job of the testers here is to check the translations of the in-game content into different languages.
Beta testing takes place during the beta stage of a given video game’s development. Often, this is the first publicly available version of a game. This method is quite effective, as a large number of players can find bugs that the developers and testers of the studio missed.
Retesting is done after a bug has been fixed by the programmers. QA checks if the bug is still there (regression) and then runs similar tests to see if the fix didn’t “break” something else.
Load testing checks system limits, such as the number of players on the server in multiplayer titles, the number of sprites or triangles (polygons) on the screen, etc. Stress testing requires either a large group of testers or software that simulates heavy activity. Such testing measures the application’s ability to function properly under load.
Compliance testing is done before the game is submitted for approval to the specific entertainment software sales platforms (PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, Stream, Epic Games, etc.). This testing is carried out by specialized companies whose sole business is to thoroughly test entire products before they are handed over for a final “examination” by an owner on game platforms. Console platforms, for example, have strict technical requirements that must be met in order for a title to be licensed. Sony has a Technical Requirements Checklist (TRC), Microsoft has the Xbox Requirements (XR), and Nintendo has a set of “guidelines” (Lotcheck). Some of these requirements are highly technical and fall outside the scope of game testing. Others—most notably, the formatting of standard error messages and the handling of trademarks and copyrighted material—are the responsibility of game testers. Even a single violation during a license approval submission can result in the game being rejected by the console platform owner, which in turn incurs additional costs for further testing and resubmission.
Multiplayer testing may include a separate QA team for multiplayer if the game has significant multiplayer modes. In this testing, teams ensure that all connection methods (modem, LAN, Internet) work.
Types of bugs
Most companies rank errors according to an assessment of the strength of their impact on the relevant title.
- A) bugs are critical errors that could crash the game.
- B) bugs are significant issues that require attention, but the game is playable despite them.
- C) bugs are recommendations rather than actual errors.
How does the bug reporting process work?
- Identification: Incorrect program behavior is analyzed and identified as an error.
- Reporting: The bug is reported to developers using a defect tracking system. The circumstances surrounding the bug and steps to reproduce them are included in the report. Developers can request additional documentation, such as a real-time video of the error occurrence.
- Analysis: The developer responsible for the bug (artist, programmer, or game designer) investigates the malfunction. This is outside the scope of a game tester’s duties, although discrepancies in the report may require more information or evidence from the tester.
- Verification: After the developer fixes the problem, the tester verifies that the error no longer occurs. It may be that the developer does not report some of the issues as bugs. Some of the bugs can be ignored by the producers, game designers, or even the lead testers, according to the company policy.
In conclusion, we can confidently say that behind every game is a team of testers, responsible for the title’s ability to provide an exciting and fulfilling experience to the end users – the players.