So, you want to be a Game Tester? Or perhaps you are already one, but want to share your experiences and see others'? Game Testing is a perfect way of entering the Game Industry. Being "paid to play games" is every child's dream.
Celebrating #TestingTuesday I will post, each Tuesday, a guide about how to Test Games, with the hopes that I can help others like me get in this beatuiful business and expand their careers towards the path of their choice.
Who am I and why should you be taking advice from a random girl with a blog? Good questions! I currently work at a growing videogame studio called TeravisionGames as QA Lead, I've been in this role for most part of the past 2 years.
During my adventures in the videogame industry I've been a programmer, an associate producer, a tester and a QA Lead. I've tried to find information everywhere about Game Testing but it has been either too advanced or too specific, so I have come to develop a guide for our testers which has worked very well and has given them fairly quickly a critical-testing eye.
So stick with me and I'll open your eyes to the wonders of game testing.
Videogame testing is a very important part of the game development process, it is the component that analyzes whether the game is ready to be shipped or not. It provides the development process with a critical eye in a constant search for mistakes, incosistencies, gameplay coherence and feature completness. Game Testing is methodical attention to detail applied to finding mistakes and incoherences in a game.
Without game testers, there would be a high probability that the end user (a.k.a. Mr. Player) would find himself buying a copy of Shadow of Mordor with a crash starting the game which would make the game close and stop working before the player's frustrated eyes.
The process of videogame production can be compared to the process of constructing of a building.
First, we have the blueprints which are designed by architects and supevised by engineers, this first constuction phase can be compared to the Pre-Alpha, where the Game Designers build a Game Design Document (the blueprints of the game). Then everyone starts building the foundation, so that you can se the complete structure of the building, you know how tall is each floor, but you don't know what colors will the wall be, this is similar to the Alpha phase of the Game development process, in which you have a vertical slice of the game with the basic game mechanics, but you don't have every level of the game, or every character. After this the building may be completely built, appartments and all, but the final installations will surely be missing, there will be no doors, the kitchen may be halfway and everything is dirty, this is a Beta, a Beta is basically the most heavily testable game phase, in which all the features are in and some final polishing and debugging is in order. When the game is done and ready to be published it is called a Gold build.
As a tester, you need to know how to set up your testing environment to test the game in each of its stages, don't get ready to test final art in an Alpha release, instead focus on the mechanics (the rules of the game). You also need to set up your target platform(s): PS4, PS3, Nintendo, PC, Mac, Xbox, iPad, Samsung Galaxy S5, the list goes on and on. If a multiplayer testing is needed, you need to have the right amount of people, if a resolution testing is needed, you may need available resolution displays, and so on.
What Should I Test?
Considering that each game is unique and its testing phases may vary, the testing results ca be enclosed in four big categories (we will be talking about each one of these categories in upcoming posts):
Gameplay and Mechanics:In this category, we basically need to test that every game rule (mechanic) is correctly implemented, every enemy, every level, every control response or the difficulty (balancing).This includes every game behavior.
If Mario should jumo when the user presses A (a game mechanic for Super Mario Bros), does it jump when I press A? What if I press B? What if I press A and B at the same time? Are the rules well implementes? Does it have the correct amount of levels? Are the enemies well balanced? This is such a broad category that it naturally splits into several subcategories, we will be looking at this in much more detail in an upcoming #TestingTuesday
Art: Basically in this category we need to test every art-related item. Whether if it is Visual FX, 3D models, environment, 2D art, everything needs to be in the game, with the correct resolution, in the correct place, and everything must maintain a similar art style.
Are all the animations OK (not jumpy but fluid)? Is something or someone missing an animation? Are we having an excess of animations? Is the art coherent? Does it match the game IP? Are the 3D models within the correct triangle count? Are all the art assets in the correct resolution(s)?
Interface:Game systems are a constant communication between Game and Player, if player does one thing, game reacts in such way. Without this feedback, there would be no game at all, think of how unsatisfying it would be to kill an enemy and hit it multiple times and just watch him take the hits with no reaction, how would you know that you hurt him? The game is basically in need of an initerface. Interface is the language that we give to our game to talk to the player. Specially in consideration when testing Interface is the Heads-up display (HUD), all the elements that we need our game to show our player in a first plane (score, buttons, health...)
Are the buttons in the right size? Are the elements following the right hierarchy? Is the information show enough? Is the information showed too much? Do we need to add a pop up (for instance: No internet conection pop up).
Music and Sound FX:This category specifically relates to all in game music (such as environment music, songs that the character plays, character themes) and the SFX: Footsteps, explosions, gunshots, landing sound, wind sound, and so on.
Is all the music needed ingame? Are all the SFX needed implemented? Are there too much SFX? Do the music and SFX have the correct volume level? Is the music and SFX consistent with the IP?
Upcoming in the Next #TestingTuesday
We learned the basics about a Game Development Porcess and saw an overview of the Game Testing categories.
In the next #TestdayTuesday we will be seeing how we should test and report, different methods and process that will adapt to all games out there in any of their development phases and that will make our testing more efficient and our results more relevant.