Video Game Testing: Questions and Answers

Discussion in 'Video Games and Technology' started by Lunar Archivist, May 13, 2009.

  1. Lunar Archivist

    Lunar Archivist Well-Known Member

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    I know that a lot of gamers have often wondered about what it would be like to play video games for a living. Well, that's where this thread comes in. :) 

    I've been working as a video game tester for the past few years, so I have some knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes. While I can't dish the dirt on up and coming titles due to confidentiality agreements, if there's anyone out there who has questions, post them here and I'll do my best to demystify the profession for you.
     
  2. OmegaScourge

    OmegaScourge Custom Made TFW2005 Supporter

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    1) Where do you play (Home, at the game studio, etc)

    2) Do you get to choose the games you want to play (ie, if you arent into said genre/game, you dont have to play it)

    3) How long do you play the games (a week, said hours, til your bored)

    4) how much input that you have given have been used?
     
  3. Recall

    Recall Player Select

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    I'm NOT a games tester but I've always heard this:

    1) at a specific part of the studio, a place of work with all the correct things set up

    2) you are told what to play, you may have a specific deadline

    3) you work you're contracted hours

    4) your job is to find bugs and make sure things work how they are intended, you have no say over changes unless its a change that is about debugging a certain aspect etc. You test a product.

    Thats how it was back in the SNES days with especially with the development of Donky Kong Country, which I've seen some interviews of with game testers during that period.

    I can see some of it being true though, working from home helps no-one so all working in the same location (on the same game) makes sense.
     
  4. Nexus Prime

    Nexus Prime Creation is proof.

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    Taking #4 into consideration, I assume many many games aren't even play tested. Or they just don't care enough to fix them.
     
  5. McBradders

    McBradders James Franco Club! Moderator

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    lulz hilarious.
     
  6. Prowl

    Prowl Well-Known Member

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    Gamestesting, while fun in work environment, isn't as simple or fun as it's cracked up to be. I narrowly missed testing a Barbie game (For reals) while working on PC Spiderman. And running into walls to make sure you don't fall through isn't glamorous :) 

    Gametesting, however, is a good way to start a path for growing into something else.

    as for #4), if the company has an open-minded team lead, a tester can definitely make suggestions. If a tester wants to make it as a designer, it's good to suggest things that might make the game more fun. But keep it in check, you don't want to come off as a knowitall either.
     
  7. Trailbreaker77

    Trailbreaker77 Veteran TFW2005 Supporter

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    Do you get overtime if you really like the game your testing and take it home with you?

    Do you fill out a form telling the designer about the glitch or just tell them about it?
     
  8. samtheman

    samtheman Well-Known Member

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    I would think it would be easier to just fix the major bugs and let the public test them. The public finds a bug and complains, and a patch is released the next month. Just how I'd imagine it works not how it actually works.
     
  9. McBradders

    McBradders James Franco Club! Moderator

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    "How long does bug X take to fix? How much does x time cost? Do we have x money in the budget? How flexible is our publisher?"

    That's the process.
     
  10. Prowl

    Prowl Well-Known Member

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    We filled out a RAID form and it would put it through the appropriate folks. It's all digital.
     
  11. samtheman

    samtheman Well-Known Member

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    Well there are still products that get released with bugs and that get fixed after release. It just seems it would save money my way.
     
  12. McBradders

    McBradders James Franco Club! Moderator

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    If you miss your ship date it costs way, way more than to keep a couple of guys around to make a patch afterward.

    Also shipping a buggy, broken game costs you in word of mouth, retailer returns etc.

    You weigh the costs of X against Y and make the call.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2009
  13. Lunar Archivist

    Lunar Archivist Well-Known Member

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    1. I play in the studio. For security (and obvious) reasons, the games never leave the studio. They're either uploaded to the company server or shipped express to us. All the copies are deleted or destroyed afterwards.

    2. You have absolutely zero say in what you test. You're given your assignment and it's your job to test the game, regardless of your personal dislike or hatred for any title, series, or genre. I've been stuck on everything from Destroy All Humans! 2, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, and Prince of Persia to Winx Club, Bratz, and multiple SpongeBob Squarepants and cell phone titles. :redface2: 

    3. It varies according to title. Usually, games are tested for between 3 and 5 rounds, with each round being progressively shorter. The logic is, of course, that most of the problems will be discovered right away and you will need less and less time to comb through it for problems during subsequent because there will be fewer issues.

    I should add here that I'm what's referred to as a localization tester. That's just a fancy way of saying that it's my job to go through the game and make sure everything's properly translated into the target language and there are no spelling mistakes, grammer issues, text overruns or cutoffs, etc. Testing the game mechanics is the job of functionality testers. They usually try and go through a game normally at first and then do everything in their power to try and break it by testing the limits of the software and doing things that normal players would be unlikely to do or even conceive of. This takes an extraordinary degree of skill, a kind of sixth sense for trying crazy new scenarios out, a good memory to be able to consistently reproduce ones that crash or glitch the game, and the ability to think outside the box sometimes.

    For localization testing, the first round can be anywhere from 3 days to two weeks in length. It all depends on what the client wants and how big the game is. Functionality testing requires more time and they usually get the games several weeks or months before we do to weed out the worst bugs and ensure that we localization testers have a stable enough build to work with.

    4. Well, the short answer to this is "the client is always right". Usually, we're given a bunch of general testing parameters to work with. Sometimes they want us to bug everything we can find, sometimes they want us to just concentrate on the in-game text and leave background elements alone. Our clients can be incredibly concerned about bringing out a quality product or completely indifferent. One former client of ours was so lazy that they purposely ignored collision problems that allowed the player to fall out of the game world, game-crashing bugs, and dismissed an error-laden confirmation message as "stylistic choice". (It was no such thing.) No wonder they went bankrupt.

    One client that went the extra mile was Konami when we were testing the game Steel Horizons, specifically in relation to a semi-trivial issue about one of the characters, a Nazi defector named Hartwig. When you first meet him, he's been stuck on the desert island where his plane crashed for a while, so his character portrait depicts him as unshaven, unkempt, and wearing a dirty shirt. A few chapters later, the game skips ahead by a few years, by which time he's become a loyal and trusted member of the submarine crew...yet he's still looks the same as he did when you picked him up off the island. One of the testers entered this semi-sarcastic bug where he eloquently debated the logic of this, and Konami actually created a new character portrait of him all cleaned up. :) 

    You're pretty much spot on about pretty much everything, actually. Unfortunately, seating arrangements sometimes force the team to separate, in which case you have to stay in contact via a constant stream of e-mails. Also, you enter bugs and issues into a database. Each one has a title, a summary, a description of the problem, a list of steps on how to reproduce it, and other details, such as suggested fixes, the names of text strings, etc.

    Also, there are rare occasions when you're sent on a "hit squad" and are sent to the game rather than have the game sent to you. I was actually sent to Yokohama, Japan to test WWE Smackdown vs. RAW 2008 two years ago. It ended up being a pretty grueling work schedule - 10 to 12 hour days, 6 days a week for a month - but it was also a cool opportunity to see the world. :) 

    As for the changes...you actually do have a say. In the beginning, you can pretty much ask them to change anything and they usually are willing to. Their willingness to accommodate you, however, decreases the further along testing is, though. The reasons are obvious: making massive changes to later builds could destabilize the whole thing and potentially delay release dates or screw up coding. Sometime you have to just grit your teeth and leave a spelling mistake or untranslated graphic in rather that risk hopelessly messing up the game.

    Unfortunately, no overtime unless the client requests it. You operate under strict schedules. The client pays for every minute of testing and they have the final say about when things start and stop and how long it goes on for.

    As mentioned above, you need to write up bugs and enter them databases. Bugs are written in English and have the following general format:

    • Summary of the issue
    • Categorization (spelling mistake, grammar issue, text cutoff, text overrun, missing graphics, "show stoppers"/game crashers, etc.)
    • Severity (A class would be an extremely serious bug that is detrimental to gameplay, B class would be something that's annoying and detracts from a player's enjoyment but doesn't make the game impossible to use, C class is minor or trivial, and S class is related to standards, trademarks, and official terminology)
    • Other useful information (reproducibility, frequency of occurrence, location, build number, etc.)
    • A summary of the issue
    • A suggested fix for the issue
    • Various notes (such as comments, string IDs, text file name, cell numbers if the strings are organized in an Excel file, etc.)
    • Detailed steps on how to reproduce the bug

    Basically, game testing involves a lot of writing and filling out of forms. You also have to have some gracefulness with language and the ability to write comprehensibly without making too many spelling mistakes. It might not seem like something you'd need, but even the best bugs are worthless if you can't explain how you triggered them and what they are. :) 

    Another (not-so-)surprising thing is that game companies are extremely anal when it comes to the names of their consoles, products, peripherals, and user actions. Take Sony, for example. If the PlayStation 2 is not referred to as either PS2 or PlayStation®2 (with the little registered trademark symbol) throughout a given title, the game may fail submission. In a related vein, the name of Nintendo latest console must ALWAYS be written as "Wii" (one upper case "W" and two lower case "i"s with dots)...even if the game uses an all caps font or one which doesn't normally have those characters.
     
  14. Shin-Gouki

    Shin-Gouki Rebuilding Veteran

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    I do some Hardware testing for different companies. I just finished a test for X-Arcade last week.
     

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