What’s it like to be a game tester

By Whyttest Team 1 year agoNo Comments

DEFINITIONS

Game Tester – the person who tests the pre-released games. He spots and reports issues, assuring the
quality of the final product.

Game Reviewer – the person who plays the game post-release, at home, and gives input and opinions
on the game’s features and playthrough.

The Quality Assurance Testing team is just like that person that comes through the door mid-project and
starts pointing out all the problems generated since the beginning. We do it for the greater good, not to
emphasize mistakes and flaws.

WHAT DO TESTERS DO AND WHY?

The activity of what a QA Tester is, is simple to define: testing, assuring quality in a game and ensuring playability. The Test Team plays a vital role in the development of a game, since they analyze the performance of a title and compare it to the creator’s ideal. They identify bugs and issues in software, such as: crashes, visual glitches, walkthrough blockers, performance spikes or suggest minor en-detail design changes.

The QA Team is responsible for the game’s quality upon release. The final product needs to become as bug-free as possible before going public, so the testers must find bugs and prioritize them for fixing, depending on how much each issue affects the overall functionality of the title or the playability, all while having a set deadline and suffering from design changes and in some isolated cases, lack of information.

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HOW DO TESTERS HANDLE A PROJECT?

In order to better explain the tasks and responsibilities of a QA tester, below can be found a generic project workflow.

The first version of the game that the QA team usually receives is called a First Playable Prototype. This is a skeleton of the game, with no level design, no art and no functional menus. It only contains major gameplay elements and the basis of the gameplay mechanics or features. In this phase, the testers give a functionality status over the controls and menu flow. The process can be very frustrating, since the game stability is the lowest at this point and the title can crash, become stuck or not even boot up properly. After having found 10 crashes per hour, the test team sends a report that contains the overall functionality status on all tested aspects.

In Alpha and Beta is where testers start creating documentation for their tests. This is the time filled with creating test plans, estimating timeframes for testing and risk assessment meetings. They test every little area of a game, replaying the same level multiple times to check if it completes correctly, if it has art bugs, if it can be broken or exploited.

During the final stage of a project, they test more in-depth, paying more attention to small bugs and spotting hindering or blocking issues from the first few hours of tests. This is the time where every mistake counts and even the smallest moment of not paying attention could cost the QA, development, production and publishers everything.

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WHAT ARE THE KEY QUALITIES OF A VIDEOGAMES TESTER?

First of all, a videogames tester must have a passion for games. Having knowledge of other games and playing them can give him a more precise overview of how the competition handled their projects and where improvement is needed. It also offers a great understanding of games general features, controls and even genre specific mechanisms.

Secondly, attention to detail is also a requirement, since testers spot and report even the smallest glitches. Moreover, analytical and methodical minds help understand procedures and find the root cause of issues. Persistency and patience are also some of the qualities the ideal tester has.

But not all testers present these qualities. Some of them are good team players, others can communicate better and find themselves the team’s problem solvers. Some testers have a good understanding of game development procedures and sprints, others know how all the elements of a title can contribute to the final gaming experience.

QA companies do not look for people that have all the qualities. They look for persons who can fill in the blanks and together, as a team, can gather all the beforementioned characteristics.

A game tester is someone who works for video games production companies. Passion about games, attention to details, and orientation towards QUALITY are some traits a good game tester must have. The perks of this domain are that you get to be among the first to play many games, use various new gadgets, combine passion for gaming with an actual job, start a career in a really interesting domain and work in a great environment, alongside people that share your interests.

Even though testing video games may seem easy at a first glance, it is in fact a complex process, that can start from a Pre-Alpha stage, dealing with a lot of crashes, where cinematics are sketches, low FPS, basically a lot of bugs that are logged using a Bug Management tool.

Bugs are Fixed from version to version, stage by stage until the game reaches the Final Stage and everything is implemented and works as designed.

Without testers, bugs and glitches would abound in games, possibly making them unplayable and destroying the reputation of the development studio and/or the publisher.

Testers are needed for every platform: PC, Consoles (Playstation, Xbox, Nintendo), Mobile and any genre: role playing games, massively multiplayer online games, action games, etc…

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WHERE CAN THE JOB TAKE YOU?

Working as a QA Tester can take a person two places: development or QA.

For the people who want to become developers, such as: Game Artist, Game Designer, Level Designer, Programmer, the QA Tester position is a starting one, to gain experience and get a clear overview of the development stages and procedures.

For the ones who want to stay in QA, the Game Tester position is one that can ramp a person up to a QA Team Leader or a QA Manager. As a Team Leader, one is responsible for the team’s coordination and results. They also handle the test planning and the risk assessments. Team Leaders are assigned to one project and one team only. As a QA Manager, one is responsible for the department’s coordination and results. QA Managers take care of their department – which can be Mobile, HD, VR, Software – and receives reports and input on all projects from the Team Leaders.

In conclusion, despite the world’s assumption that Game Testers are “paid to play games”, the QA team is just as important as the development and production teams. Thanks to these three departments, people play games and enjoy a smooth gaming experience.

Alexandra Staicu
Video Games Tester @ Whyttest
Categories:
  People, Testing
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