With quality assurance, there’s no one size fits all approach. You need to know what type of QA team is best suited for your project.
You sit down psyched for the new game. You've been anticipating it for months. You settle back in your chair. The world opens in front of you. Beautiful. Evocative. Your pulse quickens and then ... nothing. The game sends an error message.
Video games are becoming increasingly complex every day. The development cycle is longer, and the number of people involved in the project has increased. We've worked on games like Final Fantasy that have literally taken years to develop, across four continents, involving dozens of teams and hundreds of people.
How do you ensure quality control throughout the entire production process? How do you make sure that when the player plays, the game plays?
What does QA (quality assurance) do in game development?
QA is about finding inconsistencies, errors, or bugs in the game itself. A well-thought-out quality assurance service involves documenting, reproducing and reviewing these inconsistencies, along with structured test planning to assess your product for timely release. The QA team might not be the rock stars of video game development, but we can't think of a more important part of video game development. QA makes the game play.
What makes a good QA team?
The best QA development team loves video games and has experience building them. They understand how a game works. The experience of your QA team counts in creating a high-quality product.
A top QA team is passionate about details. They understand what's going on under the hood of the game engine, and they're comfortable speaking about it. They enjoy the hunt. They love finding flaws and suggesting ways to fix them. Communication skills are powerful for them. They know how to communicate with developers, designers, artists, producers, fellow testers, and publishers. And they know how to do it quickly and accurately. The QA process must deliver. The pressure is on.
There are many types of QA roles within a company. Some companies have one person responsible for testing all aspects of the game. Others may have several people working in specific areas. It depends on the size of your studio and your budget. Some companies take the best route and outsource to QA specialists. But ignore the QA process at your peril. Players don't return to a flawed game.
There are two major categories of QA: manual and automated.
Manual testing requires someone to test every aspect of the game. Playing through the game multiple times, recording their actions, and analyzing them later. Testing hundreds of permutations of functionality items along with complex edge cases.
Automation testing uses software quality assurance to automate most of this process. These tools record user interactions and analyze them later.
Your QA should include a combination of both. It's not only finding the flaws, but understanding how to fix them. This takes a rare combination of skills and experience. Pick your QA team carefully.
What are the top 4 skills for quality assurance specialist?
1. Ability to work in a team environment.
A QA specialist works with others to ensure the quality of the product being developed. It takes teamwork to track the detailed process. A QA specialist needs to collaborate with others and work independently, brings the two distinct parts of their work together in a comprehensive overview of the game.
Members of a QA team depend on the work of the other team members. You need a team that pulls together to ensure the best result. A multi-platform team works on multiple consoles and mobile devices, Xbox, PlayStation, PC, Switch, simultaneously. It's critical they work together as a cohesive unit to avoid redundancy and get efficient results.
2. Excellent communication skills.
Quality assurance specialists need to communicate effectively. Explains things clearly, so that everyone understands why something was done in a certain way. And they need to listen to ensure the best outcomes and produce a proper and thorough quality assurance report.
Game developers have put years into their game. They know every nook and cranny. The QA team listens and strives for the 1000-foot view. They need to spot the flaws in the game. Anyone involved in a protracted game development process knows sometimes, when you've been so deep in the work, you see things that are not there. Your mind skips them and fills in the details.
The QA team needs to understand the vision and design of a game, the goals, how the game was built, and then seek the flaws, the minor overlooked details.
3. Knowledge of technology and process
This is the heart of what makes a QA team stand out above the rest.
Quality assurance specialists need to be familiar with the technologies used to create video games. They understand how the game engine works, as well as how to use the tools available to them. And they must have solid workflows to move the complex process forward. Since the QA process often comes at the end of the development process, time is short and the budget is tight.
Design test plans, scenarios, script, or procedures. Documenting software defects using a bug tracking system. Reporting defects to software developers.
Analyzing and documenting problems with program functions, output, online screens, or content. Developing testing programs addressing areas such as database impact, software scenarios, regression tests, negative testing, error/bug retesting, or usability.
Your QA team is part of your development process.
Taking part in product design reviews to supply input on functional requirements, products, schedules, or potential problems. Documenting test procedures to ensure replicable and compliant with standards. Plan test schedules or strategies to meet project deadlines. Conduct software compatibility tests to ensure program functions work properly. Test system modifications to ensure proper functioning.
The QA team recommends fixes, but the recommendations aren't enough. The team needs to monitor bug resolution. Review documentation to make sure it’s accurate. Check for compliance to reduce risk.
Top publishers usually outsource the process. QA is not pulling a bunch of players off the street and having them play your game, giving a thumbs up or down. And the job doesn't end when the game launches.
The top performing QA teams update automated test scripts, as necessary. Creates and keeps databases to store known test defects. Installs and supports software testing tools to ensure correct operation. Talks to internal and external teams about the changes made to the game. Makes sure they keep the players up to date.
When you're looking for your quality assurance specialists, check out their experience in the field and how their application of that experience.
Critical thinking comes from having mastered a process and helps with the logic and reason needed to solve problems.
A top QA specialist knows how to write and what to write, offers incisive insight based on being in the trenches with game development. They can cut to the chase of an issue.
Operations analyses from hard won experiences quickly check the needs and requirements behind design concepts. Intuitive systems analysis figures out how a system should work and refers to rules and methods to resolve problems. Systems evaluation identifies measures or indicators of system performances and the actions needed to correct performance, compared to goals of the system.
Years of doing is how knowledge is learned. There's no substitute. The best QA teams embed in production companies and work hand in hand with the developers. The QA process doesn't have to be an afterthought. It can be an intricate part of the video game industry and the game development process.
Why do you need QA?
QA makes it easier for developers to test their games before release, so they can focus on making great games instead of testing them.
QA helps developers test their games before release, so they can ensure they fix bugs before players play.
QA provides video game developers with tools to test their games, like having a high-quality assurance department in your back room.
Quality is not an accident in video game development. It comes as the result of a long process. Quality assurance is testing and verification. Testing makes sure your games are bug free, and validation makes them perfect. Quality assurance is the foundation of excellence in video game development.
At Streamline, we've integrated Quality Assurance into the heart of our process. QA ensures we deliver the best integrated digital assets possible.