Getting The Bugs Out Of QA Might Mean Better Video Games

When a video game ships with lots of bugs, one excuse that gets thrown out is that it wasn't tested throughly enough. But what about the people who do the testing? Is there a way for them to get beyond filing bug reports and having a greater impact on development?

That's the question at the heart of an opinion piece at Gamasutra called "Let's talk about why QA sucks." Game Developer Magazine editor-in-chief Brandon Sheffield observes that quality assurance testing gets viewed as a means to an end, a stepping stone to design or production careers. But, really, he says, QA should be held up as being just as important as either one of those disciplines:

It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think the QA kids are scrubs, stop hiring scrubs. If you want people other than scrubs to apply, there needs to be a fundamentally different way of thinking about the entire department. If QA is thought of as a viable career path and a truly important part of game development, it won't be considered lower-tier and your games will get better, because creative people will be thinking about how to improve your games and processes.

At Valve, for instance, everyone has specialities, but everyone is a developer. Everyone plays the game all the time, and thus everyone is QA. That's not so bad, is it? How can we reach this level of integration in our own companies?

One of the remedies that Sheffield recommends is getting QA people who can actually help in the production and design aspects and actually retaining testers once a game ships. It's a good read with ideas worth considering in an age when bad reviews can kill a company's bonus.

Let's talk about why QA sucks [Gamasutra]

Image: maximino/Shutterstock.


Comments

    At my work, we're allowed to make suggestions to changes in the game if we feel there could be an improvement made. They're set as a pretty low priority though and often just get waived. But sometimes they'll make it through.

    "At Valve, for instance, everyone has specialities, but everyone is a developer. Everyone plays the game all the time, and thus everyone is QA. That’s not so bad, is it? How can we reach this level of integration in our own companies?"

    Simple; launch a games delivery platform that makes you tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars every year so you have the all the time in the world to fixate on the one game you release every 2-3 years.

    Cross-skilling is all well and good for making people better at finding issues with the software and making intelligent bug reports, but there is also an issue with the fact that QA can only hold a release back for a certain amount and with a certain amount of authority. The issues that get logged as a part of the testing process are most often thought of as an advisory that "If you release now, these are the issues we know about and this is how confident we are that there aren't any others." If the boss says to release it anyway, then QA has no power to stop it unless they can find a showstopper and even then, one that observes the Pareto principle (It's going to be seen by a large percentage of players).

    It's a balancing act, and QA are often the ones that get blamed for a poor game with bugs. Sometimes it's because they were just bad at QA, but it's also just as likely that these issues were found and reported but upper management decided to release anyway for whatever reason.

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