Game Development & Testing: Complete Guide

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Most video game testing programs/jobs that you find online are scams; you just cannot hope to build a career in gaming by simply signing up with a program. Can you? Here, we’ll help you find the right video game testing jobs, and other ways to make money by playing games.

Developing a game is like any software development project, although the end product in gaming is much more exciting to use. So technical skills are indeed important, irrespective of the gaming-related job you’re applying for.

These technical skills will indeed help you prove to your prospective employers that you have specific skills they need. Master the technical skills and you’ll definitely be rewarded in the gaming industry.

Video Game Development: The Build Process

Video Game Development: How Does the Build Process Work?Understanding Video Game Development: Here’s how the build process works…Here are the various phases through which any game development progresses; could be useful to know for your interview as well.

Development Phases
Most games (similar to software development) goes through analysis/inception phase, development phase and the testing phase.

Game development and roll-out can be a lengthy process with the project spanning months (and even years), with testing taking about 1/3rd of the total project duration (towards the end).

The First Builds
The first builds of a game are usually done to check if the game compiles properly (pre-alpha stage) to make sure that the game is at least playable.

Once those initial builds are successfully completed, the game goes into Alpha testing where game testers start the process of testing it formally and documenting/tracking the bugs as they find them.

Depending on the size/complexity of the game, Alpha testing can last a few weeks or a few months. The goal of this testing phase is to ensure that the build/system is stable while playing.

Entering the Beta Phase
Once all the major bugs/crashes are sorted out, the build goes into beta testing. Here, all sorts of bugs ranging from smaller bugs, annoying problems to major balance issues in the game are uncovered.

Most of the bugs uncovered during this stage are usually those that don’t break the game, but are incredibly disruptive or annoying for the player.

If the project is huge and is a multi-player game, external testers may also be hired (for the beta testing) to replicate a real-life game-playing scenario.

Releasing the Game
Beta testing usually continues till all the bugs are sorted out. Some games require thousands of builds before they are considered ready for final consumer play. Even after this, the testing goes through QA (Quality Assurance) where more attempts (using special scripts) are made to break the game. If the game successfully passes QA, it’s time for the video game to be released to the public.

That’s how the build process works in most video game development. Hope that was helpful!

Working as a Game Tester

For very Obvious reasons, the job description of a video game tester sounds way too exciting for almost all youngsters. But then doesn’t it sound too good to be true?

If you do some online search on “video game testing jobs”, you’ll come across several websites that promise assignments on unreleased video games with great pay as well. Most of them are crappy sites, some are sort of agents who promise to find you work, but some of them are really genuine who offer relevant jobs in this area.

game apps lab

Gaming Platforms That You May Have to Test On As a Tester

Games can now be played on various platforms. Users nowadays have access to PC based Games, console based games and mobiles/devices based games.

So as a video game tester, besides doing functionality testing, play/logic testing, checking for rule adherence, single/multiplayer testing, you should also be aware of the various gaming platforms so that you can effectively do other types of testing, such as compatibility testing, configuration testing and performance testing.

Most experienced video game testers are well-versed with the following platforms, and can provide their game testing services on these platforms:

  1. Desktop/PC – Standalone versions as well as smart client based games
  2. Web based – Browser/applet based casual games, flash games
  3. Handheld/Mobile based – Windows Mobile, Symbian Mobile OS, Brew & Blackberry devices, Palm OS, iphone games
  4. Interactive TV – IPTV and Open TV based games, Educational games, Interactive games

How Does QA Work in the Gaming Industry?

How Does QA Work in the Gaming Industry?Developing a computer game involves different kind of people on the project – artists, storytellers, technologists and testers. Here we’ll understand the role of the QA tester.

Quality Assurance (QA) is basically a process to ensure that a product is free from defects before it reaches the customer. A QA tester helps in this process by finding all the glitches, mistakes, bugs with the product before it is released.

So how does QA work in the Gaming Industry?

For most video games, there are the various phases of testing that the product goes through:

  1. Alpha stage to make sure the product is at least playable (done internally)
  2. More testing cycles to find major bugs
  3. Beta stage (may involve external testers) to catch smaller bugs, test multiuser capability and to check the game for full playthrough
  4. Final QA phase to make sure the product looks free from smaller bugs and quality issues

After the Quality Assurance stage, the game goes live and is shipped to consumers.

Testing in the QA Stage
By this time most of the major bugs are already sorted out and one expects to find out only minor issues in this stage, probably that’s why most game testers find the QA stage bit frustrating.

That is another reason only skilled testers are deployed in the QA stage, so that they can thoroughly check the product one last time before it is released to the outside world.

Types of QA Testing
In the QA stage, usually testers do either Static or Ad Hoc testing.

Static Testing: In this case, you only check certain modules or sections, and follow specific directions decided by the developers and/or lead testers.

This is the more common form of QA testing where you focus only on the important/complex sections for problems.

Ad hoc Testing: As the name suggests, you test it your way and try to break it. By now you would have a good idea of how the game is supposed to work, so your job will be to break it first before the outside world finds about it.

QA testing is the final and a vital stage for any project, including game development. It allows the publisher of the game to have a last good look at the product and get rid of any last minute bug that can have a negative impact on the image of the game (if its found out by the public after its launched). Obviously, its the most tedious and stressful stage of game development, usually handled by senior QA testers.

How to Write / Maintain Bug Report as a Video Game Tester

How to write & maintain a bug report As a Video Game Tester, you’ll need to document the bugs that you find out (along with some more details) so that the bugs can be reproduced by the developers and fixed. Here’s how to write (and maintain) the bug report as a Video Game Tester.

Documenting a Bug
As a video game tester, though you might get to play a lot of games, your goal is really to find bugs rather than have fun with it.

So basically, most of your time in this job will go in documenting the bugs that you’ve discovered. You’ll need to write technical reports (with screenshots if applicable) that clearly outline the bugs in the game.

You must clearly specify the problem, outline the sequence of steps that made it occur, and under what circumstances.

Anybody who reads the report should be able to reproduce the scenario/bug!

When To Document the Bug
Bug reports are written throughout the development cycle, whenever you are completing test case/s.

While you must follow the checklist provided in a test case, if you do encounter a bug, you’re ideally supposed to focus completely on the bug (what causes it, how to recreate it, and what it does to the game), before moving on to the next test case. This step has to be given priority irrespective of whether its the alpha, beta, or QA stage.

The bug report is usually read by a lot of people in the project team (leads, managers, directors), but it will be especially useful to the programmers who can quickly identify & fix the problem (based on the description provided).

How to Write a Bug Report
The Bug report should capture some vital information regarding the bug that is uncovered.

  • Title: This is more of a one-liner that describes what/where the problem occurs.
  • Description: Provide the exact steps, from start to finish, required to generate that bug.
  • Classification: What type of bug is it – something related to the look and feel, wrong calculation, performance relates, and so on.
  • Priority/Impact – This is something you may not be able to decide on your own, but will be updated later during the team meeting. It basically means who does this bug impact the game (its severity).

This is how a video game tester can write and maintain the bug report.

Game Testing Methodology

Game Testing Methodology / ProcessMost companies (with expertise in testing of games) have a methodology/process in place to thoroughly test video games.

They have testers who understand both the technical as well as the playability aspects (including rules) of the games.

Their job is to test gaming applications and report technical bugs (usually documented in such a way that it can be reproduced – steps, screen shots, etc).

They test various aspects of the game, such as:

  • Usability (including art and animation effects)
  • Various character attributes
  • Testing of sound and synchronization, and more.

Detailed testing approach would include testing for the following:

  1. Game Engine Testing: Game Rules, Game Play, Game Logic
  2. Random Number Generation: Pattern, Randomization, Game Rule Adherence
  3. Compatibility & Usability Testing: Browser Compatibility, Operating System Compatibility, Device Compatibility
  4. Performance Testing: Multiplayer games, Tournament based performance, Client performance

Most Common Myths About Game Testing Alpha testing in the game industry – the first true version of the game that can be “played” (but not yet released).

A lot of people show interest every year in becoming official game testers – to be on the payroll of major developers around the globe. However, what exactly will you be doing when you get that job?

First Operational Build
Once months (and even years at times) of development is completed, the developers put together an operational build that can be played and subsequently tested. Its the phase where the developers think they have completed all the development work and want the product to be tested independently.

The testers in this phase (known as ‘Alpha’ testing), however, are not just looking for tiny little bugs that might annoy gamers. Their objective is to find as many major bugs as possible, especially the kind that can potentially crash or break the game.

Test to Crash
Alpha testing is like crashing a car in as many ways as possible, so that you can further enhance the safety features, which means pushing the product to its limits. You use test parameters that can cause fatal errors and failures in the software, and potentially break the game.

Your job as an alpha tester will be to play the game with an intense focus on bugs that will cause fatal errors and failures in the software. If it completely shuts down, crashes the hardware or worse yet, causes actual damage to the hardware, you’ll be the star performer that day. Do that often, and you’ll soon be a popular person in the team!

Track the Bugs/Issues
But then you just don’t have to catch & report the bug, you also have to document it properly and may also have to recreate the bug and show it to the developers so that they can identify the root cause of the problem and fix it.

During this testing phase, the lead gaming tester develops a bug database for issues that plague the new game. That database is updated whenever a new bug is found and whenever a fix is provided by the game’s programmers.

How to Be an Alpha Tester
While beta testing is occasionally made public, almost all the time, alpha testing is done in house. Hired employees are used to test the game in its infancy, so that the programmers can better interact with the testers and understand how the bugs were found. Besides, there are very specific requirements for how the game should be tested & what you should look for.

So, to become an Alpha tester, you must develop credentials that can get you into the gaming industry. It means learning & getting trained in game testing on your own, and also (not necessarily though) requiring a degree in programming or game development. It seems like a lot of work, but for those looking to land a dream job in game testing, this can be a good stepping stone and it’s very doable with the right attitude.

Why & How of Beta Testing in the Game Industry
Now lets take a look at Beta Testing and how it could help you get a break in the Game Industry.

If you’ve ever worked for a software development firm, you may have heard about this term. Every project has a testing phase where the product is thoroughly evaluated to check if it meets all the requirements and works as expected.

Beta testing is the phase (incredibly close to launch of the game) where the game is tested to find all sorts of bugs that can hinder the gaming experience of the user.

Types of Beta Testing
Based on whether the testing is done by the employees (smaller group) or done by a large number of external testers, Beta Testing could be ‘internal’ or ‘open’.

Usually, a number of internal beta tests are conducted by people working on the project itself, to get rid of bugs so that the product doesn’t come across as a badly designed/developed product.

Open beta testing is usually done for large multi-player games, where its important to simulate a real-case scenario, so you need more people to test it. Open beta also provide developers the opportunity to better tweak the game balance issues, so that the characters are well suited to face each other.

How’s Open Beta Testing Conducted
Most of the time, open beta testers are paid to check for bugs. Are you thinking that these guys are lucky because they get paid just to have fun?

Remember, they have to follow several criteria and at times it can really feel like a chore, than fun. The game is broken down into several smaller parts to ensure nothing is missed out when testing.

Huge games have so much content that hundreds of outsiders are required to beta test the system to make sure its working fine and all bugs are uncovered.

How to Get Into Beta Testing
Usually, open beta tests are quite common for online RPGs (roleplaying games) such as World of Warcraft; these can potentially have hundreds of bugs before the game launch.

Console betas, even though they exist, are rarer compared to online games.

So how easy is it to get into Open beta testing?

There’s an application process and players are usually chosen based on parameters such as configuration of their computer system, geographic location, or through random lottery.

What Technical Skills Do You Need to Get An Advantage in the Gaming Industry

You know by now that its comparatively easier to get started as a game tester in the gaming industry. But then what are the technical skills that will give you an advantage over others in the gaming industry, if you take a long-term view?

There are several positions up for grabs within the gaming industry, some of them do require very specific experience, However, the following general skillsets will always help your in your career within this industry, and also make you a desirable candidate for several game-related jobs.

  1. Technical Writing
    This is something that you’ll learn on your job as well, if you get started as a tester.

    But then, almost everybody working on gaming projects are expected to be familiar with writing detailed reports that outline what they have done.

    Test cases are usually written by testers (with help from programmers after understanding the objective), testers have to submit bug reports, builds have to be documented to ensure the right information is accessible to all parties.

    To make sure a project runs smoothly, all the inputs have to be recorded and communicated clearly.

  2. Data Entry and Processing
    Probably, one of the more boring tasks, but absolutely essential. Data involves a lot of things on projects; it means test data, test cases, bug reports, and many such things.

    As you can imagine, speed and accuracy is important here.

    Though programming, design, or testing, may seem more exciting, this is an important part of any project, since a lot of data will need to be input as well as retrieved on a regular basis.

  3. Math and Logic
    This is important, be it testing or programming or animation. After all, the thousands of lines of code behind any game, deals with logic.

    Thinking logically will help you better solve problems and also make you think of newer ways to do things in a game.

  4. Programming Skills
    If you’re a programmer you have to know programming. But if you’re not, your knowledge of programming will come in handy if you intend to become a programmer some day, and even to get jobs in game testing or animation.

    In some companies, the more experienced testers do ‘white box’ testing to determine the root cause of a bug in the game. In such cases, programming knowledge definitely helps you to do your job better.

Keep Honing Your Skills

If you want to take advantage of the opportunity provided by testing, start playing games more frequently and do it not just for fun. Take notes of what you see in the game, what could be better, and so on so that you’re ready to showcase your talents when required.

To be able to hone your skills with games, you need to have access to a good gaming computer. There are several brands that build and/or design high-end gaming gear, and you can usually assume that they also produce high-end gaming machines.

When looking for one for your needs, you actually need a gaming machine that has superb graphics capabilities. A dedicated graphics card (GPU) is an absolute must to have better gaming experience; anything that is labeled “integrated graphics” should be avoided.

Laptop, though convenient, can be difficult to upgrade, so make sure you buy one with the right configurations. If you buy a laptop with a mediocre graphics card, then you may not be able to tweak it to play the latest games. So make sure you buy one that is suited for game playing.

Remember, it may look glamorous from a distance but actually is hard-work with lots of small detail-oriented tests. However, it will be a good experience and help you get that much needed break in the gaming industry. So start applying now for all those tester positions.