An Introduction to Quality Assurance Testing in Video Games
Around 3.2 billion people around the world play video games on different platforms, such as PC, console, and mobile devices. There are also many different game genres, such as first-person shooters, real-time strategy, racing, platformers, etc., giving every player a large selection to choose the platform and games that theywant to play. As varied as they are, games have one thing in common: glitches and bugs make them less fun.
In recent years, we have seen several examples of ground-breaking video games that were meant to change how we perceive video games, blurring the lines between what we know and what we consider to be possible, struggle on release due to poor functional performance. This has happened in incredible single player narrative experiences that rival best-selling novels and explosive multiplayer behemoths that could show a thing or two to the biggest blockbuster movies to bite-sized indie adventures that will leave you contemplating existence for the next few months—no game is immune from these bugs and glitches.
So, how do developers and publishers tackle these issues? The simple answer is Quality Assurance, but there is a lot more that goes into it than it seems. We’ll briefly explore the main types of QA that games go through (or at least, they should go through).
#1 Functional QA
A functional QA team is responsible forfinding functional bugs that will affect the user experience. When they find bugs, they can report them to the development team. Itcan be agrueling process,as the testers need to explore and ensure all game elements (such as gameplay features, menus, audio, inventory systems, etc.) and every single inch of the map are tested to ensure everything works as intended.
Players often assume that testing a game consists of playing the game and reporting what’s seen. While this is true, in reality, game testers also need to think outside the box, and use their experience in testing and understanding of video games to find complex or less common issues. This can equate to trying to find ways to access off-limits areas in the map to making sure that a healing item’s effects match their description.
Once an issue is spotted, the test team will create a bug report, which contains all the information needed by the development team to find and fix the issue. A bug report includesthe incorrect behavior, a suggestion for the correct behavior, how to trigger the issue, additional notes,and reference material (screenshots, videos, game logs, etc.).
However, no matter how much a game is tested, it’s not possible to find 100% of bugs,sincegames are incredibly complicated pieces of software that can receive an infinite number of inputs from a player, who are sometimes quite inventive with new ways to test a game’s boundaries.
The recognized purpose of QA in general is not to find all bugs, but to reach a point where the game’s functional health is at a satisfactory level, which is often set by the production and development teams.
#2 Localization QA
A localization QA team focuses on the linguistic aspectsof the game by testing all translated text, audio,andart assets. Like functional QA, their goal is to ensure that all these elements work as expected to ensure agreat experience for all users in all languages.
Most localization text issues can be categorized as either linguistic or non-linguistic.
1. A linguistic issue occurs when the cause of the problem is the actual translation, such as grammar or spelling mistakes, typos, mistranslations, term inconsistencies, contextual problems, and even missing translations.
These issues can be fixed by either the test team, a linguistor the development team, as the most common fix is an update to the files containing the text used by the game. The files, which contain an identifier (which the game uses to know what string to display in a specific part of the screen), the original language, and the translated language(s). They can contain other fields, such as context, speaker name, etc. Each of these groupings are commonly called a string.
2. Non-linguistic issues are a bit more complicated in nature, as the cause of the issue is not as much related to the translation, but how the game handles the translated text. These are issues that the localization QA team cannot fix on their end and require attention from the developer, and as such, they need to be reported as bugs. Similar to a functional bug, a localization bug will contain all the relevant information, plus the results for each language affected by the issue.
Localization issues aren’t always straightforward. For example, seeing English text in-game can be either a linguistic issue due to a missing translation or a non-linguistic issue caused by incorrect handling of the string.The localization team needs to figure out which type of bug they’re dealing with, most likely by looking at the contents of the text file, so they can proceed accordingly, either by adding/requesting a translation or creating a bug report flagging the issue.
Some developers also choose to include other localized assets, such as voice overs (dialogues, combat barks, etc.) and art assets (graphics, signs, etc.), which also need to be thoroughly tested. When testingdialogues, the QA test team must ensure that the audio lines are not only accurate but that also sound natural in the context.
Localization QA is a very important aspect of the QA process, as it ensures that all users can enjoy the title the way the developer intended. Having poor localization is similar to having poor functionality, as it will break user immersion and in some cases, even create confusionand frustration.
#3 Certification QA
Before a game is releasedon console, each console manufacturer must give their seal of approvalfor its release. They do this by evaluating and testing the title during the certification process, which consists inperforming extensive testing on all game features to ensure that they meet all requirements that have been established. This can go from how the game reacts to disconnecting a controller (e.g.,prompting the user to connect a controller) or changing the audio output (e.g., plugging a headset to the controller).
A certification QA team ensures that the title is ready for this process by following the dozens upon dozens of test cases per platform, which have varying degrees of complexity, and marking their progress with pass or fail. They report the failed test cases to thedevelopment team. Unlike functional or localization bugs, certification bugs are always of the highest severity and priority for any development team, as they can cause the game to fail the certification process, which means the game will not be allowed to release in a platform in its current state. Failing certification can be an expensive endeavor, as not onlyare there re-submission fees, but it may also have an impact on marketing or even cause the game to miss a product launch window.
#4 Compatibility QA
While developing a game for PC or mobile devices, developers must consider the vast number of PC configurations (processor, GPU, etc.) and devices that exist, especially in the markets they’re targeting to make sure that as many of these devices and configurations can run the game with no issues. They do this by first defining the type of devices they want the game to support and then optimizing the game for those devices. Part of the optimization process involves the QA team, where theytest the game using these devices or PC configurations, measuring the game’s performance in general,or by comparing it against minimum standards defined by the development team.
The QA team may also provide detailed feedback on the devices they test, so the development team can make an informed decision on how to spread the workload for each type of device, and in some cases, to focus or drop a specific type of device or configuration. This is how developers reach their minimum and recommended settings for games on PC and decide which mobile devices will support their game.
User Experience (UX) Research
During the development process, the game’s production team might want to receive unbiased feedback on their game to make adjustments to gameplay or other features, ensuring players experience the game as intended, which is where UX research team comes in.
Although there are different ways to approach a playtest, the process is usually started by the UX team working along the game production or development team to define the objective of the playtest, so that tests can be designed accordingly. The playtest team also needs to be built to specification, usually by meeting different criteria, such as age, gender, occupation, and even level of experience in the title/genre in question.
Once the tests are designed, the players’ behavior is recorded during playtesting, which the UX team will analyze to provide relevant data to the development team.There are several approaches to this type of research, such as one-on-one interviews, round-table discussions, questionnaires, and even observational analysis.
After the playtest, the UX research team will analyze the data and present the results as required. For example, they might provide an in-depth analysis or statistical charts, among other types of results. The production team will then use this data to make any necessary changes, usually going over more UX research until the desired results are achieved.
Our QA Testing in Games
All these QA testing capabilities are available through TransPerfect Gaming Solutions, we are here to help support your global game needs, around testing, quality assurance and other services.
To learn more about TransPerfect’s quality assurance for games, reach out to us at https://www.transperfect.com/gaming/contact