How QA Helps Build a Great User Experience
As game developers, we strive to create a smooth and enjoyable user experience for players. That’s where the importance of game testing and a solid Quality Assurance (QA) process comes into play.
The QA team is responsible for breaking down the game to its core and ensuring everything works as intended. This process helps developers detect technical glitches and bugs, and ensures that the user experience is up to par. Although it sounds simple, QA is time-consuming and sometimes tedious work essential to a great finished product. Testing a game requires performing tasks repeatedly, changing small variables, and analyzing the results. These results should turn out as predicted; if they do not, it falls on QA to report their findings to the appropriate team so that they can be corrected and tested again. This process can take several iterations and refinements before the feature performs as intended.
QA doesn’t quit at the release. We complete “smoke testing” before and after each update, as some things require us to operate in a live environment to ensure everything works as intended. Did that new feature break an old one? It shouldn’t, but sometimes it just happens. So when game updates go live, QA starts testing them immediately, sometimes at odd hours of the night, to make sure everything is still working right and that you get to play the very best iteration of the game.
There are several difficulties that QA testers face on a daily basis. Having solid parameters to follow and a clear definition of right and wrong when it comes to intent is a challenge. This means that a good QA person will know the project, the look and feel, and even the intended audience. Incomplete or poorly executed documentation, lack of context, or features that are not entirely flushed out in the design process pose a lot of different challenges to QA teams. Outcomes in these situations can weigh heavily on the judgment and experience of a QA specialist in how well they grasp the theme, design, or intended outcomes. A strength of the Blockstars team is that there are no problems regarding hierarchy when it comes to getting answers to any issues that arise. We are a dynamic team with a complex product, so things can and do change. The significant part here is that each member does whatever they can to ensure we have the tools we need or are available to walk us through the changes.
Another challenge QA faces is documenting issues for the appropriate audience. Many QA folks are not necessarily programmers or artists, so succinctly getting the point across to a particular group or individual can be challenging. In addition, it requires that you learn some basics from a multitude of disciplines. Every team has its jargon, and QA needs to be able to interpret it.
Ultimately, QA is a bridge between different groups. Our team also participates in our community, so we wear many hats. We get to learn about the game, and we get to hear what our players want from their experience. Having QA people who exist in both rooms means you, as the player, get a seat at the design table too! The entire impetus to go mobile came from feedback in our community. It’s exciting to be a part of a community-driven game development studio.
In the scheme of things, we break it before you do, so you don’t have to. And we help to build it back with your input. That’s why we do what we do. At Blockstars, we are committed to delivering a top-notch gaming experience that’s both fun and engaging. We believe that a solid QA process is critical to our success and the satisfaction of our players. Thank you for your continued support and for being a part of our community.
Erik Callaway | Community & QA Specialist | Blockstars