Video games provide entertainment for all ages and have significantly evolved over the years. Pixelated screens, limited color palettes, simple sounds, and basic AI are now just memories. Video games become more realistic every day. Today, we have access to better screen quality, more computing power, better graphics processors, and more memory. As technology improves, so do video games.
Video games used to be much more straightforward. As the complexity arose, the cost of developing and launching a game did as well. AAA games spent between $60 and $80 million in the development of a video game; for example, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt cost $81 million to develop, Watch Dogs $68 million, and Gears of War 3, 60 million. The idea of spending that amount of money on creating a game was unthinkable just a few decades ago.
The gaming industry itself has grown massively; there are over 2 billion gamers worldwide and counting. Last year it generated 155 billion dollars in revenue, and it’s estimated that by 2025 the gaming industry will generate over 260 billion dollars.
Video games will surely take advantage of quality virtual reality right around the corner. Some games are really immersive, and this will only help to captivate the player even more.
With all these challenges, and the money that is continuously being spent on video games, testing video games has become more crucial than ever. Similar to testing other software products, the quicker an error is found, the easiest and cheapest it is to fix it. As a result, game testers are now involved through all development phases.
Testing video games should include:
- Good communication
- Detail-oriented mindset
- Technical skills
- Passion for gaming
- Good gaming skills
Even though the last two are not necessarily required to be a game tester, they help since some errors or bugs are only triggered under very specific circumstances that a ‘bad player’ might never encounter.
Game testers find bugs, game-breaking mechanics that might put the player off, bad gameplay, and other potential barriers to a good user experience. Any of these can be found in poorly designed games and could cause a significant problem with sales. At the end of the day, video game testers find problems. While QA Testers are dedicated to ensuring that the code or application works, a game tester is focused on ensuring that the game feels nice.
Software Testing in Video Games
Software bugs can cause many problems: freezing, corrupted files, miscalculated outcomes, getting stuck, etc. Software problems can be serious. Some kinds of problems might only be experienced under particular circumstances. That means that the tester must try the same operation repeatedly with a slight variation to verify different outcomes.
Hardware Testing in Video Games
Depending on the console, the tester might need to test different environments. Different hardware capacities might affect the game, and every supported platform should run smoothly. They also need to test different controllers, from combinations of buttons and triggers to controls ergonomics, ensuring that playing the game is comfortable for long periods.
IT might also include testing accessories, such as memory cards, headsets, VR sets, etc.
Testing gameplay is like editing a movie. Even though it might sound fun in theory, editing a movie is not actually “watching a movie”. Testers might get stuck testing the same area of the game for weeks or months. E.g., If you are testing a fighting game with six characters and they all can fight each other, that means that you need to test 36 scenarios, and in each scenario, you must take into consideration button combinations, receiving damage, etc. What if that game also has ten different maps? That means you need to test 360 scenarios. Gameplay testing is very repetitive and tedious. Some games are impossible to be tested entirely by the same person. So, usually, testers are given small parts of the game, and it’s their responsibility to test all possible combinations within that scope.
The tester must have the mind of a gamer. Gamers usually find ways to play the game that the developers never thought of, which often leads to strange bugs, glitches, and exploits. For example, in Fallout 4, players found a flying glitch that completely broke the game. It was never intended to be played like that, but users managed to fly by taking advantage of grabbing an object and moving it around while being on top of it, allowing the player to fly around. So why does this game-breaking glitch make it all the way to the live game? Simply because they never thought about it.
There are countless examples of these bugs types that the developers and testers never considered. This is why the testers must also be gamers.
There are examples where the game is too easy for the actual gamers simply because the game designers didn’t expect them to be that good. This can lead to the game becoming a flop because it doesn’t present a challenge.
In conclusion, testing video games can be tedious and repetitive, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun. Testers will be able to try creative ways to break the game, find imbalances that might not be a bug but could potentially ruin the end-user experience, all to ensure that the user will have a good time while playing the game and not get frustrated. Being a gamer or having a passion for games will help massively to test the game.