Editor's nook...

  Testing, 1.. 2.. 3

  Iíve assembled some advice from my friend, Shang-Ju Chen, on how to be a really great game tester.

  I met Shang-Ju at this yearís Game Developers Conference. She was working as a Volunteer. If you live near San Jose and have free time during the days, you should think about volunteering to work at GDC. Sure, itís a lot of work, but itís totally worth the effort because you have the opportunity to meet so many people. Heck, I know somebody who takes unpaid vacation just to work GDC every year.

  Chances are, the other Volunteers youíd meet will be game testers too, but in this industry, most game testers move into other positions. Most people donít think of game testing, or quality assurance, as a career goal. But when a few people get breaks and become game designers in a big company, itís just like the film industry...  People have a tendency to bring their circle of friends up with them because those are the people they want to work with. Last I heard, Shang-Ju is no longer a game tester at LucasArts.

  Shang-Ju says that game testing can be a glorious and fun job, but you have to love games. And love playing them over and over again, because thatís just what game testing is about. Anyway, hereís her advice, and itís pretty much verbatim since she basically covers it all.

To Be a Really Great Game Tester:

  1. You need to follow instructions.
      When told to do something, do it! When given a test plan, follow what's on there and perform the test.
  2. You need to communicate effectively with your co-workers.
      This includes:
       a) Being able to ask questions about what to do.
       b) Being able to talk about the bugs that you are writing about or seeing.
       c) Being able to have a discussion in general about the game or part that you are assigned to test.
  3. You need good writing skills.
      This is also part of communicating effectively. You will write up bugs and enter them into a bug base. If you can't describe what you are seeing, that's no good.
  4. You need to be innovative!
      This does not always mean trying to get the game to crash or playing the game in the most obscure way. Just follow the good sense of what a person might do in a game. When you figure out all the different possibilities of how to do something, thatís good testing.
  5. You need to make useful suggestions.
      The project group will ask you for your gameplay opinion aside from the functionality, graphics or sound bugs. When testing the game, write up your suggestion in a way that would help to improve the game.
      eg. Don't comment that the weapon sucks!
      Say specifically how or what kinds of weapon would most suit the game. Maybe itís the interface or the look that needs improvement. Maybe you think it should look more realistic or more cartoonish. Think over the whole of the game when making the suggestion and donít be shortsighted by one element or personal preference.
  6. You need to be patient!

  Be prepared to see the game again and again at various stages (i.e. alpha, beta, and final) before it is gone (done, over, finished). At every stage, you will be asked to look at different things:

Alpha: Suggestions on gameplay; a little bit on the look and feel of the game.

Beta:  Are the features working? Suggestions to add/modify features or take out unnecessary features that just aren't working well; concentrate on gameplay, AI, sound, graphics, and text bugs.

Final: Is the game done? Any last minute bugs and crashes.

  After spending many long hours as a game tester, Shang-Ju just wanted to let everyone know:  ďNext time, when you buy a game, donít look at the graphics and think of the artists and donít play the game and think about the programmers or game designers -- Think about the testers and thank them all very much for making the game a good experience for everyone else out there!Ē

  Have fun!

Sandelistening to Breather

  


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