Game Testing: Emerging Trends and QA Role
We`ve been hearing a lot about the emerging violence in video games and their contribution to children’s aggressive behavior, poor social skills, physical and mental damage. In 2014, the American Psychological Association posted research proving video games (including shooters) can be powerful boosters of socialization and brain development. Experts at the APA suggest a good game would strengthen cognitive skills: memory, reasoning, spatial navigation, and three-dimensional object perception.
Opinions differ, but what are the technical aspects that make a good game today? And what is the role of QA engineer in the process of creating a high-quality product for this billion-dollar industry?
Deviations in functionality have an unfavorable impact on end-user experience. System crashing, progression blocks, or game freezing are the defects for a tester to keep in mind while checking the software. They evaluate the entire game map. Often, video game testers detect issues with audio, visuals, and graphical inconsistencies as a part of functionality tests. This is a thorough process where the QA engineers drive through the whole game again and again to find new defects in the environments. So, they keep track on the interface: search for missing colors, animation clippings, textual errors. At the same time, perfect game functionality is in its mood and style correspondence, and this is one more aspect for the testers to check.
Stunning User Interface
“Know your user” – that`s how a fundamental rule sounds. Usability is an everlasting common mission for any game, and QA experts must have a wide picture of a particular fan club or playing audience. Once the target audience is identified, it becomes easier to find the aspects consistent with the user. In a traditional application, navigation is almost the same, features and options locate in similar places. By contrast, games are bound to provide a variety of emotional experiences and include mechanisms that keep player`s interest.
“End-user fit” is another commandment for UI testing. While an app is expected to complete the tasks easily, player`s requirements differ. Imagine a game where your character tosses the ball and hits it. Several trials later, you win. It seems usable yet very boring. So, along with the simplicity, a professional game tester might recommend to make it more challenging for an end-user to continue playing.
Some of the user interface tests are also busy with game speed, critical paths, camera angles mismatch, game status, visuals, and training mode.
Imagine a large game tournament: a lot of people, playing at the same time, several hours long. The participants compete in gaming skills, concept knowledge, strategic thinking, etc. The last thing they care about is the computational load of a game; high-level flow goes without saying. If a game hangs up at the different spots each time, game championship fails, users get upset. Doing performance check, online game testers usually measure loading time at start and during the play. They also focus on speed making sure the user spends minimum time to complete each aspect of a game. The on-going game should run smoothly, and uninterrupted loading time is the first crucial point to check.
Widely known action-role RPGs require a bit different approach in testing, especially when it comes to Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) types. A defining characteristic of such game type is involving hundreds of players interacting at the same time, sharing the same space and objectives; the action takes place in real-time. The results depend on player`skills, speed, accuracy, or character attributes. That means hundreds of people interact with game servers and might critically overload the system. Multiplayer testing requires a team of QA engineers to find and test risky situations when playing simultaneously.
What`s New in Gaming Industry?
Newzoo, a market data analyst and researcher, has counted annual revenues per segment 2012-2021 in the gaming industry. In 2012, the rate reached $70,68Bn, and the number is expected to grow to $151.98Bn in 2019. The statistics assume that the rapid development of the gaming sector goes global. That means the industry absorbs an ongoing demand for innovations, design, and simplicity at the same time. These are some of the emerging trends that will transform the gaming we know today.
The constant growth of hardware and software combinations give optimistic predictions for the global game industry. Newzoo estimates that mobile games covered 51% of the total in 2018 and the numbers will have reached 59% of the market by 2021. As per Newzoo analysis, there are about 2.3 billion gamers in the world. So, mobile games generated nearly $70.3Bn in revenue last year.
What does it mean for QA?
It seems like game manufacturers should invest in the games playable on the most popular gadgets to reach revenue growth. And here the need for compatibility tests comes on the stage. Apart from laptops and PCs, smartphones, communicators, game consoles are the new playing platforms to undergo testing. The development process is conducted in the test systems of these devices. Therefore, a server crash is a frequent issue when trying to run a game on each gadget separately.
Here is a short checklist of game QA for mobile version:
- Image recognition. It is performed via a test automation setting or open source tools. Here testers analyze graphics, screen content, and its proper display on a mobile device.
- Gaming Experience and Use. Along with a PC version, a mobile game should also demonstrate smooth navigation flow, convenient interface, and lead to the positive user experience. Device testing is a separate approach to gain high UX results. QA engineers are busy with the battery consumption, its impact of general game performance, intrusions – all the points affect the user encounter.
- Graphics. This part provides a gamer with striking animations, pictures, and top-level graphic design. The task of a tester is to ensure the game is compatible with the gadget and nothing prevents the user from feeling the atmosphere of a game. It is better to begin the execution tests at the early stage of development since the execution lags is a frequent phenomenon. The earlier you find them, the easier you`ll fix them.
More Lands on Top
Recently, Asia-Pacific region has become actively involved in the gaming industry. According to Newzoo research, Japanese gaming market in top-three largest in the world (after the USA and China), with a growing demand for mobile games. China also remains a top-ranked country in the mobile gaming field. Newzoo expects the Chinese market to generate 70% of revenues by 2021. The data proves APAC territories to be a primary driver for the world`s gaming sphere. Such a tendency may well attract the Southeast Asian and Indian markets where the use of smartphones grows exponentially.
What does it mean for QA?
Localization testing deserves more attention. The games are often converted into the languages suitable for the target audience. And the task of a QA engineer is to ensure the game content and features are localized to the specific regions and countries. In this case, they verify content errors, check if default language, date, time are designed as per TA, run through UI compliance with the cultural patterns. With the goal to enter new markets, game manufacturers will have to conduct game localization tests to gain better user engagement and loyalty.
Although VR technology remains imperfect, it has been an ongoing buzz in the sphere for the last 10 years. Ever-demanding consumers require new impressions and real emotional feedback while playing. So, immersive experience, interaction with other players, communication, atmosphere, true adventure – the aspects most of the games lack today.
What does it mean for QA?
Illusion of reality is what VR is all about. The task of a tester is to ensure the game is a powerful background to immerse a player in another world. The right use of sound, graphics, characters, actions make people feel they explore a new world.
We will leave the impact of games on cognitive development to the researchers. All we know is that the diversity of the gaming market gives us a choice. With the powerful tech support behind, humanity has all chances to leave new experiences, discover “other realities”, develop strategic thinking, expand creativity. Just don`t be afraid to open the unknown worlds to people.