Importance of Game Testers underappreciated?

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golguin

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I recently started watching the Super Best Friends Play LP for Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It's a game I've always wanted to play, but I didn't have the time to dive into this super dense RPG. With the impending release Mankind Divided I figured I'd watch their ongoing LP in short bursts to be ready.

During their first episode they mention that fact that Matt (Matt and Pat are doing the LP) tested the game for over a year and that he'd be peppering their LP with development stories and whatnot as they played. They don't usually LP a game they've tested in the past (several of the guys on the channel did testing for years), so I thought it was super cool that we'd get behind the scene insights on elements from the game that were changed and altered before we as consumers got to see any of it.

With E3 coming this week my mind drifted to the kinds of guests that GB books for their discussions. I think it's great that they aim for the highest ranking developers and whatnot for the big games and companies, but isn't there also value in talking to people that test the games to make sure they aren't buggy messes? I don't imagine that E3 would be the time to talk to testers, but I imagine that their gag orders for games expire at some point. Whenever the Bombcast crew wonders about the state of a broken game on release I hear the Super Best Friendcast guys mention that their testing buddies knew that the game was a broken mess for X, Y, and Z reasons.


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Fredchuckdave

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#2  Edited By Fredchuckdave

Testers are low on the totem pole so them shitting on any semi-recent game is a good way to not get work in the future, your example notwithstanding since they don't need it.

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golguin

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Testers are low on the totem pole so them shitting on any semi-recent game is a good way to not get work in the future, your example notwithstanding since they don't need it.

Then Game Testers are essentially never able to talk about the work they've done unless they are fine with not getting Game Tester work in the future?

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Rebel_Scum

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Its more of a case of no one is really interested in hearing from them. Its a thankless job and really tedious.Yes, if they did start blerting about how X company knew game was a mess before shipping but shipped anyway you bet companies would not be keen on hiring them, pretty obvious.

I'd also like to add, no one sets out to become a tester with that in mind as the end game (people do but they're weirdo's imo). You get into testing as a step into development. Testing is really boring!

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madman356647

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Game development staff (and by that I mean anyone in the trenches in general - coding or testing) are underappreciated. Hell, I pour one out any time a game server breaks since I work in software development (NON-game related) and get stuck with IT work/server work if something goes FUBAR, along with the ranty phone calls that something isn't working and that's bullcrap.

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leejunfan83

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@golguin said:

I recently started watching the Super Best Friends Play LP for Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It's a game I've always wanted to play, but I didn't have the time to dive into this super dense RPG. With the impending release Mankind Divided I figured I'd watch their ongoing LP in short bursts to be ready.

During their first episode they mention that fact that Matt (Matt and Pat are doing the LP) tested the game for over a year and that he'd be peppering their LP with development stories and whatnot as they played. They don't usually LP a game they've tested in the past (several of the guys on the channel did testing for years), so I thought it was super cool that we'd get behind the scene insights on elements from the game that were changed and altered before we as consumers got to see any of it.

With E3 coming this week my mind drifted to the kinds of guests that GB books for their discussions. I think it's great that they aim for the highest ranking developers and whatnot for the big games and companies, but isn't there also value in talking to people that test the games to make sure they aren't buggy messes? I don't imagine that E3 would be the time to talk to testers, but I imagine that their gag orders for games expire at some point. Whenever the Bombcast crew wonders about the state of a broken game on release I hear the Super Best Friendcast guys mention that their testing buddies knew that the game was a broken mess for X, Y, and Z reasons.

Very interesting post and relevent to my current situation, I'm a aspiring indie game developer and I'm working on a game at the moment called Shaolin vs Wutang. I don't have and funding or the luxury of having a team so I decided to launch my game on early access. The reason for this was to gain the valuable feeback and input from early access buyers and this would be my main testing phase. I also planned on using the funds raised in this early access period to help further develop the game. So it was brought to my attention the Super Best Friends channel covered my game about a week after it entered early access. I had no prior knowledge of this channel beforehand and the experience was eye opening. They covered my is a very disingenus way stating to their many fans that my game was an already finished product and they proceeded to make many potential damaging assumptions and allegations about my ability and intentions as a developer. I've made almost 20 updates to the game since the first month of early access prior to and after their video. Their video proved very valuable in getting the feedback that I needed to address some of the games issues and I really appreciate it. But their approach was super unprofessional and it could have had potentially damaging effects because they have a huge fan base. I don't have any marketing or pr resources to counteract that kind of negative press. Fortunately the vast majority of people who purchased the game have had a more pleasurable experience than the Super best friends crew especially after all of the updates I made. So I would say that personally I really think testers are valuable but in a weird way using early access as a public testing tool can be dangerous.

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The_Nubster

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I think their work is definitely underappreciated, but I don't know how many interesting stories might come out of talking to them in an interview scenario. You might get some good stories out of people who are good storytellers, but I'd be more interested in an industry-wide documentary or book. It seems like the kind of job that the audience needs to be educated on before they could be worked into the fold of day-to-day games coverage if that were to happen, and that's further complicated by NDAs as you mentioned, and the change of damaging future prospects. It's something I would like to hear more about in some fashion, though.

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Bollard

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If your angle is that games testers should be getting interviewed on shows like GiantBomb's live stream, I think you're underestimating just how large game teams are. There are many, many people who touch various aspects of a game and could tell a much more interesting story, but these people aren't the people sent to E3. Those sent are the producers, and people trained to actually talk to media.

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LawGamer

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Well, as someone who tested software once upon a time (not video games), I think software testing in general is underappreciated. That said, I doubt they'd be the most thrilling interview. Most QAers aren't going to be very comfortable or smooth in front of a camera and the job is a lot of tedious process and procedure which wouldn't be very interesting to talk about. Not to mention the above discussed NDA stuff that most people probably wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole.

Off the record, you might be able to end up with a pretty good diatribe about how everyone else in the development process tends to shit on QA. Nothing you could get on camera or in print though.

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mrcraggle

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But game testing is one of the easiest jobs in the industry. A friend of mine used to work for Sega as a tester where he said he would essentially just play the game doing all kinds of shit and if he found a bug, he'd have to write in an excel spreadsheet what the bug was and re-create it over and over and then pass the info onto the programmers but a lot of the bugs go largely ignored. At some point you have a budget and deadlines to meet so in a lot of cases, the developers know what condition their game is in even if it has lots of bugs, they just hope they've cracked down on the major ones and there's often no testing for bugs until the game is out there.

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probablytuna

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I don't think bug testing stories are interesting enough on their own without having someone like Cowboy to break down the tech stuff on top of it.

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OurSin_360

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#12  Edited By OurSin_360

Testers have been notoriously shit on in video games and now is ths worst as they've convinced people to pay to be testers with betas and early access. Main reason games release so broken imo.

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ragnar_mike

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Testers have been notoriously shit on in video games and now is ths worst as they've convinced people to pay to be testers with betas and early access. Main reason games release so broken imo.

I'm of the opinion that all of this is symptomatic of the larger issue, that game devs in general (ie anyone not a figurehead of a company) are marginalized, both by the fans and by their employers. The VFX industry has similar issues. Publishing is a business and while they produce artistic medium as a byproduct, what they work for is sales of the game. This leads to the natural conclusion of most product-based endeavors: make more shit, more frequently, for less money. That's fine, I mean it's how capitalism works, supply and demand and all that jazz. However, when you get to the point where six months of testing vs one month and open beta has little effect on the sales, where the team can instead be working on DLC to increase profit margins and where crunch time allows for faster completion of goals at the cost of well rested, rational work, then you have an issue.

Like most talk of jobs in games of VFX, this all leads to the third rail eventually. I'm not saying unionization would fix either industries, it would probably create as many problems as it would fix ($100 games anyone? Sorry, Aussies...) but man, if people don't want this to continue to be the norm, then making sure game developers aren't given two years of work, eighteen months to complete it, and three quarters of the requested budget seems like a good place to start.

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chrissedoff

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If you make very little money, most people will decide that you must not be doing a job that is important, regardless of what it is you actually do. If you make millions - even if you do it by polluting the environment or stealing people's pensions or some other horrible thing that's ruining the world - most people will assume that you're really smart and awesome. That's just the fucked up world we live in!

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Nodima

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This thread has so far overlooked @drewbert's brief 4 months testing Tiger Woods and that's a shame. He's told a couple interesting stories from that perspective, albeit dispersed over the past four years.

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Zirilius

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The only thing I find interesting about the stories of testers is what makes it as a known-shippable bug and how long it was known for. QA is a shitty job and definitely very thankless. I wish more companies invested in bigger QA teams (looking at you Warner Bros.!) but also know they still have financial goals they are striving to hit. I think the better state a game is released in the more likely good word of mouth is going to spread.

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Musai

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I've been kicking around the idea of writing up some stories of my (extensive) time in QA. Seriously, I have like 3 years at a third-party testers, and a year and a bit at Eidos Montreal (Where most of the SBF dudes worked, actually).

At their best, QA is treated as a second class of employee with few benefits, sick days, vacation days, and mandatory overtime that cannot be converted to vacation. There are also blocks in place to prevent QA testers from advancing in the company, in some places. It's very much full of eager, fresh-faced people looking to break into design or other fields, only to be chewed up and spit out by the machine. It's why I got out, and am now looking to get back in as something other than a QA tester.

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Zirilius

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@musai: That's crazy to hear about being blocked for advancement. When i was looking into working in the games industry (like 14 years ago) that used to be your way in to some companies. Especially if you had some programming knowledge and could tell the developers what the problem was and where in the code to find it.

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Brackynews

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#19  Edited By Brackynews
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PillClinton

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Game testing is a low-skill job that many people can do, so the value of one tester is quite low. Programming and development are high-skill jobs that few people can do, so the value of those positions is much higher. It's why business publications don't interview janitors. Yes, it's an important job, but also a low-skill, low value position.

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Ydross

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I personally been working as a game tester for the past 6 years. 4 years at an outsourcing company, 1 and a half at Warner Brother Montreal and 6 months at Eidos Montreal. Sadly testers cannot really talk about their job specifically because of NDA. But I can say that on most projects, we do find the majority of the bugs. So when they release buggy games, its because the devs didnt want to fix the issues, not because they were not found.

The games I tested I could talked about are now pretty old and irrelevant, like some old Star Wars games, a Lego MMO for kids and Kingdom of Amalur.

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Ydross

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@zirilius: I worked at Warner Bros Montreal and I can assure you they have a pretty big QA team. When the dev do not have the time to fix issues and the publisher are pushing them to release the game as it is because they want the profit, having the biggest QA team not gonna change anything. I cant tell you how many games I worked on where we found everything but the issues kept being waived because they didnt have time to fix them.

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an_ancient

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@lawgamer: @mrcraggle: @musai: @ydross: so a pattern seems to emerge, confirming what a friend who used to work for Sony told me. game testing the way the industry sees it is just people who play the game and report bugs. Basically "black box" testing.

I bring this up because tester in software is a bit more complex than that and I wonder if game studios have officially hired "game software testers". If anyone knows, I'd like to hear about it. Traditional software development has this same problem where they only have devs that test their own code and not peers who know how to code will write test code, unit tests etc, but at least it's acknowledged and I do know a handful of people who are professional software testers. Is the same true for games?

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Musai

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@an_ancient: Yep, those types of testers are usually called Dev testers, or given specific titles based on their roles; metrics testers, audio testers, and so on. I have a friend who did audio integration testing and was able to transition into an integration engineer with the experience he got. Those types of opportunities are very few and far between though.

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Harpell

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#25  Edited By Harpell

As a former software QA tester (not in games), I can attest that it is thankless and tedious work. Long hours and often unreasonable deadlines. As others said, it's not the most interesting or glorious work, but there might be some juicy talk about working conditions from some of them.

There's a reason I am a FORMER QA tester.