The Testing Team

There are a few different kinds of testing organizations, and you can expect different kinds of feedback from each of them. Many projects will use two or more of these testing styles or groups on the same project. The first two are the most common: internal testing, and publisher testing.

If you happen to work at a big development house like Microsoft or Electronic Arts you'll find both your internal testing and publisher testing under the same roof. Internal testing groups are assigned close to the development team. Their job is to help the programmers save time. They support the programming staff in many different ways, from checking their bug fixes to looking at the latest build before it is shipped off to the publisher.

Internal testers can be part time or full time game enthusiasts that want to break into the industry at the ground floor. They tend to get abused by the programmers, finding better reproducible steps for a confusing bug or swapping out video cards to help a programmer find a hardware problem. They are important to keep the programmers working efficiently on code issues instead of getting caught up in busy work. A good internal tester can root out good repro steps for a bug just as fast as a programmer can, and they tend to work for a lot less money.

The testing groups that work for the publisher have the job of pouring through all those test plans we talked about at the beginning of the chapter. They look at the design document and write the test plans and organize the entire testing effort. They'll usually be a fair mix of experienced testers and freshly picked temporary staff without a single clue about testing games. Watch out for these folks—they tend to think of themselves as game designers! The senior testers will do their best to train and guide them but they can't watch them every second.

Best Practice

It's probably a good idea to mention here that there tends to be a fair bit of animosity between developers and testers. I think that has much more to do with the stress of the work and the pressured timelines than anything else. Everybody is working hard for the same goal, a great game. Whenever I write comments in bugs I always try to make a joke when possible or perhaps make light of a situation to brighten the mood, which can all too easily get dark in real hurry. Try to do the same thing, ok? Testers are the only thing that stand between your customers and the nasty buggy code you wrote at 3:00am. Give them a break and they'll likely save your ass.

The publisher's testing group will also have a test lead for your project and a test manager for the entire group. Get to know these people and get a good relationship with them as soon as you can. Communication with the test group starts with the test lead. The test lead is the only one that will call you and tell you ahead of time some juicy intelligence; like the press is going to take a sneak peek at the next build. I get more information consistently from the test group than any other group in any publisher I've ever worked with. So can you, if you play your cards right. Forget the executives—your best friends are the testers.

The same kind of testing most publishers do in house can also be had for a price in special out of house testing companies. These companies are a great resource for smaller developers that can't quite justify a dedicated testing department of their own. Out of house testing companies are capable of any kind of testing you can imagine, but be prepared to get out your checkbook if you want everything.

For those of you working on console titles there is a special testing group that will pour over your title: the console manufacturer. Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft won't allow your product into the manufacturing pipe until they are satisfied that it meets their requirements for product features and quality.

Game Coding Complete
Game Coding Complete
ISBN: 1932111751
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 139

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