Thursday, December 01, 2011

Quality Assurance: The ass-end of the Industry.

Its not often we do a serious article, you know, about real things... But this is something I have had a lot of experience with. And would like to share a few gripes and annoyances with the Industry, specifically "Quality" assurance.

Hey there little man, do you like computer games? Well clearly getting a job in the games industry makes sense that way all your n00b-pwning skills you have accumulated wont go to waste; they are now "experience". So how could you get in the industry? Programming? Nope. that involves a course which takes 3 years, by which time the language you have learned may be defunct. 3D Modelling? Again nope, more course work, and an Art degree... Games Design, Yeah why not, you have played so many games, you know what makes a good game you could write an epic RPG, or create the next 3rd person hack n' slash hit. Oh no, wait, you have to spend more years doing a course on how to design games, which are ultimately, bested in gameplay buy indie hits. So what's left? Quality Assurance. What is required for that? lets see:
  • Do you want to get paid for playing computer games?
  • Do you know what a "bug" is?
And that is your typical QA tester job ad... go check out gumtree, that is where they live. However let me rewrite this with a little reality:
  • Are you prepared to work odd and inconsistent hours for minimum wage? Including 12-16 hour days due to "Crunch-time"* at the end of a project, in part caused by lazy developers and bad management (people more important than you, and don't you forget it).
  • Are you prepared to receive minimal training in non-transferable skills, since you are a trash resource, likely only to be used for a single project, replaced by the next unemployed games playing sucker person that applies.
  • Are you prepared not to work? since QA is sporadic you will not always be called upon.
  • Are you prepared to limit your career and prospects, your prospects are limited to perhaps running a team, however you will not receive formal training, and will just further the damage to bad management.
  • Are you prepared to work on shovelware games that no-one will ever hear of? As all the good ones need real testers.
Quality Assurance, if you didn't know, is usually performed towards nearing the time the game is to be released, to check for errors and problems with the game(s). So all those games you have found problems with are usually all to blame on the "Quality Assurance" budget.

Now it's not just QA that is to blame, as I mentioned before, some of the glinty-eyed low-level testers do make it to management, you know the overweight nine-inch-nails T-shirt wearing bearded ones, which still have issues with women. Now these "men" are in charge of delivering/managing the game. I dont want to get into a management style argument, with relaxed vs strict. though I will say that the latter has proven more productive when the assburgers/ADD ridden games players are involved.

So what is the solution? Well some may argue, there isn't a problem. the games get out there and make money, yet studios fold, and games are still buggy. In this writer's humble opinion, an outlined business plan, with viable and achievable business benefits, and respected, professional testing teams. Could revolutionise and remove the "Crunch-time"* allowing for respectable Quality Control before the game gets releases.

Ahem...

P.S. This is a general overview, there are a few companies i'm aware of out there that actually utilise an efficient and correct approach to projects, and have eliminated the need for crunch time, and cutting quality time/costs. and hats off to you guys.

* ZOMGWTFFFF! it's the project deadline, and all we did was play WoW!!!


Love and Games Industry rantings,

Richie X

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