How Does Game Testing Work?

How cool would it be to play video games all day and then get paid for it? That would be amazing wouldn’t it?

Does working as a game tester allow you to do just that? Well technically yes, but it won’t be as exciting as you might initially think. Game testers do a lot more than just “enjoy playing video games”.

Like any other job, game testing has its own challenges. As a game tester, you don’t just play video games however you want, instead , you play specific parts of a specific video game on a specific platform, and you might have to repeat that for tens or even hundreds of times.

How does game testing work?

Game testers’ work is generally all about applying a number of testing techniques on new builds they receive from the development team. Functionality testing, stress testing, compatibility testing, and other testing techniques are all used by game testers to make sure the game is running as expected.

It is worth noting that game testers that have some technical knowledge about how games are made, and how art is made can be extremely more efficient in their work than others who don’t have that kind of knowledge.

These game testers will be able to communicate the bugs they find in a better way to the development team, and they might even help the developers in pointing out the issue.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be a game tester if you don’t have a lot of game development or game design experience.

The rest of this article will go over some of the things that game testers do and how they do them.

How do game testers test the game functionality?

In general, when game testers receive a new build, they also receive a list of the new features and functionalities added to that build.

They might also receive shortcuts to be able to reach the new functionality areas quicker to save time.

Once the testers have access to the new functionalities, they first verify that they work as they are intended to work, and then they try their best to break these new functionalities.

For example, they might try doing the opposite of what the game is asking them to do, and then see what happens. 

What happens if I go in that direction instead of in the direction the game wants me to go in? What happens if I click buttons other than the ones the game wants me to click, what happens if I shoot at my allies instead of my enemies? What happens if I jump 100 times? and so on.

Game testers also comment on the balance, the feel, and the difficulty of the new features/functionalities. For example, they might conclude that the new boss is extremely difficult or easy to beat, or that the boss fight feels more creepy than it should be, and so on.

The same thing goes for the game economy, progression and others.

Once the game tester finds any bugs while they are testing the game (They will most probably find many, many bugs), they report these bugs in an organized way. We’ll discuss reporting later in this article.

How do game testers test compatibility?

Compatibility testing is one of the trickiest things a game tester has to do. If the game being tested is supposed to work on a large number of platforms (PC, Android, iOS, consoles), then guess what, the testers have to try the game on all platforms.

Each platform has its own limitations, this means that if certain features are working on one platform, it doesn’t mean they’ll work on the others.

That said, testers generally have access to a very large collection of devices that run all different kinds of platforms.

It’s true that game testers generally have some “Development tools” that can help them test faster, for example, they might have shortcuts to go to specific places, spawn certain enemies, and so on.

However, the testers will still need to go through all of the game features and make sure that they are working properly on all the target platforms, and that will take a lot of time and effort regardless of what shortcuts the testers have access to.

They test everything, from whether the UI is laid out well on the different screen sizes of the devices that run each platform, to how the hardware is handling the game’s heavy features and so on.

How does stress testing work?

Stress testing is all about trying to break the game by pushing it to its limits. For example, stress testing answers questions such as these:

how would the game handle thousands of players playing at the exact same time? Will the game overload the servers? Will the game crash?

How would the game handle repetitively hitting random keys on the keyboard during a combat scene? Will the player start doing random things that they aren’t supposed to do? Does spamming random actions in split seconds break the player’s intended behavior?

What happens if we spawn hundreds of NPCs into the same game area? (remember that testers usually have access to more tools and shortcuts than regular gamers, so they can generally do this) will the game crash? Will the FPS still be acceptable? And so on.

In other words, during stress testing, the testers try to put a huge load on the game, and see how it performs.

Sometimes there is nothing you can do about the issues that you find. For example, testers might find out that the game can’t handle more than 50 NPCs on the same screen on certain target platforms. In that case, it becomes a rule for the game designers to make sure that there won’t be more than 50 NPCs on one screen at any given time.

How do game testers report issues?

Now that the testers know about a number of issues in the game, it is time to let the development team know about them.

How do they do that? They write reports. The most important part about the reports that the testers write is the “steps to reproduce the issue” section.

The testers should always try their best to learn exactly how to reproduce the issue. These steps will help the developers figure out the exact cause of the bug much quicker.

A generic bug report would look something like this: First, a brief title that describes the bug in short words. The title gives the developers an idea about what the bug is about.

Then comes the description, which is a more detailed explanation of what the bug is. Then comes the “steps to reproduce” section where the tester writes a number of bullet points that allow the developers to recreate the issue on their side.

Screenshots and video recordings are also usually attached with bug reports to help the developers visualize the issue immediately.

In simple words, if the developer finds the bug easily and quickly, then it means that the bug report is very well written (Fixing the bug though is a different matter).

It is worth noting that in some cases, it can be extremely difficult to find the reproduction steps of a certain bug. In that case, the testers try to list any information that they think might be helpful to the developers.

Examples can be the log files, the settings of the game, what kind of network is the game connected to, what kind of hardware is being used, a detailed description of what was going on in the game before the bug happened, and so on.

Finally, testers might also decide to rank the bugs by severity. Bugs that are critical need to be tackled first (eg: player loses their weapon forever if they throw it in the water) while bugs that are less critical might be put on a waiting list (eg: A tree’s animation stops playing for a few seconds).

What are game testers called?

Game testers are generally known as the Quality Assurance (QA) team. The term quality assurance sounds more professional and is generally a full department in the large game development studios.

As the name implies, the quality assurance team is responsible for verifying that the latest development version of the game has met its intended “quality” level. They do that using the techniques that have been previously mentioned in this article.

Conclusion

As a game developer myself, I can tell you that the quality assurance department is an extremely important part of any game development studio. Almost every large studio has a large quality assurance department that is dedicated to hunting bugs and reporting them.

Game testers receive builds, apply a number of testing techniques on them, report their findings, and then wait for the next build to come their way. The cycle goes on till the game is ready for release.

If you would like to read more, here are some other related articles on the blog that you might find interesting: