Quality Assurance Technicians, or Testers, perform a vital role in this stage of development. They test, tune, debug and suggest the detailed refinements that ensure the quality and playability of the finished game. They play-test the game in a systematic way, analysing the game’s performance against the designer’s intentions, identifying problems and suggesting improvements.
They test for bugs in the software, from complete crashes to minor glitches in the programme. They also act as the game’s first audience, reporting on its playability and identifying any aspects which could be improved.
Playing games all day for a living might sound like an ideal job, but this is in fact a highly disciplined role.
They are responsible for assuring quality in the final product and for finding all the flaws in a game before it goes public. They look for programme bugs – spelling mistakes, localization problems (variations of the game are required for different territories), graphical or audio glitches, and also any copyright issues.
QA Testers must know which issues are the most important and be able to prioritize them for fixing. They work to deadlines and must understand production and marketing schedules. They normally use a software quality management system to document findings.
They work in teams, sometimes playing together on a multi-player game or a team might ‘own’ part of a game.
Testing involves playing a game over and over again, testing different levels and builds (incomplete development versions of a game, sometimes with various features missing). The work can be repetitive and tedious, but Testers have to test long after the novelty and fun factor may have worn off.
They must be diplomatic when communicating with other team members and accept that they can have only limited influence over the game design. They also need to be able to anticipate different ways the game will be played, and test accordingly.
They might also have an on-going relationship with customer support teams once a game is launched.