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Life as a Game Tester: Episode 3

As of this writing, my time in the video game industry is dwindling. When I took this job, I was only guaranteed work until the end of October, which is rapidly approaching. That’s the life of a QA tester, I guess. If your company doesn’t have anything playable for you to test, there’s not much reason to go to work everyday. Already, my day consists of me playing my own games more than the game we’re making, which isn’t necessarily bad. I call it “research.”

Right now, we have the second game I’ve worked on being tested by NOA and NOE. You can check out what that entails by reading Episode 2.

Nintendo’s quality control is not infallible.

It’s great to get a game to submission, but in my experience, it’s been the worst thing that can happen to a game in development. If you submit, you’re basically telling Nintendo the game is done. If you get approved, you can’t touch your code. If you do, you will have to redo the entire submission process, even if it to fix a small bug.

The problem here is that, from my point of view, the game is not finished. There are still far too many bugs in the game to bring it out onto the market. I felt this way with the last game I worked on, and I even vocally expressed my concerns to my producer about it. Very little came of it, I’m afraid. The game was submitted, approved and is being manufactured this very minute.

The same has happened with our current game. All the bugs that I’ve found after we submitted are essentially being ignored. If we’re lucky, Nintendo will bounce the game back based on one of the bugs that’s already uncovered, and we’ll have to go back and fix it. That’s what I hope will happen. If we send a game out on the market with bugs, then I didn’t do my job, and gamers will suffer for that. That’s the last thing I want on my conscience (besides a nuclear holocaust).

This is basically being demanded of us because of the publisher. They need the game to be ready for a November release, which means it needs to be submitted to Nintendo before that time, and we really can’t say anything about it. If it doesn’t get approved by Nintendo when they want it to be, then it will miss its release date, screwing up their sales forecasts. It’s the same old crap, just a different game. The publisher tries their best to get it perfect by that date, but nothing stops them from submitting it.

Shit, wrong Colbert.

This brings me to tonight’s (The Word) major point. It’s been my experience that the people involved in a game’s development have way too many personal opinions on how the development should run. Let me give you an example. There have been many instances where I came to my producer and showed him a bug that I found. From my perspective (a gamer), this bug is clearly evident. If I played this game as an unsuspecting player, I’d immediately catch it. But once I showed it to him, he was surprised that I put that much attention to something so small. He was totally fine with it, and didn’t log it in our bug database. I was amazed.

That’s just one example. I have a lot more just like this. Let me just say that I’ve tried to help this company out in a lot of ways, not just with games, and I’ve never been successful at any of them. That’s the corporate world, perhaps. Most people are just trying to do their job and go home. They may rock the t-shirts and the lingo, but when it comes down to it, they’re just looking for that pay-stub. If I could, I wouldn’t get paid for this job. Being in the industry is enough for me, but I’m probably part of a very small group of people to say this.

You might have programmers from other sects of programming that don’t necessarily like video games. They just see it as a job to hold them over until the big “Microsoft-esque” job opportunity. You also might have a guy that just graduated from business school, hoping to make it as the CEO at the publishers. The video game industry is just jam-packed with artisans of all walks of life, and they all have their priorities.

Daikatana is clear proof that delayed games are always good.

I bet that there are a few people at the publisher that look at this game and say, “Oh Lord, are you serious?” But nothing will get them to delay the game. I’m seriously amazed any game gets delayed in this industry anymore. If you hear a game is delayed, you kneel down and pray to the Gamer Gods for this fortuitous event. Otherwise, you’re hard-earned cash will go towards buying garbage.

Seriously, if I were the one spear-heading a game project, I’d continually delay the game. I’d be so worried that the game isn’t as good as it could be. Developers have to release the game at some point, but to have the game go out in an unfinished state would be far worse than a delay. That’s just me, though.

Alright, that’s it from me. Hopefully, this won’t be the last Episode. But if it is, it’s been real.

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17 years ago

And so closes a quality series of articles.  A much better look into game testing than a lot of stuff I’ve seen before.  And far better than the fluff often seen in developer diaries

17 years ago

It kind of bothers me how accurately this describes what I assumed most of the industry was like.

17 years ago

Wow, I agree, what a great series of articles. It’s unfortunate that the industry we all love has to also have the most problems related to it. But anyway, this is a really good article (one that might open many prospective tester’s eyes). I’ll definitely be recommending it to people who come to my site.
Matthew —

Blue Dog
Blue Dog
17 years ago

Well, thank you very much for your kind words, and your support. Yes, sadly, the video game industry is not without its blemishes, but it’s still young though. With time, it can mature like everything else. Hopefully, anyway.

lee st thomas
17 years ago

I WOULD LIKE TO COME in and play against the colts. My TEAM IS THE VIKINGS.
iwould to come in and play one game 15 min quarters, all pro mode, all settings set to the max.
thank you for your time, looking forward to hearing from you.