One of my personal GDC highlights was meeting with the Fading Suns: Noble Armada programmer and getting the latest build of the game working on my new iPad. Now the playtesting starts in earnest. Playtesting, also known as Quality Assurance (QA) and bug hunting, gives people the idea that all we do is sit around and play games all day.
And that is correct.
However, it is an insane kind of playing. The old joke is that insanity is defined by doing the same thing over and over again in hopes of a different result. In playtesting, we do the same thing over and over but with minute differences in hopes that we may get different results and pinpoint what causes bugs. Or we do the same thing over and over again in order to document exactly what it is that causes the problem.
At its essence, playtesting is the scientific theory put to work … many, many times.
1. Come up with a theory – “If I direct my avatar into a wall, it should stop.”
2. Test theory – Maneuver avatar into wall
3. Continue testing theory – Keep walking the avatar into walls.
4. Document what you did to make the avatar walk through the wall, fall through the Earth, and crash the game.
For that reason, and for the difficulties in documenting and fixing some bugs, this can be the most frustrating part of game development. On the other hand, it can be one of the most satisfying parts … whenever you can cross off a bug as fixed (and not just an undocumented feature).
Our Fading Suns: Noble Armada mobile game has been an ambitious project for a mobile game, with lots of units, types of play, campaigns and more pieces that can break. Anything that breaks can impact unknown parts elsewhere in the game. Still, it is very rewarding to see it coming together so well. Now to try and break things 🙂
For those of you who have playtested games, do you have any memorable stories of your experiences?