Game testing makes up an important part of the overall game development process. Without proper testing, game developers could launch games that are riddled with glitches and other issues. These problems can majorly affect the user experience and lead to fewer sales, reputation loss, and more. But how do games get tested before the launch date? The truth is that game testing is a complex process involving many different testing types. It’s not just one lucky gamer sitting in a room and playing games before the game launches. There are many aspects that need to be considered and need to be tested. Some of these processes, such as game testing and storyline writing, can be outsourced before the release date.

Playing video games should be fun, but bugs, glitches and issues can ruin the experience.
Playing video games should be fun, but bugs, glitches and issues can ruin the experience.

How Are Video Games Tested?

Bugs and issues are always present in games, especially in games with large open worlds and many different things going on simultaneously. However, there’s a difference between a few missed bugs and releasing a game riddled with glitches that make it difficult to enjoy. However, every now and again, you’ll find a game becomes famous because of these glitches.

Game development can be broken down into three simple stages. The first step is the creative stage. This is where the game designers use their imaginations and start creating the game. This stage includes building the storyline, characters, and then a developer steps in and starts coding the game to work as planned.

The next step in the development process for games is balancing the game. This is where game testing comes in. The developers will reach out to game testers and testing companies to try out the game and provide feedback. This process has many different facets, from how challenging the game is, to finding bugs that were missed.

During this process, the game goes through different types of testing. While there is a common misconception that all game testing is the same, the reality is quite different. There are many ways to evaluate a video game, such as UX testing, playtesting, beta testing and more, and they all have different goals and focus on different aspects. Video game companies should utilize all the different testing methods to ensure it’s ready for the game launch.

Testing games is a complex process that requires a good plan and efficient process.
Testing games is a complex process that requires a good plan and efficient process.

The final step is releasing the game to the public. Before the game is finally made public, the game developers will run marketing campaigns to raise excitement and awareness of the game launch. This can include an organized showcase, posting to social media, and news articles. Depending on the studio, these marketing campaigns can be large, million-dollar affairs, or in the case of indie companies, their marketing can be more subtle, targeting only a few from the target audience at first.

What Is UX Testing?

UX is the abbreviation for user experience. As such, UX testing refers to all the aspects related to how gamers interact with the released version of the game. A UX game tester is focused on ensuring that the design of games will give the best experience to players.

This involves everything from analyzing the game’s menu to ensuring the controls are simple to understand and more. UX testing is about examining real-player reactions to certain situations and elements while the game is still developing. UX testing can take place throughout the development of the game and not only once it’s finished.

UX is heavily based on cognitive psychology. This understanding is essential in developing good games that flow logically and entertain the gamer. UX testers use this knowledge of cognitive psychology to share their insights and help developers tap into the psyche of the player and get a better understanding of how they will react to certain scenarios within the game.

What Is Playtesting?

Playtesting is often confused with other forms of game testing, such as QA and beta testing. However, there is a distinction between these types of tests. Playtesting is a common practice for testing new games, apps, and software and is an important part of the game design phase.

During playtests, a group of players from the game’s targeted audience is selected. These players then play ongoing game versions while their reactions are observed. They also record any glitches they experience or sections of the game that are unclear or boring so that the game developers can address these issues.

There are a few different types of playtests that occur at various points during the game design phase. These include:

  • Gross playtesting: This is the first playtest and involves the developers testing the most basic running model of the game for basic faults in the gameplay.
  • In-house playtesting: These tests are done by contracted play testers or testers within the company. During these tests, they look for any glitches before the game is sent for further testing.
  • Blind testing: These tests are done by a group of in-house testers who have no experience or involvement with the game’s development. They can provide insights that other testers familiar with the game missed.
  • Final playtesting: As the name suggests, this is the last round of tests before the games launch.

Automated Playtesting

Automated playtesting is a useful strategy that game developers can use throughout the development process. This strategy uses automated systems and scripts to run certain simulations in a predetermined manner. It eliminates the need for human testers to analyze gaming situations.

To use automated playtesting, game developers need to program agents or bots to play the game in a specific manner, following certain rules and restrictions. This strategy enables developers to collect valuable data and gain insights into certain elements of the game.

Because this process is automated, it offers many benefits to developers during the design stages. These tools can easily be scaled, and the results are consistent. Also, they have the capacity to repeatedly perform the same actions to help solve gaming glitches and issues that break the game. Because these tools aren’t human, they can also complete the basic testing much faster and without the bias that human agents might include.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is also starting to play a role in automated playtesting. This addition will make the testing process even more accurate and will also be able to provide the same level of insights that a human agent can in much less time and with fewer resources.

What Is QA Testing?

QA is the abbreviation that refers to quality assurance. As such, QA testing literally means testing the game to ensure that it’s of good quality. This is probably one of the more intense testing processes that a game goes through. During QA testing, the testers take a more technical walk-through of the game.

Alternatively, playtesting isn’t done to monitor the gamer’s reaction and experience but rather to evaluate the game in depth and detail. A QA tester focuses on finding glitches, testing how the gameplay functions, and evaluating the balance within the game.

This process entails a very in-depth exploration of the game. Trying things that most players might not do just to see what happens. When it comes to QA testing, a specific way of thinking is required. A process is also involved to ensure that all the different elements of the games are thoroughly tried.

Functionality Testing

The focus of functionality testing is to make sure that the game works as it’s supposed to. During this process, testers make sure that all the features that must be included in the game are there and that they work. This includes testing the core elements of the game, such as player inventory, health stats, and other important factors.

This process also ensures there are no issues when starting the game, connecting to servers, downloading updates, and more. Functionality testing occurs towards the end of the process once all of the features have been included and most basic issues have been resolved.

Clean Room Testing

Clean room testing is used to test the game under real-world circumstances. During this process, the testers will create different hardware setups that are most frequently used by the target audience. Testers then evaluate how the game performs on these different setups to ensure they work on a range of hardware.

The platforms you test will depend on what the game’s target market is, but testing will be done on every single platform and every possible configuration. This means that if a game is available on cross-platform, the testers will need to check how it performs on PC, console, and mobile.

Combinatorial Testing

Combinatorial testing involves the simultaneous testing of all the possible paths and states in a game and seeing how they affect each other. Sometimes certain combinations in games can have an unexpected outcome, and this testing is used to discover and ensure those issues are fixed.

This process can help to identify branching storylines and issues with advance gameplay elements such as quests or puzzles. This testing process can also be used to discover any issues with interactions, such as quests interacting with each other, players interacting with NPCs or even players interacting with their inventory.

Tree Testing

Testing games is a systematic process, and testers are required to follow specific procedures while testing for different issues. During the tree testing process, the functional requirements of the testing are split into different equivalent sets, which are called trees.

During testing the test gamers need to know how different aspects interact with one another to reach a specific goal. An example of this is testing how the level of the player affects what quests become available or how wearing certain pieces of armor together impacts your stats.

What Is Beta Testing?

Beta testing is the final phase of testing, where the near-finished product is evaluated. It occurs after all other tests, such as playtesting and QA testing, have been completed but before the game launch. Beta testing can start once the game is between 90% and 95% completed and is stable enough on all devices.

During beta testing, a sample of real-life end users are chosen as beta testers to play a beta version of the game. Sometimes, beta testers come from a reliable testing company that specializes in beta testing. Other times, game developers can ask for volunteers to join the beta testing program.

Without proper testing, games can be released with bugs, issues, and glitches that frustrate players.
Without proper testing, games can be released with bugs, issues, and glitches that frustrate players.

Essential Factors To Consider When Testing Games

Testing games requires a well-developed process because of the complexity of developing games. Game developers and testers work closely together at various stages of the creation process to ensure games don’t have issues and are exciting to play.

In order to test games efficiently, there are certain factors that a video game developer must keep in mind.

  • Bug Tracking Framework: A bug tracking system is crucial as it enables a game tester to record the bug with all the relevant details. When fixing issues, developers can easily refer to this framework to monitor the progress.
  • Test Case Creation: This is an essential step in testing as it outlines how the game tester must evaluate various stages of the game. By having this outline, the game tester can test an entire section and jump back and forth to test various areas.
  • Test Suite Creation: Developing test suites is even more important than creating test cases. These suites are used to understand the exact reason behind a bug or glitch so that developers can avoid constant re-testing. Having to retest games can cause delays in the game launch.
  • Experience and Thoroughness: Testing games isn’t just about playing games and having fun. It’s a serious process that requires experience and thoroughness from the tester. Good testers require an understanding of the functionality of games. They should ask questions about what should happen when a specific interaction occurs.
A well designed and tested game can entertain players from different ages and across different genders.
A well designed and tested game can entertain players from different ages and across different genders.

Conclusion

Testing games is an essential part of the process. Creating games is a complex process that requires thousands of lines of code. Because of this, it’s easy for glitches to slip in. If, at the game launch, your product is still riddled with these issues, it can drastically affect your sales revenue, reputation and more.

Testing is also done to ensure that gamers have a great experience when interacting with games. Sometimes this means having a simple user interface and menus that offer easy access. Similarly, this can also mean the game’s controls are intuitive and easy to use.

Developers will have the best results if they continually test games throughout development and if they utilize all the different forms of testing. This includes UX testing, playtesting, QA testing and beta testing.