Here at ATE, we take our.selves very seriously about gaming.
While the tone of video games is as varied as the approach, there is no denying how large gaming culture has become. While I enjoy everything about gaming, from making a monkey out of recent gaming gaffes, to the ernest devotion of any given modding community, I appreciate the diversity of the medium the most. While I regularly link to and appreciate the entertainment gaming sites like D-Toid provide, I do also enjoy the more honest analysis going in gaming, from sites like gamasutra.
After all, it takes a genius to make a moron.
I do my best to make the rounds when it comes to gaming news, and when I’m looking to whet my more curiously intense appetite of what’s what in game design, I always come full circle back round to gamasutra.com. The site provides a much needed straight man to all of the other funny guys of the gaming news scene, and helps to expose some honest intent with analysis, industry insight, and more. I read an article today, which can be found here, written by Bioware QA Director Tulay Tetiker McNally. In her piece, she underlines the importance of appropriate business atmosphere, the need of good quality assurance, and more.
Tulay goes over some basics that apply to any business, but are regularly under valued: knowledgable employees, valued experience, and a motivating work environment. Some people have misconceptions about working in the industry, that it’s all fun and games. Those two elements exist, yes, but usually at the ass end of extremely long hours, stressful conditions, depressing incentives, and inequal paychecks. We are discussing a facet of capitalism, so many of these are by-products of trying to push for the bottom line, with regard to little else. Tulay goes on to speak highly of the work Bioware has done in trying to break this mold, by providing better disciplines, worth while external motivations, and the basic need and feeling of value, QA testers deserve, but don’t always get.
I’m glad a company as big as Bioware is getting it right in the game testing department, and I’m sure gamers who have enjoyed their titles appreciate this aspect of their development as well, whether they realize it or not. QA follows the old adage “When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all”, as with the right team, time, and experience levels, game’s can and will be largely glitch free, and provide a smooth, high quality, immersive experience everybody will enjoy.
Maybe QA started out as an after thought, and was largely under appreciated, but it’s become integral to the gaming experience. Hell, the act of QA is such a big deal, higher profile titles having Beta’s is a an event, and a great way to crowd source the work, and create hype for the game. Not to say internal metrics aren’t important, but the mass appeal and success of Beta’s, helps frame and reiterate how important play testing is, especially for online experiences, or multiplayer titles that just can’t possibly be tested to the fullest extent by the company itself. Many have realized this, and some like Steam, have even started an Early Access program, which makes Alpha’s, Beta’s, and any kind of early build of a game open to the public. Not only does this create community camaraderie but helps to incentivize gamers, and help developers with feedback, so they can continue developing new ideas and refining already existing concepts to a well needed polish.
I know from personal experience, testing can be make or break, providing us with the hilariously not so bad…
to the hilariously not so good in any way…
…kinds of glitches.
Now, I know despite conceptual faux pas, Mass Effect did have some downright awful offenders at launch, but my point of this was not to praise the perfections of that series, nor Bioware as a whole. A mere nod of gaming approval going to Miss McNally for voicing an opinion about positive change within the industry, and helping to be a catalyst to promote these motivating forces of good.
As I’ve been writing this piece, I’ve realized the breadth of content, and the lengths at which I could go on about the subject of glitches. I feel there is some application within my own concepts, and personal workings as far as Theory vs Execution is concerned, but may represent a much larger piece, and another time and place all together.
After all, this modest Ode to QA’s has got me thinking…
Thank the three Goddesses they don’t always catch everything.