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Game Development Essentials: Game QA & Testing ***--

Game Development Essentials: Game QA & Testing By Luis Levy, Jeannie Novak
Published June 2009
List Price: $107.95, Your Amazon.com Price: $70.07

Amazon.com Sales Rank: 1,137,748
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GAME DEVELOPMENT ESSENTIALS: GAME TESTING & QA is a comprehensive guide to the mysterious game testing profession. Through first-hand experience and deep research, the authors shed light on the history of testing, basic and advanced techniques, job-hunting, and moving up in the ladder of game development. GAME DEVELOPMENT ESSENTIALS: GAME TESTING & QA is the first book of its kind, preparing would-be testers for an exciting career in the game industry.

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Nov 06 2009 06:30 AM

Game Development Essentials: Game QA & Testing (just Game QA & Testing for the purpose of this review) is a high-level introduction to game testing, written by a season industry veteran of many AAA game titles made by the big development houses. So when he talks about what works and what doesn't and what the game development publishing overlords want to see and what will get you fired, he's not just speaking rhetorically. The text isn't just about limit-testing and unit-testing, but how to deal with the developers and your own testing cohorts. Given the "parents' basement" stereotype of game testers (not entirely undeserved, as game testers have to be game fans), advice on how to work in a corporate testing environment is valuable.

Also valuable are the extensive particulars about bug priorities, categories, usability, graphics and sound. There are a few helpful tables and sample checklists and notes that'll show you what's worked in practice.When testing games, especially when you're not testing on the "every computer is exactly the same" world of game-consoles, it's important to test and document everything and be rigorous about your processes. Just being good at playing games and identifying problems isn't enough. You need to be good at documenting and following up on the problems, and that's what Game QA & Testing does well.

The book is quite pretty, loaded with color screenshots. Unfortunately about half of them aren't really illustrating anything. Most of them consist of a screenshot of a game followed by a line of advice. For example, there's a screenshot from Alone In The Dark followed by the line "When dealing with survival-horror games such as Alone in the Dark: Inferno, pay attention to its controls and puzzles". The screenshot is just a random shot of a hallway in the game. It's not a picture of a particular puzzle or something that'd require complicated control, so it's not illustrating the text very well. And there's a lot of that. While such a screenshot might be nice to jog peoples' memories as to what Alone in the Dark: Inferno is, it would've been much better to actually illustrate the concept, perhaps showing a particularly thorny puzzle in the game or a place where the game's controls don't work intuitively. Or a place where textures don't mesh up right. Or a typo. Or anything actually illustrative of a bug that's require some QA.

Also I wanted more specifics. While online bug tools like Bugzilla, DevTrack, and TestTrack are mentioned, they get a total of about three pages of coverage. I do understand that bug-logging tools are just tools and that mastering Bugzilla doesn't render you a champion tester any more than mastering Microsoft Word makes you a writer, but a good tester who also knows about how to use the tools is more valuable than a good tester who doesn't. And game QA is a narrower field than writing (if the number of "how to use Bugzilla" books compared to the number of "how to use Word" books is any indication). So it would've been a big plus to include a chapter on the specifics of the tools. I know that Bugzilla screenshots aren't as cool looking as Warcraft screenshots, but it would've made for a more useful book.

The obligatory pack-in CD was a bit confusing. It was packed with some stuff that's mentioned in the book (installers for the bug-tools), some stuff that's never mentioned in the book (demos of Torque Game Builder and Game Maker), lots of demo versions of games, stuff that appears to belong in a different book (templates of game design documents and completed design docs), and a few items that'll be really useful to the reader, like bug documenting templates contributed by a couple of the commercial QA houses. I guess I can't dock the book for having stuff on the CD that's not directly related to the book. After all, game design documents are useful for testing just to see how close the game is to the documented standard. Sample test-plans and bug documents are undoubtedly useful. And a full CD doesn't cost any more than a mostly-empty one, so it's easy to ignore the stuff you won't use.

Ultimately I wanted more from Game QA & Testing. While there was some good advice there, there weren't enough specifics. A young developerling who's looking to shoehorn himself into the industry will get a lot of good advice, but it's not all you need to get where you're going. If I were editing a second edition of Game QA & Testing, I would've jettisoned a lot of the nostalgia about consoles long-past and replaced it with some more hands-on instructions and pictures.