The role of developers and testers in ensuring the quality of computer games
Case Study: Cyberpunk 2077
If you’re a gamer then you’ve definitely heard about Cyberpunk 2077. And if you don’t play games, you might’ve seen something on the news about this game. In short, CD Projekt RED, the creators of Cyberpunk 2077, wanted to create a game that would become the best game in history, and this game was supposed to be a real game changer.
The studio that created Cyberpunk 2077 already had a massive reputation thanks to its ever-popular Witcher series, and many gamers really believed in the success of Cyberpunk 2077. The game was developed over eight years (first announced in 2012), and CD Projekt RED spent millions of dollars creating this wondrous game. Even stars like Keanu Reeves got involved with the project.
But somehow, something went wrong...
Despite its overwhelming success in its first few days (more than 4.7 million copies were ordered on PC alone), gamers started to feel really disappointed with the game. The game seemed to operate fine on a PC, but it didn’t play as well on a console (except for the latest ones). This type of gameplay was unbearable for most gamers and there were lots of complaints sent to the studio.
What was wrong with the game? It was incredibly slow, it had loads of bugs, it was poorly optimized, and it would freeze up, and this stopped more than 150 million gamers from playing the game properly.
Fans were left upset and frustrated by Cyberpunk 2077, and the studio’s reputation, which was once considered one of the best in the industry, suffered greatly. The studio has since promised to release updates and patches to fix the situation. But the general impression of the game has already been formed, and many would describe the game as a blunder.
Here’s what the co-founder and joint owner of CD PROJEKT Group, Marcin Iwiński, had to say:
We won’t analyze the reasons for Cyberpunk 2077’s failure. But we will use Cyberpunk 2077 to show you that quality really does count. If you have a huge budget and a great marketing team, but your product lacks in quality, it won’t succeed.
In our article, we will discuss the role of developers and testers when it comes to ensuring the quality of a finished game.
Game developers are responsible for producing video games. They typically work within a team, and their work involves creating code and visual content for games, so that they function.
Here are some important things to remember about developers and how they can ensure the quality of a game:
- No one knows a game better than the developers. Developers understand all the details of the game they’ve been working on. Although they do their best to do things properly, there will always be weaknesses. Therefore, it’s only right for the developers to tell the tester(s) where to focus on when they’re testing the game. Think about it, game testing is a challenging process, especially in a game like Cyberpunk 2077, because there are a lot of different interactions. Ideally, all of these interactions should be tried out, and at best, the developer should help tester(s) create test scripts to help navigate them around the game. This means that testers can find as many errors as possible, and this will help the overall quality of the game.
- Smoke tests. Yes, testing is the job of testers, not developers. But, you should consider the following… If a game developer changes a certain element on a level, and does not check how this new element impacts the game in its entirety, a potential major problem will appear. This results in a lot of wasted time as you try and work towards solving the issue. But this could easily be avoided by the developer practising regular smoke tests to ensure the quality of the game.
- Developers could assist testers by drawing up regular, and up to date, requirement documents for them. Ideally, it would look like this... developers submit a document that tells the testers what features need testing every single day. The developer must revise tests and check their validity to help the testers out. This makes the project move along seamlessly and somewhat quicker. And it ensures the quality of the game.
As you can see developers play a significant role in ensuring the quality of a game, but they can also help testers out a lot too. For example, they can provide correct documentation to the testing team and they can encourage more smoke tests.
Testers look for and find errors that are present in a game. They then provide solutions on how to fix these problems. Testing is an assessment of the product, though some developers think that “testers break everything,” they do the opposite in reality. Testers don’t invent problems because the problems are already there.
Here are some important things to remember about testers and how they can ensure the quality of a game:
- You need specialists. In QA, you need experienced people, and a lot of inexperienced people cannot replace one experienced specialist. There is no point in hiring lots of junior QAs, just to run tests on a game in the shortest amount of time possible. In fact, this can make things more difficult. Stick to one highly qualified specialist, it’ll be far more beneficial. Of course, junior QAs are necessary for a project, but you must have experienced testers too.
- Have the right amount of testers and time. Developing any game is complicated because there are so many things to consider. With this in mind, you need to have the right amount of testers to test the game thoroughly. And you must allow yourself plenty of time to test and to solve the issues that have been found in the game.
- Don’t test too early/late. If you test too late the work cannot possibly be checked thoroughly, and the product in essence goes out to the market in a ‘raw state’. However, testing too early is also problematic. For example, some teams bring testers in to work as quickly as possible, they find bugs and solve them. But, because the game is so young, things will inevitably develop and change, which makes the early testing redundant. Going back to test again, and again, requires extra time and money. Therefore, it’s very important for testers to understand when it’s actually best to test a game.
So, as you can see to make sure a game is rich in quality from a tester’s perspective you need to have specialised testers involved, you need enough testers, and you need to act at the right moment - not too soon or too late.
So, who actually makes sure a product is of good quality?
There is no ‘one person’ that acts alone in this process, it’s a mixture of different departments. Developers and testers need to work together so that they can bring the best game to the market. And this can be achieved through having clear communication and good team work.
A lot of the issues in Cyberpunk 2077 could’ve been avoided had more focus been given to the quality assurance side of the game.