When I tell my friends and family who are not in the gaming industry about my job in Quality Assurance, they like to joke that I clearly “just play video games all day.” This seems to be a common misconception about the QA life, one I would like to stop right here. Because QA is anything but play.
In a single day the members of the Nix Hydra QA Team can be detectives and developers, chroniclers and critics, protectors and players. We are often called upon in the darkest of hours to find our game’s biggest threats – the game breaking crashes, the show stopping glitches and the deeply dreaded load hangs. To the uneducated eye it may look like I spend my day sitting at my desk pouring over several screens and then occasionally typing a line or two – but I assure you I am desperately fighting against the forces of evil.
So what exactly does that fight entail? Most of my day-to-day work revolves around bugs. Not the creepy crawly kind (thank goodness), but the electronic variety. Bugs can be crashes that halt progression, small grammatical errors or even areas of the game that seem less fun than others. It is QA’s job to ferret out these bugs, determine what causes them, catalog them and then check to see if they have been fixed in a later builds. We also create testing plans for each production milestone, write the FAQs for our games and maintain impeccable records about our projects.
Needless to say, between all those tasks the QA team at Nix Hydra is quite busy. Fortunately for me I work with a fantastic group of totally terrific testers. Between the four of us we have a myriad of skills and backgrounds that give each us a unique approach to testing and an aptitude for certain tasks. We are in constant communication about what we are seeing on the current build, and often have to pull our heads together to solve certain testing challenges.
And our game ‘Egg!’ was certainly a challenge to test at times! Many of the activities a player enjoys such as growing an Egg or sending a creature on a quest, can take hours or even days to complete. But QA doesn’t always have the luxury of waiting around for Eggs to hatch! Often we have to find ways around this issue, whether it is with special builds designed to help us cheat time or even “time traveling” on the live build by changing our device's date and time. We have to look closely at each activity you can take with your Egg, not only making sure nothing is broken, but also ensuring that the activity feels fun and approachable to players!
In QA we often stand right on the line between developers and players, and serve as the final defense against any broken features reaching the game that you eventually see on your screen. I think this gives all of us a unique perspective into the project that we are testing, and more often than not I think we are the ones who know our game best. We’ve definitely seen it at its worst, but on the flip side, we know intimately how amazingly fun and wonderful 'Egg!' can be.
Sometimes our job can be quite difficult – we spend so much time focusing on the broken parts of things that it makes it difficult to think about the good parts too. But when I find myself thinking that way, I try to take a step back and look at our game as a whole. I still can’t help getting excited when I hear about the upcoming creatures or clothing options for ‘Egg!’– even though I know I most likely will be testing them 100 times or more.
Besides, could you imagine a world without QA? A world where every time you took a test you never checked your answers. Or if you never looked both ways before crossing the street! What a lawless, apocalyptic dystopia that would be! Because when it comes down to it, QA makes sure things work. And no matter how wonderfully designed or implemented a feature is, if it is broken it is never going to shine. And if it were a core feature, the game would be utterly unplayable.
So I would like to take this time to say “No need to thank us, Eggs, for making sure you could be your amazing wonderful Egg-selves. But you’re welcome. :)”