Timelines, Assessments and Test Plans: A Case for QA Planning – Part 2

Keyboard and controllers

Hello again, QA-nauts! Last time around, we discussed “The Trinity” of QA planning: The QA Assessment, the Testing Timeline, and Test Plan and gave a brief description of best practices for each. For parts 2 and 3 of A Case for QA Planning, we’ll delve into the specifics of a dozen components that comprise most games, providing some useful tips and tricks so your planning is on point. 

Starting off with the bedrock where much of the gold lies: your Game Design. 

Game Design 

To identify possible bottlenecks or synergies, consider game design factors like: 

  • Overall game direction and narrative 
  • Core mechanics 
  • Total number of levels and their design 
  • Achievement acquisition flow 
  • Audio design 
  • Etc 

How to Plan

Identify your game’s signature ingredients and “must have’s” and plan an estimated number of hours for each, getting the more important ones in as early as possible – this can also mean the riskiest ones. Look for possible synergies in tests, and see which ones can be conducted simultaneously without sacrificing results.  

There are no official guidelines or “one size fits all m.o.” for this practice out in the wild, but it’s better to be generous in your allotted testing time than be too stringent. It’s always best to plan for more time and not need it than the other way around.  

Now let’s have a look at some of the more popular components to include in your timeline, and how to do so. 

Level Design and Level Art 

Establish clear and specific criteria for evaluating collisions and textures, defining standards that align with your game’s vision. Plan for a systematic approach to transitioning between different levels, ensuring a coherent and immersive gaming environment. Ascertain more difficult areas that can hinder progress and plan for a little more time so that your testing team tests them thoroughly rather than summarily. 

How to Plan

Create a checklist for level design criteria, specifying technical and aesthetic considerations. Review it often and incorporate a feedback loop for input from all team members. Involve QA to bring in additional perspectives and identify potential issues production teams might overlook. If a playthrough lasts 10 hours, multiply that time by 3 or 4 to allow ample time for verifying this. 

Synergies: Popular synergies with this component can be audio and some of the core mechanics.  

 

Audio

Develop a strategy to assess the presence and integrity of all audio elements, one element at a time. Designate specific milestones for the audio team to meet depending on the component tested, with a sweep on the final combined audio at the end. 

How to Plan

Identify key audio elements aligned with the development milestones for every element. Involve members of your team with expertise in audio testing to ensure a thorough evaluation of the game’s sounds. Pro tip: have tests (if possible) on one element at a time: voiceovers, SFX, and soundtrack. Testing them all at once can become a very hectic and confusing process. 

Synergies: As stated above, it’s a great component to test with Level Design and Core Mechanics. 

Menus and Options  

Develop a structured plan for testing all settings and options, ensuring they align with the overall game design. For your tests, you don’t need to wait for your UI to be completely polished by the way! QA planning is about being agile and working with the elements that do function. 

How to Plan

Create a detailed prototype of menus and options early in the development process. Establish a test plan that covers all possible user interactions and settings adjustments. Schedule testing sessions to refine menu functionalities and align with evolving game design requirements.  

Synergies: Great synergies for testing menus include Save File Stability, Audio, UI/HUD and Controller Input testing. 

Save File Stability

Make sure to prioritize the stability of save files as early as possible. This is one of the more time-consuming options to fix if you’re expecting cross-platform save compatibility, and it can take very long to test. 

How to Plan

Create a thorough save file testing plan. Identify critical points for autosaves and manual saves throughout the game. Develop test cases that intentionally manipulate save files to identify detect potential vulnerabilities and include plenty of screenshots! This means plenty of saving and reloading. 

Synergies: While Save File Stability can be ascertained on its own, consider having checks that encompass other components like Controller Input changes, for example. Anything that can be changed and should remain so once a game is reloaded is pertinent for this. 

 

Controller Inputs

Plan for controller input changes in both menu and in-game scenarios, ensuring a responsive and customizable control system.  

How to Plan

Make a controller input customization plan while testing out your game. Testing it out yourself will bring some subjects to light when it comes to impact on gameplay. Rebinding tests are important, but also make sure to include some user testing sessions to gather qualitative feedback on that facet of your user experience.  

Synergies: As mentioned just above, Save File Stability is a top contender for synergies, UI/HUD, and Controller disconnections can be considered as well. 

 

UI/HUD

Incorporate the planning of UI/HUD elements early in the product/game development cycle. Define guidelines for clarity, responsiveness, and consistency across the user interface. Chart a roadmap for the iterative testing of UI elements, allowing for refinements based on user feedback. 

How to Plan

Have your designers help with crafting guidelines for style and design principles. Include some Test Cases for different screen resolutions, aspect ratios, and platform-specific items. Make sure to hold plenty of discussions with your desired user profiles, be it your team, trusted loved ones or a professional Focus Group company to get a feel for how your UI/HUD affect UX. 

Synergies: Menus and Options, Controller Inputs and Localization are good choices to get started with. 

Conclusion

That’s it for installment number two on efficient QA planning! There’s so much to say about testing methodologies, but given that we can only put so much on one page before getting lost in the myriad of possibilities, we thought it best to start off with typical choices in testing management. Your game might not allow for synergies like those we presented, but the creative reasoning remains. We hope that you found something useful for your operations in this short post. 

One more to go. See you in two weeks! 

Contact | Huwiz

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