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[TRENCHES] Thursday, April 25, 2013 - Downton

GethGeth LegionPerseus VeilRegistered User, Moderator, Penny Arcade Staff, Vanilla Staff vanilla
edited April 2013 in The Penny Arcade Hub
Downton


Downton
http://trenchescomic.com/comic/post/downton

Let slip the dogs of war.

Anonymous

QA testers have an unusual relationship with gaming press. I’d like to elaborate a little. You see, every time a member of the press plays any game that requires a second player, you’re playing alongside a member of QA. We have the most experience, and handing the game off to some unpracticed marketing guy with no idea what bugs dodge would be a catastrophe.

So here’s where it gets awkward on the QA end. We have collectively spent the last 6 to 9 months playing nothing but this game for 8-16 hours a day. Once you hit 1000 hours spent playing a single game you ascend beyond mortal skill. Multiplayer games against each other are measured in single bullets and millisecond reaction times.

Now imagine asking these people to lose.

We are asked to collectively throw the game while playing you. To appear like we are trying but never kill you. To make you feel like a champ.  I really hope that didn’t shatter egos.

Now to rein this back in and turn it into a proper story.

It was roughly 4 years ago, and I was on the 30-ish person large Multiplayer team for a AAA Shooter.  The brutal grind known as the prep for E3 was winding down and it was game time. The name of the game was 3 days of non-stop multiplayer against the press.  Breaks and lunch taken at our desks. The entire time only maintaining the facade of a game taking place. Bullets flying everywhere but to no real effect. Like storm troopers.

We periodically get feedback from the attendants on the floor with the press. Things like “he’s lost over by the docks, someone get over there and keep the action going,” or “people are noticing the bad lighting on those trees. Keep the action elsewhere.”

While we were getting feedback from our liaison, some obnoxious dude was hanging out near the booth loudly proclaiming “Wow, is that the best AI you could come up with? Those bots are terrible!”

Our lead asks what Marketing wants us to do about it. Our Marketing liaison utters the magic words through the speakerphone.

“It’s an hour until we pack it up, Let ‘em off the leash.”

The ground shook. The heavens split. The world exploded.


Geth on

Posts

  • Ori KleinOri Klein Registered User regular
    Yes, Quentin. You certainly run a quality, in-order, production here. We cannot allow the such of this sort.

  • Blackie62Blackie62 Registered User regular
    edited April 2013
    Quentin seems a bit to firey in his rage to be going around Dowager Countess-ing about what is and isn't proper. It's not something done without the snarky aloofness of Dame Maggie Smith.

    Blackie62 on
  • RMS OceanicRMS Oceanic Registered User regular
    My comedic resolution predictometer was correct!

  • metroidkillahmetroidkillah Local Bunman Free Country, USARegistered User regular
    I'm becoming a little frustrated with the way the comic is going. It's like, OK, it started about how bad working in QA with an established developer can be. Long hours on thankless tasks and genuine mistreatment compounded by poor budgeting. Boo. And then, one of them is able to escape an start his own deal. Awesome. But it turns out he's a liar and an asshole and things are just as bad as the last place, but nobody has the balls to say anything?

    I guess the comic is mirroring real life a little too much. I'm not sure what I was hoping for.

    I'm not a nice guy, I just play one in real life.
  • marsiliesmarsilies Registered User regular
    Today's tale:
    Please help us test! Don’t report bugs!
    04/25/2013
    Anonymous

    I worked for a large company as a lead in customer service. As a major project launch date approached, management realized more skilled testers would be needed and moved staff familiar with the product from other teams temporarily to testing. I was interested and actually excited to do this, because I had never tested before. I was under the impression that my involvement would help my CS team out in the long run, and the product would be better for it. Make sense?

    I tested full-time for four weeks. I was given a huge list of testing scripts to work through but it was all mundane happy-path stuff. I thought I’d do better with some guerilla testing, and since I wasn’t officially a tester I didn’t have a supervisor to argue with me, I just ran around trying to break things. As it turned out, I broke just about everything.

    I submitted an obscene amount of bugs every day because I wasn’t burdened by what were obviously poorly-conceived test scripts.

    Somehow—perhaps because I was a team lead—I ended up in a final meeting of producers and testers where we went around the room and all the test leads unbelievably stated that their area was good to go. I assumed it had to be pressure from management, but I hadn’t felt any of this pressure and wasn’t going to lie, so I was the only one in the room that said the game should be a no-go.

    I stated from my perspective that the title was probably a year out from being consumer-acceptable. The testers all stared at their hands. The managing producer nodded thoughtfully and said “Okay, we’re launching on schedule.”

    The game launched two weeks later and was a buggy disaster. My team, the poor CS guys, were overwhelmed by rightfully pissed-off customers for months.

    Two years later the company found themselves in the same position and again reassigned internal staff to testing. The only lesson they apparently learned? They didn’t invite me to test again.

  • kingworkskingworks Registered User regular
    What is it about the gaming industry that makes so many publishers okay with pushing crap out the door and expecting to do well?

    I just don't get it.

  • Product PlacementProduct Placement Registered User regular
    I'm becoming a little frustrated with the way the comic is going. It's like, OK, it started about how bad working in QA with an established developer can be. Long hours on thankless tasks and genuine mistreatment compounded by poor budgeting. Boo. And then, one of them is able to escape an start his own deal. Awesome. But it turns out he's a liar and an asshole and things are just as bad as the last place, but nobody has the balls to say anything?
    I'm kinda on the same boat here. I'm having a hard time seeing how this makes any sense from Quentin's perspective. He sets up a game company and goes through all this trouble of getting the rights for a fantasy setting that he's been dreaming of making a game about. He hires what, at first glance, look to be incompetent people ranging from an elderly lady that isn't interested in the source material for the game and a literal definition of a lunatic. He then hires his QA workmates and has them hang around in a moldy basement, while he himself spends his time and money running a giant snack bar for the development crew that the QA team doesn't have access to.

    And the justification to this business model is that there's a diagram?

  • DiamondMXDiamondMX Registered User regular
    edited April 2013
    kingworks wrote: »
    What is it about the gaming industry that makes so many publishers okay with pushing crap out the door and expecting to do well?

    I just don't get it.

    I shall explain it to you:

    Preorders
    First week sales
    Early guided previews
    Late accurate reviews
    Industry pressure towards high scores
    Advertising on review sites = conflict of interest
    Customer apathy
    Misguided customer loyalty (fanboys/fangirls)
    Short term customer memory
    Refunds are hard to come by, or often impossible
    Short term profit > Long term market stability

    Really, with as much of a sellers market at this, it's a surprise people aren't just buying annual and bi-annual rereleases of the same games in the same engines with the same stories told in the same way, for triple the price of an original idea told well. Oh wait...


    Some AAA games are really good, but there's a lot of pressure on a AAA developer to spend more money on marketing (== first week sales) than on a decent game (== long tail sales)

    DiamondMX on
    Ori Klein
  • El SkidEl Skid The frozen white northRegistered User regular
    I think it's basically the same corporate bullshit that every company faces, and the root of the problem seems to be the stock market.

    Shareholders are happy as long as the value of their stock is increasing in the short term (days/weeks), because as long as that is happening they can sell their stock anytime and turn a profit.

    What shareholders don't like is bad news. "The title that matters so much to our short term financial success is actually still a year away from shipping" is the kind of thing that pisses off shareholders. The value of their stock goes down, and they need to either sell at a loss once everyone has heard the news, or hang onto the stock for a year until it does go up, tying up their money.

    So long term stuff like "if you put out a crappy game it will be really bad for you forever because your reputation will be sullied" doesn't matter to shareholders. They can sell their stock after the game launches at their leisure, because "produced a bad game that isn't going to make as much money as it could have over its lifetime due to crapiness" doesn't have much short term impact on stock price. Plus the company gets to free up a dev team to make another title a year sooner!

    This is why everyone is so excited about kickstarter and such- if you get a game funded via crowdsourcing, there's much less short-term pressure to get the game out the door. How good the game is really what will determine if you get funding for another one, so you need to get it right. And if you really need to take an extra few months or a year to take it from "buggy crap" to "polished and fun to play", it's actually in your best interest to do so. You have people who kickstarted the project eager to play and putting pressure on you, but it's not the kind of pressure that can see you replaced on your own project with someone who is willing to push out a crappy game so that they don't lose out short term.

    mrpaku wrote: »
    my name is precisionk and i'm ten tanks

    wrath God fear traitor evil
  • kingworkskingworks Registered User regular
  • metfanscmetfansc Registered User regular
    I love how the guy from customer service "declared" that the game was a year away from going to production and that his scripts were clearly much better than the testers scripts. I mean I get that he obviously felt there there were key bugs that he should have been addressed, but all I got out of that thread was that there was a guy with no testing experience and no coding experience thinking he knew better than everyone else in the room how the world should work.

    I have no idea why they didn't listen to you.

  • Warlock82Warlock82 Never pet a burning dog Registered User regular
    edited April 2013
    metfansc wrote: »
    I love how the guy from customer service "declared" that the game was a year away from going to production and that his scripts were clearly much better than the testers scripts. I mean I get that he obviously felt there there were key bugs that he should have been addressed, but all I got out of that thread was that there was a guy with no testing experience and no coding experience thinking he knew better than everyone else in the room how the world should work.

    I have no idea why they didn't listen to you.

    Haha, kind of, yeah. I mean, the game was obviously not ready, but declaring it was a year out when everyone else is saying it's good is just going to make you look like an idiot who should be ignored. There are more tactful ways to handle that :P

    It also probably matters what type of game it is. A MMORPG would probably be a different story than a non-MMO release, since they are being patched constantly and there is so much content that it's reasonable to assume not all of it will be done for launch.

    Ultimately this sort of thing comes down to money though. Certain companies especially can probably get away with this. You are losing customer loyalty with stuff like that, but if you are also bringing in new customers at a fast rate, there's a point where that kind of balances out :P

    Warlock82 on
    Switch: 2143-7130-1359 | 3DS: 4983-4927-6699 | Steam: warlock82 | PSN: Warlock2282
  • wormspeakerwormspeaker Objectively Terrible Registered User regular
    The customers of the games industry rewards companies that put out crap. That's all the justification they need.

  • plki76plki76 Registered User regular
    Warlock82 wrote: »
    metfansc wrote: »
    I love how the guy from customer service "declared" that the game was a year away from going to production and that his scripts were clearly much better than the testers scripts. I mean I get that he obviously felt there there were key bugs that he should have been addressed, but all I got out of that thread was that there was a guy with no testing experience and no coding experience thinking he knew better than everyone else in the room how the world should work.

    I have no idea why they didn't listen to you.

    Haha, kind of, yeah. I mean, the game was obviously not ready, but declaring it was a year out when everyone else is saying it's good is just going to make you look like an idiot who should be ignored. There are more tactful ways to handle that :P

    It also probably matters what type of game it is. A MMORPG would probably be a different story than a non-MMO release, since they are being patched constantly and there is so much content that it's reasonable to assume not all of it will be done for launch.

    Ultimately this sort of thing comes down to money though. Certain companies especially can probably get away with this. You are losing customer loyalty with stuff like that, but if you are also bringing in new customers at a fast rate, there's a point where that kind of balances out :P

    Indeed. Also, the guy in question was from customer service so I can almost guarantee that the thought process was "Ugh, CS. They want us to fix every bug so that we don't get any calls. He's probably hyper-exaggerating."

    The tale didn't mention a lot of details about the meeting, but a better way to approach this would have been to say "Well, I think there are a few critical issues that we should address if we can get an extra week into the schedule. For example, we really need to fix bug 12345 (the game crashes when you swing your sword three times without moving) and bug 23456 (saved games get corrupted if you are carrying more than eight potions)."

  • Ori KleinOri Klein Registered User regular
    kingworks wrote: »
    What is it about the gaming industry that makes so many publishers okay with pushing crap out the door and expecting to do well?

    I just don't get it.

    The end-luser in the consumer space, by a vastly great majority, is a complete egocentric retard that spends a lot of money with little thought or regards towards prospects of service, quality of product and future consequences.
    It's only when they start ranting on forums, being abused by the CS, getting banned by the publisher that they suddenly open their eyes to see what is around them.
    This is also reflected onto politics and just about any other field. The old "at first they came for..." applies.

  • HardtargetHardtarget There Are Four Lights VancouverRegistered User regular
    boy this comic is sure going nowhere slowly

    now they get to live upstairs and nobody learns any lessons and yet more no development for any of the characters

    OH BOY

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