The accelerating rise of mobile, cloud, and augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) technologies is bringing a new set of challenges and expectations to the gaming industry. The advent and growth of 5G and the evolution of the metaverse are driving an urgent need for end-to-end integrated game-testing strategies covering functionality, security, and compliance to ensure quality user experiences. Further, gaming analytics company NewZoo’s Global Games Market Report 2021 estimates that gaming market revenue will reach $218.7 billion by 2024. The report also finds that the current number of gamers using mobile devices is 2.8 billion, compared to 1.4 billion using PCs and 9 million using console devices (and many players use more than one platform).
Regardless of device, delivering seamless user experiences is of paramount importance to gaming companies and their ability to stay competitive. Game platform services, network connectivity, device hardware, and operating system performance all affect the overall user experience of a game across platforms, especially mobile channels. It’s crucial that game-testing operations cover usability, localization, compliance, and test automation. With the right processes, frameworks, tools, and skills in place, enterprises can adequately address the full scope of essential game-testing requirements and provide seamless gaming experiences that drive brand loyalty.
The game-testing essentials
Developing an integrated end-to-end testing strategy hinges on understanding the various factors that affect the overall user experience. These include game infrastructure, video and social media integrations and interactions, new consoles and devices, security, and compliance. To ensure quality testing and keep game development costs within budget, any game-testing strategy should include the following essentials:
Automation platforms are gaining widespread use throughout the tech industry due to their ability to save time and increase efficiency. Game test engineers can use them to automatically test cross-platform games based on specific test scenarios provided by the developer or user. Engineers can then maintain and update the automation framework using a centralized test case repository as part of a continuous integration (CI) practice, as well as improve workflows and create automation scripts and tools. Automated game-testing tools can also help teams adopt agile development and DevOps processes as part of their digital engineering operations.
Functional and regression testing
Sophisticated new application features, such as on-demand capabilities that don’t require downloads, are what drive compelling gaming experiences, and functional testing is crucial for ensuring that features deliver appealing visuals and quality game play. It can be automated to assess game flow mechanisms, user interface layouts, and graphics, as well as to check colors, backgrounds, menu structure and functions, screen orientation, and screen resolution. These tests can also assess a game’s stability and ensure graphics assets are integrated correctly.
Functional testing is critical to evaluating complex multiplayer games, especially for mobile- and cloud-based experiences. It can assess integrations with social media and app stores as app variants are launched for different devices.
Regression testing is another important area of focus, in which game updates are tested for compatibility with older devices, browsers, or OS versions. This is especially important in mobile games where server-client interactions can cause service functionality issues.
Usability and compatibility testing
Game usability testing examines the user experience a game delivers. This covers a wide range of factors, including ease of use, user interactions, game responsiveness, device and platform compatibility, and background factors such as interruptions or battery consumption. Similarly, compatibility testing is equally critical and focuses on checking a game’s compatibility across different devices. This step should be taken during each development phase to reveal any incompatibility issues with game components or integrations with end-user devices.
Whether a game is designed for single or multiple players, users expect high speeds, ultra-low latency, and a consistent seamless experience. Gauging a game’s performance for these attributes requires a series of cross-platform tests using an ecosystem of devices to examine reliability; scalability; and workload across applications, networks, platforms, and devices. Assessing these capabilities is what performance testing consists of, with a focus on attributes such as frames per second, game rendering, and verifying the amount of users who can play at one time.
Infrastructure, network resources, and load testing play important roles here. A scalable and optimized infrastructure is necessary for handling the latest gaming innovations without compromising user experience. Areas such as graphics processing unit (GPU) resources and network bandwidth are major challenges, as they can impact streaming scalability and costs.
Load testing a multiplayer game examines the limits of the system’s ability to handle simultaneous players on a server, edge infrastructure, graphic content performance in frames per second, and memory consumption. By focusing on a comprehensive set of metrics, gaming companies can ensure they’re delivering quality performances that meet player expectations no matter the intended audience.
Security and compliance testing
Trust and safety are core to the gaming experience, both in terms of security and compliance, and they’re also critical to a brand’s reputation. The use of open-source components and third-party code in game development has led to new challenges regarding security vulnerabilities, content moderation, data theft prevention, and license restrictions. Addressing these issues is a necessity, and reporting on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices is growing within the gaming industry in order to provide valuable information to company’s management and stakeholders.
Before games are streamed to global audiences, localization testing is important to ensure games are compliant with local cultures and regulations. These tests cover a variety of parameters, including verifying that a website or app supports the functionality and usability of a particular region. By following these tests, engineers assess geopolitical sensitivity, translation accuracy, graphics context, and device compatibility with multiple language support. An example of a game that didn’t fully meet a specific localization test is Mortal Kombat 11, which was blocked from release in Japan after the Computer Entertainment Rating Organization (CERO) found the game’s violence to be too extreme.
Creating an integrated game-testing strategy
A comprehensive testing strategy that covers each of the essential testing areas and doesn’t compromise on quality or cost would need to include a series of key tactics. Innovating test operations is foundational to delivering seamless gamer experiences, and a modernized approach would consist of adopting the following components and practices:
- Crowdsourcing can be used to gather outside talent and leverage their game-testing expertise to find any potential experience issues. Working with third-party testers can help ensure that thorough assessments are in place to verify quality on each level of the user experience.
- Remote testing enables access to any devices or consoles connected to mobile networks; it allows seamless integrations with existing workflows without any code additions.
- Continuous monitoring capabilities alert the app tester immediately when any irregularity has been detected in a network. Users will instantly know when the app is down, a transaction is broken, or the performance is slow.
- Performance management is provided through analytical tools that manage customer experiences and application performance using predictive analytics. The tools run frequent functional and performance tests to ensure an upcoming app version will function smoothly.
- Managing test machines and scaling test automation provide a single location for test machine management. Engineers can scale test automation from hundreds to thousands of test runs across different test machines, as well as handle tasks such as test script generation and test suite optimization tasks.
- A next-generation managed-services QA delivery framework is essential for providing the tools, IPs, and best practices needed to create and test game quality.
- A product compliance lab can be created to ensure products conform to international regulatory standards, compliance regulations, and localization testing.
With an integrated strategy in place, developers and engineering can prepare to holistically address the full range of issues that can arise from applications, content, infrastructures, networks, and devices. Game-testing operations are truly a team effort, and gaming providers will likely need to partner with an organization that can provide the expertise to help devise and execute a comprehensive testing strategy. Fast, frictionless experiences are what today’s gamers expect, and adopting new testing models that focus on quality, cost, and time will be essential to staying competitive in the gaming market.