Here’s the official beginning of our “A Day in the Life of…” blog series, starting with an inside look to the life of Frozenbyte Quality Assurance! A while back we gave you the chance to ask questions from our QA Department, and we got quite many good ones. You’ll find some questions and answers at the end of this post, but first I’ll introduce the department a bit.
A normal day at work? Spot five differences between these two pictures.
Up next will be our Design Team – you can post questions to them in the comments! Design is quite a large department that involves multiple different things from game and level design to writing, UI design, technical level work and Focus user testing. You can read more about Design through this link.
QA stands for Quality Assurance. Our QA department is actually one of the biggest departments here at our office. Many of our employees begin their careers here from QA and then move on to other departments, but we also have QA specialists who focus on QA duties and don’t have plans to move to other departments. QA is really important to us and has a strong role to play in developing our games – after all, we want to ensure the players get the best experience possible. QA is a typical starting position and there are often many trainees around as well, but we don’t really view them as “just trainees” but instead treat everyone equally.
It is the QA’s responsibility to ensure the games we make are as bug free as possible and also provide feedback to the development team. QA is all about testing, testing and testing – over and over again. It is important to test things multiple times, as some bugs don’t happen in all instances, and triggering them might require some exceptional conditions. This might sometimes get tedious or even frustrating and it definitely requires a certain mindset.
QA in their natural habitat.
Experience in gaming is an important quality for those seeking to join our QA team and all our QA team members also play a lot of games in their free-time. Playing a lot of games makes it easier to try and think of things you are “not supposed to do” – and then do them, to see if something breaks. This is something that is quite difficult to explain or teach to people with no gaming background, as it requires a certain ‘touch’.
Our QA team also gets to do many varying tasks that have little or nothing to do with testing or developing games. Our QA department handles in-house technical support and takes care of varying little things from changing light bulbs to emptying exercise balls with a hammer, and from helping out our Catering staff to closing outdoor windows for the Support/Community staff because they are too short to reach them (sorry and thank you!) and from filling pools (both inflatable and otherwise) with hundreds or thousands of Splot plushies to imaginative things involving duct tape – the list goes on.
Earlier we gave people the opportunity to ask questions from our QA team about their job. We asked some of these questions from our QA Lead Henri and four QA team members (who chose to remain anonymous). If there’s still something you want to know, you can leave questions in the comments and we’ll see if the QA team has time to answer them. 🙂
What kind of things do you usually do during your workday?
QA Lead: Sometimes I start playing one of our currently developed games, sometimes I have some new toys (Development hardware and such) to play with. Usually I check what code has done yesterday and check their changes. I’m also responsible of all the odd-jobs done here at the office (from cleaning to fixing stuff) so I’m sometimes seen carrying tables around and stuff. As Lead I’m also pretty deeply involved with other teams (Art, Design, Management, Code, Marketing) and some days I might not be seen at my desk much (ok, at all) as I run around the office talking to my co-workers about different projects, schedules or something they need to get done. And of course, when a new game is in it’s first playable state I’ll create a test plan for it, it’s basically a list of ALL the features we have in the game and I also add there some special cases which for example might be “creating physic explosions” in a way that we could do those in our earlier games.
QA1 I get to work at 8AM, open up my PC and see if I have anything assigned for me to do. If not then we always have something that needs testing and it’s up to ourselves to find something to do. (Unless you genuinely can’t figure anything out in which case you can ask the QA lead for tasks to do.) It’s also very common for QA to get issues sent by our support team to be tested and sent further to code etc.
QA3 I come to work super early and use the first 30 minutes to launch all the software I need (some take a really long time launching). After that it varies. I might jump straight into testing something, or do some troubleshooting for the customer support, depends on the day. I do QA 3 days a week and animation training 2 days a week.
The QA team also works closely with our Support staff and helps them to find out solutions to different issues users may have with their games.
What have you done today at work? Has this been different from what you normally do?
QA Lead: Not really, but it’s been a while since I had a day like this. I’ve set up 4 new development consoles (PS4 and Wii U) and made test case documents of the technical requirements on those platforms. I also have one trainee that I’m tutoring at the moment about the basics of QA.
QA3 I’ve been testing an iOS game most of the day, just making sure that overall all of the features work etc. The project I work on depends on what needs attention currently. This is a very usual day for me.
QA2 Today I have been finishing an electronic manual for one of our games. This is a project that I have been doing for the last month or so and it has been really different from what I usually do. But I think it’s a good thing. I got to learn how to use a new program and it’s refreshing to do something different for a while.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
We often play board games and spend time together at the office after work.
QA Lead: The big variety of platforms I have a chance to play with and playing games on those platforms. I do QA because I love playing video games and having access to all of these platforms makes playing the same game over and over again really fun. And well at worst I need to play the same game for like two weeks and then I have a chance to change project, even two weeks on same game is pretty unusual thanks to the amount of projects we have!
QA1 Definitely the people I work with. But if strictly job related then it’s the opportunity to learn about things. For example when I started at the company I had no idea how to do anything Linux related but now I’m still clueless on most of the harder stuff!
QA3 The fact that I get to work with things I truly love (video games), and that I’m currently fulfilling the childhood dream of getting paid for playing games all day. Being at QA feels like being in the center of everything as well as we get to test and play the games in various stages of development and see it slowly build up into a final version (which other departments may not see as they are mostly focused on their side of the workload). We also have a really good work environment and everyone gets along really well, so working is very pleasant most days. We have lots of fun.
Is there something you dislike about your job, anything that frustrates you?
QA Lead: Yeeees, there are some but I can’t really say them out loud or I would get in trouble 😀 Well one thing I can say, if I get a build that’s in too good condition (I don’t find any fun bugs) it makes me sad ;< It means we can’t do any funny videos of the bugs (Yeah we record a lot of game play video while we play and make some videos of those bugs for the rest of the company to enjoy)
QA4 Not really.
QA1 Most commonly repetition. Having to test one small specific thing hundreds of times just to have it broken again later on by the users can be frustrating at times. It’s definitely not the consumers fault but more about how some things simply don’t happen at our end and it’s always sad to hear about issues other people have with our game that we can’t reproduce.
Does testing the same things over and over again get boring or frustrating?
QA Lead: Not really, I kinda already answered this above but let me say it again. Even playing the same game on PC for example doesn’t really get frustrating. I bet you have a few games you have spent over 1k hours in, that’s not really any different from my case. I have currently 850h in Trine1 and over 900h in Trine 2 only on my Steam account. Then you can add all the local co-op testing we’ve done and all other platforms like PS4, Wii U, Android and DRM free builds to it. And I’m still not bored of Trine or Trine 2, that’s because playing the game on a different platform always brings new bugs to exploit and you get really into it when you are about to figure out a big exploit or bug in the game, since you try to exhibit the bug/exploit even further almost automatically as you get excited.
QA2 Well maybe a little bit boring if you really have had to do the exactly same thing for a long time but that rarely happens.
QA3 Sometimes, if there is a feature that needs some special attention, grinding the same thing over and over may start to feel a little dull. Otherwise there are usually ways to make testing interesting and fun for myself.
Sometimes testing can get a little frustrating. Click the picture to see the whole GIF!
Note: No iPads, Splots or staff members were harmed in the making of these pictures.
Does having to test video games as a job daily have an effect on the way you enjoy games at home? Do you play less games as a result, or look at games differently?
QA Lead: Not_At_All. I’ve loved games since I was a kid and I still do. I have more games that I can count that I have spent over 500hours in, and still after I get home the first thing I do is start a video game. I don’t really look at games differently either, well maybe I’ll try to hunt bugs from games but I’ve done that for a long time already anyway. 😀 I’m also a big fan of Beta testing and I participate in any beta event that I can get into (and report quite a few bugs too!)
QA2 Maybe a little bit. I might take more notice of specific things when I play but nothing big really. I still play games casually at home and don’t want to think about little things too much. It is a completely different thing to just play for fun and to actually try to find out what makes the game break or what doesn’t work like it should. Even though sometimes it’s fun to do some bug hunting on some random games on your own time.
QA4 In my case ever since I started with game development as a game design student I did start to look at game differently, being more analytic and trying to guess how things were done. I still enjoy playing games even though I now work on the development side as well.
Do many people use a job in Quality Assurance to get into the industry? How viable a path is this?
QA Lead: Yeah, during my time at Frozenbyte we have had seven people who moved from QA to other tasks (Art, Code, Design, Community/Support, Production). And even before me we’ve had people who moved forward from QA. It’s a pretty common path and a logical way to get into the industry and get familiar with the development process.
QA4 I’ve heard/read that it is a path many do take. I think it is a viable path because you get to experience the day-to-day environment of game development.
QA2 Well QA is the place where most people start before they get transferred to other jobs like art or level design. QA is a good place to start and learn certain things.
Do you feel that you make a meaningful contribution to the game?
QA Lead: Indeed I do, I’m like the gatekeeper who makes sure that we don’t let anything dangerous pass (bugs and stuff). Nothing is more frustrating than having your saves wiped or an Achievement not unlocking after hours of effort. I’m here to make sure that doesn’t happen to anyone (Well I kinda fail already since I know that sometimes these things happen in our games, I’m terribly sorry!)
QA1 Definitely, while design and code teams could potentially test the game themselves it saves them a lot of time to leave the testing to us and let them just focus on the code/design. This is also better as we from QA can completely focus on the testing part of the game and every now and then it’s possible for us to find some really obscure issues that most likely would’ve passed with just a bit of quick testing.
QA4 Yes, I consider testing to be an integral part of the game development.
The two sides of our QA lead; at work and off work. The glass holds just Sima (a Finnish, non-alcoholic mead) of course!
Does the QA team give the devs a hard time e.g. they want things perfect or are they ready to make compromises?
QA Lead: Haha, you bet I do! This question would maybe be better directed to the developers, but yeah there are a lot of things that I demand to be fixed, but almost every time the development team agrees with me. Maybe the hardest time I can give to the devs is when I get behind them, laughing lightly and telling them that the fix they just spent a week working on does not work, and actually just broke more stuff. 😀
QA3 Devs always have the final word, so we can’t force them to change anything, and we’re not even supposed to. We give feedback which they may or may not take into account, depending on the issue and the scale of the changes needed. Code is usually having a hard time with us though, with error reports overflowing whenever something goes wrong in the game, and code is pretty much the department that gets bugged most by QA when we want features to work properly. Not all things can be fixed nor is there time for it, so little things will sometimes just be left be.
QA4 I don’t think the QA team gives the devs a hard time, although the other devs might think differently on that.
The coders can sometimes have it hard when QA bugs them about fixing stuff. This is a staged picture, no coders were bullied.
That’s it. 🙂 Thanks for reading and I hope this post managed to shed some light into what life is like here! If you still have questions for our QA team, you can leave them in the comments below.
Design is up next, so you can also ask questions from them in the comments!
Cheers all. 🙂
Regarding a question for upcoming design “Life of”.
How do you keep up to date in terms of UI design-patterns?
Do you follow certain companies and lend/use their patterns (Apple for example) or do you try and come up with your own?
Thanks for the fun read 🙂
As you’re working with five games, four of which are new IP’s, how do designers work in those circumstances? Are some designated solely to one game, or are they, and everyone else, jumping around from game to game depending where ever they’re needed most at that time?
Do you use any special programs to share and keep up with other people’s design ideas, or is it all just mspaint images and normal text files that you share?
How do you remember the full design of the game, including every small feature like how fast a certain enemy walks? Like, do you have a couple of documents that are filled with every small fact that the coders will then check?
How much freedom does a designer have in his job?
Great article :). My question is:
Where do you get your inspiration from? For example: you might have a weird dream, see something in a park, etc.