Quality Assurance: An Untapped Resource for Mobile Game Developers

Insights & Best Practices

October 16, 2015


min read

Playtesting games is natural to the iterative development style of many mobile game studios ? after all, developers are always changing and improving games based on player and employee feedback. But what about the earlier steps of testing like quality assurance?QA was a common first job for a previous generation of designers and project managers. In these days of small indie teams, though, far fewer consider specific QA strategies as part of their development process. But they should. QA helps weed out those initial glitches and promotes overall game consistency ? both important to the specific game and a studio?s brand.For the smallest studios, though, lack of funds becomes a compelling reason to avoid QA. "If you've got very little money, you're probably not going go with an outsourced vendor where you pay hourly for tests," says Scott Foe, co-founder at mobile studio Ignited Artists.QA can rapidly become a time drain and distraction during production, too ? especially with Android device testing (Google lists nearly eight thousand possible devices on its platform). Below is a more specific list of QA options for those studios of all sizes and with all types of funding. QA isn?t one-size-fits all, but it?s a step you shouldn?t forgo when developing a game:

Do it yourself

  • Pros: This may be the only option available for cash-strapped indies, and the lessons learned here become internalized in your company.
  • Cons: Because you lack a dedicated QA person, time costs inherently get pushed onto your developers.
  • The tools: Read books like Code Complete to develop a sane testing workflow, including code reviews. As your game nears completion, install tools like Crashlytics to receive detailed automatic bug reports. You can also install plugins like Apptentive to allow users to write their own reports and requests from inside your game.

Crowdsource testing

  • Pros: This is the cheapest outsourced testing option and can work well when coupled with a strong QA manager inside your company.
  • Cons: Crowdsourced testers won't be as highly trained or thorough as QA professionals.
  • Options: MyCrowd, crowdsourcedtesting and Testdroid can all do the job.

Individual contractors

  • Pros: Contractors are available for a variety of terms, from long-term to part-time arrangements to hourly work. They're also generally cheaper than professional testing houses.
  • Cons: You may face a lengthy search to find the perfect contractor and they probably can't help as well as an agency with device compatibility testing.
  • Options: Personal networks are preferable. In a pinch, services like Freelancer and and Upwork may help.

Professional testers

  • Pros: These are small armies of testers who are usually far more thorough and knowledgeable than you are. They will help you develop and implement a testing plan.
  • Cons: They're usually very expensive, and for the best results (and contract negotiation) you'll still want someone internal who's capable in QA, as well.
  • Options: Magid, Testology and VMC all have stellar reputations.

For nearly any option you choose, it's a good idea to have someone inside your company who at least knows QA ? but if you're a small company, you likely can't pay for a dedicated QA role. If all else fails, find an advisor or mentor who knows QA.Remember that the end goal is to get your title stable enough to ship. At that point, for better or worse, your players become your primary QA testers. "If your game is free to play, that means large numbers, the market itself will out scale your QA team no matter how much [money] you throw at it. That's what they call it the risk of success," says Foe.