Train2Game interview with Trion Worlds Senior QA Tester Karl Tars – Part 3

End of Nations is an upcoming MMORTS from Petroglyph Games and Trion Worlds. The game was on display at the Eurogamer Expo, and the Train2Game blog caught up with Trion Worlds Senior QA Tester Karl Tars to find out more about the game, QA Testing and how to get into the industry.

In the final part of an in-depth three part interview, Karl Tars tells the Train2Game blog what his role as Senior QA Tester involves, the importance of QA in game development, how he got into the games industry and he offers advice on finding work as a QA Tester.

Read it below here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game Scribd page.

Part 1 and Part 2 of our interview are both available to read here on the Train2Game blog.

So, tell us a bit about your role as Senior QA Tester.

My role is…Petroglyph gives us the build then we go in to find all the bugs. We’ll report them so they get fixed so that the game itself plays smoothly, no crashes, no textures going weir. But we also go in and look for gameplay fun bugs, like ‘This feels overpowered, this feels underpowered, it’s not really clear when I’d ever use this, special ability,’ things like that.

That’s what we do, we’re officially called Quality Assurance but the actual role is more quality assessment; we don’t assure quality, we don’t fix the bugs, we just assess what the game is and tell them ‘Hey, this is how the game is, is that what you really want?’ and let them make the decision as to whether they want to fix it or whether they want to change it or drop it. A lot of times they’ll say ‘You know what, we can’t make this work, you’re right it’s not going to work right’ so they’ll drop a feature and change it to something new entirely.

How important is the QA process to game development?

I’d say it’s a critical step. In previous times there was a period where it was kind of neglected, they wanted to know does the game crash, does the game function, but they didn’t really care about the actual quality in terms of fun gameplay values. Trion certainly doesn’t do that and other companies have caught on that ‘Hey, we can’t just keep pushing out these terrible games forever,’ and eventually the consumer catches on too and stops buying them.

So the QA process is really critical, and it frees up the developers. Instead of having to spend 3 hours figuring out how to cause this crash, we do that: we figure out exactly how to cause it and it gives them the time to keep working on the game, keep programming, keep adding new units. And then once they know how to break it, they can go in and fix it quickly and get their jobs done much more efficiently.

How did you get into your role in the games industry?

I took a rather long path for it; I actually have a Computer Science degree, I can programme but when I graduated it was a terrible time for programming and so I picked up a QA job at Vivendi Games in L.A. They’ve since been bought out by Activision, but basically it was a temporary position and I was good enough that they kept me on a lot longer than the average temp.

After it was bought out by Activision, I thought ‘I’m not too interested in working for them, they don’t treat their employees as well as I’d like,’ so I moved onto Trion Worlds who have been fantastic.  For the most part, anyone who has a good eye, likes playing games and can clearly, precisely say what they did and how to reproduce what they just caused, they can have a job in QA.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to work in QA?

The main thing to do if you want a job in QA is working on your skills at spotting things. A lot of us are game players, and that’s not necessarily what you’re going to be doing in testing. Testing isn’t just playing the game; a lot of it is very repetitive, where we’ll go through every single unit, make sure that every single ability works, make sure every single texture on a map looks correct.

So as you’re playing through a game and you spot a texture out of alignment? That’s something that QA would do. If you can cause the game to crash consistently in a certain way, that’s something QA have to do.

So spotting a bug is the first half of it, the second half of it, is having good English skills or whatever other languages your company works in.  Being able to clearly say ‘do this, do this, do this’ – the way I was told to practice that was imagine you have an alien, they understand the language in some respects, but they don’t necessarily know a lot of the noun, they wouldn’t know what a fork this, they wouldn’t know what a knife is.

Now try and tell them how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when they don’t know what any of those things are. And you have to describe them being very descriptive and giving a good guide of exact steps and also including things like ‘it doesn’t work if you do this,’ so that when the developer gets it they can just immediately go click, click, click, straight through your steps and ‘Oh there’s the issue, I can see it now, and now that I can see it on my machine I can fix it really easily.”

Thanks for your time Karl.

End of Nations is scheduled for release next year.

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