GTA V was released a few weeks ago in what was one of the largest, if not the largest, entertainment release ever. We’re not just talking about video games here, but television and movie releases as well. Costing upwards of £170 million to make, Rockstar had a huge responsibility to get every facet about the game spot on, not just for fans, but for shareholders and their own pride. And a critical element to this process was the role of the video game tester.
You see, once you’ve stripped away the hype, the years of production and the ground-breaking budget, you still need a game that is playable and bug free. Rockstar developers and programmers don’t have time to sit around all day playing through the enormous sand box environment that is synonymous with the GTA series, but somebody has to ensure any bugs or glitches are removed pre-release; that’s where the role of a Quality assurance specialist comes in.
Testing the sandbox
The GTA series has more than most games, really benefitted from the role of these testers, because being a non-linear open 3D environment has meant that there’s much more to go wrong than in more structured games.
Obviously these open world sand box games are built using advanced technology and 3D modelling systems, but you still need players to physically go to all corners of the map and inside every building and take in the view from various heights above the game area to make sure there are no black holes or ugly bits of code manifested as missing walls, building or trees; or worse still, weird windows into a kind of subspace.
So what is the role of the tester?
The roles of testers will vary from game to game, but in general they play an advanced version of the code and record any glitches that they find. Once these glitches are pinpointed, it can be up to the tester to play this section or area over and over again to determine how the bug appears, why and how often. The bug might need to be recreated dozens of times and each time the tester must record every detail of the occurrence.
Debunking the myth
It’s for this reason that you should remove the image of video game testers being lazy kids sat on their beds eating pizza while they play their favourite games and get paid for it. The reality is that like any job or role, testing requires devotion, dedication and concentration.
Real world skills
Testers will need proficient verbal and written communication skills, so that they can relay their findings to the developers and even speak in meetings if required. The hours worked might be long and the money only average.
There is money to be made in the games industry, but you should think of the quality assurance role as a footstep on to bigger and better things; such as games designer and producer.
If you don’t have the specific educational qualifications behind you for such roles, the video game tester job is another route into a games career. But ideally you should be looking to get a college or university qualification for the industry and Southern California is full of colleges that offer video game designer courses and degrees.
If this option isn’t open to you there are eBooks which you can purchase online, but the quality varies greatly and you’ll need to do your homework before buying. Some offer a route in through contacts built up in the games industry. Otherwise you’ll have to go it alone when you contact companies for these roles.
GTA V along with other massive video games couldn’t release without the help of video game testers. Your route into this fascinating and still expanding industry will be decided by location and budget.
Formal education can be expensive without grants, but the end results will be a solid qualification. At the other end of the scale are the online digital eBooks for tester roles – a possible last chance saloon on to the bottom rung of the industry ladder. Whichever route you choose it’s important you do your due diligence before making your final decision.