This section covers the team of cross-functional people required to get this from idea to reality.
The test expert is our version of Ed Palmer and the one that owns the process and is responsible for gathering, analyzing, and effectively communicating the information. He should have strong game design, statistical analysis and test development knowledge.
The internal customer is the requestor of the information and will usually be responsible for developing a portion of the product or providing feedback on it. In some cases this can be used to bring in customer perspectives on divisive issues.
The play testers are the carefully selected group that represents the target audience. Selecting play testers for the target audience is an important part of the process. I’ve listed some interesting articles on this subject at the end.
The play test coordinator is responsible for planning, organizing, and managing the play-test sessions according to the test expert’s requirements. This includes everything from finding the play-testers all the way to ensuring they are compensated.
The developers design and implement the tools and technology that allow for the efficient gathering and analyzing of all this information.
BioWare's upcoming Xbox 360 exclusive RPG Mass Effect
The task of gathering, aggregating, and analyzing all this information is much more effective with tools and technology support. Simply put this is a logging system. Pick a database, logging system and reporting tool and go crazy. If the preference is the buy rather than build there are a few companies that provide products and services in this area as well.
Time is a precious commodity and having the right tools and technology will help reduce iteration time, allow for gathering and analysis of large amounts of data and increase the accuracy of the information as well as the speed at which it is delivered.
Our first foray into this was a manual process to gather information on some of our previously released titles with the help of a few less-than-enthusiastic testers, a spreadsheet and an electronic stopwatch. This proved to be a valuable exercise and served as our proof of concept. We showed this around and saw enough value to proceed building this capability. Building the tools and technology fits into our departmental goal of moving low value time intensive tasks onto computers and allow our skilled people to focus on high value analysis tasks.