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September 17, 2019
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Dirty Jobs: Motion Gaming QA

by Elad Drory on 05/20/11 02:07:00 am   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

By now, you've probably had a chance to play some Kinect games, or perhaps even some of the newer motion games using similar technology. Maybe you liked it, maybe you hated it. In my experience, most people play for 10-20 minutes and say "Well, that was a nice bit of fun, but now I'm quite tired. I suppose I'll sit down and have some potato chips." Oh, how privileged you are. Did you ever stop to think that in order for you to have those 10 minutes of fun some poor idiot had to prance around in front of a camera every single day for months on end? 

Well, first of all, you probably shouldn’t have. It honestly isn’t that interesting. The only reason I give it a second thought is that I am that poor idiot. I do QA for motion games, and this is my story.

You see a lot of articles about the inner workings of game production, but you rarely hear about QA testers, we miserable unsung heroes of the industry, toiling in collision mesh tunnels or chipping away at menu interfaces. And as I may have hinted before, I consider testers for motion games to be the cream of the crop of battered, overworked drones. We are the elite.

I work as a tester for Sidekick, a small company that develops games for Kinect and other motion platforms (like the recently announced iSec). Like most “QA engineers”, my daily routine consists of exploring every aspect of a game, from sound to AI.  I search for bugs, report them and confirm when they are fixed. Unlike most testers, though, a large portion of my work has to be done standing on my feet, with a lot of jumping, punching and kicking. It’s exhausting.

Motion games introduce a lot of complexity into testing. Unlike normal games where a click of a button is supposed to trigger an action, a gesture in front of the camera can be performed in a thousand different ways, and every person does it slightly differently. I can't tell you how much time me and our QA manager spent moving around like morons in front of the cameras, switching places, jumping and waving our hands like a couple of tribal dancers, trying to find some way to make that smug camera choke. It almost never does.  

This added complexity also leads to some very weird bugs. At one point, we had an issue in our roller-skating game where scratching your head would inexplicably cause the character to perform a jump (don't ask me how it works, something about the silhouette's center of mass). God, I loved that bug! I immediately marked it as low priority, and thanks to it my knees aren't completely busted from constantly jumping in place. (Unless you’re my boss, in which case: Haha, not really! Except maybe. I really am a good employee, though)

The cameras themselves are also fidgety little bastards. You need enough room for them to work, and if another person walks in front of it, the camera could stop tracking the player. We had to move to a large, specially-built office with lots of open space to accommodate for the cameras, and these days I find myself unconsciously walking behind rather than in front of people so as not to obstruct some invisible field of view. 

Sorry if this sounds a bit whiny. Of course it isn’t all bad. Heck, it’s a living and it’s actually mostly good. Sidekick is a fantastic company to work for, and the job comes with its perks. I've lost about 10 pounds since I started doing QA, and I feel much healthier. I can only imagine how ripped the Olympians that did QA for Wii Fit  are! The large office space is also great, we even have a little pretend living room in the middle of the office, where me and my coworkers can play house and try to prepare for the various ways people would break their TVs playing our games .

So the next time you play a motion game, spare a thought for the poor QA people. Or don’t. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. I’m gonna get some potato chips.


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