As part of our on-going New Year New Job coverage, Darren Butler from indie publisher Ripstone shares what his role in QA involves
What is your job? What does it involve?
I am a QA technician at Ripstone. In a nutshell, my job is to make sure that when one of our games reaches the public, it’s at the best quality possible. This involves extended playtesting, reviewing design documents, creating test plans/cases and also a bit of research. The main bulk of the job is to find bugs. The more we find, the better the experience for the player.
What are your main responsibilities?
My day-to-day responsibilities are usually dependant on what stage of the testing process we’re at. Pre-alpha a lot of time is spent on making sure the game is in a stable enough condition to create test cases for when the intense testing is due to start. During alpha and beta stages, it’s full-steam ahead implementing the test cases, ensuring all content works as intended and helping to get the game into a state where we believe it is a candidate for release. Post release we provide technical support to players should they have any problems.
How did you get your job?
Before working for Ripstone I was a QA functionality tester for Sony Interactive Entertainment for around 10 years. I’d always wanted to work in the games industry and when I found out Sony was looking for testers (and they were not that far from where I lived at the time!) I put my CV in and that was it really. After a formal interview and a practical test looking for bugs in an old build of a game, they offered me the job. I had many good years, but I wanted to learn more about other platforms too. When I found out Ripstone was looking for experienced testers I applied. After visiting the studio and meeting everyone it was an easy decision to make.
What special skills or qualifications did you need?
Whilst I have no industry qualifications I do have 10 years of experience. For me, I think if you have the skills and motivation this can be a very rewarding position. Having attention to detail, good communication skills and persistence are some basic skills you’ll always rely on, but there are many things you pick up over time and that just comes with experience.
What new skills have you had to learn for this role?
Since working at Ripstone I have had to learn how to test for other platforms such as Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. As my previous experience has only been with the different Sony platforms this provided me with a new challenge but I have also learned some valuable knowledge in the process. The good thing about working for a smaller company is you are often given tasks that would not usually be given to QA testers in a big company such as Sony. Since moving to Ripstone I have learned how to send builds to Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo for master testing. I have taken reference photographs for artists to use for game assets.
Describe a normal day. What do you do?
A normal day usually starts with a “scrum meeting”. This is an opportunity for the developers to inform every one of their tasks for the day and also plan what our tasks will be for the future. We will then check to see if we have received any consumer issues overnight courtesy of our community manager. After assisting with any consumer issues, we will then move onto regression testing of a title in test or create test cases for upcoming games.
We do have the occasional indulgence to make the days a little easier, there are some great places to eat locally. Thursday is usually a Deliveroo day and Fridays are now ‘McFridays’. We often play games in the office too, PUBG and Everybody’s Golf are the current favourites. Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like a job at all!
What are the best and worst parts of your role?
The best part of the job for me is probably the customer satisfaction. When the public contact us and leave positive feedback it’s very rewarding. I have played computer games for a long as I can remember so actually being part of the industry is amazing.
The worst part of the job is probably missing bugs. It’s our responsibility to make sure the player has the best experience possible but sometimes bugs can slip through the net. It’s unfortunate but it happens.
People think that we just play games all day and this is not the case. It’s a lot of work and it is a very important part of the industry. If you can take negatives and learn from them it will make you a better tester.
What tips would you give to someone applying for a similar position?
I think if you are a motivated, patient person who can work well under pressure (who also loves video games) you will really enjoy this job. Written skills and good communication skills are also very important. If you can show you have the right qualities and the right attitude, you’ll be off to a good start.
This piece is part of our New Year New Job coverage for the start of 2018. If you want to get in touch to share your insight, email [email protected].