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[ljc] How are big games made?

From: Abraham Marín P.
Sent on: Monday, December 31, 2012 3:22 PM
Dominic, I think you nailed it there.

I worked as a game tester for Nintendo for a couple of months, and the testing games go through is really thorough, let me give an example of the case I experienced.

I was in the team specific for testing the Spanish translation of the game, there were around 6 of us, and we had to play to check for he following:

- Text is orthographically and grammatically correct.
- Text fits correctly within the text boxes.
- Text doesn't use harsh words like die or kill (instead we said faint and defeat, Nintendo policy for kid's games).
- Text is coherent with respect to the story (eg, if a character tells you to go to the mill east from the village and it's actually located at west). 

The cycle was about two months. We had "boosters" to make sure we didn't get stuck at any particular point and could progress in the game so as to see all texts.

Note my team was only for translation into Spanish, there were similar teams for French, German, Italian and English; that makes around 30 testers only for texts. Of course if we spotted a bug related to the game itself we notified it, but that was rather rare since the game was thoroughly tested back in Japan; as a matter of fact, no bug was filed to my knowledge while I was there.

And all this for a game that wasn't one of the big titles these days, I'm talking about Pokemon! More specifically for Nintendo DS, 6 years ago. I can't remember what particular flavour of pokemon from all the ones that were released though.

I can only imagine the army of testers they must use now. Bear in mind this is before the explosion of the videogame industry. When I left Nintendo we had just received our first Wii in the office to start testing Wii games for the European market, everybody was so excited about that new, odd controller that responded to hand's motion... 


On Thursday, December 20, 2012, Dominic Mitchell wrote:
On Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 12:12 PM, Ged Byrne <[address removed]> wrote:
I've been watching my son play his games for a while now: Assassins Creed III, Syrim, Resident Evil.

The scale of these games amazes me.  They are huge, they are pushing the envelope in terms of graphics and game mechanics.  The weave animation, voice acting, development, story telling and a whole load of disciplines.

They deliver on time.

They don't seem to have many bugs.  (Appart from the odd cow falling from the sky.)

I strongly desire to file that bug: "cow falls unexpectedly from sky.
These guys are producing something so much more complicated than most enterprise applications and yet they do so with consistency and creativity.

Does anybody know how?

From the games programmers I've met, I think that your experience may be atypical.  Many games do have a lot of bugs.  But, the difference is that the games studios employ a lot of testers, who are really keen on playing games (seriously, would you rather test a purchase ordering app or an FPS?).  I think that this forms a somewhat effective barrier.

Some people do blog about their experiences; for example, have a look at The making of Warcraft.


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