How great would it be to get paid for playing games all day long? Well, that's a reality for a lot of game testers out there.
With the big names introducing subscription payment models for games (Apple Arcade, Google Stadia and so on), the mobile gaming industry has become an incredibly competitive space. Game testers don't just sit around playing games all day long, though. They perform a series of tests to ensure that mobile games meet user expectations, have beautiful designs and offer a fun gameplay experience.
In this post, let's uncover what it takes to test mobile games, and how it differs from app testing. We’ll also look at some popular tools that game testers use.
Key Areas of Mobile Game Testing
Game testers test for these key areas that have a direct impact on performance, user ratings and compatibility.
1. Interface Testing
The most important factor directly contributing to user ratings is, "How does this game look?" Game testers have to be nuanced UI/UX testers where their goal is not only pointing out where things are not working, but where it can be improved.
This can be further broken down:
Onboarding: Game onboarding experience is so vital that it might even deserve its own section! The onboarding experience helps users get accustomed to the game. It should be precise and simple to follow; too long, and your users will quit before getting started; too short, and your users will not know what to do. A good option is to always have the "Revisit Onboarding" button prominently displayed, which lets your users come back to the onboarding whenever they want.
Layouts and Elements: All elements must follow the same UI language. Colors that are used must also be something that is comfortable to see for long periods of time. Testers must ensure that layouts render well in different orientations, devices and in edge cases of the game – nothing worse than seeing a random white tile!
Menu Structure: There have been so many times I've gotten frustrated because there aren’t adequate options on the menu for basic features.
2. Graphics Performance
Your UI could be great, onboarding fantastic, sounds and tunes up to par. But if all of this causes lags during gameplay, most users would not bat an eye to uninstall. This is even more important in multiplayer games.
Game testers need to ensure that performance remains the same and is acceptable on all supported devices. Testers can utilize automated test cases to ensure this. These test cases can run for many hours together, gathering vital performance metrics such as battery usage, CPU usage, data consumption (especially for online games) and more.
3. Security Testing
Mobile games use a variety of third-party tools such as ads or payment gateways. Since integration of third-party tools is often an easy point of access for intruders, testers need to spend a significant amount of time performing penetration tests.
Third-party tools could also cause crashes and bugs, so functional tests need to be performed in this area as well.
Also related to this area is social media integration. In recent times, this has become a make-or-break area for apps and games. Users don't want to give out data to companies, especially data on social media platforms. Game testers need to ensure that users are clear about what data the game receives and how the game will use it. They will also need to ensure data leaks are not happening from the game itself.
4. External Devices
Users don't want to be limited to only playing on a tiny mobile screen with their thumbs anymore. They want to be able to connect monitors, controllers, and even VR devices! Game testers would need to test all aspects of this and ensure the game is compatible with popular external devices.
With Apple's new iOS support for controllers, this segment will become all the more expected and used by users.
Mobile Game Testing Vs App Testing
The testing methodology and principles for both types of testing remain similar. However, there are areas of mobile game testing that need more effort since they are far more complex than standard mobile apps.
1. Functional Testing
This is extremely common and constitutes the majority of app testing. With mobile games, functional tests are important, but not all encompassing. Automated functional tests help testers reveal when performance is low and graphics do not render accurately, as well as gauge the stability of the interface across devices.
2. Compatibility Testing
With an app, it is enough to test if each page renders appropriately without missing information. However, with games, testers need to not just ensure the game performs on different devices, but that it works with external devices accurately (such as game controllers or VR gadgets). Further, most games are tested on high-end devices; however, as a game gets more popular, support for low-end devices becomes mandatory.
3. Performance Testing
This is an area that cannot be ignored by either apps or games. With games, however, the user experience is a very important factor in ensuring the continuous use of the game. Sluggishness and poor performance will definitely break mobile games. Users have so many options that this could be a major deal breaker!
4. Localization Testing
Just as support for low-end devices becomes increasingly important as your game gets more popular, language support is also just as essential. More language support means a larger market, and a larger market generally attributes to greater longevity of the mobile game itself. There are very few games that offer this, so if you're a game producer, this could be a key area to improve upon.
First off, mobile game testing does not require a whole new set of tools. The tester’s existing tools may already be good enough.
Tools that would enhance the testing experience include the following.
Live Replay: Reports of automated test cases would be best accompanied by screen recordings of the test. This ensures the right information is sent from the tester to the developers who need to fix it.
Device Cloud: Success of your game depends heavily on the number of people who play it. As a tester and a developer, you need to ensure that your game works on as many devices as possible. The Sauce Labs Real Device Cloud offers a variety of devices for you to test compatibility and usability.
User Input: Features that are not tangible from a testing perspective, but contribute directly to game success are things like onboarding, sounds or overall look and feel. Testing should also include opinions from users. This directly contributes to the overall quality of the game.
Mobile game testing is not completely different from app testing. The same philosophies and tools are used for game testing as well. However, game testing is much more intuitive and involves testing things that are not tangible. With the right approach, mobile testing can be a very fun thing to do!
Swaathi Kakarla is the co-founder and CTO at Skcript. She enjoys talking and writing about code efficiency, performance and startups. In her free time she finds solace in yoga, bicycling and contributing to open source.