Times, trials, and turbulence.
More player actions.
A Friendly Testing Session
Managing testing sessions for an online game is something that I don’t think I’ve ever really spoken about, but there are certainly words that need to be said on the topic, for those of you who haven’t had the experience. 🙂
Testing is a task with a difficulty exponential relative to the number of testers involved. Now don’t get me wrong — all of the folks that help me test Skirmish are absolutely awesome folks — but the management of it all is rough. Tonight only saw two other testers, so it was very manageable, but as the numbers increase (try 10+!), things get challenging.
The first step is to alert everyone about the test. This can be done via long-term notice (ie. email) or short-term notice (ie. instant messaging). I always recommend the former when it’s possible, but oftentimes the case is simply that a feature has just been implemented, and (desperately!) needs testing. This consists of messaging several people — as many as you dare 🙂 — and explaining the situation to each of them. Then comes launching the game and meeting everyone inside the game itself. If anyone has any problems launching the game, or additional questions, or can’t come on for another 5 minutes, things get held up for everyone. And from the perspective of a tester, well, it’s not that much fun to sit around waiting on some guy who was pleading with you a minute ago to help test.
Once the monumental task of getting everyone in-game has been completed, trying to get a general direction going for the testing is the next step. Answering questions, introducing testers to other testers, and telling people not to play with the rocket launchers all occur frequently, so you need to pay attention to everyone AND try to keep track of bugs and events that transpire within the game. And if anyone does have a bug or glitch, you need to either plead with everyone to stop testing, or try and address that tester’s bug while hopefully not missing others. It’s a mad-house when you get over 5 or 6 testers at once.
And that’s it. There’s no real moral or lesson in that; unfortunately it has just degenerated to a rant about how testing can be painful sometimes while developing an online game. A sort of “dark side” that I don’t think a lot of developers really think about beforehand. 🙂
Tossing the ‘ol Pigskin Around
On an opposite note, tonight’s testing was quite enjoyable and illuminating. Big thanks go out to Steve-o and Cobrask for their invaluable help. Some bugs were uncovered in the process, and also revealed that my movement prediction (again!) needs some more work. It starts to break down and look ‘jumpy’ once player pings move over 150ms or so.
I took a small handful of screenshots while we tested, which I shall affix tag-lines to. 🙂
(Getting everyone settled into the one-room map.)
(Tossing weapons into a big heap in the centre of the room. “End the violence!”)
(Finally, things just got plain out-of-hand. Had weapon firing been implemented, it would have been a blood bath.)
The focus of the testing session was to see how well movement prediction stood up against higher pings, and to test the two most basic player actions: picking up items, and throwing them about. The latter worked quite well, and I’m feeling ready to move on to (finally!) implementing weapon firing and reloading, which should be exciting territory indeed. This weekend is a long one for us Canadians (Canada Day), so I’m hoping to maximize the progress that Skirmish will see.