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Article - 'A Guide to Properly Testing an RPG Game:' by Mateui

An item about Game Design posted on Aug 9, 2003

Blurb

Learn to properly test RPGs by asking yourself many questions regarding the game in-testing.

Body

A Guide to Properly Testing an RPG Game:
By Mateui

”Ahhh! A stupid bug! I can pass through this path!!”

That, my friends, is something that you would wish would never happen in your game. Bugs, not real ones, (I’m talking in computer terms, and I believe everyone knows what they are, therefore I feel a dictionary is not required at this current moment.) come in many different shapes and sizes. They can be small, like some error in dialogue. (I know that that is not technically a bug, but for this article’s sake, everything that generates an uncomfortable feeling will be, ok?) Some bugs can be large, like a cursor not functioning in your CMS, or the dreaded “Division by the Zero” message.

Testing is indeed important, as it can help you eliminate most, if not all, of the bugs inhabiting your game. That is why I am writing this article, to hopefully help some creators of RPGs, through the whole process of selecting testers, self-testing, and what to test in general in an RPG.


The Selection Day:
Yes. You have finally finish a demo of a game you have been earnestly working on. There is just one more thing before releasing it to the public; that’s right! Testing! But how do you go on about selecting people? (;_;)

That’s alright, I’ll guide you through a simple procedure.

1) Getting Heard:
Obviously, before anyone can test your game, people need to know about the game in general and the testing. It would be the wisest thing to move yourself over to the “Game and Demo” Forum, and create a new topic. Inside, you would give info on your game, including screenshots to entice people. If you are prepared to test, at the bottom of a post, or anywhere you feel suitable, say that your game is ready to be testing by a selected few. Tell potential repliers that only a few, say 6 testers, will be accepted, and that positions will be filled by “first-come-first-serve” basis. If they want to test, all they have to do post in your topic saying that they want to test your game. Simple enough? But there is another way to go about this.

2) The Secret Way:
Public testing is great in most cases, but what if you don’t want anyone knowing ‘insider information’ before the public release date? In this case, you have a very limited supply of testers. Choose only people you dearly trust. For example, your family, close friends, and if you’re bold, some very trusted people in the GW community, or some other Rm2k community. But there is also a downside to this. If the people testing are very close to you, they may not want to hurt your feelings by pointing out bugs and interface problems. If this happens, it would be wise to switch to new testers, or going the public way.


Testing, Crashing, and Fun Time Bashing:
Finally, time to test. This section will help testers out most, but self-testing is also important, so you can use this as an outline to pre-test your game before anyone else, making their job easier.

I am now going to list the major things you should look for in an RPG game, during testing.
Literary Errors
When looking for literary errors, note the language used and look for spelling and grammatical mistakes. Also try to perceive if this was done on purpose, or if this is an actual error.

Storyline Satisfaction
Does the story appeal to me? Was I intrigued by the storyline and had to find out what happens next? Or was the story boring and hard to follow? Did you read all of the dialogue? Or did you skip it to save time?

Graphical Errors
Do the custom graphics fit in with the rest of the game? Or do they stand out as worse? Can you walk through some chips, even though you are not supposed to? Do the show picture events flow nicely and seamlessly? Or do they lag and look out of place?

Graphics Satisfaction
Are the graphics neatly and well implemented in the CMS, CBS, Cut-scenes, etc? Or do they look like they were drawn by a two year-old?

Character Errors
Do the characters level up nicely and coherently? Or do they have inadequate HP and MP throughout the whole game? Do they gain too little skills? Too many?

Character Satisfaction
Were you satisfied with the characters in the game? Or were they to predictable? Unpredictable? Did each of the characters have a distinct personality? Or were each of them mindless drones, walking about on the World Map? Were you able to understand the characters, and why they chose to do the actions they followed? Were you able to understand their feelings and emotions, to the point were you feel sorry/happy for them? If a sequel was created with the same characters, would you want to play for that fact only?

Scripting Errors
Were the CMS and CBS totally flawless? Or were there some errors? Were the mini-games programmed so that the character could compete in them without having to restart the game? Did the events on the map, such as teleport, do what they were supposed to do? Or did they produce some uncomfortable results?

Various Outcomes
If the game had multiple endings, was it possible to receive them? Or did you keep on getting the same result, even if you did something different every time? Were you able to tell what decisions made a difference on the overall outcome of the game?

Systems
If the game had systems, like a day and night system, did it work perfectly? Or did you find it working in a weird way? Did the systems add to the game? Or were they there simply to give the game “flash”?

Linearity
Were you able to stray away from the story once in awhile and partake in some side-quests? Or were you always obliged to stay with the events and the tale? Could you relax in awhile? Or were you always hard-pressed to make progress?

Music and Sound
Did the music and sound add the overall experience? Did the Title Screen music fit with the mood of the game? Did the music fit in with the scenes and map? Was the World Map music annoying? Or was it adequate enough for you to listen to it over and over again? Did the sound fit in the right places? Or did it play too early/late? Did you find yourself turning off your speakers? Or did you listen throughout the whole game?


Overall Satisfaction
Possibly the biggest question to answer. How satisfied were you with the game? Did you feel like you actually accomplished something? Or were you disappointed with the ending and game? Would you replay the game a second time?


Giving the Results:
While play testing the game, it would be wise to open up a word processor, such as Microsoft Word, Corel WordPerfect, Notepad, anything that you feel is adequate. Now, when actually playing, if a feeling comes into your mind such as: “This scene is too long and boring.” Hit (Alt + Tab) and open your word processor. There type in: “The scene were the hero gets captured by the enemy is boring because...” Save it, and get back to your game. Keep on playing and repeat the process. If possible, ask yourself the questions in the above section and answer them.

After finishing, and saving your document. Either copy and paste everything there and send it by e-mail or via a private message to the creator of the game. This will help him greatly. One last thing, try to be descriptive. Saying things such as: “This story sucks.” will not help the creator.

Conclusion:
Well, this article is finally finished. I hope that it helped the testers, along with the would-be testers to test to the next level. (Wow! That has a double-meaning ^_^!)
Not much else I can say, just have a fun time testing!

(Pointless fact: This article has 1353 words!)
(Sorry, I just had to! I can’t help it!)

- Mateui