Presentation date: 14/11/2011

Thomas Hulvershorn is the QA director at Oberon Media, and he has had 8 years industry experience. Thomas is originally from Germany, and moved over to Scotland to start a career in the Games industry.

Introduction

Oberon media is a multi-platform, casual games development company. The games they focus on are online/casual games, mobile games, interactive TV and retail. Oberon media has a website called www.iplay.com, and their website advertises all of the games created by Oberon Media, and allows customers to directly download games from this site. As Thomas has experience of QA, he was explaining that the Quality Assurance team have to test the website functionality, as well as testing the games created.

PC game development + QA

The PC games that Oberon Media develops are usually always a hidden-object game, with some including mini-games. A hidden object game is a game where the player is given a list of objects and they have to find and identify them in a scene. All of their PC games are primarily download-only, however some of their games have made it to a shelf release, such as ‘Dead time stories’.

Their PC game market audience is mainly older adults, more specifically women. Therefore all of the PC games developed by Oberon media are designed to be simple, and easy for anyone to pick it up and play with ease, as well as enjoy the game.

Workflow

Project start –> Sprint (scrum) –> First playable –> Sprint (scrum) –> Alpha –> Beta (student testing) –> Gold Master.

Scrum development: ‘Agile vs. Waterfall’ This basically means that a game should be completely thought about and developed, before being physically developed. Scrum is one of the main frameworks for software development.
Main technology is to have a product/Sprint backlog, sprint planning, daily scrums, and burn down chart. Scrum development is all about planning ahead and following plan. There are also brief meetings during the sprints, and feedback is exchanged in these meetings.

Social games/Facebook development + QA

Bubbletown is a social game developed by Oberon Media, and was primarily developed for Facebook; however there is a mobile version of this game. Something Oberon Media came across while developing a game for Facebook, is that it doesn’t matter how good the game play is in the game, it matters if there is a strong and supporting community surrounding the game. This is due to needing friends playing the game, to send items to people and progress further in the game.
People except Facebook games to be free, and if there isn’t a strong IP behind the game, people will not be drawn into playing it, let alone advertising it to their friends. Franchises such as ‘Sims’, ‘Final Fantasy’ and the ‘…-ville’ games have a strong draw as these franchises have a huge fan base.

If a game does not have a strong IP, the developers have to focus on making the game viral; developers help their games go viral by adding features such as ‘invitations’ which players can distribute to their Facebook friends, which usually benefits that player’s in-game enjoyment, and it benefits the developers as they will be introduced to a new player.
The dream of each publisher is to make their game go viral with direct messages, wall posts from the game, etc, to go viral.

Freemium is a model which is used by most Facebook games; the idea behind ‘Freemium’ is that a game is made to appear free to new players. Most of the game’s content is free to players; however these games will have exclusive items for players who will pay real money for Facebook credits, which they then use in their game. Many players will not buy exclusive items with ‘real money’, however a small percentage of people will get so engrossed with a game, that they will be willing to pay for in-game items. This small percentage helps to fund the developers, and make the game even better for all the players.

Architecture
Most games are developed in flash, where the back-end structure of the game is extremely complex, and hard to maintain. The game needs to be able to scale quickly and efficiently, however this is expensive. There is a 3 – 1 ratio of database write to read requests; successful games have 1Mio plus active users a day.
Common solutions include: mem-cached complex DB schemata, Cloud server (external server capacity; buy server capacity per day) and proxy server.

Retention
Games on Facebook are not games, but they are services provided to customers. Oberon Media like to keep users playing the game for as long as possible, as well as delivering new content as often as possible.

Analytics

Analytics is the process where a user who is playing a game has their playing data logged, and sent back to the developers. This information helps to further develop the game and fix any bugs which players encounter. There is Funnel analysis which helps the developers to understand the users’ behaviour patterns, and the developers can change the designs in the game.
Most developers have a listening server which ‘communicates’ directly to the game’s servers; this server gathers useful data, which the developers can look at and analyse.

Step 1 – Application installed (100%)
Step 2 – Level 1 complete (55%)
Step 3 – Level 1 item viewed (36%)
Goal – Facebook credits purchased (6%)

Testing and QA

Testing a game just means to play through the game content, and Quality Assurance (QA) has to analyse everything in and out of the game; this includes documents, game content, sounds, coding comments, etc. Testing is conducted after the QA’s have analysed the game.

1. Test status reporting. (Test Manager)
2. Create test strategy. (Test Manager)
3. Create test plan. (Test team leader)
4. Perform test analysis. (Test team leader (Test analysis))
5. Design tests. (Test team leader (Test analysis))
6. Schedule execution of tests. (Test team leader (Test analysis))
7. Execute test(s) (run test(s)) (Test team leader (Test analysis))

Create test strategy: How many testers are needed, what quality, what resources are needed, [global QA manager] effect on other projects.
Test status reporting: hard facts (effort spent vs.  Effort planned) (bugs found) (project completion)

 

What I learnt from this lecture

The most important thing I took from this lecture was ‘Sprint’ and ‘Scrum’. This is a way of working within the industry and I had never heard of it before this lecture. Thomas talked about ‘Sprint’ being used in the development process, and this basically works with there being a scrum master whom oversees all the tasks that need to be completed in a 2 to 4 week process. Usually post-it notes are created and put under 1 of 4 categories: To do, work in process, testing and finished.

All tasks are allocated to employees; task is broken down and explained to scrum master, how long it will take, what will happen during it, what you did before/after scrum, etc. This is discussed during a 15 minute meeting with the scrum master. Next day has a meeting to see if task has been done, and why not. Once task is done, employees get given another task.
You can understand and predict issues through using scrum. Scrum master must make sure that sprint meeting aren’t being relevant and all tasks are being done. If there are issues, the scrum master waits till after the 15 minute meeting and follows up the issues outside of the meetings.

  • Negotiated set of items from the product backlog
  • Items are broken down into small tasks, which is allocated daily to employees
  • Can get complicated if an employee is in more than one sprint
  • Lasts 2 – 4 weeks
  • 15 minute meetings everyday (same time and place)
  • After sprint ‘feature’ should be complete
  • Always reviewed when finished, then another sprint begins
  • Some employees can under/overestimate their skills and set the wrong time limit for tasks to get finished
  • Tasks are prioritised; most important -> least important
  • Only one day’s worth of mess can possibly happen as employees are seen on a daily basis
  • Sprint backlog should not change

Learning what Sprint was, is very important as I believe that many companies use this (or a similar) method of working. This method of working seems very simple and it works very well as all employees are being monitored and given tasks daily, and this ensures that employees can stay on track with the development process and the development schedule for a specific game/project. Scrum could be applied to more roles than just gaming related jobs, as it is a very simple method of working. I personally think it is a logical way of working, and I tend to write similar post-it notes when I am creating assignments for uni, however I never realised it was a method that I will probably be using in the industry. So this makes me feel very happy, as I work with this method normally, and it definitely works and keeps me on track when completing assignments.


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