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6 Key Areas in Mobile Game Testing

by Ville-Veikko Helppi on 08/28/14 12:58:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Mobile game testing differs from the regular mobile app testing. Effective mobile game testing derives from a well-structured and systematic approach, use of test automation framework and seamless integration with your agile process. Naturally, the simplistic view of testing is to identify bugs and help developers to remove them. However, to aim for efficient, result-driven testing it is mandatory to have test automation as a part of the overall development process.

Testing in general, but applying also to game testing, there are two different forms of testing that can be categorized as a Black-Box and White-Box testing. These definitions are well-known in software testing world but process-wise aren’t different with game testing. Only their goals are slightly different in game testing:

Black-box testing – focuses on the functional and overall playability aspects of the game. In this type of testing, for example, testing the graphical user interface, user experience or any visual appearance is in the key role. Menus, graphical elements, special effects, animations, and the actual gameplay are those under test with Black-box approach.

White-box testing – focuses on the architectural, integration and systemic aspects of mobile game: how third-party components, databases, social media/external entities, as well as graphics/game engines, audio play and so on are integrated in to your game.

In the test automation context, black-box testing focuses on controls, capabilities, features, gameplay, and automates the flow of testing. For this, it is typically recommended to build test scripts that know how game is progressing, what kinds of faulty states could there be, and also focus on image recognition. As many graphics cannot be recognized as control mechanism – buttons, menus, sliders etc. – image recognition will help to identify those that are meant for controlling (and not just as a graphical element). 

Test automation with white-box approach focuses on testing the integration aspects of the game e.g. how game utilizes social media and how integration works.

Key Area #1: User Interface and Functionality

The User Interface and overall functionality of it has a direct impact on how successful your game will be. These two things, including visual appeal and the gameplay are the most important thing to get right – and ensure device fragmentation doesn’t break any of these. In the UI various things needs to be tested:

- UI layouts and elements: All games are typically targeted for maximal set of different screen resolutions and different types of screens. Regression testing should be done each and every time when UI layout changes to ensure that game works.

- Menu structure and functions: Testing menu structured, functionality and correct behaviour can be automated with instrumentation and help of different test automation frameworks.

- Screen orientation: Surprisingly this gets so wrong with many games out there. For example, if screen orientation changes during the game what happens, and what actually supposed to happen? Does the game work well in both landscape and portrait modes?

- Screen resolution: There are lots of screen resolutions especially on Android and typically autoscale can help game developers. However, it is highly recommended to test your game across these different resolutions to ensure that the graphics do not get stretched. 

Key Area #2: Graphics Performance

Performance needs to be consistent across all different device variants that your game’s users have. Because of this it is highly recommended that you use as many real devices for testing as possible. In order to determine how well your game responds to various levels of usage, you should consider creating tests which last for hours to observe how well the game as well as how much of battery is used during long usage. To determine if you game will be able to run successfully for a sustained duration under heavy load, Load/Stress tests can be used. The performance tests will measure how responsive your game can be on a real device.

For example, take a look at Gamebench. It can help game developers to understand those potential bottlenecks in performance, reveal unused potential with CPU and GPU resources, and help to push the boundaries of Android gaming and visuals, without forgetting the most important thing – a need to test the game on real devices.

Key Area #3: Usability and User Experience (=Good Entertainment)

Testing usability, navigation flow, and eventually what user experience your game delivers to gamers simply cannot be done on a desktop with a mouse and keyboard. So forget emulators and use only real devices for testing. And to get the best possible understanding of how great usability and entertainment your game is providing, here are two important things you should consider when testing ‘user experience’: 

User Interactions and Excellent Responsiveness – It is important to test the game for its performance as this will make either the positive or negative user experience. For example, performance lags are easy to expose using actual devices. 

Real occurring events on background – Interrupts, battery consumption, how charger effects to overall performance and usage. These all have significant impact on user experience – and good entertainment level. 

Key Area #4: Multi-player/User Features

Nowadays, multi-player/user feature is very common in mobile games. A need to test multi-player abilities is there and is naturally more challenging and requires the other end to perform as a real counterpart. For example, typical case is that the game communicates with backend server. In these cases, connectivity is essential and the synchronization between backend and devices that need to get information about the gameplay. There are tons of different scenarios you should be testing and many of those will severely impact the game’s experience, resulting in negative feedback and gets uninstalled by users.

Key Area #5: Social Integrations

Social network integration is also very important part of your game. In many games, it is essential to be able to share results across your ecosystem, friends or just for yourself. This should be thoroughly tested in the context of real Android and iOS devices, with different OS versions and different device configurations, to understand the functionality and easiness-of-use.

Key Area #6: Security and Liabilities

Nearly all game developers use some open source components as part of their game. This is highly recommended and well-accepted development practice as it offloads the task of developing code for non-core functions in your mobile game. However, identifying third-party code, its vulnerabilities, and license restrictions are very often neglected by game devs.

 


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