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Exclusive WAR Launch Blog with Justin Webb - A Study of Sleep Deprivation

Posted Fri, Sep 12, 2008 by Cody Bye

By Justin Webb, Senior Designer

Day 2 Part 1

With launch only a few days away, many Mythic folks are beginning to realize exactly what they have accomplished. Some people have been working on the project for three years. With the pressure rising and the final frantic tweaks being made, many are marking their “time served” by coming up with unique ways of celebrating their achievements in a very personal way.

Justin Webb, WAR Blogger on the Prowl

(Editor’s Note: Make sure you check back in with us throughout the day to see exactly who and what Justin is talking about when he discusses the celebration of achievements. It’s incredibly funny, and we can't wait to bring it to you.)

Day 2 Part 2

This week, things have been very hectic. As always, the QA department has been toiling away making sure that WAR will be as polished as possible.

However, you never really get to hear all that much in the gaming press about QA. I think everyone intellectually understands what they do, but the specifics are more vague.

Also, The question I get asked the most by people is “How do I become a video-game designer?” There are multiple ways, but without a doubt, the best way is to first get your foot in the door at a studio. This usually means starting out in either Customer Service or QA.

I decided that I could kill two birds with one stone and talk to some QA testers this week. I’m really curious to hear their experiences leading up to launch, and what it’s like working in QA. Today, I talked to Jenny:

A pic of Jenny Schradeya with one of her favorite sources of caffeine.

Jenny Schradeya: QA Embedded Community Systems Tester: Hello

JW: Hi. What would your day-to-day have looked like two months ago?

JS: Two months ago? I’d actually have been working 40-hour weeks. I’d come in in the morning, check the bug tracker and check forums for new bugs that have been posted. Two months ago, I was embedded in the Community Systems team. So anything that had anything to do with people interacting…and also guilds, and grouping, and warbands, and chat. So I’d come in and check the 50 test requests in my queue, get started on those. And anything that was a retest -- a bug put in previously that has come back to me because they’d fixed it -- Check those to make sure they were actually fixed. It’s a tough job, all day. 40 hours a week.

JW: So that was two months ago … the Halcyon years.

JS: Yeah

JW: Now we’re at T-mminus-3, what kind of stuff have you been doing this week? What’s the day-to-day like now? I hear things like “smoke tests”, regressions, and I don’t know exactly what those things are.

JS: Now, at t-minus-3, I come in at about 7, wake up, come out from underneath my desk. First thing is still actually checking email, of which I’ll have about a 100 or so.
They’re all server-status emails for all of the beta servers … things like that: “Hey, community, we’re gonna let everybody know we’re taking this down, OK? QA you need to check these before we can put them back up.”… stuff like that. And then emails from the “night shift” QA testers that are responding to and putting up new issues that they’ve found … or that we fixed yesterday.

JW: I think a lot of people might think that if you work in QA you just log in a character, prance around the game, and go “Oh look, that tree is slightly pointing in the wrong direction”.

JS: That’s a playtester. It’s very different. I honestly think that if I were at another company working on a different kind of game that would probably be true. But working on an MMO, in which there is no final product, ever -- It’s never finished, you can’t win -- there’s an infinite number of interactions, an infinite number of things that a player can do. You couldn’t possibly just playtest it. There’s no way. That’s why we have to have a beta with hundreds of thousands of people in it.

JW: That’s a really interesting point. The difference between a first-person shooter on rails versus an MMO. What kind of challenges does that provide to the QA department?

JS: Well, we have to have embedded testers. I think that’s one of the main differences. We probably work much more closely with Devs than QA testers do at other companies, where you just do playtests. I test everything for the Community Systems. We have an embedded tester that tests just the UI. We have an embedded tester just for the Tome of Knowledge. We have a few embedded testers just for Careers & Combat. For every team basically in the game right now, we have an embedded tester. We also have core testers that “pick up the slack” if the embedded testers get overwhelmed. And we can’t just always go in and pick up a controller and play. We have to use a lot of dev commands. We have to force things to happen in the game that normally would take a player ages to do. You know, like becoming level 40.

JW: That’s my favorite dev command.What time were you here til last night?

JS: Actually I left kinda early yesterday because I came in at 7AM. I left at about midnight.

JW: I was going to ask you to define “early”, and I was expecting something like eight, but midnight is …

JS: Yeah, It’s been completely nuts. I’ve actually slept under my desk a couple of times in the last couple of weeks … Kidding!

JW: So, are you still having fun?

JS: OH my GOD! I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!

JW: Any words of wisdom for people contemplating trying to get into the video-game industry?

JS: SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK!

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