The Age Old QA Tug of War

An interesting post by Michael Russel, the QA Manager at Ritual Entertainment on his experience interviewing for the First-Party Quality Assurance Manager position at Sony. He cites some lax standards, lots of tension between testers and developers, and, a noticeable lack of backing from management as far as QA was concerned.

Click here to read.

As someone who is married to a QA Manager -- err scratch that, she was promoted recently to Operations Manager -- albeit in the pharmaceutical industry, I am all too familliar about the struggle between those in QA whose job it is to ensure the quality of the product/service and those who actually create the product who see QA as little more than a hurdle. I've always expected that my wife's too-frequent concerns weren't limited to just her industry, but would probably apply to just about any situation in which you have necessary, but non-value added personnel. And that's the problem. We as consumers expect the games to work perfectly, but at the same time we're not about to pay extra for it to be the case. Nor should we. But shortsighted management types chase the quick buck and since an extra month or two of proper testing doesn't cause the price of goods to go up, too often games are rushed out the door in a "good enough" state with the intentions that the public will let them know about bugs that pop up and hope for a patch later. And the nearly ubiquitous nature of broadband always-on connectivity makes it even easier for companies to get away with it.

But, as Russel points out, things can swing too far in the other direction to. If the QA department receives too much support and is allowed to install too many protocols and have too much say, creativity and productivity in the development areas can be stifled. It seems to me that the companies who understand this give-and-take the best and who routinely publish the best games -- both in terms of originality and quality -- are the companies who also set release dates as "when it's done" rather than shooting for some artificial deadline, which is all too often related to a movie's release in theatres or on DVD. Cough, Superman Returns, cough.

Unfortunately all we consumers can do is express our displeasure with our wallets. At $60 a pop, videogames are far too expensive to be purchased in an incomplete stage. And the current lack of a return policy and skeptical quality of the majority of reviews in which showstopper bugs don't receive more than a casual mention puts the onus on us even moreso to remember exactly who published what and not buy from them again. Gamers are wonderful at complaining. They are possibly the best at it in the world. But they need to put their money where the typing fingers are and instead of ranting nonsensically on message boards and in comment spaces, they need to simply remember. Remember the bugs. Remember the lack of originality. Remember whatever it is that made you wish for an honest way of getting your money back. And most importantly remember the developer and publisher of that game and don't buy from them again. If enough people do that then the shortsighted managers who didn't support their QA teams will find themselves with short-term careers and eventually these companies will catch the clue.

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