QA tester strikes back at publisher...

Discussion in 'HOW TO JOIN' started by Wii2006, Oct 21, 2006.

  1. Wii2006

    Wii2006 Lurker Not From Round Here

    I am just another tester but I wanted the industry to understand what's going on. I've worked with this gentleman in the past, a person i've had a great respect for. This is something I wanted to show other industry people. I'm not trying to bring down my company, but there are a number of things mentioned here that anybody in the gaming industry can understand or have experienced. Just this week the company let go of 30+ testers, many of them my friends.

    To protect the identity of the poster and the company, i've replaced it with capital text.


    Well guys, that's it for me at COMPANY X. I'm leaving for a number of reasons, including the hours and the traffic. And while I haven't been an ideal employee, I wouldn't be a tester at all if I hadn't noticed several problems with COMPANY X and how things are run in this department.

    QA - Functionality - The QA department does not assure quality

    It's been a long time since this department has done any Quality Assurance, assuming it ever got done. What we do is "QA": short for Quality Assurance. We don't assure any quality; we simply go through abbreviated motions. This largely has to do with production's willingness to hand out WNFs like Halloween candy and the fact that our leads have no real control over what's considered a "must fix". This also has to do with production's complete incompetence when it comes to scheduling projects. If production was willing to spend more time on projects, i.e., start projects earlier and assign realistic milestones, there would be more time to fix bugs. Optimism in scheduling ruins lives. Let this also serve as reminder to those who will be producers in the future: remember your roots. Remember the pain you cause testers when you make their jobs meaningless. Let the bugs be fixed.

    Steps to reproduce:
    1) Work on an COMPANY X game in a QA position.
    2) Stay on the project until completion, entering every bug found into the correct database.
    3) At the end of the project, notice the large number of bugs marked "WNF" in the database.
    4) Notice that the quality of the final game is good at best, mediocre on average, and occasionally terrible.

    QA - Programming - QA testers are not paid according to their skills or continued time spent with the company

    This is a big one. No tester at this company is paid what they deserve. There's been talk with the new VP about increasing wages, and leads have remarked to management about how much a wage increase is needed, but to my knowledge no one's seen it yet. The fact is that the worst of COMPANY X's testers has better communication and technology skills than 90% of the American population. Combine that with the absurd cost of living in the BIG CITY area, and it's clear that every tester is grossly underpaid. I've noticed how many of my fellow testers have entered the "starting a family" portion of their lives and I think about how lucky I am that I'm not there yet. This is not "starting a family" pay.

    DO NOT let them mark this WNF. Come next August, when every project is in crunch, if you or one of your co-workers is still getting paid $9/hr., then go on strike. Think about what this would do to the company: no testers means no project passes submission; this means no game gets released for the holidays season and COMPANY X gets kicked in the financial balls. Sure, they could outsource, but we've seen how well that worked for them this year. Sure, they could hire other testers, but they've had trouble hiring anyone remotely competent, and spending time training testers during crunch isn't worth any thing. (Speaking of crunch, note that the only reason testers look forward to overtime is they are overpaid to start out with. The only reason there is such a predictable crunch is that production is abysmal at scheduling. Has anyone else noticed how we never know when overtime will occur until the day before?)

    In all seriousness, what's the worst that can happen if every tester submits a DAY OFF REQUEST FORM for two weeks off in the middle of crunch (and submits another at the end of that two-week period)? Could you get fired? Sure. But it's not like job security is something you depend on here. And if you're still getting paid $9/hr. by next August, you should be looking for a new job anyway. The low pay doesn't affect me anymore. But the rest of you deserve better.

    Steps to reproduce:
    1) Work on any COMPANY X game for several months.
    2) Notice that the tester's wage is $9/hr.
    3) Continue working for COMPANY X for another year.
    4) Notice that the tester's wage is still $9/hr.
    5) Notice that the tester has trouble affording rent, school, and food.
    Expected results: Each tester is paid $10.50/hr. with an additional $1/hr. for every 12-month period in which that tester has returned to work at COMPANY X. (I would specify a cap here, but with inflation and housing costs, I'm not actually sure it's necessary.)

    QA - Graphics - The QA workplace is crowded and poorly lit, causing undue strain on testers' eyes
    It's recommended by experts, TV manufacturers, and most content providers that anyone viewing a large television sit at least 6 feet away from the screen and watch only in a well-lit area. (Laugh now.) Testers are crowded into cubicles and confined spaces where they can't get more than 3 feet away, and the necessity of desk-work means they're usually about a foot away, if that. The lighting in the TESTING AREA is terrible, and the lighting at THE NEIGHBORING BUILDING makes the OUR FLOOR look sunny. This is a class-action suit waiting to happen. I definitely don't care enough to initiate one, but if I were COMPANY X, I'd be more careful. And hey. Would it kill them to adjust the decor away from "storage room" and a bit toward "office"?

    Steps to reproduce:
    1) Spend at least one year testing at COMPANY X.
    2) Notice that vision is not what it once was, and that migraines are more frequent.
    3) Notice that sunlight has become a distant memory.

    Heh. I'm sure I could find more, but honestly these are the bugs that bothered me the most. I may have problem with late nights and commutes, but those are realy NAB, at least as far as COMPANY X is concerned.

    I did enjoy working here, when the end of a bad project wasn't torturing my very soul. I learned a lot here, and I'll always appreciate the training COMPANY X gave me. I definitely enjoyed working with all my co-workers, who, broadly speaking, are the sanest and friendliest bunch of people in THE CITY. I'll miss you guys.
    • Thank Thank x 2
  2. Prof. Shminky

    Prof. Shminky Truth Wrangler Administrator

    It's a hard life in test.
  3. Brian Beuken

    Brian Beuken Boring Old Fart One Of Us

    moan moan moan moan moan, get back in your room and get those graphics tightened up, or there'll be no pizza leftovers for you.
  4. Mathematix

    Mathematix Banned

    I bought an Aston Martin on my current QA salary. Much more fun than a family! \:D/
  5. parm

    parm Just barely adequate One Of Us

    You'd know, YOUR IN TEST
  6. Chasmodeus

    Chasmodeus Gaming God One Of Us

    Definitely in Los Angeles,

    Guessing ... Activision? Vivendi? (since their big move of QA to the LAX Flight path)
  7. Miller

    Miller Gaming God One Of Us


    If the QA folks are reporting the issues found, picking their battles for particularly bad bugs, and the issues are being marked WNF - QA has done its job.

    If the other functional teams are willing to accept responsibility for their decisions to fix or not-fix something, then QA should feel relatively ok about washing their hands of the business.

    As for the conditions and pay, I don't know what to say - maybe have your friend look into talking to other QA professionals on and any other related sites.
  8. Dog

    Dog Artisan Cheese One Of Us

    Pretty obviously Activision.
  9. Bitterman

    Bitterman Not From Round Here One Of Us

    Yeah. If QA highlight the issue, other people have to make the strategic decision over whether it's better (more profitable) to release a flawed product now or a flawless product after Christmas (for example).

    Everyone wants to make the perfect, bug-free game. Realistically, that's just not going to happen. QA find the bugs, other people decide whether and how to fix them. Fact of life.
  10. in_a_nutshell

    in_a_nutshell Industrial Accident One Of Us

    The original poster's point however is that in any sane industry QA is king, because they have to "assure quality" in the product. In fact in many industries that means that QA ride the asses of everyone else to make sure they're adhering to the ISO 9001 standard of one of the more watered-down derivatives.
  11. Bitterman

    Bitterman Not From Round Here One Of Us

    Right, and in the automobile industry, if QA fails people die; in pharmaceuticals, if QA fails people die; when developing air traffic control systems, if QA fails people die. In the computer games industry, if bugs make it into the final product, it may still be acceptable. In an ideal world it wouldn't be, but in the real world that's just how things are. QA's job is to find issues, not necessarily decide whether they should be fixed.

    Which isn't to say I have no sympathy; I have no doubt it's frustrating. The pay and quality of life issues mentioned also may be justified. (Although I would contend that any job where the starting pay is $9/hr is unlikely ever to develop up the payscale enough to make it realistic to support a family, and it's naive in the extreme to expect it to. Which isn't to say that it should never increase at all, of course).
  12. Supergrass

    Supergrass I can change my title?! One Of Us

    Yeah, but in those other industries, "QA" is replaced by actual test engineers -- i.e. people writing test code, use cases, etc. It's much more rigorous...but good luck trying to get a publisher to pay for that kind of expertise...
  13. in_a_nutshell

    in_a_nutshell Industrial Accident One Of Us

    No I don't agree. Even if lives aren't at stake reputations still are. I know for a fact that if you go to somewhere like Hewlett Packard you will find a customer-facing manager driving development priorities, because they know that it's more important for the business to have happy customers than happy developers. In our business the relationship is backwards, development schedules itself and QA & customer relations is the red-headed stepchild. The same arse-backwards relationship happens in marketing too. In most industries the marketing department sells whatever they're damn well given. In our business they get to tell development when to jump and how high.
  14. Dredge

    Dredge Doomsayer One Of Us

    I can tell you this is true for other industries too. Imagine trying to work QA on a project that a)is not wanted by the customer, b)not wanted by the people who have to deal with/manage the customers and c)is in fact flawed in execution because the software developers were given an inadaquate spec and so did things the logical way for them, but completely arse-backwards for anyone who has to actually use it.

    But marketing have designed the product, marketing have a huge budget to spend on it (already planned! cant be changed!), and the head of marketing is in bed with the managing board so can practically get free blowjobs if he asks. (And from what I hear about his trips to head office in amsterdam, does.)

    Sorry...its been a bad week.

    <----also sick of marketing people
  15. Zantoichi

    Zantoichi Advanced Troll One Of Us

    A certain publisher has given their brand manager total reign in regards to their release slate for the next three years.

    <------i REALLY hate marketing, especially when they control the games we work on.
  16. nicht_ein_ninja

    nicht_ein_ninja Magical Wastelander One Of Us

    It's super easy to tell what publisher this is by looking at the starting salary. As far as I know they're the only publisher that still pays this low as a starting rate for QA testers.

    The "disgruntled tester sending out an exasperated company-wide-mail" has happened at least once a year since I got into the industry. Wonder if that'll change now that I've switched companies recently.
  17. Chasmodeus

    Chasmodeus Gaming God One Of Us

    Sounda likea Vivendi move there.

    If I remember right:
    Activision = $9.00hr
    THQ = $9.50hr
    Vivendi = $10.00hr
    and Testers rely heavily on OT.

    Shiiit - I can make more on unemployment than a tester makes straight time now.
  18. snuffsaid

    snuffsaid Lurker One Of Us

    Heh and there was me under the impression that being underpaid and underappreciated was what QA was all about 8-p
  19. SancheZ

    SancheZ Hardcore Gamer One Of Us

    Bravo for him. I was cheering every word. I bet he's right about scheduling. We need people who tell it like it is from time to time. Slight shame he didn't have the cojones to send that email while he was still working there, but there you go.
  20. clunt

    clunt Literate Troll Not From Round Here

    That's the way it is. Imagine the chaos that would occur if QA decided what we had to fix?! QA don't understand the overall scope.. marking bugs 'WNF' is a hard thing to do, but its something that HAS to be done to get the thing out on time. When a bug is marked "WNF" it's usually because the people who have to fix it have already discussed it with production / design / programming. If you feel strongly that it should be fixed still, give your reasons in the bug but leave it there.

    Also, no matter how well scheduled a game is, it's sometimes going to appear poorly scheduled anyway. This is usually because studios have to compete for games.. meaning they have to promise a shorter time line with cheaper production costs! THEN, once a crappy 6 month game is supposed to have 'started production', there's no one there to work on it, because the designers and programmers/artists are all working on something else. There's not much warning when a game is going to become official. It's on the cards, then it's either dropped or suddenly in production. Once a game is in production, a core team is put together. Getting the game official is where most of the problem is I imagine. It's not like the staff can sit around doing nothing waiting for a project to roll in. In my experience, this is where the bad scheduling comes in. This isn't even considering the fact that approval of concept can take months.. QA don't see this process usually, so it's probably easy for you to blame scheduling. Fact is, we propose something, we start prototyping, then the publisher screws us, we change things, our prototyping stuff is useless and lost, then we start again.

    I worked in QA for years.. so I thought your rant was going to be something I could empathise with. Instead I'm finding myself thinking, "If you don't like it, stop doing it and get another job".

    I do feel for ya.. I've been through it too. BUT, I didn't pretend that I should have control over what should be fixed.. that's just a silly statement to make. If yr finding bugs, that's the extent of your job. Sorry if this seems aggressive and heartless. I know it sucks to test. But don't talk about having kids and trying to buy a house while testing.. it's not a job where you can live that kind of lifestyle (in most cases). Use yr QA skills to get a testing gig outside of games, in an industry that pays a little more than peanuts. The girl who makes my sandwiches at lunch makes THE BEST sandwiches in town.. but she's on peanuts too. No one is going to pay her enough money have kids and buy a house either.

    AND while I’m here, stop moaning as if your the only one being paid peanuts. We pretty much are ALL on peanuts. At least casuals get overtime.. WE stay back late for nothing except warm Indian food or bad pizza and a gallon of coke. I designed a game that sold 300k copies with only a handful of staff. On average that game sold for $70. That's.. what.. 20 mill over the counter?? I put my soul into that.. i lost a girlfriend over that project because I worked too much overtime. I made a crappy salary for 5 months.. that's ALL i have to show for it. Well, that and some 6/10 reviews.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2007