Game Development Reference
Over the course of Alpha testing, the game design is fine-tuned. Features are play tested
and revised (or scrapped). Missing assets are integrated. Systems developed by different
programmers are linked together. It's an exciting time.
As each member of the code and art team checks new work into the build, they're also
checking for new defects. This means that the game at this phase is a “target-rich envi-
ronment�? for a tester. It can also seem very overwhelming (remember Rule #1: Don't
Panic). It is critical at this stage that the test suites are strictly adhered to. They will
provide a structure for bringing order to what may seem like chaos.
Over the course of Alpha testing, all modules of the game should be tested at least
once, and performance baselines should be established (frame rate, load times, and so
on). These baselines will help the development team determine how far they have to
go to get each performance standard up to the target for release. For example, a frame
rate of 30 (or even 15) frames of video per second (fps) may be acceptable in the early
stages of developing a 3D action game, but the release target should be a solid 60 fps
with no prolonged dips during scenes when there are greater-than-usual numbers of
characters and special effects on-screen.
Alpha Phase Entry Criteria
The following are Alpha entry criteria typical for a console game:
1. All major game features exist and can be tested. Some may still be in
separate modules for testing purposes.
2. A tester can navigate the game along some path from start to finish.
This assumes the game is linear, or has some linear component (for example,
career mode in a racing game). Because many games are non-linear, the
lead tester and project manager must agree ahead of time on a content
completion target for such games (for example, three of 12 mini-games).
3. The code passes at least 50% of platform TRC. Each console game has a
set of standards published and tested against by the manufacturer of that
platform. When you produce a PlayStation game, the Format QA team at
Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) will test it against the
PlayStation Technical Requirements Checklist (TRC) to make certain that
the game complies with platform conventions. These requirements are very
exacting, such as specifying the precise wording of error messages a game
must display if a player pulls his memory card out during a game save.
4. Basic interface is complete and preliminary documentation is available to
QA. The main menu, most submenus, and the in-game interface (sometimes