Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
Massively Multiplayer Games
One key genre that has had reported success with test automation is that of massively
multiplayer (MMP) games like The Sims Online and World of Warcraft . It is precisely
these massively multiplayer, persistent state world games or sizable role-playing games
that have been such a challenge to code and test prior to retail launch. The sheer scale
of these systems and their distributed nature makes them inherently difficult to test.
Yet, the stability of these worlds at launch is clearly desirable, given the negative
impact that a lack of stability will have on customer service calls, player experience,
and your company's reputation. Here, then, is an ideal opportunity for automatic test-
ing to shine. Even with MMPs, automated testing is not for all parts of the game, but
generally more for those elements that
Have a high number of repetitive actions
Must simulate a very large number of players connected at once
Are synchronized among a large number of servers and clients simultaneously
Simulating server load, for instance, has been a key use of automated scripts. Simply
having large, open Beta tests cannot always consistently or reliably give you the
stress/load data you are seeking—at least not in a repeatable and consistent fashion
that is ideally sought after if you want to launch a stable product.
Another key use for automatic testing scripts in massively multiplayer games is that of
repetitive behaviors and their effects on the game code and lag issues. Complete testing
of such games can include picking up and dropping any given object thousands (if not
tens of thousands) of times, or entering, leaving, and re-entering rooms thousands of
times. For human testers to undertake this form of testing is not only extremely
tedious, but also unreliable and unscalable. Surprisingly, as many obvious advantages
as this approach seems to have, many companies building MMP games have not written
such scripts and have relied on Beta testers to return the data they seek. If they do create
such scripts, they often limit them to certain classes or races of characters instead of
creating them for the entire game. This undoubtedly reflects the lack of upper-level
management commitment to test automation in today's games industry. But if these
tools are to be created, the testing management needs to ensure that they are not only
easy to integrate into current game code, but also flexible enough to be reused in
future games.
Clearly, automated techniques are going to be of significantly less use for MMPs where
code is highly complex and often changed, or where there has historically been a low
incidence of errors. Similarly, as described earlier, it is probably best left to manual
testing to discover small bugs in interfaces, individual game loop logic, characters get-
ting stuck in the environment, minor graphical clipping issues, and so on.
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