26th Apr 2021

5 reasons why indie developers should consider external Functionality QA

By Krzysztof Fudro, Project Manager, Keywords Functionality QA in Katowice

Imagine a world where everyone’s time is limited and workforce resources are constrained. Instead, overgrown to-do lists get longer by the day.

This is the case for the majority of small, independent development studios that we come across at Keywords Studios in Katowice, Poland. For most of them, the reality is that they are always a little bit behind schedule or, sometimes, even way behind.

Some of them don’t know what to expect, as this is their first or second IP. Others focus on a single area and lose the big picture of the whole project. Once they realise what was put aside, it’s usually too late to adjust the work.

There are a number of solutions to help solve this challenge but let’s focus on the most important items first and come back to the rest later.

Usually, the functionality quality assurance (FQA) pillar is the one that gets cut off and pushed back to later but, the truth is, this “later” never comes or it comes too late. That’s why I’d like to convince you to put FQA at the forefront of your planning.

Never postpone it. Never limit it.

Working with a proven, reputable external QA partner will pay off in the long run, even if it doesn’t look like it at first. Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. It can save you time. And time is money, as we all know.
  2. You can improve UX.
  3. You can avoid flood of visual issues.
  4. You can work on end-game content.
  5. You can achieve balance, all groups of players will enjoy.
  6. BONUS: You will mitigate crunch.

Saving yourself time with an external vendor

The first thing that commonly happens when you put pressure on FQA in the late phases of development is the sudden realisation of fundamental design errors. These errors were possibly present from the outset of development, just waiting for someone to find them, but such a process was not in place.

Finding them is usually the first moment the developer realises that he or she messed up, which can then limit QA resources.

Our Functionality QA staff have a proven track record when it comes to indie titles

Developers cannot fix such errors easily when the game is complete and, even if they can, the fix would burn too many hours of corrections in other joint systems to even start thinking about it.

If you decide to fix it, brace yourself and prepare to postpone your planned launch, as it’s likely this will happen.

However, an external FQA partner gives you increased flexibility, as you don’t have to retain a testing team yourself for the entire development project. With Keywords Functionality QA, you can schedule work windows when you’d like to perform in-depth system checks. You just wait for results.

How can a FQA partner help improve UX?

It’s not that developers don’t know how to make them correctly but, from my experience, after spending so much time inside the game, it’s good to get a fresh look on certain aspects. You can miss items that tend to be evident for others, especially new players.

Our team in Katowice consists of many specialists who will analyze your game and give you proper feedback.

Having external specialists take a look at the systems’ prototypes can give you an additional layer of analysis, data and feedback.

It can result in iterations before the design is complete or it can completely change the UX you’ve planned. However, it will add value to the final product, keep the highest level of immersion across the game and, in the end, that’s what matters most.

Helping remove visual issues in your game

Nasty visual issues that don’t affect gameplay but cast a shadow on the title as a whole are the nightmares of external FQA. Usually, after the content development window is closed, you can’t do much more with that, so it’s essential to find issues and have them fixed before that. 

One or two such bugs won’t significantly impact the user experience but you have to look at the big picture. When there are hundreds or even a thousand small issues throughout a few hours of gameplay, even the best title won’t handle that.

I imagine that sometimes you just have to accept this, especially when you’re working on the AAA title with a few hundred square kilometers world, as checking it all and not missing some levitating objects can be difficult. Still, especially for indie developers making the smaller games, it’s essential to strive for quality and the “finishing touch”. Your fans will show their appreciation in their reviews. 

If you only take away one learning from reading this article, let it be this: it’s better to have a smaller game without issues that you can upgrade with patches than a crazy big game with multiple issues.

Supporting you with end-game content

Our FQA specialists review your game for hundreds, if not thousands, of hours a month. We are the ideal solution for evaluating your end-game content, as we will get through it dozens of times.

It’s common to have some core team members who stay on the project for the game’s duration. It means they get deeper and deeper into the game and eventually will find most, if not every single issue that would be seen by hardcore players.

On the other hand, it’s good to leave the second part of the team as the less exposed to the title. That way, you can swap now and then to get first-look feedback on both early phases and end-game content.

Leveraging an external vendor to help achieve balance

The longer the FQA team works on the title, especially if it’s one with the more difficult and well-thought or simply giant economy, the better balance feedback you can get.

You can’t imagine someone dropping into the 4X game for a week and then expect all phases balance feedback from them.

It sometimes takes hundreds of hours to understand more difficult games fully, and we should always have it in mind while utilising an external QA partner.

Once testers move on through the game, they get to know it better. However, it’s important to remember that sometimes to understand issues in early phases, you have to fully complete it first and replay once again.

Mitigating crunch

Allowing for FQA earlier in your schedule lets you better plan the workload you’ll have in the upcoming months.

You will know precisely how behind the schedule you’re at for any given moment. You will know what needs to be fixed by your team, and you can plan how long it will take.

Without that – well, you’re moving blindly.

How we can help you achieve your goals

All these points are connected. It’s all about the familiarisation with the game; the experience and the time – the time we usually don’t have that much of.

They’re critical from all perspectives — developer, FQA, players. Only by fully utilising and listening to every one of them we can create a masterpiece. But this takes time.

That’s why it’s important to understand that there are people trained to help you. These passionate professionals will set it as their ultimate goal to make your game – our game if you go through this process with us – as good as possible.

The only thing you have to do is to ask. And we – Keywords Studios in Katowice – will hear you, and we will help you to the end.

Are you looking for proven, trusted Functionality QA services for your game development project? Enter your details on our website to get a custom proposal.

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