- FACTS -
Developer: Harmonix Music Systems
Publisher: NC Soft
Role: QA Tester
Development Period: December 2019 - Present
Platform: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
TAKE CONTROL OF THE MUSIC!
FUSER is a creativity focused rhythm game in which the player takes on the role of a DJ playing various sets at a massive music festival. To keep the crowd entertained & having fun, they're able to mix and combine different sections of different songs to create a completely new mix. Players can also share their mixes with other DJs, work together in cooperative freestyle, and compete with each other for the attention of the audience.
Throughout my time working on FUSER, my responsibilities have had a wide range, and span across numerous game features. As far as the general responsibilities of a QA tester, this included, but wasn't limited to:
Smoke testing new builds in the morning to make sure there aren't any top priority issues that have arisen (crashes, progress blockers, etc.)
Participating in daily scrum meetings with other developers to stay up to date with each other's work
Discovering and logging new bugs with JIRA, and assigning them to the appropriate person for a fix
Verifying fixes for bugs made by other developers
Writing and running test cases on various features for exit testing, certification, and localization
In order to have a wide range of testing though, each member of the internal QA team was put in charge of different systems for specialization. With my background in game design, I was brought on to multiple teams at different times for new and developing features, which has included:
Co-op Freestyle: a cooperative mode where players join an online multiplayer server, and work together to craft new and unique mixes.
Battles: a player versus player mode in which the two compete in a fighting game inspired mode to win over the attention of the audience with their DJ skills.
Live-Set Events: a new kind of event that played similarly to FUSER's campaign shows, in which the player plays a show while completing goals and audience requests to increase their score and unlock rewards.
Diamond Stage: a larger-scale version of Co-op Freestyle that supports up to 250+ players as part of FUSER's Headliner Spotlight update
On each of these features, there were a few key responsibilities I took on that were different from the rest of the QA team.
- EXTERNAL LINKS -
- Website -
- Twitter -
- Twitch -
During the earliest stages of development for Battles and Live-Set Events, myself and another QA tester were brought in to help with the prototyping stage. This included having regularly scheduled meetings with the lead game designer on each feature and testing changes they had made since our previous meeting. Rather than checking for bugs, these meeting acted more as play tests, in which each of us would play the new build (either together or separately based on which feature we played) and give feedback based on what we felt was working and what could be improved. From there, the designer would make modifications to the prototype in time for our next meeting until we felt that the prototype was ready to move to towards more bug-focused testing.
DAILY TESTING SESSIONS
One of my biggest contributions to FUSER was our daily testing session. While I was working on Co-op Freestyle, Battles, and Diamond Stage, I would organize a testing session with the rest of the Harmonix QA team and our external QA teams. In preparation for these sessions, I would take note of each team member's work in our daily scrum meetings, and determine if any new features were ready for QA input. From there I would also collect any information on other key features in development and our backlog of resolved bugs, and prioritize what we should look at.
Once I had all this information, I would create my outline for the external QA team. This would include specific details based on which feature we were testing, the primary goals of the session, and a list of known bugs, and bugs that had been fixed since the previous session and needed to be verified as fixed. To keep track of everyone's testing, I would also create a thread in our slack channel, which would be where the teams could communicate about which platforms each tester was participating on, confirming bug fixes, and communicating with the developers on any issues regarding the goals of the session. Any newly discovered bugs would have their own threads created so as to not have too many conversations going on in one place.
CREATING LIVE-SET EVENTS
The area that I'm currently working, I'm incredibly happy to say that I've been given the opportunity to do design work on FUSER, as I've now begun making my own Live-Set Events. After being taught how to use the game's editor by our lead game designer, I I put together a design process for making each event.
First, I would plan out each event in a spreadsheet, which would include the songs, instruments, and FX that would be required for the event, curveballs for the player to work around, and all of the goals they would need to achieve. After this, I would enter the editor and put all the pieces together in time for a build review with the team. This meeting would be used for another team member to play the event, and offer feedback based on their experience. Using this feedback, I would make the appropriate adjustments to the show. Once we felt the event was ready, we would then host a playtesting session with the company to get additional feedback, which would be followed by more adjustments and a final review by the team before it was considered ready.
As FUSER is the first AAA video game that I've worked on, there's been so much that I've learned about game development from being a part of this team:
MASSIVE QA EXPERIENCE
Compared to when I was in school, the way the industry does QA testing is so different, and it offered me new experience and insight on QA standards in the industry. Learning how to use JIRA has been one of the most valuable skills I've gotten. No matter what my future as a game developer holds, I feel like this is such an essential tool, and will be used regardless of what my job title is. I've also been very grateful for the experience I've gotten with console development, and being able to learn how to use different SDKs to make console development easier.
Unreal Engine 4 was unfortunately something that wasn't apart of my college curriculum, even though it was an engine I always wanted to learn how to use. Thanks to my work on Live-Set Events though, I finally got that chance. I feel like I got to learn a lot about the basics of the engine, and with my knowledge of other game engines, it was actually really easy to navigate. With this new engine at my disposal now, I'm looking forward to creating some personal project in the future with it.
WORKING WITH OTHER GAME DESIGNERS
Even though I'm not a designer on FUSER, I feel like I got a lot of design insight from working with the different game designers on our team. Being able to be a part of the scrum teams that I have, and getting to give feedback and listen in on team meetings has offered me a lot of knowledge from senior designers. Not to mention that I've gotten to be part of features that are in their early development stages. I think it's helped me learn about how so many others think of design, and how to communicate with them on what we think could be good and maybe not so good design choices.
UNDERSTANDING DIFFERENT PLAYER DEMOGRAPHICS
With the work that I did on Live-Set Events, I got a lot of good experience with understanding the player demographics of FUSER. In the beginning, most of the levels that I made were with a competitive mindset, as that was the testing background I adopted from being a tester for both previous Live-Set Events and Battles. While that was still a good thing to keep in mind, the play-testing we did for my events taught me that a lot of FUSER players want to emphasize creating a good mix. Thanks to this info, I've been able to adjust previous events and make new ones that offer a balance of both creative and competitive gameplay, and they've shown to be much more enjoyable.
In a game like FUSER, UI design is such a crucial aspect of the game, and needs to be done appropriately. I think FUSER's development has taught me a lot about what good UI design looks like, and to pay attention to even some of the smallest issues when it comes to it. For a lot of the puzzle games that I like to make on my own, I think this will be great knowledge to implement for myself.
WORK FROM HOME EXPERIENCE
With the COVID-19 pandemic going on for most of my time on FUSER, the entire studio transitioned to work from home very early on. It forced a lot of us to adapt to new work styles, and to balance our work lives with our personal lives. Even though I didn't work in our office long, I think it gave me a good impression of how to put more focus on my work when I need to be focused, and I think that helped me as a whole when I began working from home. Whether the future holds more working from home or going back to an office, I think I'll be prepared for either now.