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Exploratory Testing in video games is a gameplay that is not a planned approach to testing but naturally progressing in the game with no particular focal point in an attempt to reveal problem areas. Usually, this kind of testing begins with a fresh gameplay experience for the player. Ad hoc testing in games is also a sort of exploratory testing but only with a focus on certain points while already having knowledge of the gameplay area in question. In the Exploratory testing, you can involve a blend of testers including but not limited to certified QA professionals, hard-core gamers, casual gamers and anyone from the community who is happy to explore your game and give you some feedback on it.
Video Games with numerous possibilities of inputs and several outcomes, especially in the open-world categories demand exhaustive testing with technical approach of Functional Testing. Massively Multiplayer Online Games for instance. However, such approach is not always possible or feasible especially when there are certain deadlines or limited working hours for testing. Exploratory Game Testing is necessary in such cases while the tester is focused mainly on end-user scenarios. Imagine an enormous virtual world that supports a significant amount of end-user characters, nonplaying characters and various actions for each character type. To make such virtual world or a video game at least look relevant upon official launch, one obviously needs to go for combinatorial testing while considering end-user perspective. It is not always practical to have a planned approach for testing countless permutations and combinations in open world video games. Even automation or use of bots become irrelevant in many cases. A simple solution to this problem is Exploratory Testing.
Exploratory video game testing is something without a formal test plan. In fact, there is no fixed sequence to test execution in this approach. Agile teams involved in video game development need to follow this method due to numerous input possibilities and resulting outcomes. While following exploratory approach, the tester is expected to not only learn the objectives of the game being tested but also optimise the testing process continually in accordance to the gameplay experience. It is a different matter that precise test plan execution with a traditional approach ready to run in parallel with the help of a matured video game QA team. However, Ad Hoc testing in video games also includes execution of test cases that are prepared and evolved with the help of exploratory test sessions that are already completed.
Although video game testing was not given great importance until recently, the perception of Game Development Studios across the industry is changing slowly, especially when a huge amount is invested in the game development process. Hence game developers and publishers are always exploring various ways to improve the survival chances of their games. Ultimately the key to success is to ‘explore’!
Laxmikant B. Thipse
Founder & CEO
GameCloud Technologies Pvt Ltd