Articles & Editorials: The Unofficial Tester’s Guide to the GMPT

Well, the multiplayer test is upon us. Within the week the CDs will be shipped out to 3,000 gamers, and 450 members of the press and about 50 people representing many different sites within the community. I will be participating as representative for CNCNZ.com. I have an important job to do for the community: to define for it Command & Conquer: Generals. It is also my job as a participant in this test to discover and report any bugs that can detract from game-play, or be exploited by cheaters. Both of these jobs are very important to both EA Pacific and to the Community. Both jobs must be done with care and consideration. So why don’t I get into detail and explain to you how it is I will go about these two jobs, and perhaps shed some light upon what a tester must do as well as a representative of the community must do. Let’s call it The Unofficial Tester’s Guide to the GMPT. Now let’s look at what you as a tester should be doing to help make Generals better.

The main reason for the multiplayer test is to assess the strength of the net code in use by Generals. For a tester to do this properly, he/she needs to push the amount of data being sent to the servers and the other players. The best way to do this is to build up as much data as possible, in this case we make ourselves a ton of cash, build a huge whopping base and a ton, I mean a ton, of units and start marching them around the map clearing off shroud, and forcing lots of data to be sent back and forth.

Good, we’ve established the best way to bog down the net code. Another very important reason for the MPT is to test balance. The best way to check the balance of the three sides in Generals is to get 2 buddies of pretty much equal skill and play a series of matches and have each player play one of the sides, rotating who plays which side every match. This should provide some clue as to whether one or not or the sides is too strong, and which are weaker (it may also prove which one of you is the better player). This is a very simple system that works quite well. I’d suggest that most casual testers and those that wish simply to check Generals out use this method as it will fulfill your role as a tester and afford you the best experience possible.

Now for the more serious testers, we get down to that evil nitty gritty of single unit testing. This may be a simple task, but I dare say it may become a tedious one. Again for this, we’ll need one, maybe 2 of your best buddies (you guessed it one for each side!), and set it up so that you all have complete tech trees and you then build single units of the same general type and have them square off in an organized manner and see which one comes out on top, like the mobile scud launcher and the tomahawk launcher. Sometimes units will be purposely un-balanced as certain sides have counters that may be more effective. So we move on to combined group testing, combining one unit and a counter unit on the same side taking on a unit and a counter from the other, for example the tomahawk would probably be best combined with a Paladin with the laser upgrade to assist in countering the Scud. Well, at least that’s the basic idea for specific unit balance tests. As you can definitely see, things could get very tedious testing this way. I recommend it for only the most serious of testers.

A few other things a tester can do is to keep their eyes open for any remaining pesky graphical errors, like voids and clipping issues. Make sure you keep a screenshot utility handy to snap shots of anything you do come across (at least until the SS utility is activated in a later patch), all the better to show EAP what went wrong and where it went wrong. Sometimes the best way to test for bugs is to do anything that isn’t normally associated with playing the game like typing random keys ect… to see what happens. Always remember should you find anything unusual, be sure to write it down somewhere and then head to the official test site and report it using the bug submission form. Not everything can be tracked by the backend monitoring that will be going on during the test. This is only part of my job.

The other part is my duty to report to the community what they cannot see, as they are not all participants of the test. It is my duty, and that of my fellow community reps, to take screenshots, garner as much unit, side, and game-play details as I can while I work to test the game. To do this I’ll be collaborating with other “webbies” who are participating in the test. We’ll work together to put forth the best info we can. This is good for the community. Nor will we neglect the NDA, as it would not be good for EAP’s relationship with the community. Both of these jobs go together hand in hand.

As a tester it is my job to assess the game in its parts and as a whole. It is my job to break this game down into its most minute pieces, Asses each individual piece and then put it all back together, piece by painstaking piece. Now understand this: It is not for fun that I do this, but because it is my duty to the community, to assure it of the best gaming experience, and to EA Pacific, to ensure that their game will not disappoint the hundreds of thousands who comprise its community, from most casual of gamers who perhaps see the game on the store shelf pick it up, take it home and only play it off-line to the most seasoned of fanatics who have already pre-ordered and plan to push themselves to be the best of their ability and attempt to attain the admirable and enviable position of #1 on the community’s most respected ladder(all without cheating, of course).That is my duty, as a tester and as an upstanding member of this community.

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