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Configuration testing applies only to PC games, not to console games Toward the end of the testing period, when the program is looking pretty stable, the publisher still starts trying it on different combinations of hardware and operating system variants They ll usually have a config lab a room full of PCs with several combinations of video cards, audio cards, memory, processor speeds, and versions of the target operating system This lets them discover if the game has problems with a particular manufacturer s hardware, and helps them determine what the minimum acceptable configuration for the machine is Obviously, they can t test every possible combination of every graphics and audio card; there are just too many But configuration testing is an essential step before any PC game can be released
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In the summer of 1994, Walt Disney Corporation had a mega-hit movie on its hands with The Lion King Seeking to capitalize on this, they brought out a Lion King video game for the PC, which they made available in time for Christmas About that time, a computer industry trade group, hoping to boost sales of CD-ROM drives and sound cards, had the bright idea of defining a standard called the Multimedia PC a PC machine with an 80486 processor, an 8-bit Sound Blaster card or equivalent, and a single-speed CD-ROM drive Millions of people bought machines
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marked Multimedia PC in the belief that they were the hottest thing going in audio and video for the personal computer Unfortunately, someone at Disney had decided The Lion King would sound better on a 16-bit sound card and that was the machine they developed it for It didn t work, as shipped, on the much-vaunted Multimedia PC Christmas morning 1994 was an unmitigated disaster for Disney Thousands upon thousands of angry parents called Disney s help line to ask why their game wouldn t work on what they believed was the latest and greatest PC In the end, over half the games were returned for a refund If only they had done a configuration test with an 8-bit sound card
Content Ratings
In many countries in the world, a video game must be submitted to a ratings body to determine how violent, scary, or sexually explicit it is before it may be sold This is done after the game reaches beta, when all the content is present The rating institution takes a few days or weeks to examine the game and return a rating, which the publisher is required to print on the game s box and possibly in any future advertising as well In America, rating is done by the Entertainment Software Rating Board This is not required by law (that would be a violation of the First Amendment), but some retailers refuse to carry games that have not been ESRB-rated Some also refuse to carry games with an AO (Adults Only) or M (Mature) rating Although many developers object to having their games labeled in this way, the system does help the consumers know what it is they re getting It is actually superior to the American movie-rating system, because in addition to a letter grade it also supplies content descriptors short phrases that indicate what sorts of things the player will see in the game Obtaining the ratings for every country in which the game will be sold is a major job, and most publishers have a special department set up just to handle the paperwork and keep track of the process for each game
Quality Assurance
Quality assurance sounds like a fancy term for testing, but in fact it refers to a particular aspect of the process Normally, a game goes to QA when all the bugs in the bug database are fixed and the producer is convinced the game is ready to ship The QA department tests it for a number of hours, and gives it a simple pass/fail grade QA doesn t try to determine whether a game is enjoyable or well-balanced; it is concerned only with whether it works as a piece of software If a game ever crashes, responds inappropriately to a command, or displays something it isn t supposed to display, it fails QA and cannot be shipped QA also checks to make sure that all the details in the manual are correct:
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