QA @ CCP – The new QA manager speaks out

I’m Ulfrr the new QA manager at CCP. I would like to use this opportunity to introduce myself and tell you about some of the forthcoming changes in QA here at CCP.

I joined CCP in May and thrilled to be here. I’m 38 years old and been in software development for over 15 years. Most of my working life I’ve been in product development. I’ve had limited exposure to the gaming industry in the past, except I managed a project last year for an educational game for 4-7 years old but that’s another story. That’s enough about me for now. Lets get down to business.

This article will highlight the turn that QA is taking at CCP. Your feedback is very much appreciated because we do this all for you.

QA will be taking a more active role in the production of the game from now. The upcoming patch is an example of this effort. Right now we are crunch-testing this patch before it hits Tranquility.

Later this week we will update Singularity with a relatively stable version of the patch. If you are interested, you can download the latest client and log onto Singularity and get a preview of what’s coming. Even better if you find issues, please report them in the bug reporting system. Before you submit a bug report, remember to read the bug reporting guidelines first!

QA Improvement Highlights

Recently, QA has put more resources than ever before in our in-house testing. Our internal test team is made up of 8 strong QA folks now and we will grow more. Then we have a handful of selected bug hunters in the field who provide extreme value to QA and the overall quality of the game.

The volunteer community is extremely valuable for us. We do all we can to strengthen our relationship with the community. We will improve the tools available for them and for players to submit bug reports.

QA will do everything in its power to stop seriously bugged code to be released to Tranquility. This is easy to say, but more difficult to implement. To do better wil will utilize the test servers better, perform detailed regression tests, and enforce a simple release process when deploying a new patch, content or hotfix. to Tranquility.

We will not release a patch to Tranquility if we don’t think it is ready, or if QA is strongly advised by the bughunter community not to release the patch.

Test Server Setup

The Singularity test cluster has again taken on the beta test role for the new patch. Well, the patch is not really in beta quality yet but soon it will be.

We will update Singularity hopefully soon this week with the latest test branch which we are working on. It runs a stable version of the test branch. This server will remain the primary beta test server of new content and patches in the future.

We have a separate server (entropy) now running the same setup as Tranquility. This server is used to test server hot-fixes before they are released to Tranquility. It is a single server setup and not a cluster like Singularity. That is fine for most hotfix testing, but when cluster-wide tests are needed, we will bring Singularity to this purpose.

The Alpha test server (chaos) is only available to selected volunteer testers, CCP staff and GMs.. It runs the latest and hopefully stable version of the code with a smaller database.

Regression Tests & Automated Tests

To minimize the probability introduction of bugs into life systems we will do the following:

  • Have better organized regression tests.
  • Make sure developers unit test their code if they don’t do so already.
  • Utilize Singularity better to find bugs and tighten up the release process.
  • Give players more incentive to test on Singularity.
  • Introduce automated client tools to perform testing.
  • Enhancements to the defect tracking system tools.

The New Patch

Soon we will release a major patch as you all know. The Singularity test-server has been used for the last couple of weeks to test the new patch. We will update Singularity this week with the latest stable code and content.

This patch delivers lots of new content and changes to both the server and the client. Oveur has told you in his sneak preview articles about the new content being introduces so I won’t dwell at that.

There are fundamental changes in the client code; UI code improved, Unicode support has been added to key areas of the client, most notably the chat and the html mini-browser control, which is used in many places in the client to display text. In addition to these controls now also support TrueType fonts. The combination of these 2 features, Unicode and TrueType allows the client to display fontsets like Greek and Cyrillic, and if you have the East Asian language files installed on your computer, the EVE client now supports and displays them.

Along with these improvements we have also performance improvements of both the server and the client.

Then there is the new and much needed tutorial for newbies to the game. We call the newbie tutorial the NPE which stands for New Player Experience. This tutorial will replace the old one and will hold the user’s hand much better than earlier tutorial did.

The tutorial will also be available in other languages like German, French, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. All these language translations will not be ready right away, but we will add them in the next few months.

That’s it for now. I look forward to your comments and feedback.