Tales from The Trenches Archive

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Schedule Coordination

There’s this stigma in the video game industry that QA is always the lowest rung on the ladder.  Whatever happens, everyone else’s skills and time are more valuable than yours.  If a programmer or artists makes a mistake or misreads a bug, it’s up to the tester to admit fault and ask roundabout questions in an attempt to lead that programmer or artist to the solution you’ve already figured out, because nobody can afford to have the ego of a highly-trained programmer/artist bruised by a tester.

So I was working QA at a AAA developer on the latest entry in one of gaming’s most popular adventure franchises of the time.  We had already been in crunch for several months, working anywhere from 10-16 hours a day 7 days a week nonstop to meet our title’s ship date and were on what we had been told was our last Saturday that would be sacrificed to finish the project.

Because it was the last few days before final code lock the head of QA had given us a little speech that night about how we needed one big push to finish it up that night and would need to stay so late that it would be early by the time we left, but one of the foreign SKU’s still needed to be tested we would have to come in the following morning as well.  Because of this, everyone was given the option of leaving then or staying until everything was done.  A few people left then, with 1 or 2 more an hour later and a handful sent home within the next hour when they passed out in their chairs.  By the time we finished and those of us that had stayed the whole time left, it had been roughly a 21 hour shift that ended just after 6am.  We had to be back by 11am that same morning (Sunday) to get the final disc for the foreign SKU tested.

Five hours and 3 red bulls later I was back at my desk, wasting time on the finished local SKU while we waited for the foreign disc.  It was 3pm when the programmer in charge of making the discs entered QA to tell our head that he had gotten in about an hour ago and just started making the discs.  Disbelief collided with exhaustion, causing my head to drop straight on to my desk.  The audible “THUD!” this created caused the room to go quiet just in time for my next words to be clearly audible: “You JUST NOW started making the discs?  We’ve been here for 5 hours!”  The programmer and QA department head, who were standing directly to either side of me, stared at me in silence for an eternity of seconds before moving on to the plan for testing those discs.  I’m not sure if my obvious exhaustion excused me or they just decided I had a point, but no one ever said anything to me about it and, a few months later, I finally unclenched. The foreign SKU discs didn’t have any issues and we went home 2 hours later.