Tales from The Trenches Archive

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The Benefits of Seniority

Every studio handles QA differently, and with that comes a different handling of bug reporting.  Some places just need a general description, some places require screenshot, and some places will allow you to make the titles of your screenshot funny, like “splat_crater.jpg” or “no_more_burritos_for_this_NPC.jpg” or other silly stuff, so long as the intent is clear and the repro instructions are solid.

One company I worked for had a QA department reminiscent of Metropolis or 1984.  They’re earned a reputation for having great QA, so they were determined to hang onto it, and the way they did that was regimenting QA down to a set of machinery that merely required human cogs.  Every test case was exhaustively outlined, every activity set to a checklist, every step of the bug report regimented to the smallest detail.  Every single bug- more than twelve thousand during my time there- had screenshots in the format [First Initial][Last Name]_[Build Number]_[Bug Number]_01.jpg, with the occasional “02” or “03” when you needed a sequence to demonstrate something.  Deviation simply was not allowed, and would get you a reprimand for the smallest change.

Cue one bug I found while doing an environment run-through, just making sure all the trees were actually in the ground, puddles actually had water in them, et cetera. The pirate-infested beach was looking pretty good, until I noticed a gangplank going from the beach to thin air.  I get ready to screenshot the missing pirate ship when I notice an odd bit of color out of the corner of my eye.  I look up, and apparently the pirate ship had perfect X and Y coordinates, but the Z coordinate was off by a few hundred units of measurement, which meant that far above the water, a fully-crewed pirate ship at full sail floated in the sky.  I dutifully reported the bug, only to get a notice minutes later that my lead had added a file to the bug report, which was extraordinarily odd.  I pull the bug up and the Koopa Airship theme from Super Mario Brothers 3 begins playing, with a simple note from the lead reading “Sorry, I had to… :)”

If it had been one of the newer testers like myself their ass would have been canned on the spot, probably, but I don’t think the lead ever even heard a word about his creative addition besides a few chuckles. Benefits of having worked the Trenches longer than some of the actual devs had been at their jobs, I guess.