10 Ways to Ensure Your Video Game Passes the Compliance Test

Whichever the platform – XBOX, PlayStation, Nintendo, or others – months of development and QA efforts will go to waste if your game fails to clear the console manufacturers’ compliance testing parameters and guidelines. Though developers cannot release a game without getting an express approval from the console manufacturers, QA houses often tend to miss reporting these critical and easy to find defects.

Before heading into full-fledged compliance testing, it is critical to get an insight into how console manufacturers usually test games. Because the timeframe is limited and there are numerous projects in the pipeline for submission approval, especially during specific seasons, every console manufacturer creates a set of standards against which they test games.

They may not play the game end-to-end and at times may also ignore the occasional aesthetic issue – but if a game throws any severe compliance testing issue against their standards, publishers will be asked to resubmit. It is therefore essential that game developers test their games against these standards to ensure quick approval. This is where a knowledgeable and experienced game testing company come in handy.

GlobalStep has worked closely with leading video game developers and publishers, providing them class-leading compliance testing services, thereby helping them get their titles approved with minimal resubmission. It has one of the best pass-through rates in the industry, and its unparalleled experience and close partnerships with leading console manufacturers also provide a unique insight into the testing process.

Now, we understand that by the time it is time to send the game over to console manufacturers for the final approval, you are already running against tight timelines and a resubmission can be costly both in terms of the redevelopment needed to fix defects as well as possible release delays.

Based on our extensive experience, we have developed the ultimate compliance testing cheat sheet that will come handy when you have very little time remaining for testing. These are the absolute minimum tests that you must perform to maximize your chances of getting approved in the first-go:

  1. Screen Resolution:

You must check your game against all the screen resolutions supported by the targeted console – from lowest to highest resolution.

Goals:

(a) Game compatibility with the set resolution from console settings
(b) Display stretching
(c) Text visibility – pixelation is fine in lower resolutions as long as users can read the text
(d) Cropping of the display in an inappropriate manner which truncates important game screen elements such as text/HUD

2. Accounts:

Testing end-user scenarios with test/sandbox accounts.

Goals: 

(a) Basic sign in and sign out functionality
(b) Cloud save handling with user’s online account
(c) Game compatibility with and without the use of online accounts
(d) Checking online rankings/posts using multiple accounts on the same console

 3. Terminology & Artwork:

It could confuse the user if each application used its own terminology. To prevent such confusion, First Parties have defined a unique set of wording and artwork to represent their system components, operations, peripherals, services, and other items.

Goals:

(a) Verification of terminology displayed in the game against the standards set by console manufacturer
(b) Ensuring that consistency is maintained throughout the title
(c) Checking the artwork of product/controller/ used in the game

 4. Error message handling:

Except for a handful of system messages, nowadays almost all First Parties have given developers the freedom to create their own messages so that end users can easily understand and resolve the error.

Goals:
(a) Validating the user-friendliness of the message or information displayed after an error generation
(b) Checking the flow if user is able to resolve the error

5. Controller/Peripheral Support:

What is required to run through a game? Of course the input! Done via controllers, touch or different peripherals for consoles.
Goals:
(a) Verifying if user is able to change the supported controller configurations
(b) Supported & unsupported controller/peripheral connection and disconnection impact on the game
(c) Least one but checking the controller vibration feature functioning

6. Online Connectivity & Network errors:

The current trend is to keep more and more people engaged with in-game online services/features.

Goals:
(a) Verifying if supported online features are accessible/playable in end user similar conditions such as account creation/network strength
(b) Performing several network interruption errors and checking the game handing

7. Save & Load:

Another important section! This area is the most utilized one by end users, so there is a high likelihood that end users will encounter any relevant issues that are present in the Master Candidate.

Goals:
(a) Save data compatibility between main game version and patch version
(b) Trophy/Achievements unlocking with local & cloud save data

8. Parental Control

Parental controls and age ratings allow limiting the types of content that can be accessed online, and type of game that can be played. Certain settings even allow to restrict access to the Internet, disable in-game purchases, and regulate the amount of time a child can play and more.
Goals:
(a) Setting up the supported parental controls and checking the game behavior accordingly.
(b) Verifying that notifications are displayed to end user and temporary or permanent lifting of restrictions is functioning as intended

9. DevMenu /Debug Settings

To aid with testing end user scenarios, first parties do provide DevMenu /debug settings in their development/testing kits.
Goals:
(a) Generating message pop-up to confirm the handling for certain end-user scenarios (e.g. Insufficient Memory)
(b) For every in-game operation, specific functions are being called in the background which are not visible to end user. These functions can be checked through debug settings (e.g. Default age, Save data creation, online multiplayer, PSN network, etc.)

10. Paperwork:

To conclude, please do not ignore the submitted paperwork as well. Most of the times, a game is found to be compliant with the standards but basic paperwork issues are flagged which results in a submission failure.

This basic cheat sheet will help you minimize the chances of resubmission, but there are still chances that a console manufacturer raises a red flag against your game title. The best way of ensuring that your game sails through compliance testing is to work closely with an experienced game testing company like GlobalStep. Learn more about our game compliance testing services.

 

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GlobalStep Celebrates Opening of New Office in Bucharest, Romania

Some say that Bucharest is the best city for gaming in the world.  While that may be up to debate, it is undisputedly clear that Bucharest and other major cities in Romania have become a magnet for major game studios.  

Indeed, last year, the industry grew an impressive 19%, according to the RGDA (Romanian Game Developers Association).  

In early 2021, GlobalStep announced its expansion in Bucharest. And, last week, due to growing client demand, GlobalStep celebrated the opening of a new office of in downtown Bucharest.  

Why Bucharest?  

Bustling with a strong gaming culture and a rich esporting scene, Bucharest has developed a vast ecosystem of developers and publishers supporting all aspects of the game development lifecycle. 

Some key factors have contributed to this:  

English Speaking Technical Talent.  The labor market research firm Brainspotting reports that Romania, with just 20 million people, ranks in the top 10 globally in number of certified IT specialists — 95,000, about half of whom are software developers. And almost 90 percent of Romania’s IT professionals speak English.  

Education Focus. With 49 public and eight private universities, Romania has been in the top three in the IEEE Design Competition every year since 2001.  

Strong Economy and Infrastructure. Romania is one of the fastest growing economies in the EU and has consistently been one of the top performers over the last 20 years. The country also routinely ranks among the best in Internet speed, which allows for deployment of work from home or through a hub-and-spoke model where colleagues can have the can meet in person for training, business planning and social gatherings.  

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Six Reasons to Invest in Mobile Games Testing

The world of mobile gaming has long been on the rise, and the pandemic certainly speeded up the process. With almost 100,000 and 385,000 games available on Apple’s App Store and Android’s Play Store respectively, mobile gaming is taking the world by storm. In 2020 alone, there have been $80B mobile game downloads, $100B App Store were spent on games, and $240B were spent on ads. 

Is it still necessary, one might ask, to go through every step of the game development and post-production process, when the industry is booming anyways? When it comes to Quality Assurance, the answer is a resounding yes.  

Before diving into the reasons why Quality Assurance is essential to a mobile video game’s success, let’s look into mobile gaming in general.  

How Does Mobile Gaming Differ from Other Types of Gaming? 

While gaming has been around for quite a while, mobile gaming takes it to a whole new level due to unprecedented accessibility. Think about it: not everyone has a Nintendo Switch or an Xbox, but most have a mobile phone nowadays.  

Mobile games are widely accessible to a range of customers, and they shatter any stereotypes based on age or demographics. Gaming giant King, for example, boasts an incredibly wide range of players, from children to seniors, across all demographics. Even e-book pioneer Amazon offers several games on their Kindle devices, making gaming even more accessible to people who might have not been interested in it before. 

Given the hyper-competitive nature of mobile gaming and the growing importance of reviews and social media, it’s extremely important to ensure that the final product is flawless and ready for play to be enjoyed even by the most avid of players. 

The Evolution of Mobile Gaming 

Some of us might still remember the first ever mobile games launched in the App Store. Compatibility and Functionality Quality Assurance was of course not a huge deal at the time due to the limited quantity of devices and lack of advanced graphics.  

However, just five years ago, Apple already had over 30 uniquely configured touchscreen devices such as iPhones, iPads, and iPods. This shift made compatibility testing essential in order to ensure that a game works properly on every single device.  

Furthermore, games like Pokémon Go have taken mobile gaming to a whole new level, offering unprecedented virtual experiences never-before-seen in the world of smartphones. Functionality Testing might have been overlooked when simpler games were born, but it certainly is a must now.  

Pokemon Go, as well as Madden NFL and other interactive and immersive mobile games, are part of a category of mobile games called high fidelity. Games qualify as high fidelity when it has advanced graphics and high vertex counts, as well as sophisticated gameplay such as AI-controlled characters. 

Similarly, system upgrades happen a lot more frequently, and it is yet another reason to test the compatibility of a game or app with different devices.  

The Main Reasons to Invest in Functionality and Compatibility Testing 

There are six reasons why you should always invest in Mobile Gaming Compatibility and Functionality Testing for your mobile game. Here are the most important ones: 

  1. 1. App ratings: it is no secret that most users will check out an app’s ratings on the Play or App Store before making a purchase or downloading a free video game. A game with poor ratings is certainly less likely to be downloaded, and this can hinder the popularity and success of your product. Many games with previously good ratings have seen their success quickly fading due to lack of compatibility with newer devices or updated operating systems. Similarly, certain devices have lost popularity due to the lack of compatibility with some video games, such as Blackberry phones. 
  1. 2. In-app purchases: When making in-app purchases, a user is investing money into the game, and having their progress erased due to a bug can hinder a product’s success. Even though most video game companies will refund a user who lost their progress due to a glitch, it’s still a long and sometimes tedious process having to go through customer support and ask for a refund. Compatibility and Functionality Testing can definitely spare this nuisance from happening. 
  1. 3. Bugs: Functionality Testing helps to identify bugs in every stage of the product’s development. A seemingly ready app can in fact have small glitches and bugs here and there, and FQA teams will work with developers to find and correct them. 
  1. 4. Multiplayer Cross-Compatibility: Multiplayer games are becoming more and more popular, and Compatibility QA can help determine whether a product is ready to be launched and enjoyed by consumers with different platforms and devices. A game that works on one device sometimes doesn’t work correctly on another, and Compatibility QA will identify device and network specific issues that would otherwise make multiplayer features unplayable. 
  1. 5. Ads: Most games and apps exist thanks to ads, and it’s important that they don’t disrupt the user’s experience. FQA can assure that ads work properly when running a video game, all the while without worsening the player’s experience. 
  1. 6. Testing Different Updates: While newer platforms and devices offer new updates almost weekly, some players and users prefer to keep an outdated operational system due to personal preference. Compatibility QA ensures the correct functioning of a game across different updates, giving customers who prefer older versions an equally satisfying game experience.  

Mobile Game Localization  

Apart from Functionality and Compatibility Testing, another important aspect of game development is Localization. While bugs and glitches certainly impede a player to have the best user experience, another aspect that can hinder a product’s overall success is the lack of proper translation and content accuracy.  

Mobile game localization ensures that all the text and written content in a game is properly translated, respecting the nuances of a language and its culture. There is arguably nothing more off-putting than playing a game targeted to a certain demographic and seeing mistranslated or nonsensical written content in it. Puns, jokes, and double meanings are as important as the main text within a game. Mobile game LQA Testers make sure that everything in the game is properly translated, making sense to a native speaker as well as all other users.  

In conclusion, all aspects of Quality Assurance are crucial to the success of a mobile game. While in the past it could have been overlooked, the sophisticated nuances modern technology offers are certainly in need of thorough LQA, FQA and CQA services to succeed in today’s mobile gaming market. 

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5 Reasons Why Your App Could Be Rejected by the iOS App Store (And How to Avoid It)

The success of the mobile experience is highly dependent upon the quality and functionality of the applications available for the respective mobile platforms.  An average mobile user spends close to six hours on their mobile phone every day and 90% of this time is spent within apps. 

Apple’s App Store, which had nearly 2 million functioning applications and mobile games in 2020, is one of the largest application repositories in the world. Apple is also known to be highly dedicated to user experience and functionality and has put in place a rigorous process for approving apps that are submitted to the App Store. As per estimates, roughly one sixth of the apps that are submitted for review never make it to the App Store for public downloading. 

It is therefore imperative for developers to understand Apple’s approval process, why apps are rejected, and what they should do to ensure that their hard-earned money and time spent in app-development doesn’t go to waste. In that regard, Apple has been fairly transparent with the reasons why apps are commonly rejected. Today, we talk about the prime suspects and how you can deal with them: 

  1. Bugs and Unfinished Versions 

Apple employs one of the largest teams of engineers, testers, and QA professionals that test and validate each app that is submitted to the App Store. As per Apple, bugs and unfinished or undercooked apps with broken functionality and hyperlinks, inaccurate or misleading information are the top reason for app rejection, contributing to over a fifth of total rejections. Completeness of the app includes key guidelines such as mandatorily having a support link built into your app, presence of metadata such as version history, company information, app functionality, and others. 

How to Avoid This?
An easy way would be to ensure that your app is comprehensively tested and all bugs are ironed out before submitting the app to the App Store. Developers commonly think that small bugs or lack of functionality might not be caught, but it is wrong. To maximize the chances of getting your app approved, developers can look towards hiring a professional app testing service provider in order to ensure complete scenario coverage within the planned timelines. Carefully review Apple’s Guidelines to ensure all metadata and additional information are provided in the correct format. 

 

  1. App Crashes 

This is the second-biggest cause of app rejection. Apple has a very low tolerance for apps that crash during testing and review and usually, such apps are rejected immediately. Apple’s well-defined testing process puts your app through multiple testing situations including maximum concurrent incoming connections, multiple touches, and others. If you’ve not anticipated for such scenarios, your app might be in trouble! 

How to Avoid This? 

Regression and repetitive testing put your app through multiple scenarios to test performance and identify potential bugs, logic flaws, and crashes. As a developer, you must move beyond merely testing your app on one device or one emulation tool. Apps must be tested on multiple physical devices to ensure they are robust for cross-platform operation. Leading app testing service providers usually have a large collection of devices within their testing laboratories to provide maximum coverage. 

  1. Inconsistent UI and UX 

Though Android continues to be the leader in the smartphone market with a 70%+ market share, user interface and user experience are areas where iOS has been constantly rated higher than Google’s mobile OS. It is, therefore, no surprise that Apple has strict guidelines around the look and feel of apps on the App Store. The top left corner must always house the back button, controls must always be clear and visible, menus should ideally be located at the bottom of the screen. These are just some of the guidelines that Apple takes seriously and flouting these could result in your app getting rejected. 

How to Avoid This? 

Ensure that you follow Apple’s human interface guidelines. While Android might give you more freedom around how your apps are designed, Apple prefers consistency with their style as they feel these guidelines will eventually help you provide the best user experience. 

 

  1. Abnormally Long Load Times 

As per Apple’s standards, any app that takes more than 15 seconds to load from scratch is a candidate for rejection because users are not expected to wait for longer than that time duration. Remember that Apple expects your app to have continued loading all its data into the RAM, established connections to backend databases, and have the homepage ready for user interaction in around 15 seconds. 

How to Avoid This?
Design simple and nimble apps that load their basic functionality quickly. Test on multiple Apple devices (especially those belonging to older generations) to understand the load times and workout on how to fix them. Apps that try to perform too many functions without having one clear objective are generally frowned upon by Apple’s testing teams. 

 

  1. Not caring about user privacy 

User privacy is of utmost importance to any mobile company and any app that doesn’t put enough protection in place to prevent privacy incidents or actively tries to misuse confidential user data is very likely to be rejected by the App Store. This means that your app must have a privacy policy and must not utilize user information without explicitly informing the end user. Another prime example of this is the iOS advertising identifier, which mandates that to protect user privacy, user details must never be tracked down to specifics such as devices and accounts. 

How to Avoid This?
Be very transparent and upfront about the permissions that your app requires. Always allow users to choose the data that they will be sharing with you and explicitly inform them what the data will be used for. Avoid capturing and sharing of personal user data. 

 

These are just some of the primary reasons for apps getting rejected by the App Store. There are several other criteria that could cause your app to be rejected, including copyright infringement, similarity to other applications, usage of private APIs, external payment gateways, and others. An experienced testing and Quality Assurance Services provider like GlobalStep can guide you in terms of Apple’s guidelines for applications as well as support you in conducting comprehensive QA and testing to ensure your application is free of bugs, maximizing your chances of approval and success in the App Store. 

[Piyoosh Sah is QA Manager – Game Testing at GlobalStep. A professional who understands client requirements, involved in test planning, overseeing quality certifications and project management.] 

 

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User Experience: How to Delight Users Across Digital Channels

The dash to Digital 

While many companies were moving towards digital even before 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic unleashed a “digital tsunami”, which has made that course irreversible and moving quickly on it an imperative. In their book Surfing the Digital Tsunami, authors Timo Savolainen, Kati Lehmuskoski and Tuomo Koskenvaara explain how the force of such a tsunami can change business, and that after a first wave there are more waves and that the course of events cannot then be stopped.  

In this “new normal”, even as countries and physical businesses open up, customers will continue to increasingly interact digitally with businesses and consume services online like never before. According to a McKinsey study, published in October 2020, the average share of online customer interactions with businesses has leapt from a constant 20% in 2017 and 2018 to a staggering 58% in July 2020. This is likely to continue to grow, says McKinsey. This, in turn, puts unprecedented pressure on businesses to not only enable that digital interaction, but ensure that it is exceptional and consistent. All of this in order not to lose customers and business volumes, or even get completely disrupted by those who can deliver delightful experience across digital channels. 

Multi-Channel vs Omni-Channel 

Until recently, most businesses were happy providing an online channel such as web access to their services. Many had started developing mobile apps, integrating chat and email to better serve their customers, cognizant of the increasing adoption of mobile web and other new technologies by their customers or competition.  

However, most of these “multi-channel” services , even those offered by those leading the pack, are quite fragmented or piecemeal. In fact, most businesses are yet to realize even the number of channels customers are using for interacting with their organization. On average, there are at least nine channels that are being used today —physical, phone, web, mobile, email, chat, social media, smartwatch and home assistant — with more coming into play, such as connected cars, wearables, and others. But, do businesses really need to cater to their users through all these user touchpoints? The answer is a resounding yes. Let’s take a look at some of the studies below: 

    • According to Google Research, 98% of Americans switch between devices in the same day
    • Over 35% of customers expect to be able to contact the same customer service representative on any channel, says Zendesk
    • 15 years ago, the average consumer typically used two touch-points when buying an item and only 7% regularly used more than four. Today consumers use an average of almost six touch-points, with nearly 50% regularly using more than four, according to Marketing Week 

All of this makes providing exceptional and engaging experience across these channels even more critical.  

Simply providing your services through these touchpoints or having a “multi-channel” strategy is not enough. Companies need to adopt an Omni-channel strategy, which means providing a seamless, integrated experience even as the user switches from one channel to another, across devices and services.  

For example, a user might browse the product catalog from your website on their desktop/laptop/tablet, later access the site from their mobile and order the product, track the status on their smartwatch and interact with customer support for assembly or installation via their smart assistant at home. 

If the information on their order is not available across these channels, chances are they may not come back to your brand. Ever. The absence of omni-channel experience is a real peril for most businesses right now, especially those in the B2C area. 

Why Omni-Channel Experience Matters 

    • 64% of customers expect to receive real-time assistance regardless of the customer service channel they use, according to a survey by Zendesk. 
    • Aberdeen Group found that Companies with extremely strong omni-channel customer engagement retain on average 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak omni-channel customer engagement.  
    • Omni-channel shoppers have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who shop using only one channel, says Google. 

And these just a few findings. Whether it is marketing or providing services to customers, the omni-channel experience is a make or break for businesses going forward.  

It is not up to businesses anymore to decide the channels to serve, as heightened customer expectations and behaviour —especially as Gen Z and millennials flex their muscles and are the dominant consumers —leave them no choice. And, as mentioned earlier, it cannot be just the number of channels that you serve, but whether you can delight your user with a seamless and compelling experience across all the channels. 

Creating Exceptional Omni-Channel Experience 

Omni-channel experience is critical to a business’ success, but implementing it is easier said than done. A compelling and cohesive experience across channels requires an overarching vision, well-thought-through strategy, and meticulous execution. While the nitty-gritty of these differs from business to business, based on our experience helping customers, here are some essentials: 

  1. Personalize the experience across channels: If a customer has raised a support ticket through the chatbot on your website, when they call your contact center, they should not have to go through the details again. The service rep needs to have your issue details on their console ready and be able to help out immediately.  
  2. Combine offline and online: When a customer walks into a café or restaurant, the store app should be able to identify that they are in the store and offer them rewards, coupons, etc.,  based on what they are ordering.  
  3. Synchronize data across channels: If a customer has ordered a product online and comes into the store to pick it up, the product needs to be ready, and a store assistant needs to have its details on a handheld, along with a question if they were happy with their last purchase.    
  4. Pick up where they left off: A customer may have surfed your site for a product, even selected one and added to their shopping cart, and when driving by a store remembers it and would like to order through their connected car app. They should not have to again go through the catalog, or pick the product, but be able to jump to check out and, on reaching home, be able to ask their smart home assistant where the order is. 
  5. All possible functionality across channels: It is frustrating for users not to be able to do on one channel what they can do using another. For example, not being able to do a fund transfer from a bank’s mobile app when outside — while it can be done very well on the desktop or tablet —can be infuriating and break the omni-channel experience. Users do understand if they can’t do it from their smartwatch — due to obvious limitations of the device —but don’t when they can’t on a compatible one.   

In conclusion, while most of the above recommendations seem highly intuitive, it is amazing to see how many businesses have not been able to implement them. While companies like Disney, Virgin Atlantic, Starbucks and Bank of America deliver exemplary omni-channel experience to their customers, most others are lagging far behind, dangerously close to being hit and disrupted by the Digital Tsunami sweeping across the business landscape.

 

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