Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Gaming/Software Engineering : The State of Testing

I'm going to have to be a crusty old bloke for this one... But bare with me... When I was a lad you had a 3.5" disk delivering your game to the customer (I was that customer), when I was a kid you had that audio data cassette delivering your game... If you had a bug, you had a problem, because that game never worked for your customers.

This trend, this ethos that you had to test your stuff was necessary, critical even, and I think rightly it was a corner stone of my computing education.

Yes, when I started to program I would just throw a few lines of code together, but as soon as that became a formal skill, with formal training, I had to start to test my code, I had to start to make sure things worked and not just in the normal everyday ways, but obscure, off spec and all possible ways.

This has become a core skill, and I'm sure I annoy some of my younger colleagues when they have a problem; which they have done their due diligence on but they have no idea what their bug or problem is; and I walk along listen, look at it, and come up with the answer, and if not the answer at least a plausible set of leads for investigation.

Its understandable, after all these years, I do know what I'm doing, I have dealt with systems, and hardware, and people and things going wrong so many times, in so many ways sometimes you can just feel what's going to be wrong.

The trouble today I find is it is very hard to express this skill onto others, you can't just impart all your experience to them, and when you sit and write down some of the more off the wall, but important examples, people don't believe you.  Or they believe that you're exaggerated, or they simply don't want to listen.

And so I'm seeing a generation of developers whom don't look to test, I've seen them release, to customers, some horrible, terrible code, which was buggy, broken and even tantamount to criminal.

What do these developers expect to happen?... Well, unfortunately, the half dozen or so I have been dealing with, their 20-24 age group mantra, seems to be "it's Alpha" or "it's Beta" and then the death nell for their credibility from me is "the customers will find it".

The customers will find it... Not the volunteer testers... Not the testing department... Not themselves... the Customer, someone whom has paid for, or bought into, their ideas.

Too many times, too often, and too readily, developers are passing the testing phase from themselves to others.

This was a good thing, about five or ten years ago when this trend began, programs and systems went through some form of testing and then went to open testing, to volunteers, to start that feedback cycle.  But all too often today, it's written and thrown back out there.

I hate it, I really hate it, I really wish some of those developers could stop, look at their projects; and they're good, if not potentially great projects; and then fix their shit.

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