Many video games have become living, ongoing products. A game's life cycle has more ways to be extended and maintained than ever before, owing in large part to the lessons and successes of various live service games. Whether you’re a free-to-play mobile developer, or nurturing a dedicated MMO player base, LiveOps is what keeps your game’s entire ecosystem going strong.
LiveOps is short for “live operations”, and is defined as releasing updates and fixes to a game without the need of releasing an entirely new version. It’s a customer-oriented development model for ongoing Immersive Experiences.
While this model may revolve around the user experience, it requires a focused, flexible workflow in order to stay on top of customer demand. This means developers need a tech stack that can iterate quickly, while maintaining reliable quality. Automation has yet to mature in game testing, but here are a few ways it can fall into the LiveOps mix.
The scope of live service means teams need to get creative from an operational standpoint. Saving costs while producing high quality content is key to success. One way to ensure faster delivery is by using recyclable assets. Refreshing existing assets for use in new content is a well established practice across game development, but LiveOps products need to emphasize this method even more.
It’s one thing to cut costs in asset creation, but what about verification? This is where automated testing can accelerate pipelines. Content needs to be tested for functionality not just within new updates, but verified against older content as well. Running test scripts that can cover basic feature functionality, complex object interactions, and other quality assurance minutia will reduce the burden on manual testers significantly.
Test automation can introduce a whole new angle to budget balancing, while also saving developers more time and personal bandwidth for other important facets of creation.
As more and more video games become active services, these same experiences will increasingly depend on reacting to player feedback. In many cases, player communities don’t focus on technical functionality as much as they do subjective experiences.
Combat balancing, quality-of-life features–each of these frequently referenced issues have very little to do with basic test verification. Rather, it’s up to QA, user research, community management, and other teams to initiate complex changes on the existing product.
Unfortunately, current QA practices are not optimal for this kind of turnaround at-scale. An automated testing workflow, however, would allow basic performance, stability and intended function to be verified, without skipping it and leaving players disappointed by poor quality. Instead, manual testers will be freed up to take on any community-generated changes as they come, and allow for a more polished experience to be pushed live.
Taking advantage of test automation can have a twofold effect on LiveOps: producers and managerial staff can get creative from a budgetary perspective, while the time and money saved in the process can nurture more creativity from staff making the games that are known and loved.
Video game development is complex enough as it is, and so too are the demands of those that consume this content. Implementing more efficient processes like test automation will have lasting, tangible effects on Immersive Experiences of all shapes and sizes, allowing for better games to be made faster, and meeting the needs of players and creators alike.