The Cost of Overlooking Console Compliance
A lot of assumptions are made when people think about video game testing. The most common one is the line of thought that all game testers focus solely on playability and report on bugs that interfere with gameplay. Not true.
This is known as functionality testing and, though being the most common form of testing, is just one link in the game testing chain. For those uninitiated, we’re going to talk about one of the most overlooked pillars of the video game testing world – console compliance testing.
The games creation process is generally thought of in two parts. First, you’ve got the development side, taken care of by coders, programmers, and level designers who build a game from the ground up so that it functions seamlessly and plays smoothly. Then you’ve got the creative side, the visual artists, writers, designers, and voice-over artists who help construct enthralling visuals and narratives. The most overlooked group in the process are the games testers. And there’s lots of them out there!
Aside from functionality testing, we have testing modes like localization quality assurance testing which focuses on the quality of all translated content with a game. As part of this process, testers sit down to play through a game start to finish, sifting through every nook and cranny for signs of linguistic error. That means every side quest, every cutscene, every in-game menu, and every error message needs to be trawled to ensure a complete bill of health before the game launches. It stands to reason, you wouldn’t release a game that doesn’t function properly or contains lots of bugs and glitches; why would you release a game that can’t be understood by your players? But the most overlooked of all is console compliance testing.
What is Console Compliance Testing?
The console compliance test is a make or break moment for any console game reaching the end of its production cycle. While testing for linguistic accuracy or playability for the end user takes into account how player literate a game is, this form of testing is about ensuring a game is console literate.
Gamers are spoiled to operate in an environment where numerous consoles exist (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch, to name the big ones). What isn’t usually taken into account is how different these consoles are. While they all run games effectively, they’re all fundamentally different machines. For one, each has its own unique controller with its own unique terminology for how the constituent parts and buttons should be written and shown in-game. It seems obvious to say, but consistency matters when instructing players to press the ‘A button’ rather than ‘a button’.
Testing for this kind of accuracy in terminology can cover any range of hardware, software, or procedural items. If it appears on the screen or in a manual, it needs to be accurate. Console compliance testers are experts in manufacturer-mandated mandatory terminology and can test and advise on what steps developers and publishers need to take to ensure they will pass a compliance test.
What Are the Consequences of Non-Compliance?
Without putting too fine a point on it, games that don’t pass a console manufacturer’s compliance test aren’t released. Console compliance tests work on a strict pass/fail basis. There is no room for ambiguity. While a game could survive a string of mistranslated text at launch or an issue resolved by a post-launch patch (if it can be updated online), games that fail to show correct console branding terminology will be withheld from the console in question until they are in full compliance.
In addition to this, the console compliance testing process can be quite costly for developers and publishers, so getting it right the first time is paramount to keeping a game on schedule and under budget.
How Can I Be Sure My Game is Compliant?
The easiest way to help guarantee a game will pass compliance the first time round is to talk to an expert. Being literate in multi-platform terminology isn’t as simple as it would seem. Manufacturers make updates regularly and, unfortunately for many indie and SME games developers, having a full-time console compliance team on staff is something of a luxury. The most effective option (in terms of both overall cost and workflow) can be to partner with a dedicated console compliance and terminology consultant who can actively engage with your game on the run up to the test, review all in-game and manual content, and provide actionable plans on how to bring the project into full compliance.