Ghostcrawler on why he created an internal balance playtesting team for WoW
Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street departed Blizzard Entertainment and the World of Warcraft development team back in late 2013, but he still provides occasional insight into World of Warcraft and its development. While on the WoW development team, Ghostcrawler was noted for his willingness to communicate with the game’s playerbase. That remains true to this day with his work on League of Legends. On his tumblr, askghostcrawler, he regularly answers user-submitted questions about game development. Recently, a Blizzard employee asked him about his role in creating Blizzard’s internal playtesting team. You can read his response in full right here:
One of the great things about Ghostcrawler’s communication style is his willingness to provide a thorough response. He doesn’t shy away from the details developers (or people in any industry) tend to avoid, such as the costs associated with the business. Our collective gut response would be to say obviously every development studio should have dedicated playtesters, but consider the expense he lays out in his response: for a game like World of Warcraft, that playtesting team needs at least 25 individuals, which translates to 25 salaries and all of the other associated personnel expenses.
Can Blizzard Entertainment (or Riot) afford that? Surely, they can. But that doesn’t mean a smaller studio could. That explains why smaller studios would rely entirely upon focus testing groups — who aren’t equipped with the same expertise — or rely on their Quality Assurance team. And as Ghostcrawler details in a followup tweet, playtesting and QA are not necessarily the same thing.
Note that I only talked about testing for fun and/or balance. There is a whole separate process for functional testing where QA documents bugs and other problems. Every game studio has QA. Not every one has professional playtesters.
— Greg Street (@OccupyGStreet) March 30, 2018
Ghostcrawler’s comments on career progression are interesting, too. Anyone interested in a game development career has no doubt heard the advice they’ll probably need to put some time into the QA/playtesting trenches — but as Ghostcrawler explains, that isn’t necessarily the right thing to do. If you’re hired for playtesting, that might be all a company wants from you. And QA or playtesting won’t necessarily give you the skills you need to advance, anyway.
If you liked Ghostcrawler’s response to this question, we highly recommend checking out his tumblr for more.
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