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Discussion > WoWSep 12, 2023 8:00 am CT

How should Blizzard handle World of Warcraft’s testing and QA going forward?

Bugs and issues have been present in World of Warcraft since the game was first released, as is true in any modern game. Certain in-game issues can easily be chalked up to things outside developer control — like, say, a pandemic and shift to work-from-home during Shadowlands‘ development. Others, however, not so much. But even Battle for Azeroth — which, at one point, earned the moniker “Beta for Azeroth” — had many of its most egregious bugs fixed with patch 8.1.

While Dragonflight was developed towards the end of the pandemic, the number of game-breaking issues feels inordinate for this stage in its life cycle.  I’ve seen Time Rifts where players get locked out or find a loot-less boss; Researchers Under Fire events where the entire group gets shunted over to a different shard, losing progress and preventing full completion; Achievements that don’t track correctly and won’t be fixed by support, so you have to pray the bug is fixed before the meta Achievement is removed from the game (I learned that one the hard way this weekend). You get the idea.

Look, I’m not here to blame the developers at all. As someone who has worked in IT for 25 years, I am more than aware of the challenges of programming. My concern is how the game is being tested, and whether the current model is sufficient for the game’s needs.

To me the biggest issue is the reliance on PTR testing — the game has changed from its peak popularity. Not just in terms of number of active players but in content consumption as well. Dragonflight has added dozen of different activities that are up at any given moment — which is great, I’m not going to criticize giving players things to do — but which make it harder for an active player to find the time to spend on PTR instead of in the game itself. Dragonflight‘s aggressive timeline is possibly also to blame, as it means more things which can break in a shorter amount of time to test.

There’s also the fact that a PTR system isn’t required for modern MMOs. Both Guild Wars 2 and Final Fantasy 14 have eschewed the PTR system and are able to release content with the same number — if not fewer — bugs than in World of Warcraft. Even betas are rare for those franchises, with them most often being targeted/limited weekend events. Would World of Warcraft be better off emulating them and working to build a larger in-house QA staff to test? I believe so, but of course I don’t have inside information at Blizzard so I’m not sure that course of action is feasible.

But what do you think? Would you be willing to do without PTRs and/or betas? Do you think the current issues are the result of trying to throw out too many activities for players, a too-aggressive timeline, or is it simply a case of not enough testing? How would you go about improving things for World of Warcraft?

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Filed Under: Blizzard QA, PTRs

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