1) I have nothing against Sony's QA department, contrary to what some reporters have said. I was commenting on the impression I got of how QA was perceived within Sony, not QA in Sony.
2) I talk about the impressions that I got seven months ago. Things may have changed, I don't know.
3) The department in question is the "last line of defense" inside Sony. From what I have been told, individual internal developers may have their own QA staffs on top of these.
4) These were my impressions, and are not necessarily the opinions of my past, present or future employers.
Sam Kalman made a post on November 22nd about a bug in Genji found by Chris Kohler, and it begs for the following story to be told.
Back in April, I was interviewed for a FPQA Manager position at Sony Computer Entertainment America's San Diego office. Sony was extremely nice. They flew me down and back first-class, took me out to lunch, etc.
Everyone I met there was a consumate professional, but there was a lot of underlying tension. I signed an NDA so I can't go into specifics, but there was talk about issues that only came up on production UMD's for PSP games, major friction between test and development teams with little to no management backing for test, little to no shared technology, extremely lax "user effect" bug metrics for determining whether or not to fix something, and a variety of other fairly hefty issues, not just from a process standpoint, but a overall culture standpoint. Microsoft is known for giving QA a bit too much say in the products that are developed, but the feeling I got inside Sony was that QA was seen as nothing but a bunch of monkeys with controllers.
The straw that broke the camel's back came in the last hour of my interview. I was told that the way that Sony tests their games is that there are one or two test leads on a project starting at about six months out. At T-8 weeks, between 80 and 100 temporary testers are brought on to test the game for those eight weeks. That's it. This was done for financial reasons, and as a QA Manager, I would be expected to run test the same way. Obviously, I didn't feel that was a valid way of handling QA.
The following morning, I sent an E-mail to Sony removing myself from consideration for the position because I didn't feel that I could run test the way that they wanted me to.
At Microsoft, the stringent QA processes often strangle creativity. At Sony, the lax QA process allows creativity to squash quality. It's hard to walk a middle ground where QA and creativity work hand in hand, but it is a tightrope that this industry is going to have to learn to walk if it is going to succeed in the 21st century and beyond.
(Update: Welcome, visitors from Sony/Psygnosis and readers of the Escapist. Please don't take this as criticism of Sony, just of the practices as they were described to me. No company has QA perfected, and Sony has released some wonderful titles over the years. However, past success is not a guarantee of future success as this incident proves. Trust in Sony's ability to deliver is already shaken, not only from a consumer standpoint, but a developer standpoint as well. [Hell, I still haven't received my taxi fare reimbursement...]
First-party games are supposed to push the envelope with killer gameplay, crystal-clear graphics and first-rate quality. First-party games are supposed to sell not only the abilities of the console, but the promise of the platform.
Consider this a prod towards delivering the true promise of the platform: next-generation gaming for the masses. The masses don't like patching.)
(Edit: 10/24/2007, 9:30am: Added sponsored links.)
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