March 21, 2007

Dave Perry Is A God-Damned Idiot

I like "Red vs. Blue." It proves that the adages from "Office Space" apply just about anywhere.

One of those adages that continually crops up with regards to stupid acts that you opt into is that you shouldn't opt into them because "you are a God-damned idiot."

Dave Perry, you are a God-damned idiot of the highest power.

In an interview with Next Generation, Dave Perry feels that it's time for customers to take the role that testers have traditionally had. He thinks that with 3,000 customers testing the game, he can get the same coverage that he'd get with 30 testers.

Let's start with how he's right. Based on my experience with external betas, 3,000 testers are pretty much the equivalent of 30 contingent testers...because only 1% of participants in external betas ever actually file any bugs. Most of the people on external betas just play the game and keep their feedback to themselves, or don't even bother installing the game.

Now for where he's fatally wrong: coverage, accountability and finances.

First off, it will be difficult to impossible to get any sort of coverage for the majority of your code. Your customers want to play the game, they don't want to go through and remap every single control or try to beat the entire game without fighting anyone or alt-Tab for an hour straight or let their machine sit in a soak test for seventy-two hours. Lord knows developers don't want to test their own code, and even if they do test their own code, they won't do an effective job. Besides, having your developers stop and test goes against your cost-saving credo, as most developers cost two to three times what your testers do.

Second, accountability. I really hate to put it this way, but with a QA department, you have a decent set of scapegoats you can use if you ignore enough bugs during your endgame. What are you going to do, point at your customers who paid $60 for your game and say, "It's your fault the game is broken, you didn't test it when you had the chance!" Your customers would burn you in effigy, as they should based off of this proposal alone. That said, if the only reason you have a QA department is so you can blame your failure on them, you're going to fail regardless.

Finally, finances. You think it's cheaper, but you still have to pay people to go through all of their feedback, verify their bugs, interact with the community, etc. Not to mention the whole Fair Labor Standards Act thing, which was used quite effectively against AOL when they tried to use volunteers to do their work for them.

So, to sum up. Customers can't test effectively, won't test effectively, and will eventually ask for payment for working for you. Meanwhile, you'll release a glitchy product that will have bad enough word of mouth that it won't sell enough to cover the expenses you incurred in creating it. In other words, you're behaving like a God-damned idiot.

Stop it, or we'll tattoo it on your forehead to remind you.


Ron said...

Ignore the idiots and do your best to make sure you leave them ample room with which to crash and burn horribly. You're not going to change his mind. And while it's unfortunate that he seems to be in a position of some influence (meaning he will drag others down with him), he also sounds like one of those pompous pinheads who cannot even manage to entertain the notion that they might be wrong. When his scheme collapses due to all the issues you already mentioned, you want to be far enough away to avoid getting burned.

Sam Kalman said...

Wow Michael, I can feel your rage! I read the same article and was just about as fired up as you were. I'll save it for my own blog post later. But in general, I agree with you. I think he's trying to use the term "testing" for something that it isn't. Of course,'s limited comprehension of game testing doesn't help all that much either.

Zman said...

Anyone who makes that claim has never had a great tester show them exactly why they have written bad code.... the best thing that ever happened to me working at Microsoft was realise that paid testers make your code better and make you a better coder (I can remember cutting a corner and thinking - the damn testers will find that in a heartbeat). Signed a developer who misses having a tester :-)

Francesco Poli said...

David Perry hasn't shipped a single game worthy of praise since the days of Mick & Mack: Global Gladiators, Cool Spot and Aladdin.

After producing turd after turd after turd, he ditches Shiny when the company has two feet in the grave (thanks to the disastrous Matrix videogames HE designed), founds a game consultancy firm (he who hasn't shipped a half-decent game in decades, if at all), and now wants to create yet another product in a market that's beyond oversaturated - and where if your name isn't World of Warcraft, you're pocket lint.

And he wants to do so without bothering with those pesky game testers with their shifty little eyes and their nasty complaints about minutia such as, "clicking any button on the main menu formats the hard drive, causes global thermonuclear war and gets your wife to divorce you".

God-damned idiot: I couldn't agree more wholeheartedly.