Pathogen

Details & Features:

Engine: Unity
Game: Pathogen
Type: Strategy, Multiplayer
Role: QA Tester
Intended Experience: 10+ minutes gameplay
Involvement Time: 8 months

Summary:

Pathogen is a puzzle game pitting the player against a human or AI-controlled opponent for board domination. Players assume the role of a viral pathogen and must strategically place themselves in a position where they will infect other cells adjacent to them for territory domination. The game is won when a single player owns the entire board with his or her pathogen.

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Role & Responsibilities:

My role on Pathogen was as QA Tester. I was tasked with testing 3 core areas of gameplay. I was testing general usability and gameplay, level progression, and networked play. These were often simultaneous to test and iterate on. I was primarily testing with the core design team as well as logging tasks, and worked equally on my own and in small teams.

I had a large hand in determining game feeling and balance issues with the core gameplay. Many of my suggestions were able to make it into the final build of the game, such as the way the nodes would animate when they took over another color, or the speed at which these animations played which would make the player’s anticipation grow and linger with every move. I helped with explaining logistics I would like to see at the end of every match and helped to outline what I thought was important data to collect and share from each match.

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When testing the main campaign I had a lot of fidelity to explain what I thought a good level progression would be and worked with the level designer on envisioning these thoughts. I would test out a level or levels in succession and then explain what I thought made them easier or harder, outlining my critical path as I played each of them. I would sit and talk with the level designer about what I thought made the levels work well or not and provide input for the types of puzzles and scenarios players would see.

Testing networked play was mostly providing feedback on connection quality through match, but also involved feedback on what I thought would make the experience better. I helped to share the things I would like to be able to see or do during an opponent’s turn and what would be too fair or unfair. The design team was present for many networked matches to see the experiences we were gaining from each match.

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Playtesting for Pathogen was an intimate experience with the design team and other QA testers. Bugs were tested through a proprietary server and various Google Docs or spreadsheets. Builds and documentation were distributed via Subversion. Given the small team size QA testers had a unique experience and ability to share thoughts with the design team and take ownership of certain balance or design ideas we had thought of.

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