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A More Holistic Game Testing Process

How consolidating FQA and LQA leads to a better player experience

Functional Quality Assurance (FQA) and Localization Quality Assurance (LQA) are usually considered separate services. But while they are distinct, separating the two may be disadvantageous for publishers and developers. Integrating FQA and LQA as part of a holistic testing process can reap several benefits, including:

  • Reduced turnaround time
  • Reduced need for customer intervention
  • More consistent cross-market user experience
  • Higher product quality
  • Better cost efficiency
  • Streamlined communication

We sat down with some of Lionbridge Games’ testing experts to explain the importance of centralizing the testing process.

Traditionally, publishers and developers have sought FQA and LQA as separate services. Thus, many boutique or “à la carte” companies appeared, fragmenting the market and forcing publishers to rely on multiple partners to complete a single game. You’d get FQA from a company provider that specializes in FQA, LQA from a provider that specializes in LQA, Audio from a provider that specializes in Audio, and so on.

This has largely remained the same. Most video game industry services companies have a narrow scope of offerings; only a handful of providers claim to specialize in multiple areas, and even fewer actually do. But why is this bad?

“Many vendors and developers fail to recognize that all these services — Loc, Audio, FQA, LQA, Player Research, Marketing — are related,” says Michal Blonski, Senior Test Director here at Lionbridge Games. “There’s value in streamlining with a single partner who not only understands the needs of the game itself, but also its story, mechanics, terminology, unique language, and even cultural nuances. By knowing your IP so intimately, the vendor becomes an extension of you.”

This is doubly true with testing services, which are deeply intertwined.

“Both FQA and LQA play a crucial role in ensuring that players get a top-notch experience,” Damian Domach, Lionbridge Games’ Director of LQA Testing, explains. “There’s essentially no circumstance in which you would only want FQA or LQA, and yet, we encounter so many customers who only want one or the other.”

If you’re still getting FQA and LQA services from different vendors, you may not be getting your fair share.

What are the potential pitfalls of procuring FQA and LQA as separate services?

Separate services mean separate teams in separate places. If this sounds like a communication nightmare, that’s because it is.

“You’ve got two different vendors with different standards, processes, and tools trying to work toward the same goal,” says Greg Blonski, our Senior Test Manager. They can’t share resources, collaborate in real time, or communicate without a third party: the developer.

Segregating FQA and LQA introduces the risk of conflicts, misunderstandings, and inconsistencies between teams. As issues arise, they require constant intervention to resolve, which can increase turnaround times and pull important resources away from other matters.

“The developer becomes the middleman, relaying information back and forth between teams. Even then, some issues get lost in the chaos and go unaddressed entirely,” explains G. Blonski. “All the while, a unified team could have resolved an issue in the time it took just to contact the customer.”

Not only can this three-way communication lead to missed bugs, but it can also result in duplicate work. FQA starts off much earlier in the development cycle, allowing the functional team to develop a deep understanding of the game and its mechanics, features, and potential issues. This knowledge is invaluable and can lend itself to a more effective and efficient testing plan. Without it, the LQA team must effectively start from scratch.

“When teams don’t use communal tracking tools, there’s no clear record of all test cases, issues, and resolutions. The LQA team must do their own discovery process, and steps end up being repeated. So, not only are you hindering the overall quality of your testing, but you also end up paying for some of the same work twice,” says Domach.

It’s clear that procuring FQA and LQA separately poses disadvantages for both developers and end-users. Moreover, centralizing them yields unique benefits.

What are the advantages of consolidating FQA and LQA to one vendor?

Having both teams under one roof enables seamless communication and collaboration. If a problem arises, it can be quickly addressed, eliminating the need for constant customer intervention as issues are resolved internally. The burden of time and effort is lifted from the developer, allowing them to focus on other important tasks. They no longer need to coordinate multiple teams or cobble together fragmented reports; instead, a vendor can manage its teams internally and provide comprehensive reporting from a single source.

Moreover, feedback and findings from FQA can inform LQA, and vice versa. Unified teams can share important project insights to prevent duplication of effort.

“When functional and linguistic teams work together as a whole, they have ample time to familiarize themselves with the title and gain early insights into content navigation. They can develop and share workarounds for potential blockers and functional issues. This early involvement not only allows the FQA team to define processes efficiently but also positions them as subject matter experts that LQA teams can consult,” says Steffen Strohmann, another one of our Test Directors.

M. Blonski elaborates on this. “In some cases, LQA and FQA can occur simultaneously. This is especially true for content updates or DLCs when the localized content can be available earlier in the development cycle. Allowing LQA and FQA to overlap in these cases can help speed up the overall testing process.”

Beyond day-to-day support, integrating certain LQA tasks (such as world readiness focusing on character implementation, UI spacing, and legibility) during the early phases of FQA proves highly beneficial. Sharing these findings with the LQA team before their testing begins significantly enhances workflow and reduces testing time. This smoother and more efficient process will not only reduce turnaround times but also enhance the overall player experience.

Working with the same processes and tools allows teams to meticulously log, track, and resolve issues without playing telephone. Testing is done in a standardized way, using uniform methodologies and standards, which reduces misunderstandings, conflicts, and missed bugs.

“Collaborating helps both teams identify and fix issues early in the development process, reducing the risk of costly post-release fixes and updates,” says Domach.

Consolidating the FQA and LQA processes also allows for iterative testing: after each round of fixes, both FQA and LQA can be performed again to ensure that the fixes haven't introduced any new issues. This ensures consistency in the translation, quality assurance, and functional testing processes, leading to a higher-quality and more cohesive final product.

Moving toward a more holistic testing process

Ultimately, both FQA and LQA aim to provide the best possible user experience. Moving toward a holistic testing process achieves better user satisfaction and success in global markets while improving cost efficiency, reducing turnaround times, and streamlining communication. When both teams have a comprehensive understanding of the project from start to finish, every aspect of the game is thoroughly tested and ready for launch.

As the games industry continues to evolve, so do player expectations. Leveraging FQA and LQA together enables publishers and developers to meet — and exceed — these expectations with high-quality, functionally robust, and appropriately localized products.

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Abigail Smathers