Did you know that one of the world's leading platforms for gamers experienced an impressive 83% increase in viewership in a single year after the pandemic hit?
Today, gaming is proving to be more than just an entertainment option, as its role has significantly evolved during the pandemic. While it was often associated with leisure activities confined to people's bedrooms, gaming is now demonstrating its true value in various aspects of life, including the classroom. Amid this boom in usage, ensuring optimal gaming experience is a top priority for gaming companies to maintain a superior brand reputation.
Nobody wants their players to experience disappointment at any point in their gaming journey. While impressive graphics, animations, and rich media can make a game attractive, poor performance frustrates players the most.
Gamers expect a consistent and seamless gaming experience, highlighting the importance of performance testing for gaming apps.
What is performance testing, and why do you need it?
Large-scale gaming applications need to undergo performance testing to be able to deliver expected outcomes to the end users. Effective software testing platforms for gaming apps help tune the servers for optimal performance to obtain a realistic assessment of the game's performance.
Performance testing allows you to obtain crucial information on how the games perform in terms of responsiveness, stability, and refresh rates under specific user interaction patterns or certain workloads, and much more. Without efficient performance testing, the app might be exposed to a myriad of bugs, defects, security threats, and other issues with speed and reliability on release. Performance testing effectively reduces productivity costs by reducing system crashes, discovering bottlenecks, and ensuring that the software is fast, stable, and can handle multiple users.
Crucial metrics for testing the performance of game apps
Effective performance testing focuses on three broad areas: speed, stability, and stability. Testing the performance effectively requires several metrics that help monitor and enhance the quality of performance easily. Following are some metrics that game testers should focus on:
- Response time - This helps calculate the total time between the sending of a request to the time of receiving the response. A faster response time indicates higher performance.
- Average load time - This is an essential metric from the user's perspective. The average load time is the measurement of the time taken to deliver each request.
- Latency - Also known as the wait metric in performance testing, latency helps indicate the time taken for the first response. It is crucial to measure the time consumed before receiving the first byte as a response that helps measure the performance levels of the web servers.
- Connections per speed - This metric provides information regarding the TCP/IP connections, which are opened and closed every second. In case the number of connections per second is lesser than the hit per second, it reflects effective performance.
- Concurrent users - The number of users using the applications simultaneously significantly impacts the app's overall performance. The concurrent user metrics assist in measuring the number of active users at a point in time, indicating the engagement of the users.
- DAU/MAU(Daily active users/monthly active users) - This refers to the ratio of active users who play each day over the total number of monthly active users. This is also known as the stickiness factor.
- Session - Each time any user opens an app, that counts as a session. The focus here lies on the average number of sessions per DAU.
- Download rank - This refers to the rank of the game in a specific app store by monthly game downloads.
- Retention - This is a very crucial metric for an android game tester for any free game. For calculating retention, it is required to separate the users into cohorts based on the particular day the app was downloaded.
- Throughput - This is measured by kilobytes per second that show the amount of bandwidth utilized during the test.
- CPU utilization - This is a measure of the time required by the CPU to process requests.
- Memory utilization - This refers to the amount of memory needed to process the request.
Types of performance testing for the gaming applications
It is important that QA testers understand the different forms of performance testing to be able to identify the right one for their app.
1. Load testing
Load testing measures the system performance as the workload increases. The workload could refer to concurrent users or transactions. For this test, the system is monitored to measure the response time and system staying power with the increasing workload.
In the case of large-scale gaming apps, load testing helps determine the maximum number of players that can play on a server or if the gaming app is communicating effectively with your server or the memory used by the software, and many more. Load testing can assist in checking the app against these scenarios.
When a specific load is exposed to the game and infrastructure, the developer can understand the possible bottlenecks and identify the parts of the infrastructure that require optimization. Load testing might vary from basic server upload/download function to database connection and queries and various inputs provided to the game/infrastructure.
For instance: If the game requires you to pull something from a back-end server and suddenly 200 plus devices do that in the same WiFi network, such a scenario can offer insightful information about the game's capability during this kind of scenario. It can also assist in providing deep insights into hardware capabilities and how many resources are required for the games.
2. Interrupt testing
Interruptions can be very critical for any application. Imagine getting a call, incoming SMS, network connection loss, app update reminders, or any other notifications that might get in the way of your gameplay. Therefore, it is essential to test for interruptions to test the app behavior and response during and after the unexpected disturbance.
3. Stress testing
This type of testing technique determines the robustness of the software to measure system performance beyond the parameters of normal working conditions. Stress testing emphasizes robustness, availability, and error handling under a heavy load rather than what is correct behavior under normal situations. Stress testing commonly involves metrics like transaction response time, transactions per second, pages per second, failure of connection, and many more.
4. Endurance testing
This is crucial non-functional testing that is executed to check if the software system can seamlessly sustain under a huge load continued over a long period of time. Through this technique, the game is left running for a prolonged period in different modes of operation, for instance, idling paused or at the title screen. Endurance testing, also known as soak testing, critical metrics like CPU, memory, and FPS can be monitored to detect potential leaks.
For example — Assume a game has commenced and the character is made to stand idle for 24 hours. With this technique, testers can detect crashes brought on by memory leaks and other errors in the game engine.
5. Spike testing
Spike testing is a technique leveraged to test apps with extreme increments and decrements in traffic loads. The main aim of spike testing is to evaluate the behavior or response of the app to changing user load and determine the recovery time.
This form of testing is executed by suddenly increasing the load generated by a large number of users, inputs, data, or other types of stimuli. This is a periodical practice that helps determine if a dramatic change in load leads to any errors or issues to the game and its infrastructure.
Things to keep in mind for executing performance tests for gaming apps
- Ensure writing and conducting performance tests in whichever types of tests make the optimal use for the game. Make sure to stress the game and the entire gaming infrastructure as well. This involves back-end servers and integration with social media and other third-party entities.
- It is essential to input every element, which helps to investigate further what might happen to the game. This allows monitoring it in real-time during the testing. Further, the logs will maintain all the vital information that can be used to compare later with build-over-build to assess how things have regressed with the new version of the game.
- Leverage real mobile devices and check for the following aspects:
- The game's graphics and UI—whether the game display shows properly on all devices
- If the UI and layout and other graphical elements like icons, and buttons, display properly across all devices
- Ensuring that the usability of controls is identical in all devices
- Ensuring the proper flow of the animations
- Checking whether the game progress flows seamlessly
- Checking whether the screen resolution and orientation are correct for the devices and similar other aspects.
Gaming app testing is a crucial yet complex task for the testers and developers as it needs to cater to multiple requirements. Testing the performance of these apps can be very different when compared to other applications. The success of the apps not only depends on rendering good user experiences but also on the time engagement of users with the applications. Additionally, gaming apps have transformed significantly today. Single-player online board games that ruled once upon a time are not the only popular games today with emerging social games with enhanced graphics, multiplayer features, interactive interfaces, and much more. These social games need extensive testing not only for intricate graphics and smooth gameplay tasks but other features like real-time response, communication, AR VR functionalities, and many more. Following are some of the popular types of games and their requirements:
- Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) - Games like Roblox and Minecraft allow thousands of players from around the world to log in and play together. Gamers can choose how much interaction they wish to engage in. These games need to ensure the smooth functioning of the interactive chatting features among players irrespective of the number of players.
- Player versus Environment (PvE) - Player versus environment (PvE) are video games where the players compete against artificial intelligence instead of other players. The players usually compete against AI-controlled opponents with varying difficulties as the game progresses. These games cover a wide range of titles, from adventure and action to role-playing games (RPGs) that require seamless video quality and smooth transitions, with no latency, network jitters, or slowdowns.
- Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) Games - MOBA is a popular sub-genre of real-time strategy games. These games involve teams competing against each other on a predefined battlefield. Every player in this game controls a single virtual character and possesses distinctive abilities that enhance over the course of the gameplay and help improve the team's performance. These types of games involve a large number of players and require smooth communication and flawless audio and video quality across the game journey to avoid any disruptions in the gameplay.
Extensive platform diversity — a significant complexity for consistent game testing
Testing game performance across different platforms introduces a complex and dynamic dimension to quality assurance. Game developers must address variations in hardware capabilities, operating systems, and user interfaces, all while maintaining gameplay consistency and high-performance standards. Cross-platform game performance testing is crucial to ensure that gamers on various devices enjoy a seamless and engaging experience, free from glitches, lags, or other platform-specific issues. This requires a comprehensive testing approach that accounts for the unique characteristics of each platform while striving for a unified, top-tier gaming experience.
Though it is critical to test game performance across platforms of various types, it is often challenging due to the variables.
Cross-platform testing involves evaluating how a game performs on various hardware configurations and operating systems, such as Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Xbox, PlayStation, and more. Here are some key aspects that make it challenging to test game performance across platforms:
● Hardware variability
Different platforms have varying hardware capabilities, from CPU and GPU power to memory and storage. Testing across platforms helps identify performance discrepancies and ensures that the game functions smoothly on all devices.
● Screen resolutions
Games should adapt to different screen resolutions and aspect ratios, from high-definition monitors to smartphone screens. Testing helps ensure that graphics and user interfaces are appropriately scaled and rendered.
Gamers expect consistent gameplay experiences, regardless of the platform they use. Cross-platform game performance testing helps maintain a uniform gaming experience, preventing unfair advantages or disadvantages for players on different devices.
● Bug identification
Testing helps uncover platform-specific bugs or issues that may affect gameplay. Identifying and addressing these problems ensures a bug-free gaming experience for all players.
Additionally, with a rising emphasis on assistive gaming, there are several other considerations to be involved while testing gaming apps across different mediums.
Assistive gaming, also known as accessibility gaming, leverages adaptive technology to cater to individuals with a range of disabilities, including low vision, blurred vision, blindness, color perception challenges, speech and hearing impairments, as well as cognitive and motor mobility limitations.
Popular games like Cardinal Direction (CD) and Tower of London (TOL) have been adapted to accommodate visually impaired users. These adaptations typically replace visual stimuli with audio inputs, creating a more inclusive gaming experience.
When testing such games, a video game tester should pay close attention to the following aspects:
- Color patterns: Ensure that colors flash in a discernible pattern, accompanied by distinct audible tones for each color.
- Auditory accompaniment: Each color should have an associated audible tone to aid players in distinguishing between them.
- Visual data description: Provide descriptive text for visual elements within the game so that visually impaired players can access information through screen readers effectively.
- Three-dimensional sound: Implement three-dimensional audio and spatialized sound to allow players to navigate the game world using touchscreen controls while receiving audio cues from different directions.
How can HeadSpin help you deliver flawless gaming experiences?
Global gaming companies are leveraging HeadSpin to deliver unparalleled gaming experiences for the gamers by using advanced ML models and holistic testing suites. The key benefits that HeadSpin offers gaming companies include—
- End-to-end testing — HeadSpin assists in end-to-end testing for all the gameplay scenarios to help measure gaming experiences across real user conditions with real devices and consoles, carrier networks, locations, and localized content. Additionally, create, execute and automate tests easily on real devices with HeadSpin’s capability to effectively support multiple automation frameworks and easy integration with the existing frameworks.
- Cross-platform compatibility — HeadSpin's testing capabilities extend to cross-browser and cross-platform scenarios. This means gaming companies can confidently verify their gaming experiences on various device types and across different global locations. Ensuring cross-platform compatibility maximizes your reach and user base without compromising the quality and performance of your games.
- Critical KPIs — HeadSpin's gaming solution enables measuring the KPIs essential for understanding the user experience issues and improving the gamer’s engagement with the app, including memory usage, battery usage, audio/video mean opinion score, frame rate, launch time, and much more. Mean Opinion Score (MOS), an efficient way to quantify the subjective perception of video content through a single number, can be captured with HeadSpin, and the MOS time series can be further paired with the HeadSpin Poor Quality Issue Card, where the UI will surface perceptual video quality issue regions to the time series. The video quality metrics in total enable a better understanding of which metrics have the biggest impact on the user quality of experience.
- Other critical factors impacting gameplay experiences — With HeadSpin, test and monitor network latency and in-app transaction performance, run multiplayer testing, and measure the performance of in-game advertising campaigns.
How HeadSpin assisted a leading game developer in delivering flawless gaming experiences across the globe
While attempting to keep an engaged customer base by ensuring a seamless gaming experience, this client was faced with the challenge of testing users' experiences in diverse locations across the world.
HeadSpin's unique testing platform enabled the company to test the real-life performance of their apps anywhere with thousands of real SIM-card-equipped devices. The platform helped diagnose performance and customer experience issues of critical user flows and identify the highest priority issues. With HeadSpin, the client team could also leverage the recorded UX sessions to understand better the UX aspects that are challenging to quantify.
HeadSpin's gaming solution further enabled the client to make changes to fine-tune the in-app purchases and provide a streamlined purchase experience.
In a nutshell.
Performance testing is a key to ensuring seamless gaming experiences for the users with constant progress, smooth gameplay, and consistent performance across the entire game journey. Offering compelling experiences for the target audience helps enhance the brand reputation and win loyalty across the clientele. It is crucial for the testers and developers to execute thorough performance testing across every essential metric and diverse gameplay scenarios to ensure delivering unparalleled gaming performance.