With the recent release of the RuneScape 3 beta I thought it would be a good time to discuss some of the finer points of beta testing. The idea behind this came from seeing the community reaction to the first RuneScape Beta (EoC) last year. There are two main reasons why a company chooses to engage in public testing. The first and most important is that they want to expose their product to a wider variety of test systems to improve the product. The second reason and somewhat less important reason is that they want to generate excitement for an upcoming release. The current RuneScape beta is undergoing testing almost exclusively for the first reason.
One caveat that has been highlighted specifically by Jagex relating to this beta is that it is not a final product. This is important to note with every beta that a person takes part in. Just because you are seeing a product as is does not mean it will be this way at launch or even tomorrow. Initial reactions from inexperienced beta testers are often knee-jerk reactions. These type of reactions were especially apparent in the 2012 Evolution of Combat beta test. People who were testing Evolution of Combat were automatically assuming that what they experienced on the first day would be released into the game, this was not true. With this being said, keep this in mind during beta testing.
Now that we know what mindset to keep during beta testing we should certainly cover how to test the software we’ve been given. There are a number of ways to test software but there are a number of simple tests that anyone can do. There are other methods of testing software that are more intensive but those won’t be covered today.
The first thing that any tester must do is use the software as they would normally use it. There is a very high chance with beta software that during normal daily use bugs will be discovered. This is a great form of testing since everyone’s daily use of a piece of software or in this case RuneScape is different. As an example of this in all of the times I have logged into the RuneScape 3 beta and played normally I have found bugs and reported them using the given report feature. As an end note to this type of testing there’s one more important activity. If there’s an action that you do daily or a button you use daily, don’t take it for granted that it will work.
The second thing a more intrepid tester can attempt to do is to actually break the software. Breaking software can often highlight a point of failure that might not have been thought of during development. For example, does dropping a huge amount of items with the action bar cause the client to crash? Or maybe does furiously resizing the game window cause the game to lock up? The point of this type of testing is to expose the game client or application to actions that wouldn’t normally be experienced. Even though these actions may not seem related they might be linked to some bug elsewhere that has not been discovered by a tester.
Finally, don’t be yourself. Try to think of other normal use cases that you don’t normally fit within your use style. For the specific case of RuneScape 3 if you’re typically not a Dungeoneer, go for a dungeon run. Going for a dungeon run will be refreshing to you and might enable you to see things that the people who run Dungeoneering runs daily might miss. It’s human nature when doing something we’re relatively familiar with to gloss over details.
Now that we know how to expose the potential bugs in the RuneScape 3 beta or any other beta you participate in, it’s time to talk about how exactly to report them. In order to write an effective bug report one must clearly categorize and explain the report while providing thorough information.
Testers of RuneScape 3 are lucky in that the bug report system has access to all of their system information. This is one less thing that RuneScape 3 testers need to send in. Normally when sending in bug reports testers must include detailed system information. Even though system information is provided automatically testers should be sure to choose the correct bug category. If the correct category is not chosen there’s a chance that the bug might not be acted upon as quickly as possible. While writing the bug report try to keep the explanation and the steps to reproduction as clear as possible. As an example, if the bug involves dropping items quickly with the action bar then the report should clearly state that the action bar is being used to drop the items.
Overall being a beta tester is an exciting thing to take part in. Developers also take joy in beta testing as it provides them with free testing and more often than not, free press. It’s important to remember that testing must be carried out in a specific way and that the results of this testing must also be reported carefully. If the ideas mentioned here are kept in mind while testing it will yield happier developers and happier users once the final product releases.