App Development, Thought Leaders

How to Test Mobile Game Apps

February 7, 2018

by Munish Garg

Senior QA Engineer, Bugraptors

Testing means ensuring that a program meets its predefined requirements. Mobile game applications require precise, organized testing strategies that must be incorporated firmly into the development procedure.

The game industry is more in demand today than ever before. According to Newzoo, the global games market generated $108.9 billion in 2017.

Game design isn’t easy, though, and neither is game testing, especially when testing games for mobile devices. Developing, designing, and testing mobile games require specialized skills.

You don’t always know all of an app’s requirements before you start developing, so testing is one step in an iterative process for creating a quality mobile game.

How Is Mobile Game Testing Different from Regular App Testing?

I’ve been testing mobile games for the past four years with Bugraptors, and I’ve realized that doing so requires specific skills.

The difference between regular mobile applications and mobile games impacts test plans strategies. Games are more unpredictable than ordinary mobile applications, since they invite users to act unpredictably. When testing a game, you have to anticipate a player’s behavior.

When testing a mobile app, you have to make sure that your app is easy to use and works well across multiple devices.

Mobile game testing combines those two requirements, which makes it more challenging.

What Parts of My Mobile App Should I Test?

A mobile gaming app prioritizes certain functions that regular mobile apps either need less of or don’t need at all. These are the parts of your app that you’ll be checking as you test.

1. User Interface and Game Functionality

Your game’s user interface (UI) and overall functionality determine how successful your mobile app will be. It’s crucial that you get both right.

User interface layout, screen orientation, menu structure and functions, and screen resolution are some of the aspects that make up UI and game functionality.

2. Graphics Performance

A high-quality graphics performance is key. Gamers like to engage with smooth, responsive graphics but will become frustrated when an app’s art crashes or slows.

To figure out how your game’s graphics perform under all kinds of conditions, use a stress test. This performance test will determine how responsive your game can be on a real gadget.

Try testing tools such as:

GameBench, for example, lets you play your game and collects data in the background.

Gamebench dashboard game testing

It then allows you to analyze the data for flaws when you’re finished.

These tools help you check your application performance by mimicking peak traffic and under high-stress conditions.

3. Multiplayer/User Features

Mobile gamers enjoy competing with real-life players, especially friends and family. Some of the most successful mobile games, such as NBA Jam, NFS, and Nova Legacy, are multiplayer.

That’s why you should consider including multiplayer functionality.

However, multiplayer functionality is hard to get right. All players must be able to perform the same set of app interactions at the same time, so the users’ devices and your server are constantly exchanging data.

Test your server thoroughly to make sure it can handle multiplayer interactions.

4. Social Media Integrations

Social media integration can make your mobile game a success.

Consider Candy Crush. The app has 100 million daily active users, and that’s partially because developers embedded connection and sharing tools.

Candy Crush social media integration

Puzzles & Dragons and Clash of Clans are other examples of games that have succeeded because of social media integration.

Don’t ignore the possibility of social media while developing your game.

5. Open-Source Security Liabilities

Most developers use open-source components as they build their games. 

Some successful games built with open-source code include:

This common development practice lessens the task of creating code for your game’s peripheral functions.

Clumsy Bird source code

Source Code: Clumsy Bird (index.html)

However, using open-source assets sometimes creates security problems. Any third-party software packages and libraries come with their own set of bugs, which hackers might exploit. Any time you incorporate an open-source asset, do your research and learn about that asset’s liabilities.

You have to be proactive in testing your app’s security for the sake of your users.

Black Box and White Box Testing

Black box and white box testing are necessary for programs of all kinds, not just mobile gaming apps.

Black Box Testing

Black box testing, or testing in which the tester does not know how the app works, checks functionality without putting emphasis on underlying programming code. This type of testing reveals design and logic errors. It checks whether the whole program is engaging and easy to use.

During black box testing, ask testers questions like the following:

  • Do sliders and buttons work?
  • Can you pass levels without too much difficulty?
  • Can you register for an account correctly?
  • Does the sound improve or take away from gameplay?
  • Can you save your gaming progress?

After black box testing, you should know whether assets like menus, animations, and player-game interaction work as expected.

White Box

White box testing requires inside knowledge of the code prerequisites, programming design, software libraries, databases, and game engine. It focuses on the architectural and systemic aspects of the mobile game.

Your app development team is responsible for white box testing, which it should perform early during unit testing.

Strategies Used in Mobile Game Testing

The following testing strategies are unique to mobile game testing.

Functional Testing

Functional testing means playing games to find bugs. For the most part, functional testing can be automated.

If you understand your mobile app’s code, you can set up test automation frameworks. Automated functional testing can uncover issues related to user interface and graphics, game flow/mechanism, stability, and integration of graphics resources.

Performance Testing

Slow speed and broken game systems, such as dialogue or loot, can undermine an otherwise sound gaming app. That’s where performance testing comes in. It shows you the metrics your app needs to run correctly.

When conducting performance testing, make a list of your game’s real performance prerequisites, such as:

  • CPU usage
  • Average load time
  • Battery usage
  • Internet connection requirements
  • Local database requirements

Many games are developed and tested on high-end devices. The developers never test these games on lower-end or older devices, so the games don’t work on some devices. Make sure your game works on all devices, including 2G and 3G ones.

Compatibility Testing

This means making your game compatible across different devices.

Your app should work on Android, iPhone, and tablet devices. If it’s an extension of a web or desktop game, it should work as well on mobile as it does on a TV, desktop computer, or laptop computer.

Many developers think that they can only test for compatibility with the product’s final version. This isn’t true, though. If you perform compatibility testing during every development phase, you can uncover incompatibility bugs as you go.

Localization Testing

If you’re targeting worldwide markets, localization testing is imperative. Localization testing ensures that your game works well in any location you release the app.

All text, including titles, messages, and menus, must be translated into each supported language. They must display properly when users select a certain language.

While you can’t automate translation (you'll have to hire a translator for that), you can automate localization testing. To do this, choose text assets in each language and compare them in your app. Are they correctly translated? Do they display properly?

Ensure that you’ve completed localization testing before expanding your game into multiple languages.

Load Testing

Load testing checks the limits of both a user’s device and your app’s mobile network usage. It answers questions like:

  • How many players can play on a server?
  • Does your app communicate properly with your server?
  • How does the app use memory?

You can automate load testing by using test scripts and original content from the backend servers.

Regression Testing

Perform regression testing whenever anything changes in your app.

Most mobile games have a server-client interaction that requires a login, a transfer of user information, and then downloading of server information (such as data and images). As you build up these services, you run the risk of breaking your code.

Follow these steps to perform regression testing:

  • Name all the changes you’ve made to your software since the last test.
  • Figure out which parts of the software have been impacted by these changes.
  • Analyze test cases and determine whether full, partial, or unit testing is needed.

Schedule the test right away.

Thorough Testing Means High-Quality Performance

Mobile gaming is all about high-quality performance, and proper testing before release ensures that your app will give users the performance they expect.

Game testing requires experts, so make sure you have them on hand as you develop a mobile gaming app.

About the Author

Munish Garg Bugraptors headshotMunish Garg is a senior coordinator QA engineer & editor with Bugraptors. He is passionate about software testing.

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