TO MILLIONS OF game geeks, the position of quality
assurance (QA) tester at Electronic Arts must seem
like a dream job. But from the company’s perspective,
the overhead associated with QA can look downright
frightening, particularly in an era of massively
Hence the appeal of automated QA testing, which
has the potential to be faster, more cost-effective,
more efficient and more scalable than manual testing.
While automation cannot mimic everything human
testers can do, it can be very useful for many types
of basic testing. Still, it turns out the transition to
automated testing is not nearly as straightforward
as it might at first appear. Some of the thorniest
challenges are considered here.
At Electronic Arts (EA) in Vancouver, British Columbia, Michael Donat
is an advocate of automation. His current focus is process improvement on
the Player and Business Analysis team.
He was previously the manager of QA
at Silicon Chalk and ActiveState Corp.,
and has worked at Microsoft as a software design engineer.
Joining the discussion is Jafar Husain, a lead software developer for Netflix. Previously he worked at Microsoft,
where one of his tasks involved creating the test environment for the Silver-light development platform. There he
was introduced to Model View View-Model (MVVM); he is a convert, he says,
and now likes to spread the gospel of
MVVM where applicable.
Terry Coatta, a member of the ACM
Queue board, brought this group together to discuss the potential for
automated QA testing. He and Donat once worked together at Silicon
Chalk, where creating a sophisticated
test environment was among their
challenges. Coatta is now the CTO of
Marine Learning Systems developing
a learning management system for
TERRY COATTA: In terms of your efforts
so far to apply automated QA testing at
EA, I gather you’ve found the going a
MICHAEL DONAT: We started the journey thinking automation was a good
idea, but then we tried it, and it failed.
Still, we figured out what was wrong,
and we fixed it. But, while we made it
to a nice plateau, we realized there was
still a long way to go. Our solution clearly wasn’t going to get us everything we
wanted—which was a way to broadly
apply automated testing. To get there,
and for some other reasons, several of
us have concluded that what we really
need is a new architecture along the
lines of MVVM.
JAFAR HUSAIN: What exactly was your
driver for automating in the first place?
DONAT: Our primary motivation had
to do purely with the cost of manual
testing, which has become quite significant given the complexity of our
QA Testing at
Article development led by
A discussion with Michael Donat,
Jafar Husain, and Terry Coatta