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DevBlog – How do Technical Tests work?

Hey Anno Community,


With the Technical Test (short: TT) for the “The High Life” DLC going on right now, we think it’s a good time to talk about Technical Tests for Anno in general: Why do we do them? How advanced is the version for these playtests? How are we working with the feedback we receive?

Read on to find out.

What exactly is a Technial Test?

What we call a “Technical Test” is a larger playtest in which people can play an early version of an upcoming update and/or DLC. They are bigger than focus tests or diary studies which only involve a small group of players. For Diary Studies, players are handpicked based on existing profiles (you can sign up here to become part of the list) and also have to fill out daily surveys with questions from the team. With these, we’re trying to get feedback on very specific points.

In comparison, during a Technical Test, players can discuss the new content amongst themselves and help each other thanks to a forum. Generally, everyone can sign up to these playtests (though we usually limit the number of participants) and the goal is to receive a broader feedback from the community.

Our Technical Test preparations

The preparations for a Technical Test involve several teams within Ubisoft. First, we internally plan and schedule a TT based on our production and release plans and then get in touch with these other teams.

Those include for example the Ubisoft teams which handle the sign-up process and website, the invite and confirmation e-mails and of course the forwarding of the final list of participants so they get access to the test version and the forums.

Talking about version: For us this means that we must prepare a stable version for the test, check it and document known issues. More on that below.

Finally, there’s communication that needs to be prepared, be it on the Anno Union or the dedicated forums.

All this means we’re going through a bunch of meetings before the TT can finally start.

How advanced is the version (as we call it: the build) for such a Technical Test?

Generally, we’re aiming to prepare a version that is mostly “feature complete”, i.e., the new content can already be played in its entirety, the systems are working and most of the art assets are also ready. For this, all teams have to work hard to produce such a stable version (it can have bugs and some technical issues, but no major problems) several weeks before the actual public release of the content.

While the new mechanics are basically in, there’re still plenty of other things missing or at least incomplete: The Technical Test version usually doesn’t include any localizations yet, meaning all new content is available in English only. Sound and music can also be partly missing, same as descriptions and tooltips for new buildings and mechanics. Art assets can still be partially unpolished, and the balance usually isn’t final either.

On the technical side, the version isn’t fully optimised yet, and there are plenty of bugs (known ones, which are still planned to be fixed, and new ones we haven’t found yet ourselves) including potential blockers that e.g., might prevent you from finishing a questline.

How do we use the feedback from such a playtest?

As explained at the beginning of the article, we’re using a forum to gather feedback and bug reports. Before the start of the Technical Test, we usually assemble a team consisting of members of QA, Game Design, Community and Support to keep an eye on the forum. QA and Support check and reproduce reported bugs (for which we usually ask for savegames, screenshots etc.) and transfer them into our internal system (we, like many others, are using JIRA for that) for further investigation.

Feedback regarding certain features, balance and more is gathered by Game Design and Community and subsequently discussed within the Design team.

Usually, members from other teams are also checking the forums from time to time, even if they’re not on “forum duty”, be it out of general curiosity or because they want to see if there’s feedback regarding a specific feature they were working on (e.g. Art wanting to know what our players think of the new Skyscrapers).

Following team-internal discussions (e.g. Game Design checking which impact a certain balance change would have) are discussions with other teams that are also needed to change something, e.g. UI or programming. Most requested improvements or features that we receive as feedback are topics, that require work from different teams.

Subsequently, our Production team has to estimate the efforts for changes and improvements the teams still want to do, keeping in mind the time remaining till the public release of the DLC. This can be tricky, since the playtest has to happen late enough that the majority of content is already ready, but early enough so that we still have time to react to feedback and bug reports until release.

Have you participated in any of Anno 1800’s previous playtests? Do you have any additional questions about our playtests? Let us know in the comments!




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