Matt Booty, the head of Xbox Game Studios, has once again, so completely, stuck his foot in his ass. This weekend at PAX, he professed how much he would like to see AI perform his QA work.
QA, the unidentified armies of people who play games through their development to ensure that as few bugs and issues as possible pass through to the launch version, are one of the most vilified groups in the gaming industry. As recent incidents with their alleged mistreatment by Activision Blizzard and Bethesda have demonstrated, theres a growing call among their members to get unionized and thus receive the support and respect they deserve.
Booty explained that every time a new feature is added, a game must be re-tested from start to finish. He explained that some of the methods we have never really followed up on are not adequate. One of these is testing.
When I meet with the AI people, I always tell them, "Help me figure out how to utilize an AI bot to test a game."
Matt Booty talked about his fantasy where such a fadorite species would no longer be needed in a talk entitled Storytime (around 01.02.20).
I want to be able to launch ten thousand instances of a game in the cloud, so that there are ten thousand copies of the game running, deploy an AI bot to spend all night testing that game, and in the morning we get a report.
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Matt Booty was the same person who responded to Kotaku's allegations of labor conditions at Bethesda by telling currently-disabled employees. The issue with many of these articles is that they look backwards, sometimes quite far back in time. (Its well worth also reading Brendan Sinclair's fantastic breakdown of everything insensitive and ridiculous Booty said in the same meeting.)
And, of course, who was subjected to the worst of the Booty claims of Fallout's severe conditions? It was QA testers who reported to Kotaku on 10-hour days, six days a week, in dire financial circumstances.
Naturally, none of this was raised during the keynote interview at PAX, with the head of Microsoft Studios receiving a series of questions, rather than, Tell us again how wonderful you are? We have of course reached out to Microsoft to ask exactly the questions that should have been raised in response to his bizarrely insensitive outburst, and will update as they respond.