Adapting a QA Lab for Virtual Reality


VR is changing the QA process with its unique requirements. We asked David Kilgour (Global Platforms Test Manager) to tell us some of the factors VMC took into account when expanding its VR test facility.

One of the keys to testing virtual reality is the need to pay close attention to the physical environment the tester blocks out when they wear a headset. While the QA goals are the same – get the highest-quality product to market as quickly as possible – there are several key differences between VR testing and traditional console, PC and mobile based QA. Some are obvious, others are subtle, but they were all important considerations as we expanded our VR test environment.


While traditional QA can be squeezed into nearly any available space, VR testing needs a lot of room. Testers will be moving around with no sense of the physical space around them. What might be simple for a regular tester to notice, a VR tester may not. This extends beyond the configuration of the furniture and into more daily tasks: if IT is working on an issue for the adjacent tester, the extra people and items are easy for traditional testers to notice but become a hazard for VR testers who, even if they know the extra items are there, may lose track of those items when they’re deep in testing.


I’m not saying that all VR testers are vampires – but imagine for a moment they are. In a more traditional environment, window blinds and lighting would be adjusted throughout the day so that testers have sufficient light (artificial and natural) without direct sunlight on their monitors. VR testers can be immersed in their testing environment for hours without any sense of changes to their real environment, so they could remove their headset to face harsh, direct sunlight. Both the reorientation to the real world and sudden bright light can be very unpleasant, so we’ve planned our space to minimize this experience.

Motion sickness

VR motion sickness is a real thing, and because some people experience it more than others, screening testers is important. It doesn’t matter how effective the tester may be, if they get sick after wearing the headset for 30 seconds (our record is three seconds) then they’re not suitable for VR. Even for those who are suitable, most people get a little motion sick after testing for eight hours, so we provide ginger-based items (ginger candy, ginger ale, ginger tea, etc.) because it helps combat VR-induced motion sickness. Testers can also take breaks as they feel they need instead of being tied to a set break pattern, with some testers taking a few minutes every hour while others preferring an extended break after multiple hours of testing.

Documentation (Test Plans, Walkthroughs, Text Files, etc.)

VR testers are immersed within their environment, so any documentation is difficult to reference within the game, especially a complex and time-critical walkthrough document. Steps are easily missed if a test plan has very specific and cumbersome testing path, and scrolling text is difficult to check against a text file. The easiest way to adjust for many of these issues is having someone available for the tester to talk to. It could be as simple as having a second tester read the test plan as the VR tester moves through the virtual word, and having the VR tester read aloud the text they see and having a second tester check it against the text file.


With traditional QA, the genre of a title is less of a priority than a tester’s experience on a particular console, but in the VR environment, genre needs to be considered when selecting the right team. Consider the scariest horror movie you’ve seen – now turn that into a video game and place yourself in the middle of it with your VR headset. Before we assign a test team, we speak with each tester individually and give them an overview of the game. If the genre isn’t suitable, we find testers who are more interested in that title.

Potential downside

With every new technology, there is always a downside. We joke that with VR, it is difficult to tell the difference between a tester who is concentrating on one particular aspect and one who has simply fallen asleep.

We Grow as VR Grows

VMC’s VR testing facility is very different from the area we started with a year ago, and as VR technology evolves and player expectations change with it, we’ll continue to make improvements to both our VR testing methods and our space.

Adapting a QA Lab for Virtual Reality

VR is a reality at VMC

VR has arrived. Amy Nanto (Sr Manager, Business Development, Games) highlights a few things to think about when creating your immersive experience.

In the 90’s, the companies creating virtual reality content had lofty sci-fi aspirations but were limited by technology. We now live in the futuristic world where you can strap on a VR headset and immerse yourself in a truly convincing environment. The creative goal for VR focuses on exceptional experiences – whether it’s games, entertainment, sports, or journalism – but there are some important considerations to ensure the user experience is safe, believable, and truly immersive.


People say content is king, but the platform also rules. Content creators need to consider how their experiences will work on the growing number of VR platforms, headsets, and peripherals vying to establish themselves in the VR landscape. A new era of VR has begun, and with the continued introduction of new headsets and software, VR devs need to ensure their content works smoothly on the latest SDKs.


Even the most talented games professionals can face development challenges getting their VR content to comply with all standards and industry best practices for safety and comfort. Some of these challenges include minimal experience performing thorough QA tests on VR experiences, limited access to hardware for QA and development, and insufficient information on best practices for start-to-finish VR development.

Quality Assurance

Proper testing of your content is absolutely crucial. Testing VR content presents unique challenges when compared to traditional content because the user is completely immersed within the VR world. Low latency, high frame rate, high resolution, directional audio, and good calibration are essential to creating a plausible reality, and a lapse in any factor can take the player out of that virtual world. Knowing how to QA immersive VR environments is vital to ensuring optimal player experience.


After working closely with various VR teams for almost a year before VR devices became commercially available, VMC has developed an in-depth understanding of VR platforms on mobile and PC. Our test capabilities include functionality, usability, compatibility, and end-to-end localization on both VR content and hardware in our dedicated VR testing lab.

Make Something Awesome

Whether you’re creating VR for mobile, PC, console, or Cardboard, now is an exciting time to be a pioneer in VR. Go make something awesome!

VR is a reality at VMC

VMC’s Montreal Expansion Makes It The Largest Outsourcing Studio in Quebec

VMC, the industry leader in comprehensive global production support solutions for the video game, consumer electronic and media, and entertainment industries, is expanding its Montreal offices to become the largest outsourcing studio in Quebec. This expansion reflects the continued growth of VMC’s services in QA, localization, software development, and customer care across all platforms.

From indie games to AAA titles, VMC’s industry-leading inventory of tablets, smartphones, VR headsets, wearables, consoles, and PC configurations allows for the assessment of any compatibility scenario in real time. Apps and games are tested on a wide range of networks and devices, and the 50% increase in facility size enables VMC to accommodate up to 800 seats for ramp-ups and large projects.

This is VMC’s second Montreal expansion in three years, with floor space now totaling 33,000 square feet. For more than 15 years, VMC has provided comprehensive translation, audio, localization, testing, and support services to game developers in the international market, with locations in Redmond, Washington; Las Cruces, New Mexico; San Antonio, Texas; Costa Rica; and Slough, England.

“Whatever our clients can dream up, we’re ready to handle,” says Doug Dorweiler, Vice President of VMC. “VMC continues to grow, and this latest expansion reinforces our ability to adapt and scale to developers’ changing needs throughout the lifecycle of their game.”

About VMC

VMC Consulting, Inc. offers fully integrated quality assurance, localization, software engineering, and customer support services that ensure that every customer, anywhere in the world, enjoys the same positive experience with your product. VMC specializes in media and entertainment, and consumer electronics. Our core client base includes leading companies in the video games, connected home and devices, sports, broadcast, music, education and digital consumer industries. We have a simple approach to our business: focus on what we do best, and do it better than any of our competitors. VMC’s clients rely on us to get better products to market faster, and to deliver exceptional support for every stage of the product lifecycle. Our scalable, strategic outsourcing services are customized to align with how your business operates. VMC enhances and improves your operational agility, efficiency, and productivity, while you concentrate on your core business.

VMC Consulting, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Volt Information Sciences, Inc.

VMC’s Montreal Expansion Makes It The Largest Outsourcing Studio in Quebec

Is It Time to Integrate Your QA and Support?

Kirstin Whittle (Sr. Manager, Business Development) discusses how parallel QA and support services improve products and user experiences. 

Every Developer and Publisher manages their QA and Customer Support differently, and often separately, because QA can be seen as the opposite of Support – QA is finding bugs during development so the consumer won’t see them and Support is the consumer finding bugs and bringing them to the attention of the developer. But in reality, they’re both part of the same process: delivering a great user experience. Aggressive sprint cycles for regular updates and new downloadable content mean work on successful titles never stops, and that makes having efficient processes for both QA and Support more essential than ever – and the hybrid model is emerging as the most effective method of ensuring quality within tight time frames.

What is the hybrid model?

I define it as the bundling of QA and Support by a single provider with connected teams. This process allows your title to have Testing, Localisation and Support managed simultaneously utilising a common knowledge base for economies of scale.

Consider the complexity of the knowledge transfer process with multiple service companies: first, you brief your QA Partner about the project; then you brief your Translation Partner about the project; when that’s complete, you brief your Audio Partner and then the LQA Partner next until you’re finally briefing your Support Partner about all of the issues that were identified in the process. Each partner has a limited understanding of the previous partners’ work, with no simple way to cross-reference issues or ask questions of the other providers. These circumstances not only slow your development process, they increase your management time and cost, reduce accuracy and consistency, and increase the possibility of duplication of process and effort.

The hybrid model streamlines this process by having every team operating from the same knowledge base and easily communicating in real-time about discovered or known issues. The hybrid process accelerates each area through improved knowledge retention and collaboration and gives Developers and Publishers a single point of contact for inquiry and discussion on any aspect of the QA and Support process.

Moreover, the hybrid model delivers a better experience for your users because the Support Team has access to the latest real-time information about bugs, patches, updates, and other known issues. This gives the Support Agent more authority and gives the user confidence that you’re actively addressing issues on the game they want to play. Combined, this ensures an overall better impression of your Company, IP, and Support.

This method can deliver even further economies of scale by deploying Support Teams who are also trained in QA techniques, smoothing out the peaks and valleys of the cyclical development process of QA needs rising pre-launch and user support needs rising post-launch.

Time to market is a critical factor for regularly updated titles, so having a reliable process for effective and efficient Testing and Support is critical to your ability to satisfy and maintain your player base. The hybrid QA/Support model delivers the product quality and customer satisfaction you need on the development schedule your title is committed to. In other words, it’s not just faster – it’s better.

Is It Time to Integrate Your QA and Support?

New Devices Drive New Approaches to QA

Kirstin Whittle (Sr. Manager, Business Development) explains how multi-platform evolution is driving new QA protocols. 

We all have so many devices now – phones, tablets, desktops, consoles, even smartwatches and VR. It means there are many ways for users to engage with games and applications. This variety allows developers to attract and build a strong user base across multiple devices, but it is also driving changes to the role of QA in the product development process.

We all know that people expect a seamless playing experience. They want to remain immersed in the game world no matter what platform they’re playing on. As the proliferation of options grows – more devices, on more platforms, with continual hardware upgrades – the complexity of the QA and production processes across multiple devices grows with it. These changes are creating the opportunity for stronger partnerships between developers and their QA partners.

More Devices, More Demand

Pundits like to predict how the emergence of one technology will be the death knell for another, but the reality is more complex.

While manufacturers and the media evangelise the latest consoles and devices, most users aren’t upgrading with every new release. People get comfortable with their preferred interface or can’t afford to upgrade as often as the manufacturers might prefer. Along with a range of platforms and devices, the QA process must contend with different generations of each.

With so many active platforms, ensuring compatibility (and backwards compatibility) for a multi-platform title requires access to a comprehensive inventory of relevant devices.

Yet for most companies, the limited frequency of need – initial launch and periodic updates – makes assembling a huge inventory of devices a very cost-prohibitive process.

Working with a reliable QA outsourcing firm that owns and maintains a full range of the latest (and not-so-latest) devices allows developers to have their products fully tested on every version of their target operating system, device, and platform.

Continuity Across Every Platform

You learn a lot while performing QA on a title – and that knowledge is crucial to the multi-platform QA and support process. Tight coordination between test teams on different platforms enables efficient cross-referencing of issues across different devices, in turn accelerating results and giving development teams more time to address bugs. This is especially valuable when deadlines are driven by release dates and marketing plans rather than development.

Here’s the bottom line: Players want a great user experience, and delivering consistent product quality across everything from smartphones and tablets to desktops and consoles requires looking at the multi-platform QA process holistically, not as individual QA projects that are specific to each device.

Rather than running the risk of end-user disappointment by limiting the scope of your QA process, it is far better to choose a partner who can expertly handle every aspect of your multi-platform release strategy, including testing and localisation across a full range of devices, console compliance, and whatever else you need.

A well-executed QA strategy is essential to maximising both the efficiency of the process and the quality of the results.

New Devices Drive New Approaches to QA

Why indie developers need to think about more than development

Kirstin Whittle (Sr. Manager, Business Development) shares her thoughts on why creativity alone isn’t enough to ensure success. 

I had the pleasure of attending the 2015 Nordic Game Conference in Malmö and was impressed with so many creative, ambitious new games.

Indie games continue to thrive in Scandinavia and Europe, and I enjoyed talking with many start-up developers along with a number of industry veterans working on new ventures, to learn about what they’re doing and where they want their games to go.

The indie arena is great for developers who want more freedom and control to create the games they want to play, and the ongoing evolution of publishing models makes it possible to develop and release games that likely never would be released by an established publisher that expects a certain return on their investment.

But as is the case for any game, creativity isn’t enough to spur a game’s success.

Prepping for success

When the primary focus is on development, global production support services may not be a key focus, but developers need to have excellence in every area of their business, including marketing, legal, QA, localisation, live game operations and community management.

Managing quality in all of these areas is essential to getting people to play and keep playing your game because a great idea won’t make a splash if it’s poorly tested or localised, or isn’t marketed to your target audience.

No one knows what the next big thing is going to be, and many indie developers aren’t prepared to scale up quickly when their game takes off. Global production support services need to be an integral part of a development plan, but there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for any game.

Here are a few key factors to consider:

Pick a partner, not a provider

A good partner will serve as a guardian of your IP, and will understand that your game is your baby. Many global production support companies will take on indie projects and even offer advice prior to a formal engagement because they also want to be a part of the next big thing.

Talk to support partners who you trust and who have expertise to fill the gaps in the areas your in-house team is lacking.

Get them involved early

Getting your support partners involved early enables developers to benefit
from the insights an experienced partner can provide.

This includes anticipating obstacles and pitfalls, planning for all contingencies, and having additional support specialists who are already in the loop, who know your game, and with whom you have an established rapport.

Think beyond the launch

You want to offer more than just a great game – you want to give your customers a great experience, and this may include live game operations (games-as-a-service), customer support, and various forms of community management.

While an indie game may have humble beginnings, having it become a success doesn’t mean your relationship with your global production support partners has to change.

Many developers see augmenting their staff to bring everything in-house as a sign of success, but the peaks and valleys of the production process mean the workload for different groups will ebb and flow.

Continuing to work with outsourced partners can remain the most cost-effective approach, especially partners who already know your game, have proven their value, and can continue to provide critical subject matter expertise while you maintain complete creative control of your IP.

So pick good partners and get them involved early and you’ll be ready for anything.

Why indie developers need to think about more than development

How Everything Has Changed for the Games Industry

Kirstin Whittle (Sr. Manager, Business Development) talks about how the games industry has changed – for good. 

A fundamental shift has occurred in the games industry over the past few years. This may seem like an obvious statement in an industry that thrives on continual technological innovation and re-invention, but it goes far beyond the games themselves. The old retail model – put your game in a box and ship it to the stores – has transformed into a world where everything is live all the time.

Working as one

One of the most significant changes is how services that were until recently a relatively sequential process – design, then development, then QA, then localisation, then post-launch customer support – have begun to overlap and bleed together, to the point where everything now needs to work as one.

Where QA was once a pre-launch service, it is now an essential requirement throughout the life of the game as new DLC and updates are routinely developed and released.

It goes beyond isolated tests on new content to include verifying compatibility with all existing content and making sure it all works together in real-world conditions. This is also true of localisation and support. Most high-profile games, and even many true indie titles, have some level of these services happening all the time. Outsourced services have really become 24/7 processes.

This shift is driving a change in the relationships between content creators and outsourcers, and a change in the mindset of how both do business. The new always-on environment and the global reach of our products means outsourcing providers need to be true partners with developers and publishers, not simply vendors.
Smart outsourcers are bringing more value to their clients through flexible, innovative solutions.

For example, the cyclical nature of QA and live game operations – as the need for one rises, need for the other recedes – is creating opportunities for hybrid solutions that integrate these services and allow a consistent, manageable level of resources and support. Everything from localisation to global beta testing and community management is increasingly more tightly integrated.

We are truly a global industry now – anyone can publish globally because distribution is no longer reliant on companies with physical presence in other regions.

Player support

For the games industry, that means increasingly direct relationships with our customers and the need to be responsive to them. Because direct customer communication is outside the core competency of many developers and publishers, a strong partnership with an outsourcer that specialises in community engagement and player support enables each partner to focus on what they do best.

One thing is certain: the industry is not going back to the old model of development and publishing. Changes in player behaviour and expectations, twinned with the continuing advancements in technology and the increased capability of flexible global production support services, have resulted in better games. There are so many new opportunities for forward-looking publishers, developers, and outsourcing partners, and it’s exciting to be on the leading edge of all this change.

How Everything Has Changed for the Games Industry