Shaped by diverse experiences, Mariana Dadalto Schettino lived in different places all her life. She came to Guerrilla to take on exciting challenges and make her mark on the games she helps develop!
QA Analyst Mariana talks to us about the video games that inspired her, the unconventional career path she took, and the various facets of QA in game development.
Hi Mariana – thanks for chatting with us today. Let’s start things off with an introduction: where are you from and what’s your background?
Hi! I’m Mariana and I’m QA Analyst here at Guerrilla. I grew up in Brazil, but I’ve also lived in New Zealand, Spain and Portugal before moving to the Netherlands. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism with emphasis in business communications and events.
Wow – having lived in so many places sounds incredible! What kinds of things did you get up to while growing up in all these places?
Playing video games was a big hobby growing up, especially for all the times that I would sneak from my house to play with friends – you see, I grew up in an age where some people believed “video games are for boys”, so I had to be creative to join in the fun. I also enjoyed gymnastics, trying out a bunch of different sports, practiced Ninjutsu for a few years and loved to paint (still do).
What kind of video games did you play that inspired you to pursue game development?
What sparked my interest in game development as a career was initially just an extension of my love for video games. I always had so much fun spending hours playing, exploring worlds and stories, from Super Mario World to Pokémon Snap, Resident Evil, Crash Bandicoot, Kirby, Tetris, Prince of Persia – and so many many other games!
Moving from Brazil to these places sounds like quite an adventure. What inspired you to move to so many different places and how did it bring you into the gaming industry?
Since I was young, I always felt like my life wouldn’t be in Brazil because I was so curious to discover other places and meet other people.
Before moving abroad, I never thought that I’d work in the video game industry. For me, video games were a hobby and something I’d enjoy with my brothers, cousins, and friends. Working with video games was so far from my reality that what I ended up studying in university doesn’t even relate to it, even though I definitely applied some skills I learned in school at my job today.
Do you feel your university studies steered you towards your current career path?
In some ways not at all, in others a little.
QA relates to event planning in the following way: for both, you have to plan for everything, know your deadlines, and deal with unexpected situations. When that happens, you need to know how to respond, what to do, and how to create a new plan if needed.
Part of what I studied in Tourism Management helps me be a good QA Analyst, particularly in understanding different business models, how to evaluate risk, how to manage people, and how to gauge and advocate for the player experience (similarly to how you would do for a client in the hospitality industry).
Overall, I see that my not-so-conventional background allowed me to be exactly where I am now. I explored and chased different experiences, but also sought what I was passionate about while using previously learned skills to keep moving forward and create my own path, doing what I felt best at.
Once you finished university, what did you do?
I moved abroad and had various work experiences, until I came across an opportunity to work as a localization tester and it sounded like something I needed to try. At the time, I was chasing a job that would connect better with who I was and ended up finding an entry level opportunity in the industry - my profile matched the job description, and I just thought how much fun this would be! And turns out it really is!
In this role, I had the chance to found and lead an initiative to apply gender inclusive language for localization – including non-binary language, something that was never done before for localized titles at my previous workplace.
During these two years, my passion and interest in working with games grew stronger. I wanted to understand more about the functionality behind making a game and how to test that, as well as being involved in making games more accessible beyond language. That’s when I decided to branch out to Functional QA and ended up landing the job here at Guerrilla.
It grew into something much bigger with the career I grew into now. I can’t say that I planned it this way before it started, but once I was in, I was really in.
How did your experience prior to Guerrilla help you?
Testing for localization gave me the skills I needed to transition to functional QA and the gender language initiative gave me the opportunity to develop other skills that allowed me to have an unique experience when applying for the role at Guerrilla. I also knew what I wanted to do and was very determined about where I saw myself going, so this helped me showcase how much I could contribute to the company.
And that’s when your list of countries grew as you moved here to the Netherlands! How do you find life in Amsterdam?
I like Amsterdam a lot. It feels like a big city with its diversity and different restaurants and shops, but at the same time it has a small town feel and is not as busy as other cities I lived in before. Besides that, the infrastructure for bikes and public transportation is amazing, which makes moving around the city very practical and easy.
I also love the architecture here, all the trees and the canals. I’m a big Amsterdam fan!
It was easy for me to adapt here, especially in terms of language. Expats are very fortunate in their experience here, nearly everyone speaks English in Amsterdam.
Can you tell us about your role: what is QA and what’s the process for it like?
The QA process is complex. It’s so much more than just testing a game and finding bugs – that’s only one part of the job.
QA, above all, is about advocating for the players and their experience. It’s understanding the intentions from the developers and knowing how to balance those two things together. It’s important to know how to convey feedback about content and communicate your points with clarity and reasoning.
Communication is one of the biggest parts of QA - at least at Guerrilla, as it can differ depending on the studio structure.
As a QA Analyst, you’re the bridge between the development team and the testing team. You’re part of the development process and you help shape the experience from an early stage in production.
There’s the need to understand features in depth so that testing plans are elaborated in a way to have as much coverage of the game as possible. QA also reviews data from playtests (internal and external), which helps guide the process of testing and development of the game as a whole.
So QA is a holistic part of game development, from start to finish. There are some common misconceptions about what QA is – how would you reframe that for others?
Most people really think I just play video games the whole day for a living, when playing the game is just one part of my job.
A lot of people also think that QA is just about finding bugs and that we are all very hardcore players that play on ultra hard all the time and speed run everything! That’s not really the profile of most of us. Some people are indeed hardcore players, yes, and others – like me – are not at all. I enjoy playing, but at my own pace.
QA is more about knowing the game well, having a good eye for detail, being a critical thinker, and understanding player’s mindsets over being a hardcore player.
With QA being so integral to game development, how do you collaborate with other teams at Guerrilla?
Firstly, the collaboration between the QA team members is essential. The games we work on at Guerrilla are huge and there’s no way one single person will know everything about what is going on for all teams in all stages of production.
That’s why we have multiple Analysts and each person has their own ownership area. It’s extremely important that we communicate constantly inside the QA team for better visibility on the overall project. We also support each other when there’s a need for a deeper collaboration between areas or when someone is investigating a very complex issue.
Additionally, the work with other teams is also important and it’s a huge part of the day-to-day work. We’re always talking to various people throughout the day to better understand and investigate issues, to clarify design intent, and to put together testing strategies.
QA work needs to be done in collaboration with other teams (not just among QA) to achieve efficient results when testing and creating a great player experience. Talking to other folks is actually one of my favorite parts of working in QA! I get to be a part of my own (QA) team while also working with other teams. Everyday I talk to different people, which is something I enjoy a lot about my job.
There are so many moving parts in your role. What are some challenges you often face as a QA Analyst?
Part of the challenge is knowing that when you work on such a big game, there will always be bugs out there that you cannot reproduce yourself or that the entire QA team can reproduce because it’s such a rare bug. Still, you need to persevere and find a way to work with it, and to find other ways to investigate rather than by the traditional tests.
In rare cases, you have to accept the fact that you won’t be able to reproduce or fix it. When you work with QA, not only do you tend to have high standards, but you care so much about the game and you want to make it amazing – so it’s difficult to accept the fact that some issues happen on rare occasions and you won’t be able to find every single bug out there.
Another challenge is dealing with a lot of risk assessment and evaluation of fixes or late changes into the game. On some occasions, late changes or certain fixes can bring a lot of testing stress and the need to relocate resources to support the integration of these changes into the game. This can be a daunting part of QA and needs to be dealt with the proper care. If you find yourself in this position and you’re not sure about your assessment or how to proceed, it’s always useful to reach out to a senior QA member or manager to collaborate on the matter.
Something I find challenging personally is that I can’t really play any game that I worked on at home. After launching a game, I need some time off before I play it for fun! When everything is still fresh in my mind, I still see it as work, so the time off helps me reset and see it with different eyes.
Even though there are challenging things about your role, it also sounds like you have a good approach when managing these. What is it that you enjoy the most about your job?
I love talking to different people about different subjects. This keeps me very engaged as I, most of the time, also have to learn new stuff! I love the opportunity to keep learning things and QA has a lot of that. For me, this is super fun. I love a good challenge and getting to the bottom of something and being a QA Analyst allows me to do that.
And how has working here at the studio been like for you? Can you tell us about the career path you’ve had so far at Guerrilla?
My path at Guerrilla has been very enriching so far due to the growth opportunities I’ve had, learning a lot in the past two years since I joined the company. I first started as a tester and quickly became QA Analyst, getting to work in different content areas in both Quests and Core Design Systems, which gave me a lot of insight into how different parts of the game are made.
Besides being QA, I also work on some studio-wide initiatives that I’m passionate about. I love that Guerrilla fosters this type of environment where I can also make time to work on other topics that I am interested in, alongside my role in QA.
It sounds like there are so many great opportunities to grow as someone who works in QA! What would be your advice to those who would like to follow your career path or pursue QA – any best practices or tips you can offer?
First, understand that there are still different mentalities inside the industry about how QA plays a role in development. The traditional approach, which is also referred to as ‘old school QA’, relies on QA as a part of the end process of development and usually only as an external party. The more modern approach (and the one we use at Guerrilla) is when QA is embedded and part of development as early as possible.
If you’re looking to start in the industry, you may encounter these differences. Keep in mind that if you fall under a more traditional approach, you won’t necessarily be stuck on that track forever. You can transfer your skills and move onto other opportunities as you progress in your career.
Here are some more tips for best practices – these might relate more to QA’s modern approach, but I still find them to be fundamentally important regardless of the QA style you are working with:
- Be thorough with your work.
- Make sure to share clear results with the development team when testing important test cases or completing milestones.
- Whenever possible, include the development team as part of the process of setting up test cases for big milestones goals (such as Alpha or Beta).
- Discuss with other QA peers on your team about issues that you’re stuck with or want to provide more detailed feedback.
- Organize QA reviews with your team whenever you want more feedback for a specific feature from multiple perspectives.
- Use data (for example, from telemetry or external playtests) to compile strong feedback for any feature you want to raise more visibility towards.
- Don’t be afraid to request more information or clarification when you are testing something complex and you feel like you don’t fully understand it.
- Remember to prioritize tasks to help whenever there is a peak of workload for yourself or your QA team.