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Embracing Automation: 5 Realities Shaping QA, Localization, and Player Communities
Having been in the games business for nearly three decades, we recognize the responsibility to give back to our industry and relate some of the learnings we’ve acquired over the years. At the recent Game Quality Forum, held this past June in Amsterdam, our own Neil Long, Senior Director, Player Support; Maxim Mizin, Global Director of Localization and LQA; and Nee Nguyen, Global Head of Player Communities, gave a presentation entitled “Embracing Automation: 5 Realities Shaping QA, Localization, and Player Communities.”
The idea behind this talk was to share with the audience how PTW is embracing AI and automation to deliver greater efficiency and speed across QA, Localization, LQA, Player Support, and Community Management. Although at different stages of adoption, the aim was to share how automation can streamline project management and address common issues through a suite of tools and solutions. These result in faster processing times and ultimately, higher player satisfaction.
One of the most obvious uses for automation is to quicken team response times across Player Support and Quality Assurance. We’ve repeatedly seen how automated testing frameworks can execute test cases swiftly, identifying bugs and performance issues more efficiently, allowing for quicker bug resolution and faster game releases. “Automation can streamline ticket management, automate common inquiries through chatbots, and provide self-service options, resulting in faster response times and improved customer satisfaction,” relates Neil. “We are also starting to see RPA being used to automate certain contract types where the actions are very reliable and repeatable.”
Maxim agrees: “AI-powered machine translation tools help to translate content into multiple languages faster and more accurately, increasing the reach to languages that are not considered the usual suspects for localization.” This directly impacts LQA and reduces the cost of quality. Automated and fast LQA checks can help identify missing translations, formatting issues, inconsistent terminology, and other common errors. “These tools also significantly improve the efficiency of routine testing operations such as writing test cases and bug reports,” he continues. “They increase the speed of knowledge transfer inside teams, including remote ones.”
Nee explains how automation helps moderation teams identify and remove key negative words that reduce the need for laborious manual moderation. This is particularly efficient during busy times like launches, updates, etc., which can be hectic for Community Management. “Smart automation can allow for fun, personalized, focused communications with players with clever responses to FAQs, for example,” she says. “We're also currently building out a suite of Discord bots to expand and streamline community management tasks and capabilities, with a big focus on moderation, moderator support, player engagement and fun factor boosting.”
It’s clear that personal touch will always be important. The emphasis is on upskilling staff with greater tools and abilities to properly address what automation could bring. “With automation, support agents can focus on developing skills in empathetic communication, problem-solving, and providing personalized assistance,” explains Neil. “QA professionals will need to acquire skills in data analysis, machine learning, and AI programming to effectively work with automated testing frameworks, analyze complex issues, and provide insights beyond what automation can deliver.”
Over time, the routine work performed by Tier 1 agents could be replaced by automation, with the more complex issues and problem solving requiring human intervention. “New roles could appear, such as Player Support Automation Managers, which will be more technical and strategic in nature,” Neil continues. These would be responsible for selecting, implementing, and managing automation tools, optimizing workflows, and ensuring the smooth functioning of automated systems. “This role requires a strong technical background, analytical skills, and the ability to collaborate effectively with both technical and non-technical stakeholders to deliver efficient and reliable automation solutions.”
On the Localization and LQA side, AI will bring speed and efficiency, but the work still needs humans. “Localization teams will have more time to focus on creative and narrative content that will require intensive creative work,” says Maxim. “Cultural awareness will become even more important, to verify that the results produced by automation are culturally appropriate.” LQA will also need to adapt, changing from the safety net team that catches all linguistic issues to a role that ensures the in-game user experience matches local user expectation, and feels native and natural in every game moment.
“On one side the role acts like an editor with high linguistic skills and cultural knowledge to review and correct results produced by automation,” he continues. “On the other side, the role will require having technical skills to deeply understand how AI and machine translation tools work and how they can be improved and trained. Data analysis, curation, and gathering is becoming another skill set that will be in demand because the quality of automation is only as good as the data provided to it.”
As Maxim sees it, localization project management teams will transform. With automation taking care of many routine tasks like task distribution, follow up, and deliveries, PMs will need to focus on more complex and cross-functional projects and tasks, involving collaboration with engineering, development, and marketing. “Change management and adaptability are crucial for every role,” he explains. “With the pace of AI technology, being flexible and adapting skills to keep up with changes become a requirement. We already see more of a demand for LQA becoming language specialists who can not only test for issues, but fix them and improve translations on the spot, without doing ‘bug ping-pong’ between different teams. That demands augmentation of linguistic skills and getting the right talent for such tasks.”
The automation of typically labor-intensive tasks for community management, like moderation, also means community managers and moderators can home in on more elevated capabilities and skillsets. Nee tells us “Tools like moderation sifters, bots, and the like will be built, but human administration on the back end will still be necessary on dashboards and management systems. This means that moderators and community managers can re-focus their skillsets on acquiring technical automation knowledge, expanding their comprehensive knowledge of their gaming communities, and learning how to build and adapt automation functionalities to best fit and support those communities.”
When advocates speak about AI-led automation, augmenting human capabilities is the ultimate dream they have in mind. “The idea is that automation will triage player support tickets, categorize issues, and provide initial responses, freeing up support agents to address more critical and complex player inquiries that require human expertise, empathy, and strategic decision-making,” says Neil. “Human experts can design innovative test strategies, perform exploratory testing, analyze complex issues, and provide insights that go beyond what automation can uncover, ensuring the highest level of game quality.”
Maxim concurs. “Automation provides so much potential to focus on the creative aspects of localization work. In our experience, linguists don’t enjoy doing mundane consistency checks or translating the same game mechanics strings over and over for every patch or game expansion. Now we can spend more time designing localization style for characters, ensuring smooth narration, focusing on user experience in context, and changing things on-the-fly to improve it. That should excite any localization expert.”
Nee also expects the benefits to be widespread. “Automation can help keep communities safe, freeing community teams up to focus on more quality player engagements, conversations, and connections. Automation can also help sift, escalate, and flag critical and key issues for immediate/priority attention, allowing for focused, empathetic, and truly reactive engagement from a community team.”
Community management will always be about engaging with people in real relationships. This will still need to be the main priority. As Nee explains, “This is particularly critical in the early stages, when building out a community with direct conversation and connections is key. No amount of automation will replace the need for those one-to-one conversations, jokes, and story-sharing that form foundational community members.”
As video games become even more globally played, fast multilingual support is a necessity. Automation helps provide instant responses, translating and localizing player inquiries and enabling effective communication with players from diverse linguistic backgrounds. “Automated linguistic quality assurance tools can assist in verifying translations, ensuring cultural relevance, and detecting errors or inconsistencies in localized game content, improving the overall quality of the game across different language versions,” Neil informs us. “We’ve launched our own machine translation tools with human post-editing services, leveraging the technologies being used in the Localization side of the business for Player Support.”
Maxim has also seen how advanced AI algorithms can understand context better, resulting in more accurate translations. “For instance, AI can differentiate whether ‘bank’ refers to a financial institution or the shore of a river, based on context within a scene,” he shares. “AI tools will analyze sentiment in both source and localized content to ensure the localized content maintains the same tone and sentiment as the source content. Linguist review will still be necessary, but the tools will make the work easier.”
Maxim is excited by how automation manages and automates the localization workflow, assigning tasks to human translators or machine translation tools, tracking progress, and moving completed tasks to the next step in the process. “Automation already goes through games to capture content via images and video,” he says. “With the addition of AI, game content is also analyzed for obvious implementation issues like overlaps, truncation, and unlocalized text.”
Audience support and management might not be an area one would expect AI to affect, but even here there are benefits. “Automation facilitates community-driven support platforms where players can find answers to common questions, engage with fellow players, and contribute to knowledge bases,” says Neil. “This fosters a sense of empowerment and collaboration within the player community.” Automation tools empower player communities by enabling bug reporting and feedback mechanisms within games, allowing players to actively participate in improving game quality and providing valuable insights for QA teams.
“There is so much data to be had about player behavior through game telemetry and it’s becoming a standard for many games,” agrees Maxim. “While it mostly revolves around researching user behavior related to game functionality or mechanics, there is the potential to evaluate behaviors observed in localized versions. For example, why do players from one region skip certain zones in a game while players from other regions spend more time there? There is a lot of opportunity to tailor content to localized user groups, and automation will come handy to process and analyze the data.”
Nee also sees how automation can enrich player communities. “Automation in streamlined feedback flows allows developers to hear from players and act on what they say,” she reveals. “Automated data gathering in the back end of a game supports swift action for moderation elements like reporting and disciplining cheaters, hackers, and trolls, maintaining a safer, balanced, and fair playing environment.” It also provides a wealth of game stats and player stats that can easily be turned into community content, become engagement assets and updates, or boost in-game events. This same level of automation also provides analysis and learning from player behavior, offering preferences and feedback to developers for iteration on game design, content, and experiences.
The impact of automation on player communities goes beyond core support functions. It supports and boosts efficient community management and enables personalized communication, data-driven insights, and player-driven content creation, leading to more engaging and collaborative gaming experiences.
“Ultimately, automation empowers player communities by facilitating elevated engagement, providing focused support, and amplifying player voices,” says Nee. “By harnessing automation thoughtfully and carefully, developers and community teams can build streamlined, vibrant, and engaged player communities with long, lasting success.”
The takeaway from our Game Quality Forum presentation should be that automation can benefit an organization in all areas. Indeed, its main purpose is to remove the drudgery of repetitious tasks to allow teams to focus on more thoughtful, creative work.