Mobile game performance pitfalls that studios and QA teams often overlook

There are many ways to test a mobile game, from compatibility testing through to subjective testing (i.e., determining whether it’s fun or not). But one aspect of the QA process that is still quite new, and hence doesn't always get the attention it deserves, is performance testing.

The need for performance testing has arisen in response to recent demand for more premium mobile game experiences -- in other words, games that deliver high levels of visual quality and fluidity, and which increasingly do so in combination with other intensive tasks (such as AR or VR, physics simulation or sophisticated AI).

Given the newness of this discipline, I think it’s worth pinning down an essential checklist of six common pain-points which we frequently encounter here at GameBench, and which any meaningful performance test should take into account.

1. Slow or jerky animation

When a studio sets a target frame rate for a game's animation, usually at either 30 or 60 frames per second (fps), it's essential that this target matches the game's genre and that it is achievable on popular devices.

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CASE STUDY: NEWS APPS AND THE QUEST FOR EXTREME RESPONSIVENESS

News reading apps are the quiet ninjas of the mobile world. On the face of it, they perform a simple, repetitive task: displaying the daily news. Whether it's the Huffington Post, the BBC, The Guardian or the Mail Online, they all go about this task in very similar ways.

Behind the scenes, however, the popularity of the leading news outlets is so great, and there’s so much pressure to engage and retain habitual readers (who are fussy and spoilt for choice), that news reading apps have become the focus of huge amounts of technical skill and resources, both in terms of software development and QA. The apps may be simple, but perfecting them isn’t.

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Use game technology to ensure the visual smoothness of your app

The notion of frame rate, or frames per second (fps), which measures the smoothness of an animation, is traditionally associated with game development rather than app development. This is because games depend on stutter-free graphics in order to feel immersive, believable and responsive to a gamer’s touch inputs.

However, as businesses increasingly rely on visual fluidity to sell their products and transmit the quality of their brands, this distinction between the two sides of our industry is becoming obsolete.

Streaming video, displaying moving ads, scrolling through media-rich pages, swiping across screens, zooming and dragging -- at a fundamental level these are all animations that feel wrong if they’re not smooth. And frame rate is pretty much the the only objective way to measure this smoothness as a user perceives it on their screen.

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