Cora: At least we'll never get any recognition. And we'll probably be fired.
The comic provides examples of:
- Accidental Pun: Marley uses a MMO tie-in geolocating phone app to "claim" a bunch of drug dispensaries... in the name of the High Elves. He didn't get the joke until Isaac pointed it out.
- Adaptation Decay: An in-universe example. Cora's father entrusts Q's company with the game rights to The Rhymeblade of Ballad-Ur on the faith that a hardcore fan and his own daughter would keep it faithful to the source material. He is not pleased with their results.
- Art Evolution: The strip has gone from flat regions of color to more detailed shading. This was not a gradual process, but done when Mary Cagle (artist of Kiwi Blitz) took over the art duties starting with this strip. Later, the strip started incorporating more perspective into the drawings.
- As of May 2014 the strip has had four different artists, each with a different style.
- Bearer of Bad News: Probably best not to deliver such news while in a PvP area in front of a Powder Keg Crowd...
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Gwen reveals herself to be this upon being promoted.
- Blinding Bangs: Marley has a set of them.
- Brutal Honesty: Cora's nice, but she's blunt.Issac: I feel like I should thank you for being so nice to me today.Cora: You really should. Everyone hates you.Issac: Thanks.Cora: Anytime.
Cora: Okay. Guys, seriously. Hashtag, real talk. I know we're all nervous about stuff. I'm not gonna sugarcoat it.
- Subverted when she works as the go-between for Q's management group and the QA group.
Cora: *forces a smile* It's looking good.
- Comically Missing the Point:Q: Here is the complete series (of Lawstar). I want you to absorb it.
Isaac: Really? Blu-ray?
Q: I know. Technically, only the laserdiscs are canon. But those never leave the humidor.
- Confusing Multiple Negatives: See Telegraph Gag STOP.
- Cool Car: Sadly, also Isaac's current living space.
- Decision Darts: Mr. Credenza needs to fire someone, but who?Credenza: Normally I just throw a dart.
Isaac: You know what? Let's do that.
John: (gets hit by dart) Oooh! Ow! What! Whyyyy?
Credenza: Who is that screaming? John? You're fired, John.
- Deep-Immersion Gaming: Used whenever the cast is playing the game. Played with when the news of the rollback was just broken to the playerbase:Isaac: [to Cora] They followed you! They're out for virtual blood! Run! Fucking run! Put on your quick spurs!
Gwen: [back in the real world] Then what?
Isaac: Well, then we remembered that we were sysops and logged out.
- Doorstopper: The Rhymeblade of Ballad-Ur is described in-universe as each book being "like an dictionary" in size. One of those books is actually a literal in-story dictionary. On top of that, the entire series is 15 books long.
- Expy: Cora's father is one of George RR Martin, in appearance and career.
- Fee Fi Faux Pas:
- Q happens to be a really big fan of Lawstar. Isaac learns this a few minutes late.Isaac: This is that shitty space cartoon from the eighties. He rode around on that fucking rocket horse.
Q: (pissed) Justice. His name was Justice.
- Upon being told to Google a Jewish tradition;Isaac: More like Jewgle it. (raises hand for high-five) Hooooo!
Cora: (blank look)
Isaac: You're Jewish, huh?
Cora: Half. So I'm only half offended.
- Isaac, what is wrong with you?Q: The developer has asked one of us to come over to their side, and work on their side of things. So I'm...
Isaac: Oh, thank god. I'm free. It's been real educational down here in the trench. It's been grim and real. I'll use all this when I get back to developing games.
[some unrelated dialogue]
Q: So anyway I'm going to take the job.
Isaac: Good on you man, you earned it. Now, does anyone have a gun or a belt?
- Q pulls one later on, though he confirms in the next strip that he's only joking.Q: A few of us came away with genuinely frightening bonuses. I'm using it to start my own thing. I'm going to need a QA Department I can trust. I was hoping you guys might know some people who are actually competent.
- Q happens to be a really big fan of Lawstar. Isaac learns this a few minutes late.
- Feed the Mole: Q's plan to reveal The Mole was to tell each tester a different way he intended to smooth things over with the player base concerning the rollback, and see which story ended up getting leaked. Isaac caught on, and leaked the story Q told Marley before Cora could leak hers.
- Framing the Guilty Party: Yes and no. Marley wasn't the mole, but he was the one who was responsible for the Infinite Gold Bug getting released. Isaac considers letting him take the fall to be karmic justice. Cora, the actual mole, disagrees.
- Game-Breaking Bug: The plot focus of the second season, as an infinite gold glitch is discovered and screws up the game economy badly enough to force a rollback.
- George Jetson Job Security: Played with. One can get fired on perfectly reasonable (or unreasonable as the case may be) grounds, but thanks to Credenza's little management quirks, getting re-hired is as easy as applying under a different name. Eventually subverted, as when he thinks Marley is a mole he fires him and takes precautions to ensure he won't be re-hired this time.
- Head-in-the-Sand Management: Mr. Credenza:Mr. Credenza: What you're telling me is incredibly frustrating and I don't like hearing it.Isaac: That's why I brought it to your attention, sir.Mr. Credenza: No, this is what's frustrating. That you are bringing it to my attention.
- Hollywood Game Design: Averted. The inspiration for the comic came from stories shared by the many people who worked in the games industry (quality assurance in particular) that the authors knew. Any breaks from the norm of an actual software development cycle are more due to Rule of Funny than anything else.
- Homage: To Lord of the Flies in "Descent".
- Hyper Competent Sidekick: Despite being the lead for the test team (only one step above the bottom of the ladder,) Cora is demonstrated to be a very effective project manager.
- In the Name of the Moon: In "Referendum" here, before provoking a mass player protest:
- Ironic Echo: Marley expresses with a drawn out expletive at having his mind blown by not realizing a connection until Issac points it out. Next strip, he suddenly realizes something has gone horribly wrong, and expresses the same expletive in a much more panicked way:Marley: Oh shiiiiiiii--
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Q, the Test Lead.Isaac: Probably better with spreadsheets than than he is with people.
Cora: He's super nice. He made soup! His grandma's recipe, I guess. He put it on the wiki. Search for "delicious".
- Klatchian Coffee: The "Punch".Q: No, no. Use a glass. It eats through the plastic ones.
- Appears to be made with absolutely horrific quantities of Bawls, 5-Hour Energy, and who knows what else mixed in.
- Lampshade Hanging: Characters often follow up Shout Outs with "___ reference." (Such as, "I did it a half hour ago. Watchmen reference.")
- Laser-Guided Karma: Gwen copies Rhymeblade out of frustration of not being allowed to come up with new ideas... and then falls victim to one half of game design philosophy: there are no new ideas.
- Limited Advancement Opportunities: Averted pretty hard. Characters can and do get promoted to other positions, or even get fired in some cases (creating new openings for other characters.) Of course, the promotion a character might get is not necessarily the promotion they want.
- Magic Music: Used in The Rhymeblade of Ballad-Ur, and therefore part of its MMO adaptation. Cora explains it.
- Man in a Kilt: Q is (almost) never seen without his Utilikilt,note even while cosplaying as Lawstar. He gets endless crap from Cora's father over this.
- Mathematician's Answer:Credenza: Ever been arrested?
Credenza: What for?
Isaac: Breaking the law.
- Motivational Lie: Cora has to deliver one here, after being told that most of game development is built on a foundation of PR, buzz, lies, and bullshit.
- Mushroom Samba: Marley gets some help from the Snuffler while on a combination of "The Punch" and Dayquil.Marley: On a related note, do not combine Q-juice and Dayquil. Unless you need help from the Snuffler.
- Mythology Gag:
- Nice Girl: Cora puts up with Isaac no matter how much of a Jerk Ass he is, and continues to try and show him the ropes. That said, her patience does have limits, and after one of his uglier displays in the middle of Season 2 she's fed up with him.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Everywhere Isaac tries to get a job, the interviewer tells him he's "overqualified", and turns him away, so he resorts to this.Isaac: Use small words, Isaac. Use small words.
- Note that companies use "overqualfication" to describe people who are attempting to simply use a job as a stepping stone to another position, making the training the company would give them pointless. This... is more or less a word-for-word description of how Isaac views his job.
- OOC Is Serious Business: Cora gets fed up about people saying she's serious and uptight, so she's tries to act more "Chaotic Neutral" like the rest of the employees. Instead, it comes off as Chaotic Stupid, and it freaks everyone else out.
- Pointy-Haired Boss: Mr. Credenza
- Precision F-Strike: Cora doesn't swear often, but she lets a Cluster F-Bomb loose here after a massive Game Breaker is discovered.Cora: I save all my F-Words for bullshit like this. This scenario? It's Fuckworthy.
- Punny Name: Isaac's characters in Lawstar Freedom, including "Orranj Julius" or Starfukr.
- Sell Out: Cora's father objects to Q's desecration of his beloved book series, The Rhymeblade of Ballad-Ur, when Q chooses to add a race of sloths for mass market appeal. That is, right up until the point he sees the giant royalty check he got from fans of the Ballad-Ur game checking out his books.
- Series Hiatus: The comic will be taking sitcom-style "season breaks".
- Shout-Out/Take That: Lawstar is a send-up of Bravestarr.
- Show Within a Show: Lawstar, an 80s cartoon show. The strip later moves on from an MMO based on that to one based on The Rhymeblade of Ballad-Ur, a series of fantasy novels.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Isaac reveals this side of him during The Reveal at the end of Season 1.Isaac: Oh yeah. Steel Coffin? Me. Starfire Saga V: Laserion? Also me. ME!Cora: Didn't all those games bomb?Isaac: "Bomb" is relative.Marley: Is your name not Isaac?Isaac: (smugly) Does Icey ring a bell?Marley: Yeah, a jerk bell because Icey was a stupid jerk.
- Space Western: The setting of Lawstar takes this literally.
- Spirit Advisor: Issac gets visited by the ghost of Credenza when put in charge of new hires. Considering that Credenza is still alive as far as we know, this is likely Issac's own stress manifesting as a Helpful Hallucination.
- Start My Own: Q managed to make enough money from Lawstar Freedom to start his own studio, and is actively recruiting his old co-workers to form their QA team.
- Stealth Mentor: After being made to test hundreds of doors by Q, Isaac learns that the feature he's testing was Dummied Out sometime before he even started. He confronts Q, but while demanding to know why he didn't just use shortcuts like making a bot test the doors instead of making him do it, he realizes the entire point of making him do it was to get him to realize these shortcuts are there.
- Stylistic Suck: Lawstar.Lawstar Narration: Captain Sheriff Law Star holds the Law Star... whose points represent Law, Justice, Order, Fairness and Lawfullness. Lord Hate Star weilds the Hate Star, which stand for... Revenge, Evil, Lying, Meanness and Not Law.
Isaac: Oh my Jesus!
- Isaac further elaborates on his impression of it:
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: Cora lands one right here.Cora: Seriously, they're just like us. Their workstations are way normal, and none of them hang upside down like bats.Gwen: Why... would they do that?Cora: Exactly.
- Take That: Lawstar's MMO eventually goes free to play, rebranded as Lawstar Freedom and boasting 10 cosmetic hat slots and 12 customizable belt slots.
- When Isaac learns that The Rhymeblade of Ballad-Ur includes music that could kill someone, his response is "That can happen in real life, too. Have you ever heard Tim McGraw?" Subverted in the next strip, where we find that Isaac wasn't just taking a cheap shot, he really thinks that Tim McGraw music killed someone; but it's clear to the reader that the music wasn't responsible.
- Team Pet: Mr. Toots, a game-testing rabbit.
- Telegraph Gag STOP:[Red Robin] has bottomless fries STOPBut when I say "stop" I mean that's the end of the line not that the fries stop because the fries don't stop STOP
- The Tetris Effect: Isaac begins to experience this after staying up all night testing Portallis, the City of a Million Doors.Isaac: I did like, five-hundred, then I couldn't tell what I was looking at anymore. All I see is doors. Are you a door? You have to tell me. That's Portallis law.
- The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: Credenza asks Cora to hire "Young people with no commitments, kids won't be missed... the sort of person a cult might look for. Oh! And one fiery latina."
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Cora in Season 3. She's gone from a nice girl who can sometimes overstep herself to a bitch who screwed with Q because "he's a know it all jagoff", something she'd never do in earlier seasons. She also decides to outright be a bitch to Isaac instead of just being blunt with him about his less likable qualities and actions.
- Torches and Pitchforks: Virtual torches and virtual pitchforks. Fortunately, you can just log out.
- Unfortunate Name: Isaac Cox. Say it aloud.Credenza: Err... uhh... Mister Cox.Isaac: Present.Credenza: Wow.Isaac: Yeah. Junior High was very difficult.
- Unusual Euphemism: "Working as Intended" is dev-speak for "Fuck off".
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Sorry Issac, no Hollywood Kiss for you today.
- You Are Too Late: The rollback has already started. Immediately lampshaded as a Watchmen Shout-Out.
Tropes found in the submitted stories:
- Accidental Visual Innuendo: One game had an issue where, during certain frames of animation, the player could see up the female characters' skirts. Sometimes, the model would get a "crease" between the legs. And then, specifically if the character was wearing pink, a pink vertex would also be visible. They ended up changing the models as an easy solution.
- Always Chaotic Evil: The narrators experience at the companies vary wildly, but no one has ever had anything good to say about the business side of the equation.
- Appeal to Worse Problems: This story from an NFL punter who is totally not Chris Kluwe, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: "Paul" is a guy who apparently got high every morning before coming to work, having bloodshot eyes and smelling of air freshener. He spoke in slow language and seemed almost excessively easygoing, yet he was one of the best testers on the team, filing large numbers of bugs, many of which have not occurred to anyone else to even check for. Eventually a boss told him to "get more sleep" so he would not seem so bloodshot and tired when coming into work. His productivity dropped sharply after that, and eventually stopped coming to work entirely.
- The Chewtoy: Going by the stories here, QA's are basically treated like lepers by game developers, hideous morlocks that dare find flaws in their brilliant code.
- Copy Protection: The story of Crysis Warhead's chicken bullets.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Many stories involve game companies abusing the testers, but sometimes it turns barely legal at best.
- Crapsack World: Some of these stories are truly heartbreaking.
- Apparently, in this industry, it's considered appropriate to make a business call to someone while they're at a funeral.
- Embedded testers have it even worse; not even being allowed to eat part of the buffet "for the developers" even though they were working 80 hours a week and were told to go back to their desks.
- Developers and QA's alike are completely at the mercy of dullwitted executives and managers who knows how to read a profit report but nothing else, have no understanding or interest in games, and will destroy a promising project out of a narcissistic need to make themselves look important and business-savy.
- Creature of Habit: Davebot 4000, a director who, besides being racist, misogynist, and generally a lazy jerk, would go through the same routine every single day, without deviation. The routine included insulting people, playing with his phone, stealing people's lunch, playing with his phone, getting drunk, and playing with his phone.
- Cringe Comedy: A man hands in his laptop to be repaired. Turns out the adapter was broken... it's been covered in something that must have caused it to short out. The owner claims it's "Candle Wax". After the tech guy scrapes it off with his fingernails, his coworkers stop laughing long enough to explain that the owner has a private office, and does not own any candles.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: As explained in this story, whenever a game that is being shown to the press at a convention requires two or more people, these extra players are QA testers. The testers who have labored with this game for months. For most of this, they are told to lose to the press to make them feel good. Then, with only an hour left in the panel, the testers are finally "[Let] off the leash." In the words of one of these testers: "The ground shook. The heavens split. The world exploded."
- The Determinator: Some people work really, ''really'' hard to get you your several hours of entertainment.
- Downer Ending: Most of the abuses and violations QA's and developers go through at the hands of their superiors go completely unpunished, as they are pretty much par for the course for corporate policy.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: This company struggled to get acknowledged by their publisher for the work they did for a particular game based on a Japanese icon. Said situation is implied to have happened repeatedly afterwards.
- Dude, Where's My Reward?: First to 100 hours unpaid work gets a round of applause. Yay.
- Dummied Out: One standard way of dealing with bugged content is to just removed it. This can go all the way up to the World Series celebration in a baseball game or even a third of the entire thing.
- Executive Meddling: One story details how a game (heavily implied to be The Godfather) gets "streamlined" by a producer, and what began as a labor of love ends up gutted and empty, released to a disappointed audience.
- Game Breaker: This story explains why the infamous pistol was so broken.
- Game-Breaking Bug: Also, the guy who found it got fired. That's some bug.
- Given that the stories tend to be about testing staff, this is common theme. Most often, the reply is to yell at the testing staff, and then cut the content completely or release as is.
- Gender-Blender Name: One programmer was fond of helping people with programming issues on fora, and got to know some of the other people there by real name and not just handle. However, due to having a masculine name, people tended to assume that she was male. One of the others set her up with a job interview, citing the awesome code and helpful personality she displayed on the fora as demonstrations of her qualifications. When she came in for a meeting-style job interview, the interviewers were shocked that a woman walked through the door. She was denied a chance to even interview because apparently a woman at an all-male company would be "bad for publicity and productivity."
- Good Bad Bugs: After one tester uncovered and recorded a reproduction of a rare but spectacular bug involving Dynamic Loading and character models, they got a message from the developer reading Will Not Fix: Too Funny.
- He Knows Too Much: This tester, who discovered that the engine of the game he was testing was based on the Warcraft III engine, and that pressing a button which did something in that game caused this other game to crash for not having that feature. The test studio lost the contract for that title the next week.
- Here We Go Again: This tester went through thousands of combinations for an incredibly simple baseball game, to the point of having nightmares about it, then has to go through it all over again when a new build comes.
- I Am Not Left-Handed: Testers are often assigned to play against guests at preview events such as E3. However, they are forced to act like they have no idea how to play, because with all their experience with the game, they would otherwise win every time. Except this one time, someone started complaining about the terrible "AI". The marketer gives the go-ahead to "Let 'em off the leash". In the words of the narrator of this story, "The ground shook. The heavens split. The world exploded."
- I Banged Your Mom: One tester discovered a pornographic slideshow in a game, and when it was brought to the attention of one of the artists he started a fistfight with a programmer. Turns out the woman in the slideshow was the artist's wife - who was having an affair with the programmer.
- Kick the Dog: A lot of stories have developers being dickish to testers for a variety of poorly explained reasons.
- Laser-Guided Karma: One company promised everyone a bonus before denying it to the testing staff (while denigrating them). When they flaunted doubling said bonus in front of the testers, they were finally fed up and walked out... causing the game to bomb, bankrupting the company and canceling the bonus.
- Memetic Mutation: In-Universe in one development lab, after an arrogant developer sent a bug report back with a note saying "testers are glorified monkeys banging on controllers". For the next four days, whenever a developer came by, they would act like a monkey and fling controllers.
- Said explicitly here and backed up by other stories: Don't automatically blame the quality department for not catching a bug. They likely did find it, but other people are responsible for addressing it, and there may be other factors (admittedly not necessarily good ones) as to why it doesn't ultimately get fixed.
- QA is not the only department slapped with this, customer support gets it too. In the linked example, someone who had gotten hired by Electronic Arts for Origin customer support... a month before Mass Effect 3 came out and broke the base. Cue a week of calls from Fan Dumb so long-winded and intense that they drove the support specialist to quit.
- Mundane Made Awesome: Testing "kiddy" games is not nearly as bad as people tend to assume. They are short, simple, the testers rarely have to get emotionally invested in them, bugs get hilarious names and descriptions in the database, and testers get to indulge all the Videogame Perversity Potential they can think up because that is exactly the kind of thing the license holder is trying to screen for.
- My Friends... and Zoidberg: When the company gets free swag to give away to employees, they send out two emails. One email to everyone saying "Come get your free stuff!" and another email just to the people in QA saying "not you."
- Oh, No... Not Again!: "Listen guys, I don't want to have to tell you again - you've got to flush and wash your hands."
- Paranoia Fuel: You know all these stories about bad software bugs that get through? Security systems are software, too.
- No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: One coder worked 80+ hour weeks on a single major problem with their E3 presentation. Eventually, a single minor part of the bigger problem was solved. He/she then attempted to merge the new code with the code base.... only to fall victim to lousy software version control. Everything he/she had accomplished was wiped out. They then went and cried in a bush for half an hour, before going back to work and getting the project finished.
- Series Continuity Error: Licensed games may not always align perfectly with canon:
- One dev dutifully documented every continuity violation he could find, which the story writer attributes as being a Rules Lawyer in order to fill his bug quota, wasting everyone's time in the process.
- Then it turns out that the guy never cared about his bug quota, and was in fact that invested in the continuity.
- Another tester pointed out that a character had the wrong hair color (and in this character's case, it's kind of significant). The devs' response was "You're lucky she has hair."
- One dev dutifully documented every continuity violation he could find, which the story writer attributes as being a Rules Lawyer in order to fill his bug quota, wasting everyone's time in the process.
- Tear Jerker: Invoked. Several of the particularly mean spirited firing tales end with the testers in tears.
- The Tetris Effect: One story involves a tester being tasked with shooting everything. Including rockets at background textures. To this day he imagines shooting rockets at distant landscapes.
- Throw the Dog a Bone: Sometimes the testers score a victory:
- The "Memetic Mutation" example above got the offending developer in trouble and all full-time employees had to attend a two-hour meeting on reading bug reports and common courtesy.
- Another one had testers complain about difficulty due to poor design, to which the response was "MAYBE YOU NEED BETTER GAMERS IN YOUR TEST DEPARTMENT" - in the words of the tester, "In a rare fit of justice for QA everywhere, the game was scrapped, the designer shown the door, and the game never saw a release."
- Toilet Humour: Ladies and Gentlemen, The Infinite Fart.
- Too Dumb To Stay Employed: Devs build cheat codes into games for convenience, then remove them when the game ships. One tester did not know this, as he leaked all the cheats he knew to the internet (in spite of the NDA), and then got mad and complained when said cheats got taken out.
- Unfortunate Implications: One tester with a fondness for dating sims helped test one which was supposed to bring western sensibilities to the genre. All girls over 18, check. No harem ending, check. There were two seperate Relationship Values, one for how much a character likes the Player Character, and one for how much they are attracted to them. It was possible to "score" with a character if the attraction is high but the liking was low, but one could not successfully form a relationship with them unless the "like" stat was also high. This tester pointed out that there was a Love Potion which increases a girl's attraction to the protagonist without them necessarily liking them...
- Walking Techbane/Walking Techfix: One developer sometimes helped out as a tester. But he had this superpower. Whenever he even looked at someone else's workstation, their game would crash. He later discovered that the superpower inherent in all programmers - everything works fine when you show it to them - cancelled out his own power.
- We Have Reserves: When it comes to testing, you are always replaceable, and companies will just throw new hires into the grinder and see which of them survive, knowing that for every one of them who gets let go there is another three eager to take their place.
- What Could Have Been: Things change during development, and sometimes testers are privy to other ways things could have gone.
- Worth It:
- Writing Around Trademarks: Most stories keep the companies and games involved vague, but a couple stories centering on the retail side of things have referred to a non-specified major game retailer as something along the lines of "a place that one may Stop to purchase Games."
My second job ever just happened to be as a tester at Activision in 1999. You donít need to edit that, because I have absolutely no plans to ever work at Activision again.
- Averted by one writer who doesn't bother keeping things ambiguous:
The title was Neverwinter Nights 2. The licensed property was Dungeons and Dragons.
- Also averted by this guy when setting the record straight, though this was due to the passion he felt for the project:
I believe that I have outlived the NDAs.
- Averted by this former THQ employee. Given that the company is dead, nobody could blame him.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: There's more than a few stories with this theme; usually where a tester discovers a major problem despite the developers treating them like shit, earning them a begrudging respect, only to be let go anyways.
- You, Get Me Coffee: A CS graduate is hired as a temp for a game developer only to end up walking dogs and picking up their crap. He took it in stride, looking at it as paying his dues. He got laid off.