Desktop Game Testing Checklist: Your Comprehensive Manual

How can you elevate your desktop game from “meh” to “mind-blowing”? A simple answer is thorough testing followed by bug fixing and retesting. The whole process should involve diverse hardware setups, ruthless performance checks, and an eagle eye for anything that could snag the player experience.

Desktop game testing is not just about removing bugs; it’s about creating a polished, enjoyable, and successful game. By investing in thorough testing, developers can maximize player satisfaction, protect their reputation, and minimize costs, which leads to a more successful product.

In this article, we’ll cover everything from “Does this sword actually work?” to “Are these explosions epic enough?” We’ll tackle lag, wobbly graphics, wonky sounds, and every tiny detail that could make the difference between a yawn and a “best game ever!”

So, grab your testing tools, channel your inner QA ninja, and get ready to release a game that’ll leave players hungry for more. Let’s go!

How to Carry Out Desktop Game Testing

Performing effective game testing involves a blend of different methodologies and approaches. Here’s a breakdown of the key steps involved.

Testing Environment Configuration

Testing desktop games across diverse environments is crucial. Skipping this step results in overlooking bugs and performance hiccups specific to certain hardware, operating systems, or peripherals. A high-end gaming PC isn’t every player’s reality, and by ensuring your game runs smoothly on a broader range of setups, you avoid frustrated customers and deliver a smoother overall experience.


  • Include high-end, mid-range, and budget options to capture performance across typical player setups
  • Test with varying RAM capacities (4GB, 8GB, 16GB) to identify potential memory bottlenecks
  • Include both HDDs and SSDs to assess loading times and potential performance discrepancies
  • Include a range of CPUs (Intel, AMD, ARM) with different capabilities
  • Test with various graphics cards (NVIDIA, AMD, integrated GPUs) across different performance levels
  • Test on several display configurations (1080p, 1440p, 4K, ultrawide) to ensure UI scaling and performance stability
  • Include a variety of mice, standard and gaming keyboards, gamepads, and headsets to identify potential compatibility issues and control scheme challenges


  • Test on major OS versions (Windows, macOS, Linux) with different service packs and updates
  • Install various versions of critical drivers, particularly graphics and audio drivers, including the latest and older driver versions still commonly in use
  • Simulate typical user scenarios by running resource-intensive background applications like antivirus or browser while testing the game
  • Consider using virtual machines to create diverse testing environments on a single physical machine


  • Test the game at various graphics presets (low, medium, high, ultra) to assess performance and visual fidelity across hardware ranges
  • Ensure keyboard bindings, mouse sensitivity, and gamepad configurations are customizable and work intuitively on all input devices
  • Test online gameplay features over varying bandwidth and latency conditions to simulate diverse internet connections
  • Implement and test features like colorblind modes, subtitles, and remappable controls to cater to players with disabilities

Additional Considerations:

  • Focus on common player demographics. Prioritize testing environments representative of your target audience
  • Automate testing where possible. Leverage tools and scripts to reduce manual testing workload and improve efficiency
  • Stay updated on hardware and software trends. Regularly expand your testing environment to include new equipment and OS versions

Functional Testing

Functional testing plays a crucial role in desktop game development, acting as the quality assurance gatekeeper that ensures a smooth and enjoyable experience for players. It’s like a meticulous inspector, examining every nook and cranny of the game to identify and eliminate any flaws before it reaches the public.

Basic Setup and Configuration:

  • Verify installer functionality on different OS versions and hardware configurations
  • Check for complete file installation and uninstallation, with no remnants left behind
  • Test silent and advanced installation options
  • Verify saved settings persist after game restarts and system reboots
  • Verify that “Save” files can be stored on the user PC or cloud service
Desktop Game Testing Checklist: Your Comprehensive Manual

Example of a functional issue in Human Park: Pressing the quit button on the main menu results in a crash

Gameplay Mechanic Consistency:

  • Test responsiveness and accuracy of movement controls like walking, running, or jumping
  • Verify combat mechanics (attacks, skills, spells) function as intended
  • Check interactions with objects and environment elements
  • Verify collision detection and physics simulations
Desktop Game Testing Checklist: Your Comprehensive Manual

Example of a gameplay mechanic issue in GTA 5: The bike is not properly despawned

Interactive Element Reliability:

  • Test all interactive game elements, such as buttons, levers, or interactive NPCs
  • Verify basic functionality: clicking, pressing, activating
  • Ensure visual/audio feedback occurs upon activation (animations, sounds)
  • Test dialogue triggers and response options for all interaction points
  • Verify NPC behavior changes based on player actions and choices
  • Run edge cases like rapid clicking or holding buttons for extended periods to check for unexpected behavior
  • Implement scenario-based testing for puzzles and challenges, verifying they can be solved as intended and reset properly if required
Desktop Game Testing Checklist: Your Comprehensive Manual

Example of an edge case in GTA 5: Rapidly tapping the weapon while being attached to a helicopter causes the character to phase through buildings

Character and Enemy AI Functionality:

  • Ensure that AI characters (both allies and enemies) behave consistently with their designed patterns
  • Test how AI characters react to player actions, including combat, stealth, and environmental interactions
  • Verify that AI characters can navigate the game world effectively without getting stuck, taking illogical paths, or clipping through walls
  • In cases where AI operates in groups, such as enemy squads, test the coordination and collective behavior

Inventory System Integrity:

  • Test item acquisition, equipping, usage, and dropping mechanics
  • Verify inventory management functionality, such as sorting, stacking, and discarding
  • Check for visual glitches or UI issues related to inventory
  • Test special cases, like inventory interactions during critical gameplay moments or transitions between game levels

Quest and Mission System Accuracy:

  • Test all triggers for quest objectives (collecting items, defeating enemies, reaching locations)
  • Test that completing objectives triggers the correct rewards, progress updates, and story advancements
  • Verify triggers activate precisely when intended, without false positives or negatives
  • Test that quest progress, such as active quests or completed objectives, is accurate and consistently displayed
  • Check for potential exploits or unintended ways to complete objectives that bypass intended gameplay

Character Progression and Skill System Verification:

  • Ensure experience points for defeating enemies, completing quests, and exploring locations are awarded as intended
  • Test the functionality of each skill, ensuring its effects (damage, buffs, debuffs) activate properly
  • Verify experience gain rates are balanced and provide satisfying progress without feeling grindy
  • Check for potential exploits or unintended ways to farm experience points excessively

Save/Load Functionality and Game State Management:

  • Thoroughly test save and load functions, ensuring that all aspects of the game state are preserved and restored accurately
  • Conduct tests for save game integrity, particularly in scenarios of unexpected game exits or during critical gameplay moments
  • Test the creation and deletion of multiple save files to avoid overwriting or losing progress
  • Test that loading brings players back to the correct location and state within the game world, without glitches or inconsistencies
  • Verify items and equipped gear are accurately saved and loaded, maintaining player progress and customization
  • Check for potential exploits where save/load manipulation grants unfair advantages or breaks game progression

Error and Exception Handling in Gameplay:

  • Actively provoke game errors to test response mechanisms by invalid player actions or reaching unexpected game areas
  • Ensure the game handles these situations gracefully, providing clear feedback to the player or resetting the game state without crashing
  • Check if error messages are clear, concise, and helpful, informing players what went wrong and potentially how to fix it
  • Push the game beyond normal use cases through stress testing and exploring edge cases to uncover hidden errors

Game Tutorial and Instructional Elements:

  • Test all tutorial sections and instructional elements for clarity and accuracy in guiding the player
  • Ensure these components are integrated seamlessly into the gameplay, enhancing the player’s understanding of game mechanics without being intrusive
  • Observe how new players interact with the tutorials, identifying areas of confusion or frustration

Performance Testing

Performance testing plays a crucial role in ensuring a frustration-free experience for players. It reveals areas in the game code or assets that cause performance dips. This could be inefficient algorithms, poorly optimized graphics, or memory leaks.

Sometimes, performance considerations can inform gameplay design decisions. For instance, reducing the number of enemies on screen or simplifying certain effects might be necessary to maintain a smooth FPS. Here’s a breakdown of its key aspects.

Frame Rate and Rendering Stability:

  • Check if the frame rate dips significantly or fluctuates wildly during demanding scenarios like horde battles, complex environments, or maxed-out graphical settings
  • Test frame rate stability during “calm” moments like exploration, cutscenes, and dialogue-heavy sections
  • Verify the minimum FPS drop limit on the minimal required specs of the PC
  • Check for any graphical glitches like texture flickering, pop-in issues, clipping, tearing, or strange lighting effects, especially in detailed or expansive environments
  • Test that changing settings like anti-aliasing, shadow quality, or texture resolution actually deliver the intended visual change
Desktop Game Testing Checklist: Your Comprehensive Manual

Example of a rendering issue in CyberPunk 2077: The NPC textures are not properly displayed

Resource Usage and Optimization:

  • Monitor the game’s CPU and GPU usage under a range of scenarios, from idle moments to peak gameplay intensity
  • Analyze memory usage over extended play sessions to identify and rectify any memory leaks or excessive consumption that could lead to performance degradation
  • Evaluate the game’s performance on systems with varying specifications, ensuring it scales resource usage appropriately to maintain a balance between performance and visual fidelity

Load Times and System Response:

  • Measure load times for starting the game, loading new levels, and during in-game transitions
  • Test the responsiveness of the game interface and in-game actions, ensuring quick and fluid reactions to player inputs across different systems
  • Conduct tests on different storage devices, like HDDs and SSDs, to assess the impact of storage speed on game load times and overall performance

Stress Testing and Scalability:

  • Perform stress tests under extreme conditions, such as maximum player count or during graphically intense sequences
  • Assess the game’s scalability by testing it on a range of hardware, from entry-level to high-end gaming rigs, ensuring it adapts its performance accordingly
  • Test network performance for online games, focusing on latency, bandwidth usage, and server response times, particularly during peak multiplayer activity

Compatibility Testing

Desktops come in a vast array of configurations, from high-end rigs to budget machines with older hardware. Compatibility testing ensures your game runs smoothly and reliably across a diverse range of hardware and software configurations. It helps prevent frustrating crashes, glitches, performance issues, and other problems that can ruin the player experience.

Operating System and Version Compatibility:

  • Test the game on various operating systems, including different versions of Windows, macOS, and popular Linux distributions, ensuring consistent functionality across platforms
  • Validate the game’s performance and features on both current and older versions of these operating systems, highlighting any compatibility issues or limitations
  • Monitor the game’s behavior with upcoming OS updates or beta versions to proactively identify and address potential compatibility problems

Hardware Configuration Compatibility:

  • Evaluate the game’s performance across a wide range of hardware configurations, including different combinations of CPUs, GPUs, and amounts of RAM
  • Test on both high-end gaming systems and lower-end PCs to ensure the game is accessible to players with varying hardware capabilities
  • Assess the game’s compatibility with various peripherals, such as different models of gaming controllers, keyboards, and mice, ensuring full functionality

Software and Driver Interactions:

  • Examine how the game interacts with common software and drivers, including graphics drivers, audio drivers, and third-party applications like streaming tools or antivirus programs
  • Conduct tests to ensure the game does not conflict with or is negatively affected by other software running concurrently
  • Validate the game’s behavior with different versions of critical drivers, especially graphics and audio drivers, to ensure stability across updates

Screen Resolution and Aspect Ratio Testing:

  • Test the game on a variety of screen resolutions and aspect ratios, from standard 16:9 to ultra-wide and 4K resolutions, ensuring the game scales and displays correctly
  • Validate UI elements, text readability, and graphical elements at different resolutions, confirming that the game provides a consistent experience across various display setups
  • Check for any issues related to fullscreen, windowed, and borderless window modes, ensuring the game transitions smoothly between these display modes
  • Verify all of the above modes with different game settings and review the FPS per setting

User Interface and Experience

The user interface and experience testing phase focuses on making the game’s interface intuitive and responsive, enhancing user engagement. By prioritizing visual clarity, accessibility, and dynamic feedback, game developers can craft a seamless and immersive gaming experience that resonates with players from all backgrounds.

UI Layout and Navigation:

  • Evaluate the layout and design of the user interface, ensuring that it is intuitive and user-friendly. This includes testing menu structures, HUD (Heads-Up Display) elements, and in-game prompts
  • Test navigation through various UI elements, like game menus, settings, and player inventory, ensuring a smooth and logical flow that enhances the overall user experience
  • Verify the responsiveness of the UI to user inputs, ensuring that actions like clicking, dragging, or selecting options result in immediate and accurate feedback

Accessibility and Customization:

  • Assess the game’s accessibility features, such as text scaling, colorblind modes, and subtitle options, to ensure they cater to a diverse range of player needs and preferences
  • Test the effectiveness and range of customization options available to the player, such as HUD customization, control remapping, and graphical settings

Visual Clarity and Information Presentation:

  • Ensure all information presented in the UI, including player stats, game messages, and tutorial prompts, is clear, legible, and comprehensible.
  • This involves testing different screen resolutions and aspect ratios
  • Test for visual clarity in various in-game environments and lighting conditions, ensuring important UI elements remain visible and distinguishable at all times
  • Validate the consistency and accuracy of in-game tooltips, instructional texts, and contextual information, ensuring they correctly guide and inform the player
Desktop Game Testing Checklist: Your Comprehensive Manual

Example of a UI bug in Human Park: The text in the activity announcement window is cropped

Feedback Mechanisms and Dynamic UI Elements:

  • Test the game’s feedback mechanisms, such as visual or auditory cues that inform the player of their actions, status, or changes in the game environment
  • Evaluate dynamic UI elements that change according to gameplay situations, like a health bar that reacts to player damage or a minimap that updates with new locations
  • Check the UI for real-time updates and interactions, ensuring that changes in the game (e.g., inventory changes, skill upgrades) are immediately reflected in the UI

Control and Input Testing

Control and input testing focuses on ensuring players have a seamless and responsive experience. This process involves rigorous testing of a wide range of input devices and control schemes, ensuring they are intuitive and adaptable to player preferences.

Input Device Compatibility and Responsiveness:

  • Test compatibility with a wide range of input devices, including keyboards, mice, gaming controllers, and any specialized peripherals like steering wheels or flight sticks
  • Evaluate the responsiveness of these input devices, ensuring that player actions are accurately and promptly reflected in the game. This includes testing for input lag and ensuring button presses, mouse movements, and controller inputs translate correctly to in-game actions

Control Scheme Flexibility and Customization:

  • Verify that the game offers flexible control schemes, allowing players to remap keys and controls according to their preferences
  • Test the ease of customizing these controls within the game’s settings, ensuring the process is intuitive and the changes are effectively applied and saved
  • Assess the game’s ability to recognize and adapt to different input devices automatically, providing optimized control schemes for each

Input Sensitivity and Calibration:

  • Test for the correct calibration of input devices, particularly for games that require precise control, like racing games or first-person shooters
  • Evaluate the game’s handling of input sensitivity settings, ensuring that adjustments to parameters like mouse sensitivity or joystick dead zones are accurately reflected in gameplay
  • Check the effectiveness of in-game calibration tools, if provided, to fine-tune control inputs for an optimal gaming experience

Audio and Sound Testing

In the audio and sound testing phase, the focus shifts to perfecting the game’s auditory landscape. Here, the testing ensures high-quality, clear sound across different devices and audio fully synchronized with game actions. This process is crucial for creating an immersive and realistic audio experience that enriches the overall gameplay.

Sound Quality and Clarity:

  • Test the audio quality across different hardware setups, including standard speakers, headphones, and surround sound systems. Ensure that the sound is clear and free from distortions or imbalances
  • Evaluate the clarity of different audio elements, such as dialogue, sound effects, and background music, ensuring they are distinct and appropriately balanced within the game’s audio mix

Audio Synchronization and Timing:

  • Verify the synchronization of audio with in-game actions and events. Ensure sound effects accurately match the timing of visual elements, like footsteps aligning with character movements or sound cues coinciding with on-screen actions
  • Test for any delays or mismatches in audio playback, particularly in cutscenes or during complex gameplay sequences

Dynamic Audio and Environmental Sound:

  • Assess the game’s dynamic audio systems, such as changes in sound based on player actions, environmental contexts, or in-game locations
  • Test environmental sound features, like echo in caves or muffled sounds underwater, to ensure they enhance the game’s immersion and realism
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of positional audio, ensuring that players can accurately determine the direction and distance of sounds within the game environment

Networking and Multiplayer

Networking and multiplayer testing includes rigorous assessments of network stability across different connection types, latency handling, and multiplayer event consistency. It’s crucial for providing a seamless, fair, and enjoyable multiplayer experience, regardless of their internet setup or geographical location.

Network Stability and Performance:

  • Test the game’s network stability under various conditions, including different internet speeds and connection types. This includes assessing the game’s performance on wired, wireless, and mobile data connections
  • Evaluate the game’s handling of network latency and packet loss, ensuring that gameplay remains smooth and consistent even in less-than-ideal network conditions
  • Simulate network stress by creating scenarios with high player count or heavy data transfer to observe how well the game maintains connectivity and performance

Multiplayer Synchronization and Consistency:

  • Verify that in-game events and states are synchronized accurately across all players in a multiplayer session. This includes testing player movements, actions, and game events to ensure they appear consistent for all participants
  • Test for any desynchronization issues, such as players seeing different game states or delayed actions, which can disrupt the multiplayer experience

Matchmaking and Lobby Functionality:

  • Assess the functionality of the game’s matchmaking system, ensuring that players are appropriately matched based on skill level, region, or other criteria
  • Test the lobby system for stability and usability, including features like inviting friends, setting up game parameters, and handling player drop-outs or disconnections
  • Evaluate the game’s ability to handle various multiplayer modes and formats, ensuring each mode functions correctly and offers a consistent experience

Security and Compliance Testing

Security and compliance testing is crucial for safeguarding player data and ensuring adherence to legal standards in gaming. This step involves thorough testing for data security, legal compliance, and fair play measures, essential for maintaining trust and integrity in the gaming experience.

Data Security and Encryption:

  • Test the security measures in place for player data, especially sensitive information like personal details and payment information. Ensure that data is encrypted and securely transmitted
  • Conduct vulnerability assessments to identify potential security weaknesses in the game’s network architecture, including testing for common exploits like SQL injection or cross-site scripting (XSS)
  • Verify the implementation of secure authentication methods for player logins and transactions, ensuring they are robust against unauthorized access attempts

Compliance with Legal and Regulatory Standards:

  • Ensure the game meets legal and regulatory requirements specific to different regions, including data protection laws like GDPR in Europe or COPPA in the United States
  • Test for compliance with platform-specific guidelines, such as those set by Steam, PlayStation, Xbox, or other distribution platforms
  • Assess the game’s adherence to age rating systems and content guidelines, ensuring that it accurately represents its content for appropriate audience targeting

Anti-Cheat Mechanisms and Fair Play:

  • Test the effectiveness of anti-cheat systems in multiplayer games, ensuring they detect and prevent common cheating methods like aimbots, wallhacks, or exploiting glitches
  • Evaluate the game’s resilience against tampering or modification of game files, ensuring integrity checks are in place to detect unauthorized changes
  • Assess mechanisms for reporting and handling unfair player behavior

Our Experience with Desktop Game Testing

QAwerk is an established provider of quality assurance services to indie and large game publishers. We’ve worked with Native Games Studio, Deck13 Spotlight, Virtually Human, and Spectre Studios. Let’s take a closer look at desktop games we’ve helped improve.

Human Park

Human Park is a web3 platform with a focus on self-expression. The game begins with creating an avatar identity. Initially, players are given a nude avatar they can customize with tattoos and other in-game cosmetics. The Human Park world offers plenty of room for free roaming as well as playing tag, shootout, hide-n-seek, and other mini-games.

We were engaged during the active development stage, so the playground was still in the making. Our task was to check that the avatar configurator was ready for early adopters. The avatar customization needed to be seamless so that players could lock their avatar designs and mint them.

We tested the installation and uninstallation of the desktop client on Windows, the launch process, and the avatar configurator. Our QA engineers reported functional, UI, and localization bugs. In some cases, the skins were duplicated or not applied, and in other instances, quitting the game resulted in an error.

With our support, the Human Park team provided a sneak peek into the game and arranged a free mint event for about 30,000 waitlist users, increasing excitement around the game’s future release.

Highrise City

Highrise City is a city builder with an emphasis on economy and resource management. The team reached out to QAwerk to address negative user reviews associated with the game’s performance.

We conducted rigorous performance testing that covered load, stress, scalability, and response time testing. Our stability checks included over 6 hours of continuous playing with high graphics settings. We also tested the game with six widely used antivirus programs as they are known to scan games and lead to crashes as a result.

We also tried launching the game with different system pagefile settings and testing it on various versions of .NET Framework. While we didn’t find any crashes, we noticed issues with Windows 10 fresh installation: the game was unplayable with FPS of 1-10 seconds.

With our help, the Highrise City team fully optimized the game and validated its performance under different configurations.

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