It dosent work like that everywhere, even in the game market...and where it dosent, those companies tend to eat everbodys lunch (Blizzard, Bioware).
Also, dont think that letting QA be the gatekeeper=zero bugs...but QA is the group that knows when the game has reached a certain level of overall smoothness and, go figure, quality...letting anyone else decide when to ship is just bass ackwards and wrong.
I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself.
Actually, it happens there as well. The difference, as stated in the original post, is Time/Staff/Money. Both of the companies you have stated will make their own decisions regarding Time because they have a lot of Money. So, when you see product from them it is usually fairly polished. That being said, I think I have more submitted bug reports in WoW than I do in STO. Just because they're big doesn't make them perfect, and I have the patch logs to prove it.
So basically, to sum up this thread in one sentence (paraphrased to oblivion from Office Space):
W--well look. I already told you: I deal with the dang customers so the engineers don't have to. I have people skills; I am good at dealing with people! Can't you understand that?! What the heck is wrong with you people?!
While QA is generally the "gate-keeper" at most companies, there are problems with this in an MMO environment.
I think that sometimes people forget how massive MMOs are. There are many massive software applications across various companies in the world (working for a large financial services company I've worked on several of them in a QA role), but very few of them compare to the complexity of an MMO.
In my own personal experience with QA and our standards, we had test cases for EVERYTHING in the application. Can you imagine the size of a test design for an MMO? It would be near impossible to put one together that covered 100% of everything. The same is true for most applications.
Test designs try to cover as much as possible and help to break testing out for critical parts of an application. Usually this works pretty well.. but there are other factors at work.
For example, you couldn't hire enough people to cover a regression test of every build. It's simply not possible. The cost vs. coverage would be so insanely high that the company would go broke. From past experience I know that QA is always being told to do less with more, and then turn around and get hit when they miss something that goes to production.
So generally QA will test functionality given to them by the developers in the release notes. The problem from this point on is making sure that the fix didn't break other things. With large complicated systems it's hard to find a bug that's totally unrelated to a change but cropped up as a result to a fix.
Most QA Analysts are the SMEs (subject matter experts) for their applications and some know more about the application than the developers do themselves. They support the app, test it and know the functionality in and out. However, even those SMEs can miss a bug. They're human.
So remember that it comes down to:
1. MMOs are more massive than most applications. More complexity means more chance for bugs to appear.
2. Time is finite.. it's not possible to do a full regression test every build.
3. QA is reliant on Devs to give accurate information on which bugs were fixed and, if possible, additional areas for the analyst to check.
4. Developers will unit test their changes, but generally in a small scope. QA is usually responsible for large scale testing of changes and no matter how well they understand the system a bug can still creep it's way in.
5. Fortunately for MMOs with test servers, a large number of players can quickly find bugs that the QA analysts may miss. The shotgun effect is very effective at finding those sneaky errors.
6. Just because a bug is found doesn't mean the build won't go live. A few simple bugs usually won't keep a build from going live because the benefits almost always outweigh the negatives of holding it back.
I have a query regarding in-game support from GMs.
I'm sure they're mostly all lovely and hard working people, but in the various tickets I have submit on a range of issues I have only ever received one response within the friendly side of 3 hours and even then it was just canned responses. It might be just because I am from Australia and thus there aren't many on, but it also might be a case of the issues I've reported are not something that GMs can address within STO.
Like you stated, each company does it differently, and I have seen comments in some threads that GMs are unable to help with issues such as re-spawning NPCs that in other games like WoW, a GM can do easily. It might simply be that such actions are inappropriate for STO, against Cryptic policy etc, however, at the moment the only expectations I have of in-game support are my experiences from other MMOs such as WoW and AO. That is not to say that their practices and systems are right, or even applicable to the technology or structure of STO/Cryptic, but rather I'm lacking a clear idea of what it is that Cryptic thinks its support will be providing us.
Can you provide the playerbase firstly with some kind of description of the hours in which GMs are operating in; ie is staffing moderately consistent for all 24hrs of the globe or are they all in the US and the graveyard shift is only five people?
Secondly, what kind of issues can the GMs actually help us with, and what kind of issues are we just going to get a copy and paste response that doesn't help us at all and wastes a GMs time in having to read and respond to when they can't help?
This is the best reply in the thread, and it's not getting enough attention. OK, I'll buy that the Devs are busy, and in many cases may be perfectly well aware of the issue I want to report, but I, too, have waited for hours in the ticket queue only to receive a canned response or none at all. Please give more attention to AU-Seele's post, as I, and I suspect others would love answers to some of these questions.
I know the March Ask Cryptic is out, but I have one now.
Are there plans to make certain items in feature episodes where you can get multiple, for example Retrofit phaser bank? I don't like having just one for the fore and one for the aft. it doesn't look right. I mean you just recently made it where it had a rank, so you would have to work to get another few when you level. And, it's not really any more special than the Reman prototype shield that causes your ship to change looks. (I'm not saying it's not special, I'm just comparing it with the shield)