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  • How to Make a Game in One Week: Epic MegaJam Learnings

    [12.15.15]
    - Kenneth Ng

    3. Plan Out the Minimum Viable Product (3 hours)

    The minimum viable product is the minimally playable version of your game with only the most important features implemented. The rest of the features that enhance your game are listed in order of priority to be implemented later. This is a risk averse approach to building your game that ensures you have a playable game that fits your vision and is ready by the deadline.

    We broke down our game concept into a list of features arranged by "fun" factor and how critical it is to the gameplay. We included additional features that weren't important but would enhance the game if we had time to implement them.

    Prioritized list of features:

    1. Basic character movement for single player
    2. Multiplayer on a local PC
    3. Multiplayer interactions (push, bump)
    4. Gems (incentive for players to fight each other)
    5. Traps
    6. Enemies
    7. Items

    Here's why this methodology is important:

    Imagine that making your game is like an RPG: each additional feature you want to add is a new boss you have to defeat. If you come across a difficult boss that wrecks you, do you want to restart all the way back to the beginning of the game and lose all your progress? Of course not! You want to respawn at the previous checkpoint where you killed the last boss and keep all the items and upgrades you made.

    The same goes for you and your game's development. That's why the MVP is so important to plan out this early on. The list of prioritized features is a set of predetermined checkpoints that ensures you'll always have a playable game, no matter where you crash during its development.

    Other benefits to this approach are:

    • You have something playable/functional very early.
    • Customers/followers are aware your game is working.
    • From this point forward you only have to work on features that make the game better.
    • You can incrementally playtest and debug.
    • You always have a working version no matter where your game crashes. 

    4. Prototype (1 day)

    Because player-to-player interactions is key to the fun-ness of our game, we concluded that the minimally playable version of our game must have the first three features-basic character movement, multiplayer on a PC, and multiplayer interactions. We immediately prototyped the MVP with placeholder assets and playtested it with friends and family. We were told the controls felt solid, the gameplay was fun, and the player's goal was immediately clear. This was a sign that we were on the right track, so we finalized the mechanics and cleaned up the code in preparation for making levels.

    Since gems and traps were easy to implement, we included those as well.

    It's sometimes easy for playtesters to quickly judge a prototype the wrong way because it's not visually appealing or because it's not that fun. We had to remind them to focus and provide feedback on gameplay only.

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